By Dave Webb
Today in Warsaw, Poland was the first day of the No to War,
No to NATO conference and demonstration to protest the NATO Summit being
held here and suggest alternatives to militarism. I am here as a Global Network
representative on the organising committee. Warsaw is a beautiful city which has
been restored after being totally destroyed by Nazi troops during
Uprising in August 1944. A post-war five-year reconstruction campaign by Warsaw citizens restored the churches, palaces and
market-place of the Old Town. I walked through there with Pascal, Amela and
Juliana - three great friends who are part of the impressive team from Berlin
helping to organise the conference.
There was a large police presence in the city and key roads
were closed all day in order that the delegates to the NATO Summit could speed
along them in their fast chauffeur driven cars without being delayed by the
presence of people.
In Poland people are generally favourable to NATO as they
believe (or have been told) that it will keep Russia away, and so we weren’t
sure how many people might turn up. In the end it was a great success – around
150 people came with representatives from 15 countries.
The conference was opened by Reiner Braun and the first
session invited a number of people to speak on “Why we are against Militarism”.
Speakers included myself and activists from the US, Belgium, France, Germany and
Eastern Europe. It was only two days after the release of the Chilcot Report on
the Iraq War in the UK and its damning indictment of Tony Blair and the British
government – it was mentioned a number of times! Many alternatives to NATO were
outlined and NATO’s aggressive and expansionist policies were widely
In the afternoon there were a series of workshops and I spoke
at one on nuclear weapons, missile defence and space weapons. Other speakers
were Jan Majicek from the Czech Republic who spoke on the development of missile
defence in Eastern Europe and Lucas Wirl from Germany who spoke about the recent
demonstration at the huge US military base at Ramstein in Germany – the HQ of US
Air Forces Europe. On a rainy day in May around 5,000 people joined that
demonstration and surrounded the base to protest its role in drone operations
and HQ for US/NATO missile defence systems in Europe. Also in our workshop we
had Ann Wright, former US Army Colonel and diplomat who resigned in protest at
the Iraq War. She told us of her experiences in the Pacific region – on Jeju
Island and Okinawa in particular. There were also a number of activists from
Belgium who told us of the situation there regarding the US nuclear weapons they
host for NATO.
I also told people about the GN’s work on the militarisation of space
and of our up and coming meeting in India [November 18-20].
Then in the evening the closing session was a public meeting
that featured a recorded message from Barbara Lee – the only person in the US
Congress to vote against the Afghanistan War. Ann Wright joined the panel that included
speakers from Poland, Russia, Spain and Germany. You can see details and
pictures of today’s events are on the facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/NotoWAR.NotoNATO/
Tomorrow we have the march and demonstration and the final
session of our conference is on Sunday morning.
All the best
~ Dave Webb is the board convener of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He lives in Leeds, England and chairs the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament