“We are invisible.” That was the message of over 100 protesters at the European Parliament in Brussels on February 18. Dressed in white jumpsuits with white masks, the “Invisibles” symbolized the 2/3 majority of Czech citizens who oppose plans to install a U.S. radar base in their country. The base is part of the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Shield, better known as “Star Wars,” and the agreement to install it was made without consulting the people of the Czech Republic.
The protest took place while Belgian Senators and Members of the European Parliament (MEP) held hearings on the project with a delegation including 40 Czech mayors, and representatives of the European peace movement. It was organized by Europe for Peace, the Czech Nonviolent Movement, and the Czech League of Mayor’s League Against the Radar.
This is the latest step in a two-year struggle that has included petition drives, protests and even a hunger strike. What began as a “local” Czech issue has spread to much of Europe and even other parts of the world. On the same day, humanist and pacifist groups organized simultaneous protests in Milan, Turin, Settimo Torinese, Florence, Rome, Palermo, Madrid, Berlin, Copenhagen, Budapest and Buenos Aires.
Jan Tamas, spokesperson of the Czech Nonviolent Movement said: “Today, finally, we are in the appropriate place to speak about this subject, as the installation of the radar base is not only a problem for the Czech People as it compromises the security of the entire population of Europe”.
After the hearings, which included almost 20 MEPs, the Belgian senators and deputies promised to present a motion in the Belgian Parliament against the ABM plan. Luisa Morgantini, Vice-president of the European Parliament, stated: “the current Czech Government is undermining the foundations upon which a united Europe has been built.”
Though Missile Defense, a project of the Bush administration, is presented as a shield against the threat of missile attacks from Iran or North Korea, it is seen by Russia as a threat. Western tactical analysts such as the Rand Corporation, a Pentagon-affiliated research agency, view the “shield” as, effectively, a first strike weapon that would allow the U.S. to attack any country in the world without fear of retaliation.
Earlier this year Russia announced plans to put missiles in Kaliningrad, on its western border, in response to the missile shield. But recent initiatives from the Obama administration, including a proposal for deep cuts in nuclear weapons stockpiles, have raised hope for a thaw in relations between the two superpowers.
Jan Noreal, a Czech mayor from Trokavec, emphasized the lack of awareness about the ABM system within the European Parliament. “I was here in 2007 and was very surprised by the lack of information made available to the MEPs,” said Neoral.
The “Invisibles” have helped to bring this issue to light and provided a lesson in real democracy, by insisting that the opinion of the majority is heard. A small minority almost always makes such decisions, but all of us are left to face the consequences. Which raises the question: how many wars would there be if the decision were put to a vote?