HISTORY OF Anti-War Coalition from Poznań

The origins of antimilitaristic activity in Poland dates back to the middle of 80's. Then country-wide movement Wolność i Pokój (WiP) (Freedom and Peace) has been founded. Its main purpose was disarmament in the both side of the Iron Curtain. What for WiP meant in practice the fight against obligatory military service. At that time several tens objectors were in prisons. As a result of spectacular protests in 1988 the state has introduced a possibility of supplementery military service for people who quote an objections of conscience. The movement, involving 90% of students, organized massy boycotts of military schooling in Poznan in 1988 and 1989, what led to removing obligatory military service from universities. Thanks to WiP and NZS (Independent Union of Students) the duration of supplementary military service has been also cut significantly since 1988.

That law was repeatedly violated in the next years. Despite the falling number of repressions next antimilitarists were put into prisons. Officially WiP has never stopped existing, but its activity has been taken over by the Anarchist Federation at the beginning of the 90's. That organization has continued to run so-called agencies giving advice to people who want to get supplementary military service. Such help was available by "Objector" Association, and since 1994 it has been offered by Pogotowie Antywojskowe "Szwejk"(Antimilitary Emergency Service "Szwejk"). All the time demonstrations and direct actions against persecuting people who refuse joining military service were being organized. In 1997 for instance several tens people occupied courtroom during lawsuit in the military curt in Poznan against 23 years pacifist who was condemned to one and half year imprisonment. Terrified judges had to be freed by the police and a fire brigade. Numerous demonstrations against joining NATO by Poland, during conflict in the former Yugoslavia and intervention in Afghanistan took place. Every year antimilitary Easter Marches, like in Germany, have became a tradition. Moreover, anti-war movement from Poznan was seriously engaged in protests against wars in Checheny and in organizing help for Russia's victims. During one demonstration outside the Russian consulate in Poznan a few of demonstrators trespassed on the institution. That radical action has helped to widely publicize the problem of the war in Checheny in Poland and overseas.

In the face of growing number of international demonstrations against the war in Iraq in 2003, we decided to call together all opponents of that armed intervention from Poznan. Several tens people came to the open meeting in the middle of 2003. Then the Anti-War Coalition from Poznan was founded which now gathers people from anarchistic, pacifist and autonomist movements. Our first aim, which had been to organize big, well-prepared demonstration, evolved into continuous campaign. During several months we have organized protests, happenings, rallies, cultural events, "children against war" exhibition of works made by schoolchildren. Food not Bombs has been reactivated and continues to hand out free meals on the streets. Our activity has been supported by academics, actors and trade unions. At present the Anti-War Coalition from Poznan has already started a campaign against alleged presence of the US military base in Poland.

US MILITARY BASES IN POLAND?

 

The US is a country that has the largest number of military quarters abroad. Regarding their structure and legal status, more than 725 American military quarters are not colonies, but they remain beyond any legal jurisdiction and control of the countries in which they are stationed.

After 1989 we got rid of the huge Soviet military bases which had not only been a problem of a political, but also of social and economic nature.
Recently, the press has revealed an unofficial information concerning plans to build an American military base in Poland.

DO YOU KNOW THAT:
• according to the unofficial information, beginning with 2006, a quarter of one of the American squadrons (16 aircrafts) which may be withdrawn from Germany is supposed to be located in Krzesiny (municipality in the vicinity of Poznań, currently stationed by the Polish III squadron of tactical air force). The municipalities of Powidz and Łask are also being taken into consideration, as well as the military ranges in Drawsko, Wędrzyn and Wicko Pomorskie;

• During their rifle drills, the American military forces use missiles with depleted uranium, and the fuel discharged by the planes before emergency landing pollutes air and contaminates water, thus causing leukaemia and breast cancer. In those places, near which the military beses are located, occurrence of cancer increases, e.g. in a small town of Tuscon, in the USA, 63 women out of 5.000 die of this disease each year. This problem occurred as early as 10 years after the military air forces had been located there. For comparison, in the Wielkopolska region in Poland the occurrence of breast cancer amounts to about 43 per 100.000 women!

• The volume of noise produced by the planes, when they land and break the sound barrier will increase. Plane damages and air crashes will constitute a potential threat for the local citizens. On the Island of Okinawa (Japan), some schools have been forced to introduce special drills for children in case of a plane crash. Between 1972 and 1985 in the US air force quarters in Kadena (Japan) there were 120 air crashes of F15 planes. In 1998, an American piloting an EA-6B Prowler plane cut through the suspension cable of a gondola cableway in an Italian ski resort, thus causing the fall of the cabin which was full of passengers;

• Contrary to what is claimed by the Polish Government, local citizens would not rip profits from the American military quarters. The quarters provide but a few temporary jobs (cleaning or cooking) and its presence, as well as development of the airport will not be profitable for the local citizens, but for American corporations. In most countries, the US quarters are co-financed or financed from the national budget of the country in which they are stationed. In Germany, the whole logistic infrastructure for the supervision and service of the American military forces: military transport, communication, radiolocation service, and even the air defence forces, is financed from the German budget;

• The infrastructure surrounding the quarters (roads to the quarters, water supply service and others), as well as the ecological costs of the maintenance of a quarter, is imposed on the local community (e.g. water filters) and they are paid for with the money raised from our taxes. Contamination of ground water and soil caused by the Soviet military quarters has not been removed until today;

• From 1972, when the American military quarter was created on the Island of Okinawa, until 1998, 4905 crimes have been recorded, including 101 sex crimes and 11 murders_ committed by the US soldiers and members of the civil service. In 1995, three soldiers from the quarter raped a twelve-year-old girl, in 2003 - a fourteen-year- old girl was raped... these were not exceptional cases;

• The latest concept of the US defence strategy assumes that tactical nuclear weapon is used, even in a small local conflict. It is very likely that together with the quarters such weapon will become present on the territory of Poland;

• Polish legislation creates the possibility that, on the basis of bilateral agreements, representatives of foreign military forces can be judged by courts other than Polish, even for the gravest crimes. The US will not allow that their citizens, especially soldiers, come under the jurisdiction other than the American one. (That is why they do not recognise the International Court of Justice in the Hague). Sentences are often inadequate to the gravity of the crime. Captain R. Ashby, who piloted the plane which brought down the cabin of the cableway in Italy, thus causing the death of 20 people, was judged In the USA. Despite heavy accusations against him, Ashby was sentenced for only 6 months of arrest and the time he spent there counted as a part of his punishment. The Polish daily newspaper "Rzeczpospolita" reported: 'After the jury of 8 judges gave their verdict, Captain Ashby, who was likely to serve a 200-year imprisonment, left the court as a free man. (...) As a rule, the American military courts acquit officers, accused of mansalughter of civilians." (May 3rd 1999);

• The Prime Minister of Poland, Leszek Miller, said that "Poland is ready to host American military quarters, shall such a request be made". He did it with no previous consultations with the public. According to the creator of GROM [task force]:" The Americans have already decided that they would create their military outposts in Poland";

• Supporting the idea of the American military quarters being created in Poland, the Polish authorities violate international agreements. According to the binding Convention concerning the Reduction to Conventional Wepapons (CFE), signed by Poland, there is no legal possibility of foreign military forces to be stationed on the territory of Poland. Experts unanimously agree that if any American military quarters are created on the territory of Poland, this will result in the creation of Russian military forces just beyond our east boundary: in Belorussia and probably in Ukraine. Eventually, this will mean straining relations with our neighbour countries and an increase of tension in this region;

• In the Polish national budget, there is not enough money for the National Healthcare, for the unemployed or money for local railway transport. Nevertheless, it is planned that that expenses on armament, military interventions (Iraq), military quarters and the like, are to consume billions of Zlotys! In most of the cases, such expenses are required for the American equipment and the adjustment of the Polish military forces to NATO standards. The investments which have been promised to Poland by the USA (the so-called "offset"), have proved to be sham, as it has many times been reported by the press. It is evident that the expenses of political decisions made, without any consultations with the public, by the political elites in power, will be put on the Polish tax-payers or, perhaps, even on the successive generations;

• The Government of the USA does not reveal any details concerning the removal of their quarters to Poland, because this issue was considered by Washington to be too 'sensitive'. As a result of social protests in the Western countries, the burden of storage, or even of the production of dangerous weapons (e.g. containing reduced uranium or tactical nuclear weapon) will be placed on the Mid-Eastern Europe and Asia. The possibility of unconstrained conducting of training and trials with the use of dangerous weapons shrinks. The poor ally - Poland - creates such a possibility;

• The Czech Republic did not agree on the presence of American military forces on its territory.


"The government is merely a body chosen by the nation in order to implement their will. Before, however, the nation manages to use it for their purposes, this body yields to abuse and depravation"
Henry David Thoreau

Words of the American philosopher perfectly illustrate the present situation in our country. The government is busy creating successive scandals, and its members have long ago forgot that they were to implement the will of the citizens.
Regardless of our evaluation of the Polish soldiers' participation in the war and occupation of Iraq, this important decision was not preceded by a public debate. Considering that, the first unofficial news about the likelihood of an American military quarter being build in our country, should cause our unrest. Is the decision concerning the American military quarters going to be made again without the earlier consultations with the public?
The communist regime controlled by Moscow used to act in exactly the same way - they also ignored the voice of the people.
The above-mentioned information concerning the public, ecological or economic costs, should illustrate the gravity of the whole situation. It must be born in mind that these are not the political figures from Warsaw to live in the vicinity of the planned American military quarter, consequently it is not their vote that should be deciding. We must not leave this issue for future consideration and protest only after the quarter will have already been built.
We must claim our basic right to be informed. We must not allow of the decisions concerning this issue to be made without our knowledge.

If we give up the protest, this will mean our passive consent. Let's not forget our rights and let's demand of the authorities to respect them!

AN APPEAL FOR SUPPORT OF CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE US MILITARY BASE IN POLAND

Dear friends,

The US vice-minister of defense, Doulas Feith, arrived to Poland on the 8th of December. His visitation has opened unofficial negotiations concerning opening the US military base in Poland. That way the United States began discussions of "organization and modernization" of American military forces that probably will result in building the first American military base in Kshesin (by Poznan, west Poland). Unofficial information claims that Kshesin, located close to the National Park, can receive one US group of 16 battle machines from Germany and military unit servicing F-16 airplanes.

An extract from the local newspaper: "The Feith's visit has proved that the United States was stepping up discussions with key European allies about the overhaul of US global military deployments. Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of US defense, who passed on that new during the last NATO debate, informed of US state representatives' visits in countries chosen by the US and subsequent arduous negotiations. Anyway, Feith highlighted that the first decisions on possible movement of American military bases to Poland will not be finalized in close future. Negotiations of conditions can last even couple of years (...) According to general Slawomir Petlicki, founder of GROM (special commando unit), the decision about setting up the US military base in Poland has been already made by the Americans."

Our movement is opposed to presence of the American base in Poland. Taking into consideration the military significance of the issue, it seems quite possible that the biggest part of negotiations will be kept in secret and any influence on the decision will be difficult. The Polish government announced prior "public consultation". We believe that the best way to stop that project is to mobilize the local community in Kshesin. Although the official negotiations has just started, pro-government media have already described benefits for Poland if the base is set up. Prime Minister Leszek Miller said in an interview that "Poland is ready to allow US bases on its territory if such a request was made". In order to stop that ridiculous idea and make our voice noticeable and louder than government's propaganda we need strong countr-arguments. We have decided to focus on economical, ecological, social and safety arguments against the base:

economical reasons- one of the most important for the local community. The government will for sure propagandize the issue of profits for the area around the base. New workplaces (civilians servicing the base), orders for Polish companies that will build and modernize the base, food orders etc. are said to appear. That might be true, although we have heard that reality looks slightly different (for example in Germany)- the civil staff is reduced, the Americans prefer to employ US companies, the local community become dependent what makes all subsequent Americans savings extremely damaging for local people. We need any reliable information, if possible supported by examples from countries were American bases have been already set up.

ecological reasons- we are looking for any examples of adverse impacts of present bases on the environment, what include every day base's work and planes' take-offs as well. Especially that the base in Kshesin will be close to the National Park.

social reasons- concerning relationship between US soldiers' and the local community. For example, status of soldiers who commit a crime, attempt to hide it etc. All accidents connected with base's working, for instance famous case of shooting the cable railway in Italy (we have only incomplete information about it).

question of safety- the government's propaganda will try to prove that the level of safety in Poland will increase when the base is open. In our opinion, the presence of American army can only jeopardize the safety of our land. Concerning the US forces' criminal activity around the world, US units are particularly susceptible to attacks and may become target for not only extremist group. It means that the local community might became an accidental victim of such attacks. We need every information about attacks on American units besides areas of war.

First and foremost, political reasons are the most important for us, but we need to support them with all reasonable information concerning present American bases around the world. It will make our message more clear and effective. We ask for every info about subjects above, and all helpful matters that were not mention here. Even the most seemingly insignificant news can be extremely useful. Given that all action has international meaning we also are looking for all notes and even short descriptions of previous worldwide campaigns against the American bases. We need information about their effects and successes in particular.

If you could help, write us (the best way in English or Polish): ruda@rozbrat.org or P.O. Box 5, 60-966 Poznan, Poland.

Thank you for help. Please, send it to everyone who may help us.

Posnanian Anti-war Coalition

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE EUROPEAN SOCIETIES
01.04.2003

The war has started, although we wanted to avoid it at all costs. This unjust war has been triggered with cynicism and deliberately

For many weeks, Polish social organisations have protested against this war and against the participation of Polish Army in the conflict. We express the opinion of a great majority of Polish citizens. Nearly 70 percent of them is against the war and stands for peace. Thousands of people have already revealed their disagreement in numerous demonstrations organised in Poland.

The president Aleksander Kwaśniewski and the prime minister Leszek Miller, who support the interest of USA and send Polish troops to Iraq, do not act on behalf of Polish society. Making decisions without society's permission, they have abused the democratic rules. Moreover, they have committed a crime against both Polish and international law, using military force without citizens' will. Last weeks' events confirmed antidemocratic and antisocial attitude of Polish government. Violence has become their common language, what we could clearly observe on 20th March, when a peaceful antiwar demonstration in Warsaw was brutally dispersed by the police.

We would like to assure all the European countries that a great majority of us do not support Polish government's policy. Our movement demands withdrawing Polish troops from Iraq. We don't allow American Army to be on the territory of Poland as we were against the presence of Soviet Army on our lands. We disagree spending 8 bilion dollars on military equipment, mainly produced by the Americans. The government should rather face the huge unemployment that has reached nearly 20 percent and the lack of money in national budget for medical and social care.

We join the European societies in the fight for peace. We hope that the general, widespread protest against the war will be continued, according to all free nations of the world will.

Poznańska Koalicja Antywojenna www.antywojenna.prv.pl, Krakowska Koalicja Antywojenna www.kka.w.pl, Wrocławska Koalicja Antywojenna www.wojna-stop.prv.pl, Stowarzyszenie Inicjatyw Społecznych "Ulica", International Fluxus Art Group "Double Travel", Redakcja pisma "Ulicy Wszystkich Świętych" , Sekcja polska Central European Press Corporation of REGIOPOLIS, Komitet Pamięci Ofiar Stalinizmu - Instytut Badań Stalinizmu i Patologii Władzy, Inicjatywa Pracownicza - Piła , Stowarzyszenie "Obywatel", Redakcja dwumiesięcznika "Obywatel", Harcerski Ruch Ochrony Środowiska im. św. Franciszka z Asyżu , ATTAC Poland , Grupa Artystyczna "Białe Gawrony", Nurt Lewicy Rewolucyjnej, Redakcja Pisma "Versus", Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczno-Kulturalno-Wolnościowe "KRZYK", Portal internetowy http://www.evot.org , Federacja na rzecz Kobiet i Planowania Rodziny - Warszawa, Grupa "Pro Life", Nieformalna Grupa DURGA - Wrocław , Grupa Wrocławska "Społeczeństwo Aktywne" , Pacyfistyczna Komenda Uzupelnień, Redakcja pisma "Robotnik Śląski".

 

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