US anti-military activist follows Czech No to Bases leaders on hunger

04-06-2008

Plans to build a US radar base in the Czech Republic have been in the news lately, after a protest hunger strike undertaken by two members of a group called No to Bases. Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář, who started eating solid food again on Monday, are now being replaced by various public figures on short symbolic fasts. Their influence has also spread outside the Czech Republic, inspiring Bruce Gagnon, an activist with the US-based Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space; Mr Gagnon has not eaten for a week and a half – on the phone from his home in Maine he told me why he was on hunger strike.

“I came to Prague last October for the conference that was held there by the No to Bases coalition, and was very moved by the presentations by the mayors and other citizens of the Czech Republic who were opposing this deployment of the radar base. It was very clear to me that there was overwhelming opposition to the radar in your country.

“Following that we invited Jan Tamáš to come to the US in April to the annual conference we organise about space issues. I’ve been working for 25 years to try to prevent the arms race from moving into space.

“So when I heard about the hunger strike it was clear to me that I had to be a part of it, out of loyalty to him as a friend, but also more importantly out of loyalty to any group that would be working on this issue, which is so important to our organisation.”

Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář, photo: CTKJan Tamáš and Jan Bednář, photo: CTK Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednář have given up their hunger strike – why are you continuing?

“Well, they’ve given up but they’ve also made a call for others to join the hunger strike and it’s my understanding that they’re going to have a whole series of different people joining the hunger strike…”

But surely then it’s not a hunger strike any more – it’s more symbolic, it’s not really a hunger strike.

“I think it’s a hunger strike, it’s a hunger strike for people who choose to do it for as long as they would like. I began mine on May 24 and will continue until June 7. On June 7 I will be replaced.

“We are also now trying to organise other people in our country and outside of our country within our network to participate in this hunger strike.

“What’s important to know is that this issue is spreading because of this hunger strike even more dramatically than it already was. This issue is now spreading out into the roots of our communities, all over this country and around the world…”

But surely in any case you won’t influence American foreign policy. You won’t prevent the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice from coming to the Czech Republic and signing these deals with Czech officials.

“You can’t stop a foreign policy unless the American people actually know about it. In the case of the Czech radar the American people know very little about it.

“The media in the US is dominated by five major corporations and they are not reporting on this Czech radar controversy to the American people.

“So one tool that we have available to us to help the American people know about this issue, so they can begin to comment on it, is by doing things like this hunger strike.”

04-06-2008