Group protests possible use of Feltwell in 'Star Wars' defense plan
Stars and Stripes June 12, 2003
RAF FELTWELL, England — Different base. Different issue. Same folks.
Members of the Lakenheath Action Group, who are regularly seen outside the gates at RAF Lakenheath protesting war and the presence of nuclear weapons at the base — a claim neither confirmed nor denied by base officials — wandered down the road a few miles Tuesday to RAF Feltwell.
Their cause was the possible use of the 5th Space Surveillance Squadron’s technology in the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, a missile defense shield over America. The unit tracks objects flying through space.
Davida Higgin, leader of the group, said the deployment of a shield for America actually will make a nuclear war more likely because potential enemies will increase nuclear arsenals in an attempt to defeat it.
Plus, she said, the presence of part of that shield in the East Anglia region puts the largely rural area on the front line.
“Having a missile defense-related sight here makes it a target for enemy action,” said the gray-haired grandmother. “It’s one of the first things they will take out.”
Dubbed Star Wars, SDI was first proposed by President Reagan in 1983.
President Bush supports the idea, but it is largely still on the drawing board. No one knows when, if, or where it will be deployed.
But the protesters are guessing RAF Feltwell will be part of it. The protest was part of what is being billed as the “No Star Wars Tour” by the national Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It started at Faslane, a British nuclear submarine base in Scotland, and it stopped at Fylingdales, a British radar base used by the United States, and RAF Menwith Hill, both believed to be part of any SDI program.
Neil Kingsnorth of the Yorkshire CND said an “eviction notice” was read outside the gate at RAF Menwith Hill, a communications base used by the United States.
“They didn’t go,” he said.
The tour planned to be at RAF Croughton, a base near Oxford used for U.S. Air Force communications, on Wednesday. It will conclude outside the U.S. Embassy on Friday, one year after the United States pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.
Air Force Maj. Francisco Hamm, public affairs spokesman for RAF Lakenheath, said the base had no knowledge of RAF Feltwell’s use in SDI, but supported the rights of the protesters.
“They are welcome to come and protest anything they have a concern with,” he said. “That’s their right.”
About 20 people showed up for the protest. Higgin said participation was down because it was a weekday. The group hung banners on the fence and spent two hours outside the main gate, which was shut by the Ministry of Defence police, who stood nearby and directed traffic past the peaceful protest.
Kingsnorth said CND protests the “weaponization” of space and thinks space should be used only for peaceful purposes.
He said it is difficult to get answers from the British Parliament about which bases will be used for SDI.
“We can’t find out if this base really is going to be used for missile defense. It certainly looks like it is,” he said, referring to the giant golf-ball-shaped antennas dominating the base landscape.
After the demonstration, about 70 peace activists met in Bury St. Edmunds to hear a talk by Bruce Kent, whose peace activism dates to the 1960s. He warned his audience that the United States seeks to control space the way it now does the rest of the planet.
“That is where we are going,” he said. “Total dominance of the land, sea, air and, now, space.”