International Anti-Missile Protest at Fort Greely, Alaska

By Brian Yanity


Upside Down World

On September 25th, about 50 people, including 14 from the neighboring Yukon Territory in Canada, protested at the gates of the U.S. Army’s Fort Greely near Delta Junction, Alaska. Ft. Greely is located 90 miles southeast of the city of Fairbanks, and about 150 miles from the Canadian border. It is the single most important missile launch site for the U.S. military’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), nicknamed ‘Star Wars’.

In 2001, the Bush Administration withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was signed by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. At Ft. Greely, Army contractors have already installed four interceptor missiles in silos, and plan to add two more by the end of the year. Four interceptors are also being installed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Another 10 interceptor missiles are scheduled to be installed at Ft. Greely by the end of 2005. Overall, the SDI is to include more installations in Alaska than anywhere else.

With temperatures below freezing (which is normal for September in the interior of Alaska), protestors braved near-blizzard conditions to make their voices heard. Organized by the Fairbanks-based organization No Nukes North, the protest was part of the fourth annual Ft. Greely “peace camp.” Based on tactics pioneered by anti-nuclear activists in the UK, opponents of SDI camped along the frozen Delta River for several days of discussion and protest. Canadian journalists from CBC and the Yukon News hung out at the camp with the protestors, with some joking that they were ‘embedded’ reporters. Solidarity between anti-SDI activists in both the U.S. and Canada is essential, as the SDI involves the entire Arctic region. As described by Daniel Rice in the September 26 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Canada and the United States agreed in August to a treaty amendment that allows NORAD, the Canada-U.S. continental defense organization, to pass on target information to the U.S.'s anti-missile sites, according to an Associated Press story. Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham said in the story that the decision was made to preserve NORAD's status in continental defense but that it doesn't amount to a Canadian commitment to join the missile project.

The protest was held several miles down the Richardson Highway from the peace camp site. The Trans Alaska Pipeline, which carries 1/8th of the petroleum used in the United States, ran alongside the protest site. Many of protestors made the connection between the Bush Administration’s oil-driven warfare and its plans for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which lays just 250 miles to the north of Ft. Greely. Ft. Greely is not the only place in Alaska where SDI facilities are to be based. Other planned installations are slated for Kodiak Island, and a major radar system near the town of Clear is under construction. The Ft. Greely event was part of a global day of protest against space-based weapons, as part of International Keep Space for Peace Week. Simultaneous demonstrations were held at Vandenberg Air Force Base and at the Fylingdales radar facility in Yorkshire, England. The Fylingdales missile defense radar will be crucial component of the SDI. At the Ft. Greely protest, solidarity messages from both the Vandenberg Action Coalition and the Flylingdales Action Network were read aloud. Protestors from the Yukon also read solidarity greetings from across Canada.

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"If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn't we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?" ---Eduardo Galeano