The Gloucester Weapons Inspectors
‘For evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.’
Edmund Burke 1729–1797
Fairford, Gloucestershire, England. Fairford is the biggest bomber base in Europe and has recently been upgraded to a forward base for the B-2 Stealth bombers as well as the smaller B-1 and older B-52 bombers. There are only three forward bases for the Stealth Bombers, two on British territory, at Fairford and Diego Garcia, the third is in Guam. These bombers are nuclear capable and the B-2 has test dropped B61-11 nuclear bunker busters. The B61-11 is the only US nuclear weapon still deployed outside US borders and there is already a stockpile in this country.
A new group of peaceniks in the area have recently set up the “Gloucester Weapons Inspectors”–an open group of concerned citizens with no affiliation to any political party or pressure group. They employ a refreshingly humorous approach to the serious business of weapons inspection. Dressed in white decontamination suits they carry inspection equipment made from household appliances. Their sophisticated equipment includes smart bomb intelligence testers, hypocrisy detectors and collateral damage anticipation indicators.
Together with members of CND, revived Greenham Common women, (who camped outside the Cruise Missile bases in the 19801s), Buddhist monks, students, school children, pensioners and others, 1,500 people marched last Sunday from the picturesque village of Fairford to the death-organising airbase which now fractures the quiet and beauty of this part of the Cotswolds. I joined them to help a friend film the day’s protest for Indymedia.
Led by a large banner proclaiming “Stop Taking The Peace” our arrival at the main gates to the base soon became a celebration of life. There were musicians performing with a PA powered by two clowns peddling a tandem cycle, and topped with a small wheel that drove a water-mill that blew out large bubbles; unicyclists, stilt-walkers, drummers and the white-suited “arms inspectors”. Two girls arrived peddling a mobile brazier that was hardly needed as the weather on this January day was as clement as the gathering. A papiermache Stealth bomber had difficulty making its way up the country lane to the base; its wings catching to the roadside bushes.
Protestors started festooning the outer perimeter with antiwar messages, peace symbols, flowers, prayers and prayer flags and less-than-adulatory messages to our leaders, George and Tony. A group of women wove an enormous peace symbol on the wire with straw and wool. When we left that evening the main gate to the base and much of the surrounding perimeter fence had been transformed, with Ministry of Defence notices lost under a sea of life, colour and humour.
Meanwhile the “arms inspectors” set off with their wire-cutters to break into the base and carry out their own UNofficial inspections for Weapons of Mass Destruction. 40 got in and one we met had made it into one of the hangers where he was chased by two policemen. After being tackled to the ground, one of the PCs pulled him up, and gave him a hug. “Well done,” he said. “You’re doing the right thing”.
To a group of smiling coppers I said, “See you in London on 15th” (15 February is the day for the big Stop the War demo) to which one replied, “I’d be there with you, but I’m on duty that day.” It was clear to us all that the police, at least here in Gloucester, were quite unlike anything experienced by us Londoners with the Metropolitian Police (not renowned for their smiles) . The most hostile remarks we got were, “Can’t give you my private opinion now, not until dinner time.”
We interviewed school children and grannies, Greenham Common veterans and students, even an ex-RAF/BA pilot wearing a sign saying “Pilots Against the War”, who told us that he had 40 volunteers prepared to fly over Fairford. As we set off along the perimeter road a BMW drew up; its occupants dressed as though they were looking for the nearest Countryside Alliance demo and the epitome of Blair1s much beloved “Middle England”. They removed their hand-made anti-war posters from the boot and strode briskly over to the main gates. Set to one side were The Stroud Peace Group serving free teas. They had clearly brought their trestle table and tea urns from the village hall.
And the bombers have not yet arrived The organisers expect that each Sunday will see an increase in the numbers of protestors. Take a day out in the country and help the anti-war struggle–and remember to take your wire-cutters.
DAVID WILSON can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on Fairford and the protests
Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors–email: email@example.com
If you are able to access video images check out the Fairford video on: