Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

‘What’s NATO?’

Cynthia Cockburn of Women in Black on the case against NATO

December 19, 2010
4 min read

‘What’s NATO’ is the question a lot of people asked when they saw us spelling out ‘Say No to NATO’ in the busy streets of central London on Saturday 20 November. Not that there was a lack of interest. We put twelve hundred leaflets into out-stretched hands in two or three hours. It was more puzzlement. What exactly was this object of our disapproval? Why would fourteen women in T-shirts of an unpleasant shade of pale mauve be performing round Southbank and Covent Garden with this obscure message, when everyone else was getting ahead with the Christmas shopping?

Our street action was timed to coincide with the Summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Lisbon, Portugal. We wanted to tell the Heads of State gathered there that some people in the UK don’t want this country’s ‘security’ policy defined by a war-fighting, nuclear-armed club aspiring to world domination in the economic interests of a bunch of relatively rich countries.

A few of us stepped out of line and chipped in with a personal view. ‘NATO is a cold war relic,’ said Sue, of London Women in Black, on the far left of the chorus wearing the O in NATO. ‘It’s an aggressive military alliance that’s waging a war of intervention in Afghanistan’, said Sheila, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). ‘It’s trying to expand its activities and membership more and more widely. It seems to want to replace the United Nations’. And Kathryn, another London WiB, added, ‘I’m doing this to offer members of the public a point of view that challenges the default assumption that NATO is a good thing. To make a stand. I’m saying: no more expeditionary force in my name.’

As women we were making a particular case against NATO. Military expenditure squanders money needed for the education, health and housing services badly needed by women, who carry the main burden of domestic life in every NATO state, as they do everywhere in the world. Women suffer displacement, rape, loss, injury and increased burdens due to war. NATO’s military bases in our neighbourhoods don’t represent ‘security’ for women. On the contrary they are a source of social stress, toxic pollution, sexual exploitation and violence. Indeed, women in eleven Italian cities were out on the streets at the same time as us, protesting for this very reason against new base developments there.

‘I’m here because NATO has a military vision of “security”,‘ said Marie Walsh who had travelled from Wales to take part in this action. ‘Guns and bombs and wars don’t make me feel safer, they have the opposite effect. It’s ironic that NATO troops are called security forces when what they create is just the opposite.’ Marie-Claire of WILPF feels ‘Women’s voices aren’t heard enough. Things might be different if they were part of decision-making on policies that set agendas globally’, she said. Angie, of Trident Ploughshares, added ‘I want NATO to end now so our society can move beyond violence, war and enemies, and encourage non-violent conflict resolution. It’s part of the military industrial complex that’s given us endless war and destruction. I’m here to demand a return to our lost humanity and the rule of international law.’

Babs from Glasgow feels ‘Security can only be achieved through justice, conflict resolution and ridding ourselves of fear’. She threw in a neat quote from Alasdair Gray, ‘Always work as if you are living in the early days of a better nation’.  Yes, well, on that note we observed that a better model of the future we want might be down in the Crypt café with a hot cuppa, not shivering on the pavement as human placards.

This action was mounted by women of Women in Black against War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp and an affinity group of Trident Ploughshares. For more information, photos and movies see www.wloe.org, www.flickr.com/photos/wiblondon and www.youtube.com/wiblondon

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally


5