Report on Fairford Citizen's Weapons Inspection, Sunday 23 Feb 2003

Fairford, Gloucestershire, UK, is one of the three forward bases for B-52 bombers.  There are concerns that they may be carrying nuclear weapons.
Arrive at the demo already charged up with enthusiasm from listening to "Seize the Day".  A crowd of the usual suspects, Gloucestershire Citizen's Weapons Inspectors (GWI) clambering into their white overalls, people in rainbow hats trying to figure out which way up the banner should go, dogs, drummers testing out their drums and country cops with ruddy faces standing around at ease, radiating peaceful vibes to all.  Meet and greet old friends, read the banners - Asses of Evil, with pictures of Saddam, Blair and Bush - check out the six legged Stealth Bomber mock-up, somebody blows the whistle and off we shuffle.  
Fall in with the drummers (like cavalry,  they are there to raise the tone of the engagement) and saunter peacefully through the soft yellowstone Cotswold village with its perky stream winding across Gloucester's greenest and most fertile land that has not seen bloodshed since the Civil War of the mid 17th century.  Peaceful land that should be preparing itself to make hay, not war. 
The drumbeat quickens and intensifies as we troop past chain-link topped off with razor wire, and approach the gates which enclose the area that the courageous GWI ( ) have come to inspect.  Already the gate post is topped with a female weapons inspector perched gingerly beside the razor wire.  Her mission is to discover whether the B-52 bombers in the USAF Fairford base are carrying nuclear weapons.  It is known that these weapons exist, and that B-52s can deliver them - but the world needs to know whether they are on this site, since it will soon be flying missions to Iraq, if George W Bush is allowed to have his way. 
The question is - will the police guarding the gate be co-operative?  A brown and white sign says For Admission, Ask the Constable.  We ask.  The constable says No.  The inspector climbs carefully down off the gate.  Refusing to take No for an answer, the gate is tested for rhythm.  It has an up beat little resonant frequency, a brisk adagio, and in a matter of minutes, the gate is rocking like Bill Haley on speed.  A climbing rope and carabiner attach themselves as if by magic to the metalwork, and before you could say "No to War, Yes to Continued Inspections" the multi thousand pound military specification galvanised steel gate bolt pops pang! out of its hole, the gate swings open, and a cheering mass of weapons inspectors plunges into the base.
Adrenaline is a funny drug that makes people go white in the face and do things that they would not normally do.  I find a peaceful vantage point.  They also serve who only stand and keep a close eye on what is going on.  A white faced young man with dreads and a bongo comes to tell the constable by the brown sign that he has seen an elderly man punched in the face by a policeman whose number he had taken and although he did not want to make a formal complaint as it would get the policeman into trouble, he did want to place the matter  on the record.  The constable asked him to come back and file a report once the riot was over. 
Inside the base, a senior American comes over screaming that he wants everyone arrested for criminal trespass.  Ten are indeed arrested, but others, including a lady in a pink fairy dress complete with starry wand are allowed to rest on the grass inside, with a police dog keeping a wary eye on them. Once the riot police have regained control of the gate and formed an orderly chorus line, each holding the waistcoat of the one in front, in front of the place where the gate used to be, several captured inspectors are allowed to rejoin the demonstration. As our comrades are released, they are given a round of applause with some of the riot police quite rightly joining in. 
After a snatch of litter picking, a bit of a dance, and a few well chosen words from a weapons inspector we set off to visit the peace camp on the other side of the base.  This meant in essence a pleasant country walk with plenty of police on hand should you get lost, want to know the time, or have your handbag snatched (no-one did).  A pleasant walk spoiled not by golf clubs but a sudden view of the runway: a triangle of tarmac stretching into the infinite blue sky, a launch pad for instruments of pain that Sauron would have given his ring finger for: great grey angels of death that may be sent out to punish the Iraqi nation because they have for too long passively accepted a ruler who controls them by misinformation, oppression and violence, a vain and narrow minded man who has lost touch with the feelings of his people and thinks only in strategic categories.  For us, the vision and sound of them taking off would trouble our conscience and fire our anger; but for our fellow human beings in Baghdad, they are a vision of agony, searing pain and sorrow as the payload rains fire and martyrdom down on them.
The fence becomes a symbol, separating our desire to prevent that outcome from its fulfilment.  Here, at the end of the flightpath it is a wooden picket.  Gaps appear in the fence as we pass by.  Policeman, in green suits like daffodil leprechauns appear in each gap.  It could be that one day there are more gaps than leprechauns.  Better, it could be that one day there is no need for fences.
for peace

Richard Lawson
"The dragon of war is heavy, but if a thousand kites are in its way, it cannot fly"  - Old Taoist saying
Check this for news of similar weapons inspections in the USA: