The Greenham effect

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It is hard now to recall, at the distance of 20 years, the sense of pioneering boldness and imminent danger that surrounded the first march to Greenham Common and the early years of the peace camp there.

It is hard now to recall, at the distance of 20 years, the sense of pioneering boldness and imminent danger that surrounded the first march to Greenham Common and the early years of the peace camp there. Blockading an American military base, with only wire-cutters and the bodies of women and children for armour, reverberated around the world, and continues to do so.

In one way, Greenham Common was a heroic failure in the Great British tradition; it could not turn back the US cruise missiles, change British government policy or loosen the Thatcher-Reagan alliance. In another, however, the first participants were right yesterday when they claimed Greenham Common as a symbol of hope and strength and a beacon for peaceful protest that transcended national borders. Their movement also drew women into political activism as rarely before.

The Greenham women and their successors now have their sights set on the missile plans of another US president. With the Cold War over, they are likely to meet with even less success. But wherever people engage in peaceful protest, Greenham Common will be cited with honour.

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