Filed under: Militarism
Two weeks ago in Colorado I talked my way into a car load of people travelling from Denver to Colorado Springs for a day to connect to some former co-workers and friends. While I have spent the last thirty years working on grass roots violence reduction they have pursued a much more difficult job – demystifying the emerging war for space and in space. Colorado Springs has grown dramatically since I was there 28 years ago, into a centre for space research, development, and defence. Overall coordination for space research, intelligence collecting, targeting and strategic air support is several hundred miles to the northeast at Stratcom, the United States Strategic Command, near Omaha, Nebraska. (*description of emblem in footnote)
Drone aircraft as far away as Afghanistan and as near home as the Mexican or Canadian border are or may be sent out from Stratcom and the data they collect instantly analysed for quick response. Ballistic missiles and smart bombs can be launched from Nebraska. With space cameras my travel can be monitored – not that I would be worth the bother. Bombers and refuelling flights can be launched from this joint command. Precision lasers are being readied to knock out the assets of the enemy. Even a colony on the moon has national security implications long into the future. This is not simply an added specialty group of the military. This is cutting edge technology designed for power and control. And, it is dangerous because it is designed to kill with futuristic technology that dedicated journalists are hard pressed to demythologize. It is designed for instantaneous response.
No sooner did we reach Colorado Springs than I was whisked off to the posh Broadmoor Hotel which describes itself as the pinnacle of conference locations in North America, site of the 24th National Space Symposium which we had come to check on. It is hard to find the buildings that once supported gold prospectors and people who toiled to make a living in semi arid surroundings in this key world wide centre for evangelical ministries.
By leaving the car in the below ground parking garage we were able to enter the hotel lobby. We made good use of our access to the Broadmoor Hotel by collecting space literature like the current issue of Space News (annual subscription $160), Aviation Week published by the McGraw-Hill Companies, and SatelliteNews which bills itself as the leading source of business news, market research and competitive analysis for the global satellite communications market. Not to be overlooked was Via Satellite with a military Stratcom supplement inside. The glossy literature was just a teaser. For those who paid the $600 symposium registration fee there was a massive exhibit hall for well behaved better dressed folks. By the time our car load had collected the shiny literature, we had also picked up several persistent minder-like security people who encouraged us to move on.
As I exited the hotel I felt like I was in pre Shock and Awe Baghdad. Outside, as minders watched, I joined the local Peace Group and others from around the world gathering from the Global Network on Weapons in Space**. Executives, designers and high tech moguls elbowed their way past us towards the wine and munchies, all part of the opening exercises. Passing out flyers in the shadow of the Rockies that day, fifty years after the space age began in 1958 require persistence. The Generals did not take the flyers.
When I think of space I am reminded of Jacob’s ladder ( Gen. 28:11-19). The story tells us that Jacob digs out a rock to use as a pillow one night during his trek towards Haran. The countryside of Jacob`s dream was a little like Colorado Springs before the arrival of megachurches, space researchers, the Air Force Academy and modern military bases. In his dream he saw a ladder reaching all the way to heaven and the angels ascended and descended the ladder to heaven (note Jacob’s Ladder painting by William Blake***). At this point God renews the promise of protection and land, a safe place. The place of the dream was later called Bethel, House of God. For us today who try to maintain the sanctity of that ladder where angels come and go we have some of the same problems as Jacob as we figure out how to live with open access to the whole universe and the spirit behind it.
I have always thought of myself as a supporter of space exploration because it lifts my imagination towards the stars. Engagement with space might even give people like me a moment to reflect on deeper things like the source of energy and meaning. My brief visit to the twenty million dollar National Space Symposium reminded me to get rid of my rose coloured glasses and remember that old habits like giving priority to security, follows us humans into space.
I can be easily overwhelmed by the size and proportions of the technology. I have often worked in high security situations where military or police officials dominate. Usually I can find someone to talk to. Warriors for space are hard to talk to unless you know their language. The closest you can come to meeting a person might be at the National Space Symposium. Or, you could go to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., the epicentre of United States Strategic Command but your chances of getting in to talk to someone are slight.
What do we do? First we have to know enough to be convinced of the present danger, enough to carry on an intelligent conversation. I always think it’s a good idea to keep our sense of humour to lubricate the way. But humour alone will not solve the problem. Peacemaker Teams of the future will take on these emerging systems with discipline, competent reflection and clear headed projects. We need more critical thinkers in our work. Indignation will be a gift along the way. To get the conversation going we may need to poke our noses outside the old boxes to find a framework that includes people around the world.
It is daunting to discover the little secrets of what is going on as the U. S. Government works to own, manipulate and control space. I had hoped our common illumination about space would help us recalibrate our understanding of the Divine like early Christians who passed along the good news. It turns out that the Jacob’s ladder to the heavens that we live with, will need some work so that we can be at peace with the rocks on which we sleep and sing with the angels who come and go. We definitely cannot do it alone. Nor can we do it by demeaning or manipulating people. Hiding won`t work either. We do it by claiming some space like Jacob did and inviting others to join. There is no registration fee, but discipline, training, and imagination are a must.
*Command Emblem http://www.stratcom.mil
The history and legacy of strategic and space operations is represented in the U.S. Strategic Command emblem. The gauntlet is a symbol of strength, power, and loyalty and represents the command’s partnership with science and industry. The lightning bolts symbolize lethality and speed while the olive branch is a constant reminder of the command’s mission of securing the objectives of peace. The globe, as viewed from space, symbolizes the earth as being the origin and control point for all space vehicles and represents the command’s span of operations. Encompassing the globe are orbital paths crossed diagonally, each bearing two polestars, detailed white, representing the command’s satellite platforms and their worldwide coverage in accomplishing the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, communications, early warning, and navigation missions. The various emblem colors represent the joint character and rigor of the command. Green represents the command’s land-based strategic and space command and control infrastructure. The blue command designation band represents the command’s air-based and responsive ballistic missile force, agile bomber assets, aerial refueling, reconnaissance aircraft, and airborne command platforms. The emblem’s design is surrounded by a gold braid, which represents a nautical theme to recognize the command’s survivable sea-based ballistic submarine forces. The two sets of four silver stars between the lettering represent the command’s leadership as well as the fusion of the four armed services into a unified command with a strategic global perspective.
** Global Network on Weapons in Space – http://www.space4peace.org/index.htm
*** Jacob’s Ladder, William Blake http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Jacob%27s_ladder
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