Bush Inauguration: Sadness & Determination

February, 2001

Bruce Gagnon

I watched the Bush inauguration while in Huntsville, Alabama. A fitting place I think since this heavily militarized city in the solid (Republican) south really represents the future of the Bush administration.

I was in Huntsville on an organizing trip, part of a southern speaking tour to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri, to promote the Global Network's upcoming March 16-18 National Space Organizing Conference & Protest.

Watching the Bush inaugural ceremonies live on TV brought intense sadness to me as I heard people saying that we have a "wonderful new president" that will "change the tone" in Washington. I guess, in a sense, there is a hard truth in that statement that brings the heavy cloud of sadness over me.

Things are going to change. In the Huntsville morning paper on inauguration day they quoted George Williams, president of a local military contractor, Colas Inc., as saying that "We're looking forward to (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld. He's alot more favorable toward the National Missile Defense (NMD). It ought to be better in Huntsville for the next four years." (Huntsville's Army Redstone Arsenal is in charge of Theatre Missile Defense, a likely first deployment option for Bush.)

Despite Bush's repeated words in his speech about the need for "civility" it gave me great joy to see the scores of protestors along the parade route with their signs and their chants. The corporate takeover of our government and our democracy calls on all of us to ignore these pleas for "civility". Bush is really suggesting that those lining up against his "reforms" are uncivil and unpatriotic. Bush is asking for a "change in tone" but at the same time he wants to cut taxes for the rich and the corporations, privatize social security, cut child welfare programs, threaten the environment, limit democracy, pack the courts with right wingers, and bring on a new generation of weapons systems, particularly Star Wars. How could we agree to muffle our voices under such conditions?

I have hope because of the e-mails I received in recent days from our friends in Tokyo and London informing us that they would protest against Star Wars at the U.S. embassies while Bush was being inaugurated. And our friends at the U.S. Menwith Hill spy satellite base, now being upgraded for "missile defense", let us know they would be out at that base too.

We can't afford to wait. Congress, with growing numbers of weak willed "New Democrats", has already voted to give the president the right to deploy "missile defense" as soon as technologically feasible. All that is left for us to do is to rapidly build an international movement that can create the intense pressure to slow down and then stop Star Wars. We can't wait for the Democrats to do it for us -- they likely will not.

We must stretch ourselves to do more, to take bolder action, if we hope to block a new arms race in space. We must go to the corporate offices of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, TRW, and Raytheon. We must go to the Space Command and other military installations that are working on Star Wars. Like Martin Luther King, who brought people into the solid south to protest against segregation and for civil rights, we must create a non-violent civil "crisis" of conscience over this issue. We are in a historic struggle to keep space for peace. We must force a debate that the government and corporated controlled media does not want to have.

As I was walking through the Huntsville airport to board my plane I was struck by the massive amount of corporate "advertising" there promoting "missile defense". This public facility has become a propaganda vehicle reaching thousands of unsuspecting people each day. The aerospace corporate domination is complete in Huntsville.

But I leave determined. I know that in February we will be protesting at the International Space Nuclear Power symposium in Albuquerque and that we will be back in Huntsville in March. In early May we'll hold our International Star Wars conference in Leeds, England and hold a protest at nearby Menwith Hill. On May 19 there will be a major day of resistance at Vandenberg AFB in California, the place where NMD is being tested, wasting over $100 million per test. And people all over the world are planning protests around the next NMD test which is expected to take place sometime in early spring.

And we'll soon enough return to this solid south for protests in southwest Mississippi, at the Stennis Missile Center, that has just been chosen as the test site for the Space Based Laser, the real Reagan Star Wars (one of Bush's favorite new weapons systems.)

We will press on and hope that the peace movement and the public will respond. We have no choice. We must have hope.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

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