Address to GN "Keep Space for Peace" Conference

American University, Washington, DC

April 15 2000

Patricia Mische, Pax Christi USA (Ohio)

We've started a new millennium this year, and I think one of the most important issues affecting the next 1,000 years that we are beginning this year, is the question of the peaceful uses of outer space. And with it, the new cosmology, the new understandings we need of the universe and the human role into it, to wisely into that next 1,000 years.

We either have to learn these lessons of a new cosmology and new understandings of our purpose and role in space, or succumb to what seems to now be a kind of overwhelming-but what has been a secretive trend-to placing weapons in space. So either weapons in space, which is a kind of continuation of the old mindset and worldviews that guided the last 10,000 years of evolution, or really look at space not as the last frontier for weaponization or militarization, but as the new frontier for starting a 1,000 year reign of peace in the world.

About 15 years ago, I wrote a book called, "Star Wars and the State of Our Souls." And many of us who were discussing in the 1980s this issue, really thought with the end of the Cold War, we would begin a new era of cooperation in the peaceful uses, not only of outer space, but peace on the planet. At that time I wrote of some visions and possibilities for the peaceful uses of outer space that were already underway, but which needed to be expanded and maximized, including:

  • The use or the placement of communications systems that would bring all of us on the planet closer together.
  • Space-based medical research leading to possible new cures for human diseases.
  • The satellite monitoring of Earth's land, water, and air systems to help control pollution, prevent deforestation, and in other ways to protect Earth's fragile biosphere.
  • The development and placement of early warning systems for sensitive food and agricultural areas, to help increase food production, and prevent desertification and the other ravages that lead to hunger in places like Africa.
  • New methods for locating mineral resources.
  • Weather monitoring and storm alerts.
  • Satellite-aided search and rescue missions to locate and help save the lives of victims of air, land, and sea disasters. That kind of cooperation is already going on.
  • And, of course, satellite verification of arms control compliance, to enhance national and global security.

These are some peaceful uses of outer space. In the… Thousands of years ago…

The idea of peaceful uses of outer space is not new. Thousands of years ago our tribal ancestors believed that the whole Earth--the land, the water, the sky-was inhabited by sacred forces. And the human task was to learn how to bring one's life into harmony with these sacred forces. There was a deep-felt belief that the human was not over or separate from the earth, but was part of the earth. And that what one did to the earth, one did to oneself.

But by the beginning of World War II, the dominant worldview was very, very different. By then, the land had been penetrated, militarized, and desacralized with tanks, with bazookas, with landmines, and with poisonous gas. The waters had been penetrated, militarized, and desacralized, with submarines, with mines, and torpedoes. And with the bomber, even the skies had been militarized, and desacralized. But still, in those innocent years following World War II, there was still the belief that outer space was sacred, and that we could still preserve outer space for peaceful uses.

Buck Rodgers lived in comic-book fantasies, but no-one had yet gone to the moon, and no-one had the notion, yet, that Star Wars could be more than a science fiction idea. Space was the last place left from human wars. And it was the last refuge left of the image of a sacred presence in all the universe. And when we prayed, we didn't look to the earth, we didn't look to our waters, we looked to that place out there in outer space, because it's the one place we hadn't desacralized.

So, it was then, I think with a certain amount of shock, that we see the new trends. I mean people denied that it was happening, and a great many people set out to prevent it happening. In fact, the development of the Outer Space Treaty was a way in which the human community, through the United Nations, set out to establish and preserve forever this area as the last frontier, but as the first frontier for peace in the future.

That dedication of space to peace included what I think is still the vision, a vision we need, not only to hold firm to, but to expand and to deepen. In the Outer Space Treaty we agreed, among other things, that "The exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit, and in the interests, of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development. It should be the province of all humankind." We agreed that the exploration and use of outer space would be guided by the principle of cooperation and mutual assistance.

We agreed that any state party to the treaty, of which the US is a signatory, any state party to that treaty that launched objects into outer space, or from whose territory objects were launched, would accept international liability for any damage to another state party that might result. We agreed that they would not place in orbit around the earth any nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, and that we would not establish military bases, installations, and fortifications, or test any type of weapon or conduct military maneuvers on celestial bodies.

So with this treaty in place, the world's people felt relatively secure about the peaceful uses of outer space. But in the years since its adoption, quite another story-as we know, as we have heard of from other panelists-has been evolving.

Already, in the 1970s, research began-long before President Reagan's 1983 speech on Star Wars-already the research was underway, and began to be promoted in military circles as necessary to national defense against a nuclear attack. And by President Reagan-I remember that famous speech, I was kind of riveted by it-he said, "We need to keep the little children safe in their beds." So we had this image of space weapons, anti-satellite weapons, Ballistic Missile Defense systems, protecting little children, safe in their beds, while the stars shone brightly over them. And their parents were kissing them, and tucking them in.

But secretly, while this was one kind of language, was another kind of language, which was appearing in the Heritage Foundation's prescription to the President for policy-not only in outer space, but related to arms control and disarmament. Secretly, the President was supposed to be using the language of defense and security, and concern about children in their beds, to undercut the nuclear freeze movement at the time. He was to seize the high-ground language about peace and security, and to press for these weapons that would defend against nuclear attack. To confound the Soviets-that was the language used-to press them into spending themselves into the ground.

He was, secretly, these weapons were supposed to make it safer to wage nuclear war. Not just safer for those children in their beds, but safer to actually contemplate first strike. So that the one who would wage nuclear war with a first strike, would be able, then, to use those weapons to counter attack when responses came in the form of missiles from those who we had just attacked. In that case the aim was at the Soviet Union.

So it made first strike more imminent. Because it gave the one who undertook a first strike the capacity to repel a retaliatory strike. In other words, it was going to undermine arms control regimes. And it was, secretly, even though we used the language of defending little children in their beds, we were talking, at that time secretly, about superiority and US dominance, and the ability to win in a nuclear war.

Today the language is not so secret. It is more blatant. The language in the 2020 Vision for BMD is very blatant about US dominance and control and superiority. Nothing hidden in the language. For the United States, the issue is, and this is a quote, "to control," to control space, to protect its economic interests. 2020s Vision is one which would, quote, "coordinate the use of Army, Navy, and Air Force space forces, to help institutionalize the use of space." And then it goes on, quote, "The US Space Command, it would give the US Space Command the capacity to [recording interrupted] be able to go on to rule space." This is the blatant language of dominance and of mastery, and of control. It is the language of a hegemonic, imperial power, set out to have global rule.

The same report goes on to talk about the cooperation of 75 participating corporations in this ambitious goal. And it states that the goal is not only to have economic, to protect economic investments, but to establish military domination over the whole world. So there is nothing secret about the language any more, it is all out there in the Vision [for] 2020. Economic and military dominance of the entire planet.

We put that kind of vision against the vision of Koffi Annan, responding to this kind of language, who said in his speech: "Above all, we must guard against the misuse of outer space." He said this at last year's opening of the UN general assembly, to the whole world. "We must not allow this century, so plagued with war and suffering, to pass on its legacy, when the technology at our disposal will be even more awesome. We cannot view the expanse of space as another battleground for our earthly conflicts."

And so we have two kind [sic] of visions being held out. One, a imperial US vision. Another, a vision holding on to that vision of the UN for cooperation in addressing problems of people on earth, and problems of keeping space, outer space, for peace.

Where does that bring us today? I can't help but think of the words of Hannah Arendt, writing in the 1950s and reflecting back on the wartime trials of Nazi war criminals. When she talked about the banality of evil. When she said, how ordinary did the people who committed these crimes look to her. They looked like ordinary people, who were only doing their duty. Only following orders. They were ordinary people who had tremendous power. Ordinary people who simply wanted to make things work the best they could. People who were asked to make the crematoria and the gas ovens more efficient. And who focused on that task of making something work, rather than asking the deeper, fundamental, moral issues about whether one should be engaged in that kind of process at all. And she talked about the paucity of language. Ordinary people who were given extraordinary power over life and death, but who had no mental and no moral tools to even think about what they were doing. They had no language, no moral language to ask themselves the ultimate questions about what they were doing.

And lest we think that she wrote that book about them, then, in World War II, she wrote that book in 1958, the year after Sputnik was launched, and she saw a new thing about to engage in the heavens. And she starts her book out reflecting about what was to come in space. She said, "this event", she's talking now about Sputnik, "this event is second in importance to no other, not even to the splitting of the atom, would have been greeted with unmitigated joy, if it had not been for the uncomfortable military and political circumstances attending it."

Arendt was not against science and technology, nor do I think are we here who are promoting the peaceful uses of space, and down with weapons in space. We are not against science and technology. But what Arendt was mourning was the reversal of contemplation and action. She said people were doing first, before contemplating the consequences of their decisions. And she said, we need to think what we are doing, to pause and to think what we are doing. And we need for that the mental and moral tools.

In looking at the many forwarded messages from the Global Network listserv, you feel this sense of rushing on the part of the US. This pushing as fast as one can, to push this before the US or the world public is fully aware of what is even going on. So that the systems will actually be in place before one can question or negate them. So Arendt asks for the reversal. That we put contemplation before action. That we know what is going on in here, before we begin to act out there.

It made me think about the Star Wars trilogy that came out about the time that President Reagan was promoting Star Wars, and in the first in that Star Wars trilogy, I was so disappointed when I saw it, because of the fascination in that movie with high-tech intergalactic warfare. And every child at the next Halloween was walking around like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and with ray guns ready to zap out planets faster than the speed of light.

And the hidden assumption of that movie was that somehow in the barbaric past, of the 20th century, and we could say in thew 21st century, maybe, too, that disarmament and arms control negotiations had failed. That they had failed. That there was a failure of vision to promote an alternative path for the human community. And because of that failure of vision, war was taken beyond earth's oceans, land, and waters, out into outer space. And war technology was made bigger and better, until we could zap out planets faster than the speed of light, and we could do it all by remote control. And we did not need to think anymore. Or hear anymore the screams of the victims. Or see the blood. It was all very sanitary and all very very remote from any kind of moral responsibility for the consequences.

So I was very saddened by this first Star Wars, and did not want to take my children to numbers two and three in the Star Wars trilogy, but I went to see myself, the second and the third. And I was very taken in that we had another kind of moral approach coming in those movies to the questions I think we face today. In the second of the trilogy we begin to explore the relationships between inner and outer space. And in there, in that second one, we see Luke Sywalker has a spiritual guide, Yoda. And he says, before you can master outer space, you have to master inner space. And there begins the most terrifying journey that Luke Skywalker must take. And that is the inner journey of the soul. And Luke says to Yoda, if I take this journey, what am I gonna find in there? And Yoda says, only what you take there. Only what you take is what you find. Garbage in, garbage out.

In space, then, what he encountered when he went into himself, in that first inner journey, he entered into a kind of deadly battle with an arch enemy, whom he felled. And then he wanted to know, who was that enemy? And when he lifted the visor, he saw his own face. He was his own enemy. He saw his own face. This drama of the unconscious foreshadowed what was to come next in his encounter with Darth Vader, when he enters into battle with Darth Vader, and then finds in the end that Vader is his own father, and that the two are intimately related.

And we have to ask today, "who is the enemy we expect to destroy us?" We are told, maybe it could be the Russians coming back, a comeback. China, Korea, Iraq, Iran, for which we need these weapons to protect our little children in our beds. We make up enemies, because we are afraid, maybe, to look at ourselves. To lift that visor and see, maybe, we are the enemy whom we are afraid to see. We are our own dark side.

Yoda said to Luke, "Beware of the Dark Side. Once you start down the Dark Side, you cannot turn back. It takes over." And this is what Hannah Arendt was warning us of. Once we start down this path, we cannot go back. We have militarized every part of the earth. Now, we seek to militarize outer space. Yoda says to Luke, to choose instead the vision. The power and the path of the life force. It makes things grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us everywhere. Seek the healing redemptive process within, and reconciling the Dark Side and the Light Side within, unifying and healing our planet, and reaching out in love and compassion. We need to learn the lessons of inner space before we go into outer space.

I just would close with this reflection. Again, I think this year 2000 is a very critical moment historically, because of these space weapons issues. And the decisions we make now, the policies we set now, are of no small trivial consequence. They will affect everything that follows for the next 1000 years. This is no small issue. We must not make our decisions while intoxicated with illusions of power and supremacy. And this is the language blatantly being used. Nor should we base it on some shallow perception of the historically fleeting and imaginary conflicts that are out there.

We need the deeper knowledge of the longer stream of the cosmos. We need to go out into space. To understand better the cosmos of which we are a part, and to better understand the earth and the role of humans in the further evolution of the earth. But it has to be done in responsible ways that use that technology for the benefits of planetary evolution and of all of the peoples on the earth.



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