Coordinator Trip Report - New Mexico
8-14 February 2006
From: Bruce Gagnon
This trip report covers the period of February 8-14, 2006 as I traveled to New Mexico on a speaking tour and to organize a protest outside the 23rd Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion in Albuquerque.
I began the trip by getting off the plane in Albuquerque and seeing three people with colorful protest signs standing in the middle of the airport waiting to pick me up. Bob Anderson, Jeanne Pahls, and Sally Alice Thompson held NO STAR WARS and NO NUKES IN SPACE signs. I loved the unusual welcome, although I was surprised that Homeland Security wasn't all over them. As I approached them, I heard a few other passengers saying "right on!"
On February 9, Bob drove me south to Silver City for a talk. It was my second time to visit this town and a good gathering of folks from the Grant County Peace Coalition turned out. The talk was videotaped for broadcast on the local cable TV. Marta Green and Rod Rees were the very impressive local organizers of the event.
The next day Bob drove me back to Albuquerque the long way, showing me the beautiful countryside. He said one county we passed through, very much loaded with cowboys, had once tried unsuccessfully to secede from the state.
Later that evening, Bob and I were invited to appear on an hour-long local cable TV show called "Connecting the Dots" hosted by Al Cooper. Al is a Vietnam veteran, and was at Wounded Knee in South Dakota with Bob in the early 1970's when they went to show support for the American Indian Movement (AIM). Al has always focused more on social justice issues. He kept remarking after the show that he finally understood how space technology will be used to become the military arm of corporate globalization.
On February 11, Al drove his wife Allison, Bob, Jeanne and me three hours north to Las Vegas, New Mexico. We had to leave early in the morning in order to arrive in time for an hour-long live interview on a popular local radio station. We were met by Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center coordinator Patricia Leahan who joined us on the show and helped the host of the show interview us. The mayor, running for reelection of Las Vegas, was on just before us; I made a point of listening to him a bit before we went on. He was talking about budget problems and the difficulties of providing all the services the community needed. When it was our turn, I began talking about how expensive the Pentagon's plan for Star Wars is, and how social spending cuts will be necessary to pay for it. This continuity of message was important to help the listeners see the connection between weapons in space and the struggle for local community needs.
Following a great lunch at a wonderful Mexican restaurant, we went to the home of a local supporter where 20 people came to watch our video, Arsenal of Hypocrisy. Then in the evening, 80 people turned out to hear my talk at the local college. I was impressed that all day long, as Patricia took us from place to place she was on the phone calling people, or stopping them on the street, insisting they come to my talk that evening.
I spoke at the Albuquerque Peace & Justice Center on February 12 and invited people to join us the next morning for our space nukes vigil.
On February 13, we began our two-day protest at the Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque outside the space nuclear power symposium. The Nuclear Engineering Department at the University of New Mexico (UMN) is host each year for the symposium. Bob and I have organized these protests for the past dozen years as NASA, Department of Energy, aerospace industry, and nuclear academia come together to plan to move nuclear "everything" into space. The only media coverage we got was a good article in the "Daily Lobo" student newspaper and an interview on the public radio station at UNM.
Later that evening I was invited to address the Albuquerque Chapter of Veterans for Peace. They were very responsive and we had quite an interesting discussion afterward. I talked about how Albuquerque was a key location for the nuclearization and weaponization of space. Besides UNM being a key research and development center for the space nuclear reactor, Kirtland AFB in their city is the directorate for the military space laser program. It is vital, I told them, to expand education and protest action on the space issue in their community. Bob Anderson and Jeanne Pahls, leading a group called Stop the War Machine, have been key leaders in bringing the space issue to Albuquerque for years and need the on-going support of all peace activists in town.
While In Albuquerque I met a woman whose father had been one of the Nazi rocket scientists brought to the U.S. in "Operation Paperclip" right after the end of World War II. Her father, Ernst Steinhoff, had been the guidance department chief at Hitler's V-1 and V-2 test facility at Peenemunde in northern Germany. Once brought to the U.S., the Nazi rocketeers test range moved to New Mexico and the White Sands Proving Ground. One hundred copies of Hitler's V-2 and over 100 former Nazi rocket scientists created the U.S. space program.
Sternhoff went on to work in the aerospace industry on the west coast and eventually returned to New Mexico when he was appointed to a high position at Holloman AFB. Sternhoff's daughter told me that she did not learn about the Nazi holocaust until she was 18 years old. When she approached her mother asking if it was true, her mother said it was necessary and retrieved an old Readers Digest article to explain her side of the story.
The Nazi rocket program in Germany killed tens of thousands of Jews, French resistance fighters, Communists, homosexuals, and prisoners of war, who were all used as slave labor to build Hitler's V-1 and V-2 rocket program. (For more information about this story read Secret Agenda by Linda Hunt.)
On my last day in New Mexico, Bob and I arrived early at the Hilton Hotel and went inside to get a look at the symposium display room. Inside we saw fancy and expensive nuclear power in space displays by NASA, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Department of Energy, among others. We noticed that NASA was taking participants' pictures and putting them onto postcards with a nuclear-powered moon mining base in the background. We both had them take our photos there, on the moon, inside a space suit.
Since returning home I've told friends that NASA has offered me a job as coordinator of nuclear operations on the moon. The only problem, I tell them, is that NASA is only offering me a one-way ticket!
So thanks to Bob Anderson and Jeanne Pahls for hosting another great visit to New Mexico.
The state of New Mexico has been asked by private space "entrepreneurs" for a $250 million gift from the taxpayers of the state to build a "Spaceport" that they say would be used to launch millionaire tourists into space from the sands of New Mexico.....
And so the struggle goes.
Bruce K. Gagnon