Report on trip to Colorado
4-7 April, 2005
From: Bruce Gagnon
This report covers the period of April 4-7 as I traveled to Colorado to attend protests at the 21st National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. In addition, I traveled to Denver and Boulder for speaking events.
Each year Global Network co-founding group, Citizens for Peace in Space, organizes vigils outside The Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs where the Space Foundation holds their annual conference. This year over 6,500 military personnel and aerospace industry representatives gathered to plan for moving the arms race into the heavens. In addition, the conference organizers brought in eight hundred students from 46 states in order to indoctrinate them about "everything space." Speakers at the four-day event included Gen. Lance Lord, Commander of the Air Force Space Command and Lt. Gen. Thomas Goslin, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. A host of speakers from aerospace corporations like Raytheon, Arianespace, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics were also on the agenda.
Colorado Springs is a military town. There are five military installations there, including the headquarters of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base. Over 40,000 active duty military personnel are assigned to those five bases. I was told that 47% of those living in the city, with a population of 357,000, now work for the military industrial complex. How is it possible that we will ever end America's addiction to war and violence as long as our communities increasingly are dependent on military spending for jobs?
My first day there we gathered outside the conference with 20 activists for a news conference that was covered by two local TV stations and two newspapers. The next day a story appeared in the local Colorado Springs newspaper under the headline, "Don't use space for war, protesters say." Amazingly the reporter used virtually all of the statements I made in the news conference in the article, including, "He blamed the 'corporate dominated' media for not informing Americans of the military push into space and its consequences." I learned years ago, from watching Dr. Michio Kaku handle the media, that it is wise to challenge them to print that you think the media is under the control of the corporations. Sometimes they print the statement just to prove you "wrong."
After the news conference we vigiled for a couple of hours and one banner I especially liked, that was also reported in the newspaper story, was "Space Domination, Group Think = War." Group think is the right way to describe what goes on at events like this. The people pile into the event, listen to the generals say the U.S. must deny other countries access to space, they fill up their plastic bags with fancy posters of rockets and satellites, grab handfulls of Lockheed Martin pens and mouse pads and head to the hotel bars. All in a day's work.
The following morning my host Bill Sulzman and I returned to the symposium early in the morning because he wanted to be there when Lt. Gen. Goslin arrived to speak. Goslin works for the U.S. Strategic Command which was newly created with the merger of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the U.S. Space Command. So now the old bomber command, SAC, and the new space jockies are together and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. The Air Force Space Command is still based in Colorado Springs at Peterson A.F.B. Bill got to say a word to Goslin as he passed right by us on his way into the symposium. We were standing at the main entrance where security was screening every civilian who went inside. Anyone in a military uniform was allowed to just walk into the symposium without any screening. Did anyone ever consider that all a "terrorist" had to do was put on a uniform and strut in?
After our short vigil, Bill took me to see the two big religious fundamentalist "campuses" in town. First we went to see the huge 87-acre Focus on the Family facility run by Dr. James Dobson. The place is so big they have a visitor center and even have their own exit off the interstate highway. Bill and I watched a film inside their 172-seat theater that showed Dobson getting accolades from former president Ronald Reagan and the current George W. Bush as well as his father, the former president. A TV inside the lobby was continually playing an appearance of Dobson on CNN's Larry King Live where Dobson was making the claim that gay people had a secret plan to destroy the institution of marriage.
The flagship program of the Dobson "ministry" is its global radio program that is aired more than 18,000 times each week on about 2,000 outlets in the U.S. It is said that Dobson's message is now heard on more radio stations around the world than any other person on the planet. His broadcast is played in Russia, China and 157 other countries.
Next Bill took me to the nearby World Prayer Center that is the base for Pastor Ted Haggard, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. The centerpiece of this operation is an enormous church where Haggard preaches international outreach. I was later to see a video taped interview with Haggard where he described Colorado Springs this way, "This city is a light on a hill devoted to protecting people worldwide...thank God we had a strong military to help the Iraqi people make their own choices."
It was interesting to me that Haggard's "church" looked more like a basketball arena. It was round, with exits all around it, and had the exposed steel rafters in the roof just like you see at major indoor sports stadiums. We went inside and I saw not one typical sign of a church. No Jesus on a cross, no cloth banners hanging from the rafters, no candles, no stained glass. In the video Haggard described his Sunday services as "Kind of like a rally...with music and very simple bible teachings.....we do what we can to encourage free markets."
Haggard appears to focus on young people. There was a Christian rock band performing in another part of his campus with about 20 young people dancing with their arms raised to the sky. While there I picked up a piece of paper entitled "The World Prayer Team - Prayer Points" and read the following: AFGHANISTAN - Pray for the continual efforts to rebuild and stabilize this country. Pray for the protection of the soldiers accomplishing this work. IRAQ - We thank our Heavenly Father for the work he has accomplished in this country as insurgent attacks continue to drop. Pray that stability will grow in ever increasing measures over the next few months and on into the future."
As we were leaving Haggard's campus I picked up a schedule of up-coming conferences. One scheduled for July, 2005 in Dallas, Texas was called "Taking Back the Spoils from the Enemy" and another for November, 2005 in Greensboro, N.C. was "Prayer and Spiritual Warfare Conference - East Coast."
As we drove away from this place I asked Bill what the connection between Colorado Spring's massive military presence and the Christian fundamentalist operations was. He responded that, "Fascist theology in this town sees God on the side of the U.S. The U.S. government is an agent of evangelization that provides a security cover for them. Haggard says that without the protection of a dominate U.S. military they would not be free to practice or evangelize others."
Bill knows a bit about religion. He was a Catholic priest and was basically removed from the church after getting arrested inside the chapel at the nearby Air Force Academy, named "Our Lady of the Skies," while protesting the Vietnam War.
That evening I spoke at an event organized at a local church. A young woman named Kelly Dougherty of Colorado Springs was also a speaker. Kelly was recently in Iraq serving with the Colorado National Guard. She now belongs to the Iraq Veterans Against the War and told of the many Iraqi men, women and children she saw killed by "smart bombs" directed to their targets by space technology. One young man in the audience revealed that he was AWOL after having already served one tour in Iraq and is now refusing to go back.
During the next two days Bill drove me to Denver where I spoke and then we returned to the space symposium for more vigiling. He also took me to Boulder where I talked at the Univeristy of Colorado. My last morning of the trip he arranged for me to speak to a political science class at Colorado College back in Colorado Springs. The talk was supposed to last for one hour, but the class of about 25 students had so many questions the professor extended the session by a half hour. Upon returning home I got an e-mail from the professor telling me I won some converts that day and that several of his students thought my ideas were "cool."
Much thanks to Bill Sulzman for an intense but exciting trip. Next year I want to try to get some Global Network members to join us in Colorado Springs for the annual space symposium protests. While there this year I ran into a Wing Commander, Chris Knapman, from the United Kingdom. I recognized him as he walked by while I was vigiling outside the symposium. We met a couple years ago when I was on tour in England and friends had taken me to the U.S. Star Wars radar facility in Yorkshire called Fylingdales. My friends asked for the commander to come out to talk with me and he did. When I got back to where I was staying in Colorado Springs I told the story about seeing Chris again on my web blog and added a photo of us talking outside his base. The next day, while vigiling again at the symposium, Chris walked by and said, "You work fast. I saw the photo on your blog." I was a bit taken back that he saw my blog and later asked him how he had known to look at it. He told me he regularly checks the websites of anti-Star Wars groups in the UK and the U.S. Nice to know they are watching us. Just goes to show that our actions are under scrutiny and the government fears the work we do enough to keep a close eye on it. Keep watching Chris!
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 319-2017 (Cell Phone)
http://space4peace.blogspot.com (Our blog)