Keynote Address

Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
"Keep Space for Peace" event
American University, Washington, DC

April 15 2000

by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)

GN INTRODUCTION: Thank you. Again, I am privileged to welcome our keynote speaker, the honorable Dennis Kucinich, Democrat from Cleveland, Ohio. Rep. Kucinich, once called "The Boy Mayor of Cleveland," has a long record of progressive politics.

Unlike most of our elected officials today, he remains one of the few who is still fighting to keep open public hospitals against the budget cutters who are trying to close them-or make them privatized, as they are in New York. During the Kosovo war, it was Congressman Kucinich who was one of the few Democrats who vigorously spoke out against that war, and who actively participated in protests against the US bombing. (applause) And Rep. Kucinich has been a leader in the current campaign to end the terrible sanctions on the people of Iraq. (applause)

And last Tuesday, in anticipation of our weekend of "Keep Space for Peace" events, Congressman Kucinich went to the House floor, and delivered a speech opposing the Space Command's plan for control and domination of the heavens (applause). He also organized several other colleagues to join him in doing so. And he is now preparing legislation to create a Department of Peace (applause), that's going to counterbalance our Department of War.

And one last thing: about a month ago, the Global Network received a membership donation from Dennis Kucinich. So we are proud to introduce a Congressman for all the people, a member of our Global Network, Representative Kucinich (applause).

Thank you. Good Morning.

My presence here today is out of appreciation for your efforts. For all the work that each and every one of you has been doing for many, many years. Because often, it might seem that the pursuit of peace-whether we're talking about peace on earth or peace in the heavens (I always thought there was peace in the heavens. Trouble in paradise, I guess, with this)-but I think that your ongoing commitment is an essential part of elevating the consciousness of the nation and the world on matters which relate to the survival of the planet.

So I'm particularly honored to be in your presence, and humbled by the invitation to speak here today. I want to thank Bruce Gagnon, too, for all of his work. Let's hear it for him (applause). Bruce, you have been a champion for all of us, in the effort to raise awareness of why people should be concerned about this latest initiative. And again, I'm here today as someone who is pleased to work with you. I know that…

Before I get into my prepared remarks-I'm sure you have already discussed this today-but with the word on the front page of the New York Times here: "Putin wins vote in parliament on traty to cut nuclear arms." This is a significant story, and it needs some reflection at this moment, particularly by a member of the United States Congress. Right now, the United States has, by one estimate, 7,763 nuclear warheads, and Russia has 6,472 nuclear warheads. Now the Russian Duma voted yesterday, 228-131, to approve of START II, which would cut US-Russia arsenals in half, and in the process, it upholds the 1972 ABM treaty, which restricts testing and deployment of missile systems.

Now, the United States' response was very interesting. First, our government says, well, great, let's go to START III now, which would cut the arms to a level of 1,500 in each nation. And then, the United States goes on to say to Russia, there's just one thing we have to do: let us change the ABM treaty, so that we can go ahead and deploy this National Missile Defense system. Because we're worried about North Korea. Which, incidentally, at the same time, we're trying to give a helping hand to get nuclear power started in their country. As a gesture of goodwill.

Of course Russia says they are not going to implement START II until the US Senate acts on protocols, and that certainly START II would be dead if the United States goes ahead and tries to change the ABM treaty for a National Missile Defense system. This is quite a turn of events. We've got the evil empire, which Ronald Reagan said, tear down that wall, leading the way in arms reduction while the US is taking steps to keep the arms race going. Appropos of that great political philosopher, Pogo, who once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." (applause)

To top that off, the latest coming out of the Pentagon is that Russia is going to have to let us change the ABM, or the United States should just withdraw from the ABM treaty. These must be, in the Pentagon, the same brilliant theorists who gave us Rambouillet, the non-negotiable demand to the government of Yugoslavia, to give their country over to NATO, or else we would bomb, which propelled us further into a destructive war. And illegal and immoral war, which I suppose all wars are.

I think that it's important, as we start this discussion today, that we understand the backdrop of our effort to try to create a new consciousness in trying to keep space for peace. As many of you know, the Pentagon has postponed testing of a national missile defense system until late June, which means that the President will be making his decision later this summer.

Of course, we know that moving forward with a national missile defense system will set the stage for the advancement and proliferation of nuclear weapons in space. And we know that once we continue down this road, we're going to be locked into funding an industry that makes missiles, and anti-missiles, and creates policies to promote the use of missiles, and more spending on missiles.

So, for that reason, myself and a few other members of Congress, are urging the President to reject deployment of a national missile defense system, to reject a policy which fails the human race. To reject the technology that is a failure. To reject a defense system that will spark a larger arms race worldwide.

We all know that the United States is working on a weapons system in space, and we also know that deploying a national missile defense system will regenerate the Cold War. And if we needed any proof of that, we need just look at the statements going between the Pentagon and the Kremlin right now. I would like to reflect for a moment on that Cold War.

The whole concept of the Cold War was driven deep into the American psyche. And why? I think we know now, it was to justify expenditures of hundreds of billions of dollars in armaments. It directed that same money away from meeting the critical national needs in education, in health care, in housing. Cold War paranoia fed into the so-called domino theory, which said that unless the US could win a "victory" in Southeast Asia, or in Viet Nam, that all of Southeast Asia would fall to communism.

The Cold War totally warped our ground of meaning, so that some can't even speak, paradoxically, of a US victory in the Cold War. The circumstances, currently, are leading to a new level of wrongheaded analysis, and we're currently still looking for the Cold War victory benefit of expected arms reductions. But that's not happening.

So I think we have to ask, "What does this mean?" We have to ask, "What was this Cold War all about?" We know what it was all about. It was about profiteering for arms manufacturers. And we also have to recognize that the Cold War is not over. There is no Cold War benefit. There's only a restless, ceaseless arms race which rides the newest technological wave, to continue to drain our national resources, to continue to create fear in America, to continue to create fear abroad, to continue to make the world less safe, and to continue to drive our national consciousness downward.

In an assembly meeting of the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, a resolution calling for the preventing of an outer space arms race was brought before the United Nations. This resolution was passed overwhelmingly, with 162 votes, with two abstaining. The United States abstained. It's my belief that the United States must sign on, and send a message to the world that space is for peace, not war. We really need to have our country make a statement about that. And unfortunately, there are policy makers who are aimed at having the country make a statement totally the opposite. Again, referring to a Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, speaking to the Indian parliament in 1986, said that what we need is a star peace, not Star Wars. (applause)

With the pending decision on deploying a national missile defense system, we are certainly headed towards a Star Wars scenario. And I think that it's appropriate at this time that we reflect on this proposal for a national missile defense system, and to go into it categorically, as to why it's misguided. We may know intuitively that it's the wrong thing to do. We may know in our hearts that it's the wrong thing to do. We may know from the depths of our souls that this is the wrong thing to do. We still must be prepared to argue, and we can argue, and successfully. Challenge the logic which attempts to build this system.

I think we can argue that deploying such a ballistic missile defense system will expedite efforts to create a space-based weapons system. Because they're really-the difference between offense and defense in these systems is, who goes first. Many advocates of the missile system say that the system is not Star Wars all over again, it's ground wars. They argue that because it uses ground-based interceptors, and not space-based interceptors. Please.

You know, in fact, nevertheless, there are forces out there, working towards a space-based system. Let's name names: Lockheed Martin. TRW. Boeing. They now have a contract to build the space-based laser weapon, that will be the follow-on technology to ballistic missile defense. This weapons system will enable the US to have offensive capability in space, as called for by this little document, which I'm sure you have copies of, called "Vision for 2020."

Check this out: 2020 Vision means war in space. 2020 vision. It seems that Orwell's vision of 1984 just follows the curve of time, and now it's taken us into 2020, where the vision of the United States Space Command is for war in space. Because what this states is that the US Space Command intends to control and dominate space. Seize the heavens. The high ground. The same document states, and it opens with the following: "The US Space Command, dominating the space dimension of military operations, to protect US interests, and investment. Integrating space wars (sic) into warfighting capabilities, across the full spectrum of conflict."

Col. Joseph Ashley, commander of the US Space Command, has been quoted as saying, "We will expand into these two missions: space control and space force application. Because they will become increasingly important. We will engage in terrestrial targets someday-ships, airplanes, land targets-from space. We will engage targets in space, from space." Now, that's from the Aviation Week and Space Technology of a few years ago.

A national missile defense system aims to defend against attacks made by intercontinental ballistic missiles, armed with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. It would use ground-based interceptor missiles that would destroy incoming ballistic missiles by colliding with them midway across the earth's atmosphere. Supporters of this national missile defense system argue that the four criteria set by the President have been fulfilled. These are: the presence of a threat-because they are afraid; two, the cost of a missile defense system and its effect on military programs; three, the impact of a national missile defense on US-Russian arms reductions; and four, the technological success of the system. I want to go into each of those, because the facts tell a different story.

The criteria for fulfilling a national missile defense system has not been fulfilled. First, the national missile defense does not address the threats it purports to. The system can only defense against a very limited attack, by one delivery vehicle system. But a national missile defense cannot protect against other vehicles of defense (sic)-trucks, cars, suitcases-could not have protected against Oklahoma City bombing, nor the embassy bombings in Kenya or Tanzania. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists report, which was released earlier this week, there are simple countermeasures that could be employed against a planned system. These countermeasures do not require any new technology or new ideas or even new materials. So a national missile defense system could not fulfill its goal, intended goal of protecting national security.

On the second point, the cost of the system and its effect on other military programs, the Administration has requested more than $13 billion over the course of five years. But it turns out the real cost is much higher. According to Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, the cost of deploying a nuclear missile defense in the next five years will reach at least $38 billion. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the system will cost between $31 and $60 billion to build and deploy. Add to that $2 to $4 billion for Operation and Maintenance costs.

Moreover, a national missile defense system will likely be used to facilitate, as I mentioned earlier, offensive capabilities, a Star Wars-type program. For example, the President's budget requests more than $63 million for a space-based laser as part of the theater missile defense program. And we have the US Space Command, whose purpose is to take advantage of the use of space, and utilize it for military purposes.

Now, the third criteria is the impact on US-Russian arms reduction talks. And as I mentioned earlier, this country's creating some confusion on that. When you have the Russian parliament move to ratify START II, we should see this as a great example, or a great opportunity, to lead by example. I mean, the appropriate response for the United States, given the Russian parliament's action yesterday, would have been to say, this is a positive move, and it is time for us to rethink the deployment of a national missile defense system-since it's Russia that has over 60-almost 6,500 nuclear weapons. And to then bring down the level of concern and fear in the world.

But instead of taking this opportunity to lead by example, we continue to insist, as a nation, that we must deploy this. Notwithstanding whatever Russia does. Which then puts us into a new dialectic of conflict, which is what the Cold War was about. And what was it about? It was about arms manufacturing.

So, then, there's a great likelihood that deploying a system would spark another arms race, and Gregori Bernanikov, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Security and Disarmament Department warned that if the United States deploys a missile defense system, "Russia will be forced to raise the effectiveness of its strategic nuclear armed forces….

(recording interrupted-comment that Russia can't really afford nuclear re-armament)

We don't want to drive nations into a role where they cannot meet the needs of their own people. Because it's just that kind of instability which creates tensions in the world, and which can set nation against nation. Now, Col. Gen. Vladimir Yakolev, the Commander of Russia's strategic forces, has said, "Problems have cropped up with the Russian-American 1972 ABM treaty. For this reason, we are forced to build into our new missiles a capability for penetrating anti-missile defenses."

Do we think, as a nation, that if we want to create this idea of a nuclear umbrella, that countermeasures wouldn't then be the rule of the day? And that's the whole point of our presence here. We know that deploying a national missile defense system is the wrong approach. We know that the United States needs to be in active engagement with Russia about disarmament and reducing nuclear proliferation. And we need to continue a dialogue based not on fear, but on cooperation.

As has been mentioned in the introduction, I recently introduced H.Res. 369, known as the rapid risk reduction resolution, which is aimed at encouraging the United States' and Russian legislatures to work together outside the formal treaty process, to set the stage for reciprocal reductions in nuclear weapons.

We had a moment, a year ago, to engage in this kind of a dialogue. As the war in Yugoslavia was escalating, a group of about eleven members of Congress, a bipartisan group, of which I was privileged to be a member, flew to Vienna for a meeting with leaders of the Russian Duma, to talk about what we could do to try to bring an end to this dreadful situation which resulted in the bombing of Yugoslavia. At that meeting were present leaders of the Russian Duma, one of whom-Vladimir Lukim-had been quoted a few weeks previous, that NATO's, the United States' blockade of the port at Montenegro would be a direct path toward nuclear escalation. This is a person, by the way, who was Russian ambassador to the United States art one time. So he wasn't exactly a rookie when it came to international diplomacy or threat assessments.

So we had the opportunity to sit across the table from one another, sit at the same table, rather, and to talk about our concerns about our nations, and about peace in the world. From that meeting came an architecture for leading nations toward resolving the conflict. It hasn't been implemented, but what it did do, was to take steps to create a framework that stopped the bombing.

Now, we know that nations need to talk to each other. And that it's just that kind of communication and cooperation which is essential for peace. The estrangement which causes nations, and people of nations, to not like each other, even hate each other, is really the product of misunderstanding. And so, as we meet and talk together, we have to believe that we have it within our own capabilities to resolve our differences. And so we can see that war is not inevitable.

Now, there's one other point I wanted to make. Because the last criteria-I mentioned about the four criteria that have to be met-the last criteria is the system's technological success. Before the decision is made, three tests have to be scheduled to determine the system's success rate and reliability. The first system (sic) succeeded, due to a malfunction. The second test failed. The third test has been put off twice, because it's not ready for testing. Three tests can serve the basis for deploying a national missile defense system.

I would like to share with you a statement made by retired Gen. George Lee Butler, who headed the US strategic nuclear forces, about nuclear proliferation. Here is what he said: "I'm the only person who has ever looked at all 12,500 of our targets. When I got through, I was horrified. Deterrence is a formula for disaster. We escaped disaster by the grace of God. If you ask one person who has lived in this arena his whole career, I've come to one conclusion: this has to end. This must stop. This must be our highest priority." He said this in 1997, in an interview in the New Yorker, August 18.

Well, some in Congress have made it their priority. I commend Sen. Robb of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has said that developing space weapons would be a grave mistake, triggering an arms race in space. I also commend my fellow colleagues in the Congress who have spoken out against national missile defense-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey-we were all together on the floor of the House this Tuesday, to indicate to the American people the importance of this conference, and also to talk about the policy. Congresswoman Woolsey has introduced legislation that makes nuclear non-proliferation the foundation of any US security policy. So, there is support in the Congress to keep peace here on earth, and in space.

Now, the whole issue of prevention, before I conclude, I think needs to be discussed. And that is…. There was an article by Michael Klare, which I'm sure many of you are familiar with. It was a very important article, in Current History, in November 1996, Volume 95, number 604. It's called, "Redefining Security: New Global Schisms." And he says that the major international schisms of the 21st century will not always be definable in geographic terms. Many of the most severe and persistent threats to global peace and stability are arising not from conflicts between major political entities, but from increased dischord within states, societies, and civilizations, along ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic, caste, or class lines. This is not to say that traditional geopolitical divisions no longer play a role in world security affairs, but it does suggest that such divisions may have been superseded in importance by new global schisms.

Now, in his article, one of the things that Michael Klare talks about--which is really significant because it sets off a whole new understanding of policy initiatives that should be a matter of international cooperation, to be able to lessen the potential of conflict and prevent conflict-he talks about the sources of human insecurity.

Maldistribution of the wealth. 1.3 billion people in developing countries live in poverty. 200 million people live below the poverty line in industrial countries. Clean water is a source of human insecurity. 1.3 billion people in developing countries do not have access to safe water. Illiteracy. 900 million adults worldwide are illiterate. Food. 800 million in developing countries have inadequate food supplies. 500 million of this number are chronically malnourished. 175 million are under the age of 5. Housing. 500 million urban dwellers worldwide are homeless, or do not have adequate housing. 100 million young people are homeless. Preventable death. Between 15 and 20 million people die annually because of starvation, or disease aggravated by malnutrition. 10 million people die each year because of substandard housing, unsafe water, or poor sanitation in densely populated cities.

Now, when we understand the implications of that, and at the same time, hear figures of willingness to spend $38 billion to deploy, for initial costs for deployment (sic) of a national missile defense system, when we see the presence of so many thousands of our brothers and sisters in this capital today and tomorrow, to protest the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the Structural Adjustment policies which are crushing people in countries around the world, which are making it impossible for them to have decent living conditions, when we see the World Bank being used as an institution which makes it even tougher for countries to be able to meet the needs of their population, I think that we can come to an understanding that this policy of moving toward a national missile defense system can only lead to more instability around the world.

And what it should lead to, and what it must lead to, is a reawakening of a social consciousness in this country. To challenge our fellow citizens to realize that we are creatring the seeds of the destruction of people all over this world, and it inevitably will come back to this country as well (applause). I think that we have a wonderful country. And I'm proud to be a member of the United States Congress, serving our country. But if we love our country, then if we see our country taking a path that is dangerous, then we must help our country by challenging our country to do the right thing and not the wrong thing. And the right thing is to stop the deployment of a national missile defense system. (applause)

Now, you can ask, (interrupted by applause). We could ask what can we do? Well, the first thing that needs to be done is a proper level of analysis. And I know that's a lot of what's happening here at this conference. And Bruce, you've done great work in making sure that people can analyze. Because you have to be able to analyze the proposal on its own terms. But beyond that, we have to address this as a moral issue as well. Because it is a moral issue. We're a country that should be about turning swords into plowshares. And that's what the ABM treaty was about. Not in fashioning new, technologically superior swords, to hold like swords of Damacles over the populations of the world. We cannot survive as a nation with that approach. (applause)

We need to, as a nation, encourage our citizenry to be active citizens in changing the political process. And so, what you need to do, is to inspire people to recognize the potency of their own involvement. Of their ability to make a difference. Of the necessity of each person standing up and speaking out. Of the necessity of us collectively challenging the policies, at the ballot box, and if necessary, in the streets of this nation. (applause)

We cannot accede to these powerful institutions, who would simply, blindly, lead us down a path to destruction of freedom in this country and around the world. And, for that reason, we need to insist that our Congressional Representatives, and that members of the United States Senate, stand up to their responsibility to the American people, and for a domestic agenda to meet the needs of our people for better education, for better health care, for better housing, and to meet the needs of people around the world for increased security that comes, not from arms, but comes from recognizing that the human condition, in order to be improved, needs to be uplifted. That we have to recognize the essential humanity of everyone. That we are not simply citizens of the United States, but that we have to have a new form of citizenship which is a universal brotherhood and sisterhood, to see that we're connected with people everywhere. And that what happens in any country where people are suffering, affects us. We cannot let ourselves be cut off from humanity by partisan cant, by attempts to set people against people, nation against nation.

And so, we are challenged today to go forward from this moment. I had the opportunity to represent the United States in Buenos Aires, at the conference of parties to deal with the issue of global climate change. And I saw something there that I wanted to share with you before I leave. And that is that there were the new "citizen diplomats" there. Members of non-governmental organizations who came together as citizens of the world to share their feelings and their thoughts, and the imperative that they felt about what needed to be done to preserve this global climate, our global habitat. To provide for sustainable development. And those citizen diplomats are affecting governments around the world. We need to be in touch with brothers and sisters around the world, and empower them to take a stand to support action on the part of their government to sustain the world. We need a politics which is focused on human rights. Which is focused on love, not hate.

And for that reason, in concert with many people in this community, and others around the country, for the last year I've been working on a proposal to create a Department of Peace, which views peace, not war, as being inevitable. Which would take nonviolent resolution of conflict, and make it an organizing principle in our society, for domestic as well as international policy. So that we come to a point in the future where we cannot even conceive of war as an instrument of resolving differences between people. So that we can go to our schools, and teach our children how to deal with their aggression. So that we can go into communities where there are disputes, and teach people how to mediate. How to conciliate. So that we can evolve as a people into something better than we are. Into a higher condition of humanity. Where our expression is peaceful. Where the manner in which we address each other is peaceful. Where we connect with that impulse from the heart, that says that we are all together, that we have this primal human sympathy for each other. That we can reach higher, and keep reaching higher. In the words of the poet, a person's reach should exceed their grasp, or what's a heaven for? That we have the opportunity to lift up this world. And only one person can do it, and that person is you. And together, we change the world.

Sen. Robert Kennedy, when he visited the students in South Africa in 1968, who thought Apartheid would never, ever be challenged, who thought that they were stuck in this condition of a two-class society, one of which was a society that was crushed in its ability for basic human dignity. And he looked at the students who were questioning him, how in the world could this condition ever be different? And I say this here at the moment that we're thinking about this idea of weapons in space, and a new round of world threat and possible war, and Senator Kennedy looked at those students, and he told them this: he said, "You can make a difference." He said, "Each time a man or a woman stands up for an ideal, acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples can create a current, which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." We have the strength. We have the power. It's the power of the human spirit. Let's call on that. Let's stay together. Let's work together, to make this a more peaceful world and a better world.

Thank you very much.

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