October 23, 2007 was a wonderful day. I finally had the long-awaited opportunity to see the launch of the space shuttle on yet another mission to the space station. Two weeks earlier, we had toured the Kennedy Space Center while our motor home was being repaired. The launch was awesome! I really cannot describe it.
I have now witnessed firsthand one of the greatest technological achievements in the history of mankind. But I also viewed the launch with mixed feelings.
I am very concerned about the militarization of space. The space station is to me a mixed bag. It shows the positive effects of international cooperation. It allows us to conduct experiments which may eventually alleviate human suffering. Most worthy and desirable goals! However, I wonder what other motives lie behind the development of the station.
Two weeks ago another rocket was launched from nearby Patrick Air Force Base. It carried a military Global positioning Satellite that was clearly designed for military purposes. The nation that dominates space will dominate and probably oppress Planet Earth. As peacemakers, we must take every opportunity to oppose this evil. The organization, Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space http://www.space4peace.org provides useful information to assist in this mission.
What troubled me as I marveled at the launch was the fact that great commitment and technological knowhow has been applied in order to develop our space program. Then, I think back to the origins which drove the program. Horror of horrors! The hated and feared Russians launched Sputnik and put a man in space. The die was cast. We had to gear up, develop a space program and outdo the Russians!
Suppose, just suppose, that all this commitment and knowhow had been applied in 1960 to the problem of alleviating human suffering by providing clean drinking water for every person on the planet. Would we be engaged in a so-called war on terrorism today? Why have we not developed this commitment? Our leaders are more interested in domination and exploitation to maintain our comfortable lifestyles and feeding the hungry gives us no strategic advantage in world affairâ€”or so they think. Alla Howard Zinn, we should realize that our leaders are interested in keeping us comfortable so that the few (Multinationals, defense contractors, etcâ€¦) can amass inordinate wealth.
Fifty-one percent of our budget goes to defense. Our defense spending is way out of proportion with the defense spending by other countries. When is enough enough? http://www.globalissues.org/geopolitics/armstrade/spending.asp provides detailed information on U. S. defense spending compared with the rest of the world.
As peacemakers, we need to work diligently to bring about an end to war. We must work tirelessly to get our elected leaders to realign our budget priorities. Just this week, President Bush urged Congress to pass a supplemental budget of $46 billion for the so-called war on terror. He had just vetoed SCHIP ($60 billion over 5 years) which would have provided health care to children. Note that this was a supplemental budget. The total request for the war in now about $190 billion for this proposed budget. Budgets are moral documents! This one speaks loud and clear about the need to realign our priorities.
We spend less than Â½ of 1% of our GDP to alleviate human misery in this world. We rank 24th out of the top 24 industrialized nations in the level of our spending to alleviate suffering.
Suppose we could launch an inner space program. Suppose we developed an initiative to reduce defense spending by 10% each year. Suppose we would take that money and provide health care and education here and abroad. Just imagine how that would hack away at the root causes of terrorismâ€”poverty, exploitation, hunger and disease.
As peacemakers we are about the business of eradicating terrorism by removing the root causes of terrorism. We do not wage a war to achieve our goal of alleviating human misery. We set about the work of serving the least among us. This is a long-term strategy that will bring about the justice and peace that will never be attained by military might.