Speech by Juergen Scheffran* at an anti-war demonstration in Berlin, October 13, 2001 (Revised translation from German)

The events of September 11 have terribly demonstrated how vulnerable our industrial society is. Military lobbyists are using the public fear about terror for their own purposes. They try to convince us that war and new weapons can protect us against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and missile attacks. They promote the vision of the military controlling outer space in order to counter all threats on earth.

September 11 marks the complete failure of all security systems of the world’s greatest military power. All intelligence and secret services, expensive reconnaissance satellites and a giant high-technology military arsenal were incapable to detect people from the neighborhood using pocket knifes to convert commercial airliners into weapons of mass destruction. The attempt to achieve security from great distance with most advanced technical systems failed miserably against a determined enemy sitting within society, waiting for the appropriate moment to attack. Contrary to the vision of a high frontier in outer space, in reality the concept of frontier becomes meaningless in an interlinked, globalized and fractal society where the threat can be everywhere and nowhere.

Nevertheless, US President George W. Bush still believes that his country can be protected by a multi-billion dollar space shield against ballistic missiles from rogue states. His Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is heading towards space weapons to prevent a Pearl Harbor in space. And the US Space Command aims at a comprehensive space dominance to control earth. The intention is to control the information flows around the globe, to achieve the capability to strike everywhere at any time, and to protect against all adverse consequences. A huge network of missile interceptors and laser weapons, military satellites and radars shall detect, pursue and destroy any threat.

In order to realize these plans Bush has recently nominated the previous director of the Space Command, Richard Myers, to become the leader of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Instead of dreaming visions of space war, Myers now directs the attack on Afghanistan, a country which has been devastated by decades of civil war. People who until now were massacred by swords, knifes and rifles are now being attacked by laser-guided bombs which probably will not hit those responsible for the terror.

The quest for total security may lead to total control and total war. Missile defense and space dominance feed a dangerous illusion of security which prevents the search for alternatives and real solutions. Those who feel protected against any threat are tempted to continue a miserable globalization policy, to ignore poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and climate change, scarcity of energy and water in the world. Similar to the attacks on Afghanistan, which sow new terror and drive the chain of violence, the attempt to control earth from space provokes feelings of powerlessness. Despair, anger and hate create the breeding ground for terrorism.

Promoting missile defense and space war adds fuel to the flames of conflict, heats the arms race on earth and in space, provokes instabilities in crisis regions of the Middle East, South Asia and North-East Asia, wastes valuable resources which are required to solve global problems. The destruction of existing arms control and disarmament treaties, including START II, the ABM Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention, ultimately will strike back to the USA. What they do, others can claim for themselves.

Many have dreamt of invulnerability in history but noone ever reached it. Sometimes it is the recognition of the own vulnerability that requires conflict resolution, the settlement of disputes and agreement. The people in Central Europe had to live over four decades of the Cold War with the worst of all threats: complete nuclear annihilation. Inspired by the peace movement and Gorbachev’s New Thinking they learned that only a policy of common security and disarmament could bring peace to Europe. The history of Berlin clearly demonstrates that walls do not exist forever, that parts of the world can neither be excluded nor confined.

Power projection into space and anti-terror wars cannot provide true security. The alternatives are clear and simple: avoid threats before they emerge; dry out the causes of terror; cut the instruments of violence and destruction. To be specific, it is essential to improve international control of missiles and space weapons, of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, leading towards their ultimate elimination and prohibition. Here Europe can be a leader instead of following the US in military strikes. In addition, the possible motivations and the social conditions of terrorism have to be tackled. Sustainable peace requires a broad basis within society which includes the well-being of all people. This is the best way to undermine the sources and resources of terror.

*Juergen Scheffran is physicist, co-founder of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) and editor of the INESAP Information Bulletin at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany.