This trip report covers the period of October 4-14 as I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska and northwest Iowa during Keep Space for Peace Week.
My trip to Omaha was hosted by Nebraskans for Peace (NfP) which happens to be the oldest statewide peace group in the U.S. It was created in 1970, the same year I graduated from high school. Tim Rinne, who organized my visit, has been coordinating the group for the last 13 years.
My first talk was a joint event at Creighton University in Omaha with recently retired Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton from Detroit. I spoke about how nearby Offutt Air Force Base, formerly the home of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) had its mission changed in 2002 as it was transformed into the Strategic Command (StratCom). StratCom is now in charge of "full-spectrum global strike" (staging offensive, preemptive attacks); combating weapons of mass destruction; space and computer warfare; ballistic missile defense; and surveillance and reconnaissance (the "warrant-less wiretaps" conducted by the National Security Agency). StratCom is today in charge of preparing the likely Bush attack on Iran.
Bishop Gumbleton minced no words as he called for an end to all war - the abolition of modern war from the face of the Earth. Not many bishops are going anywhere near that message these days but Gumbleton has never wavered from his strong beliefs. In 1997 when I organized the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station demonstration that brought over 5,000 people to the front gate to protest the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile, Bishop Gumbleton was there.
We both did essentially the same talks again the next day to a different audience, this time at the annual meeting of Nebraskans for Peace. I also led a workshop at the conference as well. (Afterward Bishop Gumbleton told Tim Rinne that he wants to come back next April 11-13 for the annual Global Network conference in Omaha. He wants to be part of helping the peace movement learn more about StratCom.)
Nebraska is not an easy place for the peace movement to work. According to Tim, "For 84 consecutive years, there has been no more faithful Republican state in presidential elections than Nebraska." The local newspaper did not cover the talks at Creighton University nor did they cover the NfP annual meeting. But they did have a huge front page story about StratCom's mission to protect the American people from "terrorism" the day after the NfP annual meeting.
One reason for me going to Omaha was to join several days of protests being organized at the "Strategic Space and Defense 2007" conference
in Omaha. The space warriors conference, underwritten by the aerospace industry, brought together thousands of military personnel and executives from the weapons corporations to discuss and plan for expanding their profit making space warfare schemes. Protests outside the event were coordinated by NfP and the Omaha Catholic Worker community. (Read my recent blog posts
for more details on these.)
On October 9 I was invited to speak to about 40 high school seniors at Creighton Prep by a teacher who heard me speak at the NfP annual meeting. I ended my talk by telling a story from the book called "Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas" by Mari Sandoz. I had read the book some time ago and noticed while in Omaha that the book was being read by communities across the state. The story told how after Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, the last of the Lakota bands to be brought onto the reservation, the weapons corporations at the time were upset because they were no longer making big money from the Indian wars. So they sent out artists and writers to fabricate stories saying that Crazy Horse was back on the war path killing white women and children and burning housing and farms. These stories were planted in major big city newspapers across the country and Congress then swung into action and approved more money for the Indian wars. Of course the truth was that Crazy Horse was sitting in his tepee on the reservation without a horse or gun to his name. I reminded the students that in my lifetime I'd seen the modern day weapons corporations lie about Vietnam, Iraq, and now Iran in order to sell a war to the public, the media, and the Congress.
On October 11 I drove a couple hours north to the tip of northwest Iowa to visit my sister and her husband who live in the middle of corn and pig country in a town of about 350 people. My sister Joan had arranged for me to speak to the only peace group in that part of the state on October 13 in Primghar, Iowa. This was the third time over the years that I had visited this group and they got a big story in their local weekly paper about my visit. The article also reviewed their long history of peace work and in the article my sister, a lifelong Republican, was quoted as saying, "Many people don't know anything about weapons in space, which is Bruce's emphasis." This was very significant for my sister. I doubt that she'd ever been interviewed in the paper before on such a political topic. As I was leaving Iowa Joan asked me to leave my remaining supply of literature with her so she could pass it around. She told me she wants to start a peace group in her town. My heart soared like an eagle.
Nebraska and Iowa are farm country. ConAgra has its headquarters in Omaha and they are the big food processing corporation that announced the recall of chicken and turkey pot pies while I was there because of salmonella contamination.
In Iowa the media was talking all about ethanol as that new industry is trying to get Congress to mandate greater use of the biofuel [made from corn]. But many of the industry's former friends have turned against it amid soaring prices for corn and other grains. Dozens of ethanol plants have been built in the region. They have helped boost grain prices and created some jobs. But oversupply of ethanol has forced prices down and driven some producers into trouble. The "barnyard lobby" (meat, livestock and poultry industry) says high corn prices are hurting profits. The price of corn-based animal feed has grown by 60% since 2005. Consumers can expect to pay as much as 5% more for groceries in coming months because of the rising price of corn. Mexicans have recently been protesting about the increase in price of tortillas.
These rural communities are very spread out and they totally rely on the car. Years ago, just like so many other places across the U.S., passenger rail lines connected all the small towns. Not today.
In all my talks I again called for the peace movement to step up and call for the conversion of the military industrial complex. Why can't we be building rail again connecting the entire country? Imagine the jobs created building a national rail system. Imagine the lessening of dependence on foreign oil and need for endless war. Imagine the lessening of global warming if we got out of our polluting cars. Let's use the rural lands to grow food for people not for cars.
I urged people to come to the Global Network annual space organizing conference in Omaha, Nebraska next April 11-13. This event will feature the military role of StratCom as they now take charge of "full spectrum dominance" for the Pentagon. Please plan to come and help us shine a national and international light on this cruel and crazy plan for endless war using space technology.
Our friends in Nebraska and Iowa are thrilled at the thought that folks will come and support their peace efforts in this rural and conservative part of the country. Help us spread the word.