CLEVELAND, Ohio – ‘Star Wars – what is it really?’ That was the question on the minds of the participants at a conference here Oct. 13.

The meeting at Cleveland State University was sponsored by Cleveland Peace Action and the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and co-sponsored by 43 organizations. The conference was one of 115 peace actions held in 19 countries, according to Bruce Gagnon, Global Network coordinator.

At the conference, Gagnon explained the technical aspects of Star Wars, the space-based laser defense system.

‘It will consist of strings of satellites orbiting the earth along celestial meridians,’ he said.

The weapon’s satellites function in two ways. High resolution, digital surveillance cameras can spot a nuclear missile launch taking place on earth; a high-powered laser will then focus on the missile, detonating it before it reaches its target.

‘It is about military and commercial monopolization of the earth and the heavens,’ Gagnon said. ‘The goal is control and exploitation of the world’s resources and labor.’

John Ryan, executive secretary of the Cleveland Federation of Labor, a sponsor of the conference, noted the importance of getting such information to union members.

‘Our members need to know what is at stake; $300 billion for Star Wars is of no use in protecting us from terrorism and can better be used for schools, infrastructure repair and health care.’

‘One of the difficulties in building public opposition to Star Wars is that many people understand the space-based weapons system as a ‘defensive’ system to be used against terrorist attacks,’ conference organizer Judy Gallo told the World.

‘In fact, Star Wars is an offensive system to be used to secure U.S. domination of space for military and commercial purposes, to establish control of the global economy for U.S. multinational corporations.’

As part of the conference, peace vigils were held Friday and Sunday at the front gate of the TRW corporation, which has been awarded a $564-million contract to build missiles, command systems, lasers and other equipment related to the development of the Star Wars program.

A letter, signed by Cleveland Peace Action President Marji Edguer and Gagnon urged TRW executives to reconsider their role as the ‘prime contractor’ in missile defense testing and to ‘lead their company in new directions of research, development and production.’ A delegation from the conference tried to hand deliver the letter but a company vice president refused to accept it.

The audience cheered and gave Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) a standing ovation as he said, ‘Keep space for peace!’ Kucinich has introduced into Congress HR-2977, the Space Preservation Act of 2001. It would require the president to ‘order the permanent termination of research and development, testing, manufacturing, production and deployment of all space-based weapons,’ as well as to adopt and implement an international treaty permanently banning space-based weapons.

The conference was originally planned in opposition to Star Wars, but took on a broader character in light of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as the U.S. military response.

Referring to the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, Pat Mische, professor of Peace Studies at Antioch College, called for the United Nations and world tribunals to be brought into the center of what’s developing, as a ‘counterforce to the drive toward war.’ There needs to be established a ‘permanent International Criminal Court to enforce legal standards over national and individual world criminals,’ she said.