It's almost time for the Monday afternoon shift change at Schriever Air Force Base, east of Colorado Springs. Ten people pile out of cars just outside the gate of the 5,000-acre, razorwire-encircled installation — the tip of the spear in space-based warfare.
Here, the "world's premier space operations team" known as the 50th Space Wing "wields space, cyberspace and expeditionary capabilities to deliver decisive global combat effects in support of national security objectives," the Schriever website says.
In other words, it uses satellites to help drones and ground forces kill people.
That's why Bill Sulzman and the other local peace activists have targeted the base, unfurling banners proclaiming, "U.S. Out of Afghanistan Now," "Cut Military Spending," "The chAir Force kills too" and "Keep Space for Peace." Surprisingly, they draw occasional thumbs-up and peace signs from the passing Schriever workers, though one woman leans on her car horn as she flips off the demonstrators.
Sulzman says space-based military operations are particularly despicable: "It makes it easier to do, because you don't have to put yourself in harm's way. It's seductive to make war safer and more deadly."
For the protesters, this stop is one of many to observe "Keep Space for Peace Week," co-sponsored by Citizens for Peace in Space, the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission and Moveon.org.
The observance ends Saturday with the local group's visit to a missile silo in northeast Colorado. Friday, they'll mark a decade of war in Afghanistan by delivering petitions signed by more than 1,500 Colorado residents to offices of Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Rep. Doug Lamborn, calling for the return of U.S. troops from the Middle East.
A Bennet spokesman says the senator wants to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and joined 26 other senators in urging President Obama in June to "shift course in Afghanistan" by withdrawing troops.
Lamborn says in a statement that he supports the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and that Obama should "listen to the recommendations of our military leaders on the ground" in timing troop withdrawals. Udall's office didn't respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Last week, Obama told Congress in a letter that he plans to pull 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by mid-2012, the Associated Press reported. But that would still leave 68,000 troops there, more than when he took office, according to the Huffington Post.
For weeks, the peace posse has been standing outside supermarkets and malls, gathering signatures in support of ending the $200-billion-per-year wars. Sulzman says he and another petitioner were threatened with arrest outside New Life Church on Sunday morning, where Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine flags are displayed along with "Old Glory." A New Life spokeswoman says the church doesn't allow solicitations of any kind, even by other faith groups.
"We must stop the killing," the petition says. "No more phased withdrawals, no continued combat troops in Iraq. Bring the troops home now. Move the money — rebuild lives here, create sustainable jobs in the USA."
Sulzman says several active-duty soldiers have signed, commenting on "the futility or stupidity of the war." But on this Monday, even with the occasional positive gesture from passersby, the reception they get is far from an outpouring of support.
Rosemary Curts, a Colorado College student wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, "I'm not disturbing the peace. I'm disturbing the war," helps hold a sign as most workers stare straight ahead as they stream by.
Despite that, Curts says, "I think all protesting is effective, because all these people are going to have to think about it."
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