Message from Hideo Nakazawa

Message from Space: Space Shuttle Accident and Looming War against Iraq

By Hideo NAKAZAWA (Professor, German Literature, University of Tokyo)
[email protected]

The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated into thousands of pieces when it reentered the atmosphere on February 1. This is the second grave accident of the shuttle missions since the explosion of the Challenger in 1986. I would like to express my deep condolence to the seven astronauts and their families.

The more I investigate this accident, the more strongly I am under the impression that there must be some deep meaning behind it. There is a kind of "duplication of cases" (C. G. Jung) that cannot be dismissed only as coincidence. This article tries to find out the meaning that emerges from this tragedy.

The United States of America, Israel, and India

There were two non-Americans on the shuttle Columbia -- Ilan Ramon from Israel and Kalpana Chawla from India. Although Ms. Chawla was married to an American and had American citizenship, she was born in India and was a heroine for the Indian people.

The U.S., Israel, and India have many points in common in the international politics of today.

First, they are now fighting "War against Terrorism" -- the U.S. against Al-Qaeda and Iraq, Israel against the Palestinians, and India against Pakistan. Their enemies are for the most part Muslims although there are other religious minorities in Iraq, Palestine, and Pakistan.

Second, the justification they are claiming to legitimize these wars is not a hundred percent persuasive.

[The USA]
The UN inspection team has not yet found any concrete evidence that Iraq has conspired with Al-Qaeda or that it has weapons of mass destruction. The possibility that Iraq conceals biological and chemical weapons cannot of course be excluded. I myself am against war because it will kill many civilians, but even if war is unavoidable, the U.S. can and should declare war against Iraq only if it finds undeniable evidence and Iraq refuses to destroy the weapons. But President Bush says, "The game is over", and he is rushing to the war regardless of evidence. Suspicion is enough reason for him to attack.

Scott Ritter, former UN inspector to Iraq who recently visited Japan, said his team would have been able to disarm Iraq if the U.S. government had not made use of the inspection to spy on the Hussein regime. According to Ritter, the real aim of the U.S. was and is not the disarmament itself, but the overthrow of the Hussein regime. President Bush is afraid that he will lose the chance to kill Saddam Hussein if the inspection team disarms Iraq peacefully. He believes that the world will become safe and peaceful only if he can remove "the evil."

The model of the preemptive attack against Iraq is said to be Israel's bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. Israel was afraid that Saddam Hussein would produce and possess nuclear weapons although Israel itself already had some. This bombing was obviously violation of international law, and Israel was accused internationally at that time, but was not punished. The Bush administration wants the same immunity.

If the U.S. attacks Iraq without any UN resolution, only with vague reasons such as "Iraq might conceal weapons of mass destruction" or "Iraq is devious" or "We cannot trust them" or "It may become a threat in the future", this will open the door to a very dangerous world. If the U.S. attacks Iraq with such reasons, then China is allowed to attack Taiwan or Japan, Russia China, India Pakistan, Pakistan India, and so on. It will destroy today's international peacekeeping system based on the UN.

Or does the Bush administration believe that only the U.S. is permitted and able to behave freely as it wants in the world after the end of the Cold War? It would be the same as if one person were simultaneously judge, prosecutor, police, and executioner. How abnormal and dangerous this situation is!

Israel is now accusing and fighting against suicide bombings of Palestinians. Terror attacks against civilians must be of course absolutely blamed. But why are these happening? It is Israel that occupied the land where the Palestinian people lived, and forced them to become refugees. Israel is now pursuing an Apartheid policy against the Palestinians. The resulting despair is the cause of Palestinian terrorism.

The Dalai Lama criticized the U.S.-led war on terrorism. His words can also be applied to Israel.

"Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force because it does not address the complex underlying problems. In fact, the use of force may not only fail to solve the problems, it may exacerbate them and frequently leave destruction and suffering in its wake."

(Link to Reference)

Iraq is blamed for not completely following the UN resolution. This may be true, but Israel has not complied with 29 resolutions of the UN to evacuate Palestinian land. Although Israel has never complied with the UN resolutions, the U.S. and the UN have never sent inspection teams to disarm Israel that possesses weapons of mass destruction, or to investigate human rights violations. This is undoubtedly unjust and implies a double standard.

India and Pakistan have been confronting each other since their independence. The cause is the Kashmir problem. When both countries became independent from the English empire in 1947, Kashmiris wanted to hold a local referendum. This was rejected by India because the Kashmir people, for the most part Muslim, would have chosen to be a part of Pakistan. But Hindu India did not and does not want to lose Kashmir. Since then, the countries have fought three times. Meanwhile, both of them have acquired nuclear weapons. Last year, Muslim terrorists from Pakistan and Afghanistan carried out many terrorist attacks in Kashmir and India. The tension became so high that an outbreak of nuclear war was seriously foreseen.

Yes, nuclear weapons! All of three countries possess them. This is another common point among them. They have overwhelming military power compared to their enemies and want to make them submissive. They do not deny that they will use nuclear weapons in an emergency. How horrible for the Japanese who have experienced Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

Military Cooperation among Three

Is it only coincidence that the representatives of these three military super powers were on the shuttle Columbia?

The space development projects of the U.S. and the Soviet Union were from the beginning motivated by their arms race. The space shuttle program is no exception. It has also military aspects beside peaceful scientific aims.

Yoichi Clark Shimatsu writes:

"Columbia's countdown to launch saw unprecedented security measures that included machine gun-toting guards eyeballing and body-searching NASA engineers and visiting dignitaries. NASA acknowledged that such measures where more than post-9/11 caution and were due to the presence of astronaut and Israeli Air Force pilot Col. Ilan Ramon. Ramon was a living symbol of Israeli-American aerospace cooperation, which has included the Arrow interception technology incorporated into Patriot missiles (used in the Gulf War) and the sale of U.S.-built F-16s and helicopter gunships sent by the Ariel Sharon government to attack Palestinian villages in the West Bank.

Ramon was no bystander in the Mideast conflict. He received flight training at a U.S. Air Force base in Utah in the 1970s, became a pilot in the Israeli Air Force and was part of an Israeli bombing mission that destroyed an Iraqi nuclear power plant in 1986.

His military role aboard Columbia went beyond symbolic value. Ramon's research mission involved dual-use technology, an Israeli-built multi-spectral camera that probes the effect of sandstorms on climate change. The all-weather camera is also a key technology for military spy satellites and unmanned drones searching for targets obscured by dust, smoke and clouds. These murky atmospheric conditions exactly fit the scenario of the looming war against Iraq.

Israel is midway through a drive to establish a space program, much of it devoted to military purposes. So is India, the birthplace of the other "international" astronaut, Kalpana Chowla. Her research background in robotics and aerodynamics is also of direct interest to weapons designers. Her notable achievement was to design systems to control air turbulence during landing, a serious problem for vertical-landing aircraft such as the Harrier fighter or the accident-prone Osprey hybrid helicopter.

Images of an Israeli pilot and an Indian-born civilian engineer drifting weightlessly alongside the other crewmembers from the U.S. military were interpreted as a threat across much of South Asia and the Middle East. In Kashmir, torn by a Muslim insurgency against Indian rule since 1947, the three partner countries India, Israel and the U.S. are referred to as "The Nexus." The connection goes back to Israeli instructors who have been training Indian troops to suppress the Muslim majority population in Kashmir using the brutal methods tested in the West Bank and Gaza Strip."

(Link to Reference)

Mr. Sakai Tanaka, a Japanese journalist, says that the possibility is very high that Israel has helped India to develop nuclear weapons. (Link to Reference) (only in Japanese)

Warning from Space

But "a kind of duplication of cases that cannot be dismissed only as coincidence" that I mentioned at the beginning of this article is not only military cooperation among them. It seems to me that Space has given them a warning in form of the shocking accident because of their dubious "War against Terrorism."

Laurel Clark, one of the seven dead astronauts, had lost her cousin in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. One reason for the looming war against Iraq is the suspicion that Iraq might have formulated this attack. But the second tragedy hit the U.S. shortly before the planned war, as if crushing the military chauvinism of the Bush administration.

The debris of the disintegrated shuttle, some of which is very poisonous, rained down over Texas, the home state of President George W. Bush. The shuttle crash was first heard over a town in Texas named Palestine. Israeli newspapers reported this fact with great surprise.
(Link to Reference)

This seems to me more than chance. Is this accident "God's punishment" to the three countries, "because it [the shuttle] carried Americans, an Israeli and a Hindu, a trinity of evil against Islam"?
(Link to Reference)

Here, I must touch on the theme of "God" because these three countries are strongly influenced by religion. And their religions seem to be playing a very negative and destructive role in the world politics of today and jeopardizing world peace. This is another common point among them.

Does God punish?

I don't think that God, if He really exists, shows partiality to any particular religion such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Hinduism. God is God for all mankind. God would be no God if He were so unfair as to favor or punish someone only because he or she believes in a particular religion. So, I don't think God (Allah) punished three countries for fighting Muslims.

I believe "God" is a name given to the Supreme Cosmic Law.

The laws of nature that human sciences have discovered until now are only a small part of the Cosmic Law that reigns over the universe. It must be very deep or high and must be beyond the scientific knowledge of today. But one can assume that a fundamental attribute of it is Harmony. All things can exist only when there is harmony. As soon as harmony is disturbed, counter power becomes active to restore it. Things that are out of the order of harmony must sooner or later disappear from the universe. It is true from the micro world of particles to the macro world of the galaxy. Because mankind lives on Earth, a planet in the universe, the human world cannot exist without connection with the Cosmic Law.

Put in more human terms, it may be called justice, fairness, balance and peace. Extreme disparity in wealth, concentration of political or economic power, racial discrimination, wars and conflicts are all inharmonious and against the Cosmic Law. Such disharmony will be inevitably balanced in the course of time.

Various religions in the world are specific ways of viewing this Cosmic Law. Coming into existence in particular periods within particular cultures, their teachings and rites differ from each other. I cannot believe only one religion or the Bible or the Koran thoroughly elucidates the Cosmic Law. They are all more or less insufficient understandings of it, but there are some basic similarities among such "higher religions" like Buddhism and Christianity, as the English historian Arnold Toynbee called them. All of them emphasize the importance of love, compassion, and peace. They all renounce war, conflict, greed, and cruelty. Such teachings reflect the true nature of Cosmic Law.

If anyone violates this Law, he will be given only tit for tat. A proverb says: "As a man sows, so shall he reap." This is nothing but the working of the Cosmic Law. The so-called karmic law of retribution is a religious expression of the Cosmic Law of act and reaction. But the religions with an anthropomorphized concept of God connect this phenomenon with punishment by a personal God.

Space is Divine Realm

There may be nowadays only a few people who believe that God exists in the heaven (space). Yuri Gagarin, the first astronaut from the Soviet Union, a country of materialistic atheism, said that he could find God nowhere in the heaven (space). This remark implies personification of God.

Although there is no personal God in space, the heaven, namely the universe, is in itself a special realm; one can say even a divine realm. Takashi Tachibana, a Japanese science writer, interviewed several American astronauts and wrote a very interesting book about their experiences in space (the book is only in Japanese). According to it, some astronauts like James B. Erwin and Ed Mitchell had mystic experiences in space and became very religious or spiritual after their return to Earth. Most of the astronauts seem to have had no such mystic or psychic experiences in space, but they have obtained a new consciousness toward Earth. It can be called, using the term of Dr. James Lovelock, "Gaia consciousness."

If mankind utilizes the divine space for true world peace and public benefit for all mankind, the space will allow it. But if mankind makes use of it for military purposes or national egoistic aims, this will conflict with the divine Law of Harmony; this is nothing but an act of disgracing the heaven. Such acts will be inevitably excluded from space.

Jewish Rite in Space

We have seen already that Ilan Ramon was a military pilot who fought for his country. He was also famous as the son of a survivor from the holocaust; his mother and grandmother had survived the Auschwitz death camps. He took with him a small Torah scroll offered to him for the flight by a Tel Aviv University professor who survived the Nazi concentration camps (the professor received the Torah from a rabbi who perished during his imprisonment), a drawing of what Earth might look like from the moon, sketched by a teen-ager who died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, and a letter from a Holocaust survivor talking about his 7-year-old daughter who did not survive.

I was surprised by this strong desire of him or of the Israeli people to bring the memory of the holocaust to space. Why? Japanese astronauts have never taken with them pictures of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima or letters and diaries of victims of the atomic air raids.

Ramon was also a pious Judaist.

"he recited Kiddush on Friday night, said Shema Yisrael when he was over Jerusalem and insisted on eating Kosher food in the Columbia. By taking along a torah scroll and speaking openly - also in Hebrew - about his Jewishness for all the world to hear."

(Link to Reference)

The Holocaust and Judaism are important components of the modern Jewish identity. Israel has been making full use of these to acquire an international sympathy for itself. The Torah scroll brought from the Nazi death camp to space implies that the Israelis are persecuted people who have survived through their firm belief in God. If the carrier is the survivor from the death camp, the effect is multiplied. Ramon was chosen as representative of the good Israel.

Israel tries to show itself as the victim. The story of suffering is in itself not false. But modern Israel is more oppressor than oppressed; it pursues an Apartheid policy toward the Palestinians. Palestinian oppression is the dark side that Israel tries to hide through emphasizing the Holocaust and Judaism.

God seems not have been pleased with such Jewish rites in space, but to have demonstrated -- by making the shuttle explode over the town named Palestine -- that He wants a fair and just solution of the Palestine problem.

Such interpretations are supported by the Bible because prophets of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah, insisted repeatedly that God wanted neither religious rites nor fervent prayers of the Jewish people, but for them to "stop doing evil and learn to do right" (Isaiah Chapter 1). Will He find the policy of Prime Minister Sharon right?

Christian Fundamentalism in the USA

It is well known that many Americans are devoted to Christianity. Because this religion has strong political power in the U.S., politicians cannot ignore Christian pressure groups and can be easily influenced by them.

The most politically active group is right-wing fundamentalist Protestantism. It is as dangerous as the Islamic fundamentalism of Osama bin Laden. Grace Halsell, author of "Forcing God's Hand: Why Millions Pray for a Quick Rapture and Destruction of Planet Earth", has maintained that Christian fundamentalists are praying for the immediate destruction of Earth in order to gain eternal life for themselves and damnation for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. They believe the second coming of the Savior will be realized only through "Armageddon" (nuclear war). Such a belief reminds us Japanese of the notorious Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo that tried to create "Armageddon" by using sarin nerve gas. Right-wing Christian fundamentalists, as well as the Aum Shinrikyo, believe in Doomsday.

President Bush has called his war on terrorism a "crusade." There is circumstantial evidence that he is influenced by Christian fundamentalism.
(Link to Reference 1)
(Link to Reference 2)

Right-wing Christian fundamentalists prefer the apocalyptic prophecy to the message of love in the Bible. Do they remember the words of Jesus Christ, "Love your enemies"?

The U.S. used a lot of depleted uranium bombs in the former Gulf War. Iraqi infants are still affected by them. If the U.S. attacks Iraq, more innocent civilians will be killed.
(Link to Reference)

We can regard the shuttle accident as a warning from space to the Bush government and the American people: If you scatter poisonous bombs and kill more Iraqi people in the name of God and justice, similar things will happen to you in the form of grave accidents, attacks by terrorists, or natural disasters. President Bush and the American people must now understand that killing enemies means killing themselves.

Religious Conflict in India

In this connection, I must touch upon another religious state, India, a multiethnic and multireligious state. Its largest and most powerful religious group is the Hindu. We recently observed radicalization of Hindu fundamentalism. Its pledge to build a Hindu temple on a site where a Muslim mosque was torn down triggered in 1992 the country's worst riots since the independence of India, killing more than 2,000 people. In 2002, about one thousand Muslims were killed in riots triggered by the same temple issue. Religious conflict is India's serious illness.

Kalpana Chawla was born in Karnal, Haryana State, and studied at the Punjab Engineering College.

The state of Haryana was part of the Punjab before the Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947 at the partition of British India. Muslims mostly inhabited the Pakistani Punjab. The Indian part was divided to the Indian Punjab, the Haryana state, and the state of Himchal Pradesh. The Indian Punjab State was mostly Sikh; the Haryana State was mostly Hindu; and Himchal Pradesh, the hilly region in the northeast, was Hindu, although slightly different from in other parts of India. So, we can assume the borders among these states were mainly drawn for religious reasons.

The Kashmir, the main conflict area between India and Pakistan, is located directly north of the Punjab.

We can see a complicated religious problem in the birthplace of Ms. Chawla. Indian people should be reminded of solving this problem when they think of their tragic heroine.

God is harmony and peace. Those who call God, "Lord, Lord," yet kill their enemies do not do His will. Three states, the U.S., Israel, and India seem to me to be misled by wrong religious ideas and to be jeopardizing world peace.

Peace Message of Astronauts

The seven astronauts were launched into space as representatives of their nations, but they are personally not responsible for the violation of the Cosmic Law. Those responsible are the political leaders of the nations.

As we have seen, Ilan Ramon was a typical Jew, but he seems to have transcended his Jewishness through staying in space, the divine realm.

In a conversation with Prime Minister Sharon during the mission, he displayed the Torah scroll and said:

"This represents more than anything the determination of the Jewish people to survive everything despite horrible periods, black days to reach periods of hope and relief."

This is nothing but a remark of a representative of Israel. When Sharon asked him to elaborate, Ramon added:

"I will tell you what we can see from here is amazing. Our planet, the Earth, is beautiful, really beautiful. The atmosphere that allows us to live is very thin. At night you can see a sort of reflection from the atmosphere. We guard it with all our hearts."

(Link to Reference)

Every human being has two sides: one is as a particular member of a state, race or religion; the other is universal as a human being, as one of the crewmembers of "Spaceship Earth." Ramon boarded the shuttle Columbia as a Jew and found himself a son of Earth, transformed by divine space and the Gaia consciousness.

How will "periods of hope and relief" that he longed for be realized? Through military power, war, retaliation, and hatred? Or through love, compassion, forgiveness, and mutual concession? What did he want to tell his fellow countrymen?

I am convinced that not only Ramon but all other astronauts obtained this universal Gaia consciousness. David Brown, an American astronaut who was shocked by Ramon's holocaust letter, wrote in his e-mail to his parents:

"My most moving moment was reading a letter... [Ilan Ramon] brought from the Holocaust survivor talking about his 7-year-old daughter who did not survive. I was stunned such a beautiful planet could harbor such bad things."

But even "such bad things" could not overturn his love and hope for Mother Earth.

"I will make one more observation. If I'd been born in space, I would desire to visit the beautiful Earth more than I ever yearned to visit space. It's a wonderful planet."

(Link to Reference)

The e-mail by Laurel Clark that describes landscapes of Earth is in itself a hymn of praise to Earth and Creation.
(Link to Reference)

If we can really recognize how wonderful and beautiful is the planet we live on, we will immediately stop war and environmental pollution.

"Imagine" from Space

The seven astronauts were divided into two teams -- Red and Blue -- so that experiments could be run around the clock during the entire 16-day mission in space. A song was sent from the NASA station to the shuttle as a wake-up call.

On January 29, Blue Team members Michael Anderson, William McCool and David Brown awakened to the sounds of John Lennon's "Imagine", the song chosen by McCool for his space song. The text famous:

"Imagine there's no heaven [that only believers of one religion can enter],
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us [into which all the other believers are damned],
Above us only sky [that embraces all of humanity beyond all differences],
Imagine all the people
living for today...
[without fearing the Doomsday or sinister prophecy]

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one. "

As we all know, "Imagine" is a special song for the world after the September 11 terrorist attacks; it has become the peace song for those who are against U.S. retaliation war in Afghanistan and the planned war on Iraq. Ono Yoko, wife of Lennon, made a full page advertisement only with one sentence, "Imagine all the people living life in peace....", in the New York Times on September 25, 2001, shortly before the beginning of America's bombing of Afghanistan. I cannot imagine that McCool did not know meaning of this song. He must have recognized that the song expressed his prayer for world peace. He said to Mission Control:

"From our orbital vantage point, we observe an Earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence. And we pray that Humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world, as we see it, and strive to live as ONE in Peace."

Ramon translated the statement into Hebrew and sent it to Mission Control.
(COLUMBIA...DEJA VU? by Patricia Diane Cota-Robles, [email protected] )

"Imagine a borderless world and strive to live as ONE in Peace" -- that is the message of the Gaia consciousness that the astronauts acquired in space and that we must learn from them.

But on Earth, humankind is still making all kinds of "borders" and fighting each other and hurting Mother Earth. How foolish!

Incidentally, the song chosen by Ramon's wife and sent to him was a Hebrew love song:

"Will you hear my voice, my distant one?
Will you hear my voice, wherever you are?
My last day is perhaps here,
The day of parting-tears is near."

(Link to Reference)

This song that seems to foretell his near death shocked the Israeli people. Such kinds of strange things happen sometimes in human life. I think the Ramons, although not consciously aware, subconsciously knew that death awaited him, which made them choose this song. He was ready to board the shuttle in order to fulfill his mission at the cost of his life, the mission of awakening the Israeli people to the real will of God: Peace.

The messages of the astronauts from space are their testaments to the human race: "Don't fight!" "Live as ONE in Peace!" "Unite to keep so peaceful, so wonderful and so fragile Earth!" These must be also the words of the Heaven, the words of God.

Not only three nations and their political leaders, but also all humankind and leaders of all countries must listen to these messages from space.

May Peace Prevail on Earth.

(Original Japanese Edition written on February 11, 2003)

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