So it goes with empires, claims Peace Action co-chair Bill Towe of Cary, who spoke May 21 during a rally on Raleigh's Fayetteville Street Mall. The purpose of the rally was to protest Star Wars, a missile defense system being pushed by the Clinton administration.
"Throughout history, all the empires have utilized military power to protect themselves," Towe said. "We think the United States has a responsibility, since it is a superpower, to look at the better alternative of cooperation with other countries, rather than relying on military diplomacy to achieve world peace."
With a huge inflatable mock missile in the background, the Rev. Collins Kilburn, recently retired head of the N.C. Council of Churches, gave the facts about nuclear weapons. Despite the end of the Cold War, the world is more imperiled than ever by the presence of nuclear weapons, he said. More nations have them, and the deadly efficiency of the weapons keeps improving.
In 1970, the world's five nuclear states had a collective arsenal of 39,700 nuclear weapons, said Kilburn. By 1995, the world's nuclear arsenal had grown to 43,200.
According to Peace Action, since the 1950s, the United States has spent $120 billion developing defensive missile systems, with another $60 billion being budgeted over the next 15 years, primarily for Star Wars (also known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, a program first introduced during the Reagan years).
"We feel these funds can be better used for human and community needs," Towe said. "The taxpayers in North Carolina this fiscal year will pay $787 million just for missile programs. That's $16 million more than the victims of Hurricane Floyd have received in family assistance, loans and grants. We think that the national government needs to reorder its budget priorities."