STAR WARS: The Sequel and the Reality
July 20, 2005
Scholars have long commented on the U.S. government's need for an "endless frontier" - a substitute for the mythologized Wild West. A place Americans can explore, conquer, and dominate, and where riches and profits can be plundered. With the official closing of the continental western frontier in 1890 and the ongoing exploitation of Alaska's resources, space truly represents the "final frontier."
The current Bush administration's plan to weaponize space and seize the new high-tech military "high ground" poses perhaps the greatest threat to humankind in the 21st century. The U.S.'s stated policy, revealed in the U.S. Space Command document "Joint Vision for 2020," calls for "full spectrum dominance" of Earth, both militarily and economically, through control of the moon corridor.
Amidst the bucolic splendor of a vast nature preserve, a historic conference entitled "Full Spectrum Dominance" was held on May 16-17 at the Airlie Center in Warrenton, Virginia. Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Helen Caldicott organized the event which gathered 45 selected media representatives from NBC, CNN and freepress.org, among others, to interact with 25 briefers including military backers of the Bush administration's strategic defense initiative, scientists, policy makers and activists opposed to the militarization of space.
Fittingly, the retired General Charles Horner, former Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Space Command, opened the conference. He frankly described his past profession as one of "destroying things and killing people." Horner stated that he "hates war" and is a religious "pacifist," but insists we live in a world that is "incongruous and divided." He asserts that "space people had to have a space weapon."
The General made a distinction between weapons of mass destruction in space and weapons in what he called "near space." With this distinction, he proceeded to argue that U.S. missiles launched into near space from U.S. military bases or ships based off North Korea's coastline do not constitute space weapons. He defended the Bush administration's plans for a missile defense system asserting that even if we only shoot down one in ten nuclear missiles, that's one city saved. He also pointed out that the nukes ". . . we shoot down are going to fall on Canada," not the United States.
Dr. Craig Eisendrath, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, outlined the post-World War II history of missile defense. Eisendrath explained the post-war yearning for merging "rocket technology with nuclear capability." Eisendrath insists that the same issues of miscalculation, hair-trigger defense systems and decoy problems that led the U.S. and the former Soviet Union to sign the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty remain today.
Despite this, in 2001, the Bush administration renounced the ABM treaty and its obligations that outlawed the testing and deployment of "missile defense" systems. Eisendrath points out that the Bush administration has taken advantage of the 9/11 tragedy to push the missile defense system as a "counterterrorism" measure. He insists that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are not terrorist weapons a la "a dirty bomb."
The Bush administration has falsely manufactured the need for a missile defense system through a ". . . concentrated campaign, that is frankly despicable and takes money away from fighting terrorism," Eisendrath concluded.
In a critique of Bush administration policy, Eisendrath commented that the "first line of defense is diplomacy, not the last."
The U.S. has already spent, (critics argue wasted), $130 billion on research and development for the so-called Star Wars program. Ten billion dollars a year continues to be allocated to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to keep alive President Ronald Reagan's Cold War dream.
Ambassador Thomas Graham, now a senior advisor at the Eisenhower Institute, called the ABM treaty a "cornerstone of stability." Graham noted that with the Chinese in possession of a mere 20 ICBMs and the Russians having reduced to less than half their Cold War arsenal, a missile defense system seems to make little sense at this point in history.
Graham, like Eisendrath, offers that the $10 billion given to the MDA ? the largest single year expenditure on any weapons system ? would be better spent on suppression of terrorist networks. Analysts at Jane's Defense publications called ICBMs "the least likely threat" and "dirty bombs" the more likely nuclear option against the United States, according to Graham.
Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pointed out that it's well known that decoys easily fool missile defense systems. Thus, cheap and low-tech ways to counter and confuse missile defense systems have been well publicized since the 1960s. Postol referred to "inflatable decoys" with the "appearance of warheads" as the most obvious possibility. "If multiple objects have the same appearance, then the defending missiles cannot discriminate between those objects. It is not possible," Postol explained. Hence, billions of dollars of weapons become easily nullified.
Military personnel present quickly countered by insisting that the decoy problem could be solved if we simply launched pre-emptive missile strikes against any North Korean or hostile country's space launches. The legality under international law of pre-emptive nuclear attacks on other nation's space launches proved quite controversial.
Eisendrath said that he believes the entire Star Wars system, including Joint Vision for 2020, is being "driven by lobbyists." General Horner disagreed, but concurred that the current technology is indeed imperfect. He posed the question of whether or not say, a "laser" in space with military application, is per se a space weapon. U.S. government documents previously revealed by the Free Press indicate that lasers are a key component of the U.S. government's secret "directed energy program."
President's Fellow at the World Policy Institute William D. Hartung believes that the emerging national missile defense lobby is attempting to create a "tipping point to put behind space weapons." Companies like Boeing, which has been actively involved in the airborne laser system, and Milteck, which has been associated with kinetic energy space weapons, may well seek huge profits in a reborn Star Wars program. Hartung quantifies the various costs of the MDA and related Star Wars programs at approximately $22 billion in weapons. This figure included $8.8 billion for missile defense and between $300-$500 million for the new generation of space weapons.
John Isaacs, the Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World, calls the $8.8 billion allocation for missile defense "substantial support," even though, in his analysis, missile defense systems are "impotent and obsolete" in light of the dirty bomb danger. Any terrorist with dynamite and some radioactive material poses more of a true threat to U.S. security.
Isaacs claims that the Bush administration's missile defense systems is driven more by neo-conservative ideology and the forces supporting it at the Project for a New American Century, and may be serving more as a symbol of determined projected U.S. military and economic dominance of the planet. Seen in this light, the system itself doesn't have to be viable. Isaacs claims that as the biggest weapons program in the defense budget, it's an obvious "white elephant" there for ideological reasons.
Hartung added that "space weapons rhetoric" goes hand-in-hand with the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive or, better put, preventive war. Ambassador Graham described the Bush doctrine of preventive war "no longer being driven by technology, it's new theology." He warned against the danger of the absurd "dream of absolute security."
Bruce Gagnon, the Coordinator of Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space, called the ideology nothing less than a commitment to the intergalactic U.S. domination of space.
Vladimar Yermakov, Senior Counselor from the Russian Embassy provided the Russian perspective on Star Wars. He said that militarization of space has already occurred. What his country is opposed to is a new arms race: "the weaponization of space."
Space has become big business' new frontier, not only for the weapons makers, but for those who traffic in commercial satellite signals. An estimated $91 billion a year, and this has doubled since 1996, is spent on direct satellite TV and radio transmissions.
In 1967, the U.S. signed the UN treaty on the peaceful uses of outer space, a treaty currently under "review" by the Bush administration. In October 2004, the UN Committee on Disarmament and International Security held a special session on Prevention of an Arms Race in Space. They voted on a nonbinding resolution opposing the weaponization of space. The final vote was 167-0-2. The two countries that abstained were the U.S. and Israel.
While President Eisenhower dreamed of "the peaceful use of space," the Clinton years transformed that to a vision of "space control." Now, inevitably, the Bush administration offers us "space dominance," according to Theresa Hitchens, Director of the Center for Defense Information. The emerging commercial interests in space and colonization of the moon, and the belief that there's "gold in them there asteroids" is clearly driving U.S. space policy.
Dr. Richard Garwin, Senior Fellow for Science and Technology at the Council on Foreign Relations, stressed the advantages if the U.S. military controlled space. He painted a catastrophic scenario where U.S. enemies attacked and destroyed our space assets. Garwin argued that it makes no sense for the U.S. to cooperate with other countries and give up our space superiority.
Former Air Force Officer Peter Hayes magnified Garwin's arguments by pointing out that in the U.S.'s well known "shock and awe" air attack on Iraq, 70% of the weapons were guided by space satellites.
Professor of Military Studies Everett C. Dolman from the Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies matter-of-factly represented the naked face of U.S. militarism. The former intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency and employee of the U.S. Space Command asserted that the U.S. "will not give up its right to use force as long as it is the hegemon."
In Professor Dolman's analysis, the U.S. should think of the moon corridor in the same way that the imperial British Navy thought of the sea lanes in the 19th century. We should borrow from the British model of bottling up and controlling the sea lanes to assert military and economic dominance in the Victorian era and think of the Earth as a large port. Dolman argues it's inevitable that the U.S. will bottle up the key Earth port leading to the moon. The moon is the high ground, an ideal for future military and commercial operations.
As the endless frontier beckons the U.S. militarists and corporatists, Dr. Dolman noted that we should not be worried about other countries trying to stop us. He explained, "Mice always vote to bell the cat." The predatory nature of Dolman's comments were not lost on either Gagnon or Caldicott.
Gagnon forthrightly stated that America is addicted to militarism and violence and that our economy is too dependent on military spending. He called for the total defunding of all space weapons research and development. He urged religious leaders to consider the moral and ethical questions posed by the weaponization of the heavens and demanded a full public discourse on the implications of Star Wars, the sequel.
After Gagnon finished, Caldicott rose and, in her usual thoughtful rhetoric, reminded all present that "Our planet is under intensive care." She insisted that we must alter our way of thinking if we are to preserve the planet for future generations. Caldicott denounced the new Bush policies as "little boy's games" and pledged herself to opposing nukes in space.
Her comments added a thematic cohesion to the historic gathering. General Horner had remarked in his opening comments that the Pentagon does not "want to talk about space control because they are afraid of groups like you that will be protesting in the streets" in a reference to Caldicott's Nuclear Policy Research Institute.
On May 18, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration is planning to announce a new national space policy. The new direction will give a green light to the offensive weaponization of space. The policy will spell out U.S. military space control and domination.
The lines are drawn. Will the people of the planet take to the streets and oppose the U.S. policy of "full spectrum dominance" of Earth from space? Or will the cat continue to toy with the mice?
Bob Fitrakis is a political science professor at Columbus State Community College and Free Press Editor.
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