Son of Star Wars: Another Arms Race?
WASHINGTON -- Reports emerging from the Pentagon about plans to test a "Space Bomber" are drawing accusations that the U.S. government is attempting to engage in another arms race.
The bomber, a spacecraft reportedly capable of destroying targets on the other side of the globe within 30 minutes, is a key component of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to modernize U.S. weaponry. The satellite is currently under production by NASA and Lockheed Martin, a leading military contractor.
Pentagon claims that the bomber can cause greater and deeper ground damage from a virtually unassailable height have many critics questioning it as a component of President Bush's "Missile Defense Screen."
Alice Slater, president of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, criticized the Pentagon's apparent aim to control space through military force. She called it a "total misnomer to talk about missile 'defense'" when referring to the proposed program.
"The U.S. Space Command 'Vision for 2020' report outlines the weaponization of space," Slater said, "envisioning that 'space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial national interests and investment.'" She points to this focus on commercial interests as an indication of a desired "extension of 500 years of colonial domination of the world's resources*to back up corporate interests."
Bruce Gagnon, international coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, called the program a "Trojan horse." According to Gagnon, "Pentagon officials understand that they can't come before the American people and say, 'Give us hundreds of billions of dollars so that we can have offensive weapons in space." Instead, he charges, "they dress it up in sheep's clothing and pretend that it's defensive."
In "Vision for 2020," Gagnon notes, "the Pentagon outlines that it wants to 'control and dominate' space and 'deny other countries access to space.'" The bottom-line goal is clear: "to create a new arms race that will make the aerospace corporations richer than one could imagine and will violate the ABM Treaty and Outer Space Treaty."
Critics are also calling into question other components of the new weaponry plans. In late July, the Defense Department announced that it planned to test a space-based laser, to the tune of $110 million. The Pentagon confirmed media reports that a July 14 test flight of a missile interceptor in the Pacific was fudged, prompting queries into the viability of the program.
"The target basically had a beacon on it saying 'hit me,'" commented Preston J. Truman, director of the Downwinders organization. In a statement released by the Institute for Public Accuracy, he said: "This seemed almost déjà vu. Tests involving the X-ray laser during the 1980s were similarly dubious."
Truman also criticized the Pentagon for "conducting a witch hunt" against MIT scientist Theodore Postol. The physicist has long maintained that the "Missile Defense Screen" cannot detect decoys and is therefore dangerous. In July, the Defense Department began investigating Postol's "dissemination of classified information" which Postol claims is in the public domain. The Pentagon has threatened both Postol and MIT with sanctions, prompting allegations of a cover-up.
Truman recalled events surrounding the first "Star Wars" program, supported by Ronald Reagan. "Many of the critics during the 1980s were harassed for speaking out and accused of security violations," Truman said.
Evan Woodward is a writer with IPA Media, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy (www.accuracy.org).