'Facts in Orbit'

"War! It is too serious a matter to leave to the military" - Georges Clemenceau, French statesman.

So the president isn't just a cowboy. He's a space cowboy.

As the Washington Post reported last week, "President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny to access to space to anyone 'hostile to U.S. interests.'"

This is in keeping with U.S. plans for "Full-Spectrum Dominance" as detailed in documents such as "Full Spectrum Dominance and Air Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan FY06," which explicitly states that the goal is to fight war "in, from and through" space, based on the imperialistic idea that whoever controls space will dominate earth.

Bush's space policy is nearly identical to the policy adopted by the Clinton administration in 1996 - just one small example of why it's a mistake to think the danger of our military-industrial complex will be significantly abated with Democrats in power. Imperial attitudes run much deeper than party politics. It's a cultural malady.

Though the Bush doctrine says we are committed to "the exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and the for the benefit of all humanity," it goes on to say that "peaceful purposes" includes "U.S. defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests." Orwell would be impressed. Both Russia and China have indicated a willingness to sign a treaty banning weapons in space but our leaders have rejected that idea.

"The U.S. government is saying that they can do whatever they want in space and will deny access to anyone they choose. What the document doesn't say is that the U.S. is developing weapons in space," says Craig Eisendrath, a former State Department official who helped write the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Eisendrath is referring to space weapon programs like the Space Based Interceptor Test Bed, Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE), and the Air Force's Advanced Weapons Technology program, which includes the development of "anti-satellite weapons." Don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

Researchers at the Center for Defense Information and the Henry L. Stimson Center worry that "in the absence of a clear national strategy and policy on new military missions in outer space, the administration of George W. Bush is funding programs that will create 'facts in orbit.'"

"These facts - the development and testing of space weapon technologies and the deployment of dual-use systems without any codes of conduct or rules of the road for their operation - will drive U.S. policy toward space weapons without a debate in either Congress or the public."

The Stimson center's space security project argues for the creation of code of conduct for space-faring nations to strengthen international norms against dangerous military activities in space. The idea is to create bilateral or multilateral executive agreements as we did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War to prevent dangerous military practices at sea, on the ground, and in the air. For example, the U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea (or INCSEA) Accord, which has served as a model for other agreements signed by more than thirty other navies.

Of course, all of this space weapons stuff has to be seen in the context of this administration's insistence on preemptive military strikes.

On earth, preemption has led to the disaster in Iraq and has spurred at least one "axis of evil" - North Korea - to develop nuclear weapons, having learned the lesson: the U.S. only attacks countries that don't have nukes. If you don't want to be bullied by Bush, get nukes ASAP.

Developing space-based weapons with first-strike capabilities extends this nutty arms race into outer space.

What to do? Get involved with one of the many organizations working on this issue. The Stimson Center. The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. The Union of Concerned Scientists or the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

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