The Democrats and Star Wars

Excerpt from "Weapons in Space"

By Karl Grossman

With reference to recent (end of May 2001) discussion about the Democratic Party and Star Wars, the following is a passage from "Weapons In Space" (which Seven Stories Press will have out in mid-June) that might be helpful.

"The Democratic Party has shown over and over again that it is in consonance with these plans for space warfare and global domination," says Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space. "In Congress, they've supported, in strong numbers, the expenditures." Moreover, with NASA and U.S. corporate interests seeking to mine the moon, Mars and other planets along with asteroids, "you see a conjunction of interests." 

"It is not just right-wing kooks and the military promoting Star Wars," declares Gagnon. "It's what we can call the 'power structure.'" Strong evidence of that is a book titled "Military Space Forces: The Next 50 Years" that stresses on its title page that it was "Commissioned by Congress, "a Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress of the mid-1980s. This blueprint for space warfare is as extreme and as wild as anything out of the U.S. Space Command or the Heritage Foundation and yet endorsed personally by a group of mainly Democrats and commissioned by a Democratic Congress.

The list of officials signing off on the "Congressional Introduction" is topped by the facsimile signatures of Representatives Ike Skelton of Missouri John Spratt of South Carolina, Democrats and leaders in recent time for missile defense. Then there are the signatures of then Senator John Glenn of Ohio, the ex-astronaut and a Democrat (given a NASA space shuttle ride in 1999); then Representative Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat  (representing Cape Canaveral and the rest of the "Space Coast" who got his NASA space shuttle ride in 1986) and now a senator; and Representative Harold Volkmer, a Missouri Democrat. The two Republicans are Representative John Kasich of Ohio and Ben Blaz, a non-voting member of the House from Guam.

The"Congressional Introduction" declares that Congress asked John M. Collins, senior specialist in national defense at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, "in June 1987 to prepare 'a frame of reference that could help Congress evaluate future, as well as present, military space policies, programs and budgets.'"

After a foreword by General John L. Piotrowski, then commander in chief of the
U.S. Space Command, "Military Space Forces" opens with consideration of
"economic and military enterprises" on the moon. "The moon is rich," it says,  "in many natural resources.. Iron, titanium, aluminum, manganese, and calcium are abundant. Simple machines could easily strip top layers."

Military bases on the moon would not only "defend" the mining operations but
could take advantage of what "Military Space Forces" calls the "gravity well" of Earth.  This is described as a channel in space between the moon and Earth. "Military space forces at the bottom of Earth's so-called gravity well are poorly positioned to accomplish offensive/defensive/deterrent missions, because great energy is needed to overcome gravity during launch," it says, but "forces at the top" on the moon could act "more rapidly. Put simply, it takes less energy to drop objects down a well than to cast them out. Forces at the top also enjoy more maneuvering room and greater reaction time. " A map of the best "site" on the moon from which the U.S. could take military advantage of this "gravity well" is provided and the work stresses that U.S. "armed forces might lie in wait at that location to hijack rival shipments" of materials mined by other nations. The U.S., according to this Congressionally-authored plan, would engage in piracy in space.

Combat on the moon is discussed with the observation, "Lunar foxholes would provide better cover than terrestrial counterparts, because the absence of air confines blast effects to much smaller areas."

"Military Space Forces" examines space weapons and states that nuclear weapons have a drawback. "Nuclear weapons detonated in atmosphere create shock waves, violent winds, and intense heat that can inflict severe damage and casualties well beyond the hypocenter." But in space "winds never blow in a vacuum, shock waves cannot develop. and neither fireballs nor superheated surrounding air develop above about 65 miles. Consequently, it would take direct hits or near misses to achieve required results with nuclear blast and thermal radiation. "

On the other hand, "space is a nearly perfect laser environment. because light propagates unimpeded in a vacuum," it says. "Laser weapons, regardless of type (gas, chemical, excimer, free electron, solid state, X ray), concentrate a tightly focused shaft or pulse of radiant energy photons on the target surface," "Military Space Forces" explains. "The beam burns through."

The book also examines use of chemical and biological warfare in space and states: "Self-contained biospheres in space accord a superlative environment for chemical and biological warfare.Clandestine operatives could dispense lethal or incapacitating CW/BW agents rapidly and uniformly through enemy facilities."

"Conventional weapons" would have their place, too, it says, pointing out that "high-speed birdshot could seriously damage most space facilities which are strong enough to maintain structural integrity and repel micrometerioids, but not much more."

As to the UN Charter seeking "'peaceful and friendly' international relations," the Outer Space Treaty and designating space as a place where "exploration and other endeavors 'shall be carried out for the benefit.of all mankind,'" and the Moon Agreement of 1979 saying "neither the surface nor the subsurface of the moon" or "other celestial bodies within the solar system" shall "become the property" of any person or state, "Military Space Forces" declares: "The strength of such convictions will be tested when economic competition quickens in space."

"Parties that hope to satisfy economic interests in space must maintain ready access to resources on the moon and beyond, despite opposition if necessary, and perhaps deny access to competitors," it says.

A good way to keep other nations from engaging in space militarily, it goes on, is to "control attitudes" in other countries. "Control over elitist and popular opinion, using inexpensive psychological operations as a nonlethal weapon system, could convince rivals that it would be useless to start or continue military space programs," it says. "The basic objective would be to deprive opponents of freedom of action, while preserving it for oneself. Senior national executives, legislators, members of the mass media and, through them, the body politic, would be typical targets."

Meanwhile, for the U.S., "Superiority in space could culminate in bloodless total victory, if lagging powers could neither cope nor catch up technologically." As examples of the advantages of waging war from space, Collins states that "naval surface ships comprise" a particularly "inviting target category.Former astronaut Michael Collins, who has been there and back twice, believes space is an ideal place from which to attract aircraft carriers and other major surface combatants." And "strike forces on the moon could choose from the full range of offensive maneuvers."

"Military Space Forces" also urges the use of nuclear power in space, both plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators and nuclear reactors which are "the only known long-lived, compact source able to supply military space forces with electric power about 10 kilowatts and multimegawatts. Cores no bigger than basketballs are able to produce about 100 KW, enough for 'housekeeping' aboard space stations and at lunar outposts. Larger versions could meet multimegawatt needs of space-based lasers, neutral particle beams, mass drivers, and railguns."

Among the endorsements featured on the back cover of "Military Space Forces" are
from then Senator Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that, "This book will be an indispensible starting point," and then Representative Les Aspin, a Wisconsin Democrat, later a secretary defense under President Bill Clinton, stating: "No other military space study puts all pieces of the puzzle together." General John W. Vessey, Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, states "Military Space Forces" "should be useful for decades."

There are Democrats, of course, emphatically against the U.S. weaponization of space by the U.S. One is now former U.S. Senator Charles Robb of Virginia who declared in 1999: "The United States and other nations have rightly avoided placing  weapons in space.. A space-based arms race would be essentially irreversible. It defies reason to assume that nations would sit idle while the United States invests billions of dollars in weaponizing space, leaving them at an unprecedented disadvantage.. Once this genie is out of the bottle, there is no way to put it back in. We could never afford to bring all these systems back to Earth, and destroying them would be equally unfeasible, because the billions of pieces of space debris would jeopardize commercial satellites and manned missions." Moreover, said Robb, himself a former military officer, if space becomes a war zone "the fog of war would reach an entirely new density."

And in the House of Representatives, leading opponents of Star Wars include Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, Lynn Woolsey of California and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
"Leave Star Wars to the movies," declared McKinney on the House floor April 11, 2000 as the three made an effort to stop the missile defense program. She spoke of the tens of billions of dollars that have been "been squandered on Star Wars. Now they have changed the name to National Missile Defense, but it is the same thing."
"The U.S. Space Command calls for expanded war fighting capabilities in outer space. The guiding words in this country," said Kucinich, "ought to be 'thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' not 'war be done in heaven as it is on Earth.' Let us work for peace on Earth, not war in space."

Later that week, Kucinich gave the keynote address at the 2000 international meeting of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. "We know that moving forward with a national missile defense system will set the stage for the advancement and proliferation of nuclear weapons in space," he declared. "And we know that once we continue down this road, we're going to be locked into funding an industry that makes missiles, and anti-missiles, and creates policies to promote the use of missiles, and more spending on missiles."

He asked what happened to the "Cold War benefit. There's only a restless, ceaseless arms race which rides the newest technological wave, to continue to drain our national resources, to continue to create fear in America, to continue to create fear abroad, to continue to make the world less safe, and to continue to drive our national consciousness downward."

Kucinich spoke of the opposition of the U.S. in the UN to the resolution seeking to prevent an arms race in outer space by reaffirming the Outer Space Treaty. "It's my belief that the United States must sign on, and send a message to the world that space is for peace, not war. Unfortunately, there are policy makers who are aimed at having the country make a statement totally the opposite."

(See also: An open letter to Sen. Daschle)

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