|Interceptor missile test launch. National Missile Defense|
The United States is moving full-speed ahead on a missile defense program with events of September11th giving a big boost to the scheme. Missile defense, or "Star Wars," advocates maintain the terrorist attack demonstrated the kind of future assault -- the next time around with missiles -- that the U.S. must seek to offset. They also point to the need to protect "US interests and investments" around the globe. Opponents argue the most likely threat to the U.S. continues to be relatively low-tech terrorist attacks, not sophisticated missiles. Star Wars supporters are now riding high. Meanwhile the troubled aerospace industry is hoping to be shored up by big-ticket defense contracts.
Some $95 billion has been spent on missile defense since Ronald Reagan first advanced the program in 1983, according to the Center for Defense Information (CDI) in Washington. Despite the billions the program has never produced a successful missile system. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW have been the "Big Four" among aerospace corporations receiving program monies. Many billions more will be spent in coming years. All four companies aggressively lobby Capitol Hill on defense spending.
These companies have close ties to the Bush administration, as they did to the Democratic administration that proceeded it. The military machine is alive and well more than a decade after the end of the cold war. This time globalization is the rationale for arms build up -- and some of the same corporations that promoted and profited from the cold war are behind it.
The Star Wars Debate Revived
President George W. Bush cleared a legal path for a renewed missile defense program in December when he advised Russia that the U.S. is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. September 11th was part of his message as he warned that the threat to both countries came from terrorists and "rogue states".
It's about controlling space and the US being the master of space.
-- Bruce Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons in Space
"We know that the terrorists, and some of those who support them, seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defenses against those attacks," Bush said.
On the other side of the debate, Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space, held that "September 11th ultimately is irrelevant" because missile defense is a Trojan horse for the "real objectives" of the U.S. space military program. "It's never been about defense. It's always been about controlling space, dominating space, denying other countries access to space and the U.S. being the master of space," said Gagnon. "And that isn't a defensive posture."
But others reached a different conclusion. By September 17th , O'Dwyer's PR Daily was reporting that President George Bush's full $8.3 billion request for missile defense in 2002 "has now gotten new life in the aftermath of the terror attacks."
In the days following the attacks Senate Democrats backed away from a pre-September 11th pledge to cut the amount by $1.3 million and agreed to remove a provision requiring the administration to seek Congressional approval to spend money on activities that would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Media commentators widely interpreted the move as an effort to avoid a partisan debate in the middle of a national crisis. And the White House made it clear that opposition to its legislative agenda, on a variety of fronts, would be branded unpatriotic.
Militarizing the Heavens to Enforce Globalization
While the push for a Star Wars program was buoyed by the September 11th attacks, plans for the administration's space military program were well underway when Bush took office.
Prior to being appointed U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld chaired the Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization -- known as the "Space Commission." Just days before Rumsfeld was named Pentagon chief, the Space Commission issued a report championing Star Wars.
Before there was a director of "homeland defense," this report spoke about "homeland defense" -- against missiles -- urging an array of military hardware, including space-based weapons systems, to "destroy a missile shortly after launch, before either warhead or countermeasures are released."
The 13-member Space Commission advocated elevating the U.S. Space Command, established by the Pentagon in 1985 to "coordinate" U.S. space military operations, to a "Space Corps" like the Marine Corps, to then possibly to become a "Space Department" at the same level as the Departments of Army, Navy and Air Force. General Richard B. Myers, current chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed up Space Command before being tapped by the Bush Administration for his current post a year ago.
The January 2001 Space Commission report was proceeded by the Space Command's Long Range Plan, which framed the space missile program in terms of furthering corporate-led globalization and maintaining US economic and political dominance. "The United States will remain a global power and exert global leadership," stated the 1998 plan.
"Widespread communications will highlight disparities in resources and quality of life -- contributing to unrest in developing countries. The global economy will continue to become more interdependent. Economic alliances, as well as the growth and influence of multinational corporations, will blur security agreements. The gap between 'have' and 'have-not' nations will widen, creating regional unrest" the Long Range Plan continued. This worldwide gap between rich and poor, the Space Command reasoned, would lead to conflicts threatening US dominance.
The Long Range Plan opens by declaring that it has "U.S. Space Command's #1 priority investing nearly 20 man-years to make it a reality. The development and production process, by design, involved hundreds of people including about 75 corporations." And it subsequently lists these 75 corporations-beginning with Aerojet, Aerospace Corp., BD Systems and Boeing, to Lockheed Martin, Rand Corp., Raytheon, Spaceport Systems International, Sparta Corp., Stella Solutions, TRW Space and Vista Technologies.
Bush Administration Ties to the Aerospace Industry
The Bush administration is intimately linked with the corporate interests behind the missile defense program. Vice President Cheney is a former member of the board of TRW. His wife, Lynn Cheney, was a longtime member of the Lockheed Martin board stepping down only as her husband prepared to take office.
"I wrote the Republican Party's foreign policy platform," Bruce Jackson, vice president of corporate strategy and development of Lockheed Martin, flatly told this reporter in an interview last year, referring to his role as chair of the Foreign Policy Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention where he was a delegate.
Bush's appointee as deputy director of the National Security Council -- whom he has also assigned to travel the world to promote the U.S. missile defense program -- is Stephen J. Hadley, previously a partner in Shea & Gardner, the Washington law firm of Lockheed Martin. "Space is going to be important. It has a great feature in the military," Hadley, speaking as "an advisor" to Bush, told the Air Force Association in a speech during the Bush campaign.
Other Bush administration officials drawn from the aerospace industry include Albert Smith, a Lockheed Martin vice president, appointed undersecretary of the Air Force; Gordon England, vice president of General Dynamics, named Navy secretary; and James G. Roche, retired president of a Northrop-Grumman division, appointed as Air Force secretary.
Then there are political contributions. William D. Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca of the Arms Trade Resource Center have tracked these contributions focusing on what they term the "Big Four" of missile defense -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW. These four corporations, which have been receiving 60 percent of government missile defense contracts, have been "making a major political investment," they say.
Our Government is being bribed by these Corporations pushing for Star Wars
-- Alice Slater
Their report, Tangled Web: The Marketing of Missile Defense, lists millions of dollars in "soft money donations" and "PAC contributions" to members of Congress in the last several years. The preference has been for money to Republicans, they say. But "the bottom line" is that "both major parties have been bought off." As a result, "under the leadership of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and the Democratic Leadership Council, the Democratic Party [was] almost as pro-military as the Republicansthrowing billions at missile defense.The answer is to get special interest money out of politics by supporting full public financing of presidential and congressional races."
Other Star Wars critics see the space missile program as a government bail out for the ailing aerospace industry. Missile defense is especially important to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon "as a medium-to-long term source of revenue and profits to help them recover from recent management and technical problems that have slashed their stock prices in half and reduced their profit margins," according to the Arms Trade Resource Center.
"Our government is being bribed by these corporations pushing for Star Wars," charges Alice Slater, president of the New York-based Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE). "They have absolutely no regard for the safety and well-being of the world. This is almost a clich about corporate greed-at a grand scale."
On the other side, aerospace corporations say that they are working to protect the U.S. -- more necessary now than ever after September 11th, they stress.
"This notion that space is going to remain a peaceful area in the future is absolutely putting our heads in the sand. It is just a fact of life," emphasized retired U.S. Space Command commander-in-chief, General Howell Estes, to the Colorado Springs Independent in December. "The fact of the matter is man is a warlike being.That's the nature of the beast, and we just can't be naive about it."
Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space sees the Bush Administration's massive military build up in direct competition with funding for social programs.
"Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Star Wars will take money away from education, programs for women and children, and health care," said Gagnon. "There is a direct link between promoting weapons for space and the destabilization of our communities. People must connect these struggles."
Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. He is the author of Weapons in Space from Seven Stories Press and narrator of the TV documentary Star Wars Returns, from EnviroVideo .