NMD/Pine Gap/Star Wars

STAR WARS - THE ARMED WING OF GLOBALISATION

by Dr Hannah Middleton, Stop Star Wars campaigner

Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition September 11 gave a huge boost to the United States plans to move full-speed ahead on National Missile Defence (NMD) or 'Star Wars'. Despite the fact that space weapons would be no defence against low-tech terrorist "suitcase" bombs or the kind of attack that destroyed the twin towers, Star Wars supporters are riding high and the aerospace industry expects super profits from defence contracts.

Australia is a front line state for US NMD plans, through the base at Pine Gap and the Australian Government is almost alone in giving strong public support to Star Wars.

The National Missile Defence program involves developing a system to intercept a limited number of ballistic missiles targeted on the US. However, NMD is not a benign, defensive umbrella. It is a controversial space battle system to control space for the US alone.

Bruce Gagnon, co-ordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space, says the program has "never been about defence. It's always been about controlling space, dominating space, denying other countries access to space and the US being the master of space. And that isn't a defensive posture."

He also points out that: "Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Star Wars will take money away from education, programs for women and children, and health care. There is a direct link between promoting weapons for space and the destabilisation of our communities. People must connect these struggles."

Since research began in 1976, attempts to destroy mock warheads have failed more than 70 per cent of the time. During the Gulf War, not one Patriot anti-ballistic missile managed to hit a Scud.

In an extraordinary statement, US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said "a system of defence need not be perfect". Allowing for any margin of error in the functioning of a multi-billion dollar system designed to stop a small number of missiles makes it pointless. It is rather like applying the "need not be perfect" standard to a condom.

In order to deploy NMD, the US has withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. As a result, other arms control and nuclear disarmament treaties may collapse. The fragile foundation for progress in nuclear disarmament will come crashing down. We are on the brink of a new, more dangerous nuclear arms race.

Master of Space

The US is planning to militarise, commercially exploit and to control space, taking corporate globalisation to a new and more terrifying level.

The pr spin is that the US military push into space is about "missile defense". However, the US military explicitly says it wants to "control" space to protect its economic interests and establish superiority over the world.

"With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we're going to keep it," said Keith Hall, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space.

Vision for 2020, a 1996 report of the US Space Command, proclaims that its mission is "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment."

A century ago, "Nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests" by ruling the seas, the report says. Now it is time to rule space.

The Space Command's 1998 Long Range Plan underlines the globalisation aspect of US space war plans, saying, "Widespread communications will highlight disparities in resources and quality of life -- contributing to unrest in developing countries.. The gap between 'have' and 'have-not' nations will widen, creating regional unrest". By controlling space and the Earth below, the US intends to keep those "have-nots" in line.

Nuclear Threat

The January 2001 report of the Space Commission argues for "the option to deploy weapons in space" and points out that unlike "weapons from aircraft, land forces or ships, space missions initiated from earth or space could be carried out with little transit, information or weather delay."

The spectre of nuclearisation of the heavens is with us with plans for nuclear tipped missiles aimed at incoming weapons, the possibility of nuclear weapons deployed in space, and the use of nuclear power.

Military Industrial Complex

The development and production process for NMD involves many corporations. The big four, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and TRW, will get very rich from it.

These corporations donate huge sums to the Republican Party and aggressively lobby Capitol Hill on defence spending, with no regard for the safety and well-being of the world. This is corporate greed on a global scale.

They have close ties to the Bush administration. Star Wars lobby members dominate the expert commissions that have strongly influenced Congress decisions on missile defense spending. From this lobby Congress has received an inflated "threat assessment" on other nations' missile capabilities and a blueprint for space warfare. This policy cannot protect the United States from missile attack and is likely to create the imaginary threat it is supposed to defeat.

Before becoming US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld chaired the Commission to Assess US National Security Space Management and Organization. Just days before Rumsfeld became Pentagon chief, this Space Commission issued a report championing Star Wars.

Rumsfeld is listed as an "informal adviser and faithful supporter" of the Center for Security Policy, the heart of the Star Wars lobby. In 1998 the Center for Security Policy awarded Rumsfeld its "Keeper of the Flame Award" in recognition of his contribution to their mutual cause. Past recipients of the award include Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich.

Bush's Vice President Cheney is a former member of the board of TRW. His wife Lynn was a longtime member of the Lockheed Martin board.

Bush's appointee as deputy director of the National Security Council is Stephen J. Hadley, previously a partner in Shea & Gardner, the Washington law firm of Lockheed Martin.

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.

United Nations

In November 2000 the United Nations General Assembly voted to reaffirm the fundamental international law on space, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Some 163 nations supported the resolution which reiterates that the use of space "shall be for peaceful purpose . . . carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries." It states that the "prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger for international peace and security."

The United States, Israel and Micronesia abstained.

Canada and China have been leaders at the United Nations in challenging the US space military plans and seeking to strengthen the Outer Space Treaty by banning all weapons in space (the treaty currently prohibits nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction).

Marc Vidricaire, counselor with the Canadian delegation to the United Nations, said "it is clear that technology can be developed to place weapons in outer space, and no state can expect to maintain a monopoly on such knowledge - or such capabilities - for all time. If one state actively pursues the weaponisation of space, we can be sure others will follow."

Australian Involvement

Pine Gap is one of the largest and most important US satellite ground control stations in the world.

Established in 1968 as a CIA intelligence base and situated in Central Australia, 19 kms south-west of Alice Springs, Pine Gap has been used to collect data on ballistic missile launches for over 30 years.

Pine Gap is in the Star Wars front line. It will be a Ground Based Relay Station for a new space based missile tracking system, called SBIRS (Space-Based Infra-Red System), planned to be operational by 2004.

Pine Gap will receive from satellites and forward to the US early warning of missile launches. It will also provide information on the launch site, missile type, velocity, and what kind of warhead the missile may carry. This information is essential if the missiles are to be destroyed before they reach their targets.

The SBIRS satellites monitored by Pine Gap cover the most important area of US strategic interest - China. Pine Gap is also an essential element in providing early warning and for tracking any missile launches from Iran or Iraq.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer claims that Pine Gap is not involved in NMD. However, he has also said that "If the US were to have the capacity to shoot down or destroy a hostile missile, they would have to know that the missile had been launched, and where it was. Pine Gap can transmit that sort of information to the US. The government has said we would not cut off the transmission of that information to the US."

American Government representatives are franker. In an interview with Channel 9 in July 2000, then US Secretary of Defence William Cohen said Pine Gap had been "very much" involved in NMD.

The Australian Government is backing NMD despite warnings that the system is not in Australia's interests. Classified documents from the Office of National Assessments (ONA - Australia's peak intelligence assessment body) say "Pine Gap will be a key component of the early warning system for any US missile defence system."

"Any weakening of international arms control regimes would have a negative impact on Australia's security," the ONA report says.

Star Wars development involves massive secrecy and denial of national sovereignty.

The Australian parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has complained that MPs are kept in the dark about Pine Gap. Although members of the US Congress have visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings about its functions, the Treaties Committee is "entrusted with less information than can be found in a public library".

Action Needed

There is worldwide opposition to US space wars plans. The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power In Space is co-ordinating actions in countries around the world in early October.

As part of this, there will be a demonstration at Pine Gap from October 5 to 7 and solidarity actions in centres around Australia.

We need to act now. There is only a narrow window to stop NMD going forward and preventing what inevitably would follow: other nations will meet the US in kind and there will be an arms race and ultimately war in space.