Star Wars: Making nuclear war "winnable"
by Peter Mac At about the time of publication of this issue of The Guardian, the US will have tested its latest "Star Wars" space technology. In the face of strong opposition from the governments of China and Russia, but with the enthusiastic applause of Tony Blair, the US seems determined to go ahead regardless. Writing in the People's Weekly World, Tim Wheeler says that the US Space Command plans to "control space in order to protect US interests and investments". Karl Grossman, media spokesperson for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and an investigative journalist says, "They call this a 'ballistic missile defence' but that is just the entering wedge. Their real aim is to dominate earth from space." Cost billions The ground-based Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD), said Karl Grossman, is a full-fledged system of nuclear powered and nuclear armed space weapons that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars with a down-payment of $60 billion to be followed by billions more. "This will open up an arms race in space and eventually a war in space. Everybody is going to be the loser except Lockheed Martin. This is nothing short of astro-imperialism." Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at City University of New York told a protesting crowd in New York: "The time has come for us all to say `No' to the Star Wars system. No to BMD! Shut it down!" Faked test results Kaku cited a front page article in the March 7 New York Times in which Dr Nira Schwartz, a former senior Star Wars engineer for TRW Corporation, exposed TRW's faking of test results to make it appear that anti-ballistic missiles successfully shot down a target ballistic missile. Other former employees corroborated her charges. Kaku told the New York demonstration, "We now know the test results were a fraud. This is $120 billion down a rathole." Russian response At a meeting in Moscow with Russia's President Putin, Clinton attempted to talk the Russian government into modifying the ABM treaty ratified in 1972 which limited use of space for such purposes. Mr Putin strongly denounced the US plan saying that the creation of the national missile shield is a "big strategic error that will only increase strategic threats to the US and Russia, as well as other states." The Russian government has made it clear that if Washington withdraws from the ABM treaty, Russia will cancel its obligations not only under the START treaties, but also under the treaty on elimination of medium and shorter- range missiles. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement severely criticised US industrial giants for seeking profits from new military orders, including those relating to the ABM defence system or the Star Wars program. While the Russian Duma recently ratified the long-stalled START II arms control agreement they added a clause that the treaty will be null and void if the US deploys BMD. China rejects A similarly strong rejection has been voiced by the government of China. Speaking at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Huang Huikang, head of the Chinese delegation said: "Recently, a certain country has accelerated development and testing of an outer space weapon system, or the so-called Tactical Missile Defence (TMD), which risks intensification of an arms race in out space. Such as action is contradictory to the current trends and goes against established international principles. Outer space belongs to all mankind. Therefore, exploration and use of it should proceed on a peaceful basis and serve the economic, scientific and cultural development of all countries. The Chinese representative said that "In order to prohibit testing and using weapons in outer space, an international legal instrument should be negotiated and concluded immediately." Justification The US attempts to justify its Star Wars project by referring to the danger allegedly coming from "rogue states" such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran. Such suggestions are laughable. These states do not possess nuclear weapons and their industrial and technical development rules out any possibility that they could threaten the "security" of the United States either now or in the future. Putin rejected the US allegations about the "rogue states" saying that such a threat "is not going to emerge in the visible future." Michio Kaku the US scientist, also scorned the Pentagon's argument asking: "Who is really the rogue nation? What nation has wrecked the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? What nation refuses to ratify the Treaty banning land mines? The only rogue nation is the United States of America!" Kaku denounced Star Wars as a grave violation of the 1972 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty with the Soviet Union. "This is a plan to rule the world from outer space. These are not my words. The Pentagon makes no bones about it." Pre-emptive war During the Eisenhower administration the Pentagon appointed a task force to study the feasibility of launching a pre-emptive nuclear war on the USSR under the code name "Operation Off-tackle." The plan called for 735 US strategic bombers to hit the Soviet Union, pulverising the country with nuclear bombs. "This was more than just an option. [The then] Secretary of Defence James Forrestal actually recommended that the attack be carried out," said Kaku. Eisenhower had one question. "How many Soviet Bison and Bear bombers would survive the attack?" The Pentagon's reply: "We do not know. Enough of them might survive to destroy New York City or the Northeast of the US." Eisenhower decided the "window of opportunity" had closed. However, the Pentagon has never given up its Star Wars dreaming and has continued to develop an anti-missile defence system that would reduce US losses low enough to make a nuclear war "winnable". US threats Although Clinton was supposed to have made a decision for or against the missile program in June, he may be leaving a decision to the next US President. Vice President Al Gore is "cautious" and moving slowly on Star Wars but Texas Governor George W Bush the Republican Presidential candidate "would proceed with not one but two missile defence systems at the earliest possible date". In a speech last September laying out his foreign and military policy Bush said that if he is elected president, he would present the Russians with an ultimatum on changes in the ABM Treaty to permit the US to deploy Star Wars. "If Russia refuses the changes we propose, we will give prompt notice under provisions of the Treaty that we can no longer be a party to it," Bush said. Aim Meanwhile, a senior commander of the Russian armed forces, Gen Nikolai Zlenko, warned the Pentagon that Moscow is "well-informed about and alarmed at the USA's Alaska-based R&D and preparatory work on creating a new national ABM network." He said it was an "embryo of a powerful monitoring network which will control the whole world in a matter of 30 to 40 years with satellites and terrestrial radars able to spot any missile wherever it is launched whereas the other side will not enjoy such an advantage bound as it will be by the 1972 Treaty. "Moscow can and must do all to thwart US attempts to revise the treaty. Russia will never take part in and tolerate the gradual modernisation efforts of Star Wars weaponry," said Gen Zlenko.
* * *Acknowledgement to People's Weekly World and other sources