May 1 1999

The Phantom Menace

Space Weapons Aren't on Media Radar

The U.S. military’s plans to “control space” and the Earth below by placing weapons in orbit are explicit and extreme–and go unreported by mainstream media. What reporting is done on space military policy is restricted to the spin that only “missile defense” is involved.

“U.S. Space Command–dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” trumpets the 1998 report Vision For 2020. The slickly produced publication lays out those words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Wars movies, but it comes not out of Hollywood but from Colorado Springs, Colo., as an official publication of the military’s U.S. Space Command.

The U.S. Space Command, which “coordinates the use of Army, Naval and Air Force space forces,” was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as one of its units boasts, to be “Master of Space.” The cover of its brochure is a multi-colored depiction of laser weapons zapping targets from orbit.

Vision for 2020 straightforwardly declares, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”

“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in one of the handful of trade journals that does report on U.S. military space issues (Aviation Week and Space Technology, 8/9/96). “Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but–absolutely–we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space.. We will engage terrestrial targets someday–ships, airplanes, land targets–from space.”

Or consider the statement of Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Keith R. Hall, who is also director of the National Reconnaissance Office (which has a $6.8 billion annual budget, nearly three times as much as the CIA) to the National Space Club in 1997: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it and we’re going to keep it.”

The basic concept of the Pentagon’s approach to space is contained in The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century. Written by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman, the 1996 book concludes: “Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium”–by dominating the oceans with fleets–“so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.

“Very many kills”

“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air And Space Power For The 2lst Century, a 1996 U.S. Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.”

Not only are there to be weapons in space, but they will likely need nuclear power as their energy source. As New World Vistas notes, “power limitations impose restrictions” on high-power weapons systems such as lasers, making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”

Beyond the words is plenty of activity. The budget for the project called “Star Wars”–officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative under Reagan, and now termed Ballistic Missile Defense–has held at $4 billion a year. And President Clinton in recent months has proposed a major increase, an extra $6.6 billion for the next six years.

Work is proceeding on a space-based laser. The contract for it was announced at the National Space Symposium last year in Colorado Springs, where a poster was distributed that displayed a U.S. flag somehow waving in space above a laser firing its beam, with the Earth below. The poster included the slogan, “Preparing Today To Protect Tomorrow,” and the “Team SBL” (Space-Based Laser) seal. Listed team members included TRW, Boeing, the U.S. Air Force and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

Space war “doesn’t click”

Where are media on this important story?

In Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Space Command is headquartered–along with the Air Force Space Command, the Space Warfare Center, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex (the Dr. Strangelove-era command center inside a mountain still going full-blast as the 2lst Century dawns)–the story is in the face of local media. Further, Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms manufacturer and heavily involved in the production of space military hardware, is in Aurora, Colorado, on the way to nearby Denver.

“I’ve taken these U.S. Space Command and other documents–with these plans to control space, to dominate the Earth from space–to the press,” says Bill Sulzman, formerly a Roman Catholic priest and for 13 years director of Citizens for Peace In Space in Colorado Springs. But the information “doesn’t click with them. If this imperialistic language would be coming from some other government, it would be viewed with fright.”

The most that mainstream media do are stories about how “the Space Command and the other space military activities here are good for the economy,” he said. Indeed, last year, when the Denver Post ran an article (10/18/98) about how the manufacture of space satellites in Colorado helped the economy, Sulzman sent a letter to the editor to the Denver Post, noting: “There is an Air Force department in the Pentagon called the ‘Office for Space Domination.’ The U.S. Space Command, headquartered in Colorado Springs, has been assigned the task of making space an extension of U.S. empire…. That is the primary work of the computer jockeys inside Cheyenne Mountain, not the benign humanitarian task of keeping satellites from crashing into each other that is described in Sunday’s puff piece.”

The problem is resources, not lack of interest, Denver Post state editor Christopher Lopez told Extra!. “We don’t have anyone devoted to military coverage; we under-cover it. We don’t have anyone devoted in that field reporter-wise. We’re interested in it. We pick up some stuff. But it’s not anyone’s beat. We catch it as we can.”

Simply “awful,” says Sulzman, of the space military coverage of the daily newspaper in Colorado Springs, the Gazette. It is owned by the Freedom Newspapers, long run by the late Harry Hoit, an arch-conservative Coloradoan. “You read the editorial page of this paper, it’s like the poor United States doesn’t get credit for keeping the world safe–that’s their spin,” said Sulzman.

“We don’t have the same agenda as Mr. Sulzman,” Terri Fleming, editor of the Gazette, told Extra!, “and we are never going to report military news to please him as someone decrying space as holding weaponry. We’re trying to be as objective as we can. As a mainstream publication, we’re never going to satisfy those people with strong agendas.” Meanwhile, last December, said Fleming, the Gazette “moved one of our reporters to Washington, D.C.,” assigning her the Pentagon as a “main” part of her beat. “She has done a major story on what it means for Colorado Springs if we have Star Wars headquartered here,” said Fleming.

“Efforts to defend the United States against long-range nuclear missiles could have significant economic effects in Colorado Springs,” began the article (2/20/98) by the Gazette‘s new Washington reporter, Mary Boyle. “It could mean hundreds of new jobs, millions in new investment and even deeper ties with the nation’s military complex. That’s important for a city like the Springs.”

The Gazette article is described as “a puff piece” by Loring Wirbel, communications editor of Electronic Engineering Times and a Colorado Springs resident. The Gazette is “conservative in bent–and it shows–and has this cheerleader attitude” to space military activities, he said, while the Denver Post is “centrist to liberal and blithely ignores the subject.”

Media wasteland

In Washington, D.C., those involved in monitoring and taking on the U.S. military’s space military policy see a similar pattern among national media.

“The mainstream media here don’t do very much to challenge and confront what’s going on in U.S. military policy, and space policy is part of military policy,” Robert W. Tiller, director of security programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility, told Extra!. Tiller has been in Washington specializing in military and foreign affairs issues for 18 years.

John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World for the past 2l years, said that “the thrust into space by the U.S. is based on extending U.S. dominance in the military, economic and telecommunications fields.” It has not been reported about in “any depth or perspective” by media in Washington, which primarily act when “there is a major vote scheduled in the Senate or the House or the administration announces something…. When authority figures are talking.”

With the Clinton move in January to substantially increase funding for the Ballistic Missile Defense, “we witnessed the first tier of the Star Wars space-based weapons system funded. And the media completely missed the fact that Clinton made an important trade-off,” said Carol Rosin, executive director of the Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space, which fought Reagan’s Star Wars program. “You remember that candidate who promised that if elected he’d stop Star Wars. Well, what’s one more lie?”

“And the spin-masters,” said Rosin, “call it something other than what it really is. They say that it isn’t what Reagan really wanted–though, in reality, it is the first part of it, soon to build momentum so that none of it can be stopped.”

“Military space policy is a media wasteland,” says Wirbel of Electronic Engineering Times. His trade journal covers it, along with “the usual suspects, Space News, Defense News, Aviation Week and Space Technology.” But as for U.S. daily newspapers and broadcast media, “nothing.”

Why don’t mainstream media raise the subject? Says Wirbel: “I think part of it has to do with a lot of editors thinking Americans like being Number One, like being the bully, so no one should raise the ethical questions involved in that. No one feels comfortable challenging the emergence of the U.S. as the sole global super-power, the unipolar super-power playing its role from a bullying stance.”

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Gainesville, Florida-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space, adds: “You look back at the Reagan years, with all the enormous military-industrial profits made during those years, through which media outlets were bought up–General Electric’s acquisition of NBC and Westinghouse of CBS. We’ve had a real consolidation of power around the military industrial complex in the United States.

“I think it’s no coincidence that as we go further and further into this reality, the biggest export we have in this country is weapons and war. I think there’s no coincidence that we are not seeing much solid reporting and debate on these issues. I think there is a direct link between the control of the media by corporate powers, especially the military-industrial complex, and the lack of solid reporting on space issues, especially those relating to space control, space dominance and weapons in space.”

Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. A long-time investigative reporter, his most recent book is The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat To Our Planet (Common Courage Press) and most recent video documentary, Nukes In Space 2: Unacceptable Risks

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