The United States is seeking to make space a new arena of war—but you wouldn’t know that from mainstream media that limit coverage to U.S. plans for “missile defense.”
The wider space military program is laid out in publicly available documents—easily accessible to media—such as the recent report of the “Space Commission” chaired by new U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “In the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space,” the 13-member panel declared in its January 2001 report.
It urged that the president should “have the option to deploy weapons in space.” It recommended that the Pentagon’s U.S. Space Command become a “Space Corps” modeled after the Marine Corps, and then possibly a separate “Space Department” equal to the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The Rumsfeld report follows a series of U.S. military reports in recent years that call for the U.S. to “control space” in order to “dominate” the Earth below (Extra!, 5-6/99). “Missile defense” is described in these plans as a “layer” in a broader program for space warfare. “It is the foot in the door,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
It is hard to be against “defense,” and the Rumsfeld report raises the specter of a “Space Pearl Harbor.” Missile defense has been the spin—”to get a deployment OK,” said Gagnon, “then to be followed up by the real Reagan Star Wars program that includes space-based weapons.”
And mainstream media have succumbed to the spin.
Ignoring a “non-event”
Retired Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Jr., vice president of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C., said he has tried to get journalists to understand the broader space military program involved. “Missile defense doesn’t make any sense and everybody realizes that. The least likely threat we face is some third-rate nation developing an ICBM and launching it at the United States knowing they will get back 50 times what they send,” says Carroll. “There are all kinds of ways that are cheaper and more reliable—smuggling in a suitcase bomb, for example—to inflict harm and not be subject to instantaneous retaliation.”
“You look at the Rumsfeld report and his statements and the other reports, and you have to realize that they are thinking in terms of militarizing space, of space warfare,” said Carroll. But “the media just don’t get it.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Department gave the go-ahead in December for development of the Space-Based Laser, a joint project of TRW, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The Public Affairs Office at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal describes it as having a “lifecycle budget” of $20 billion to $30 billion. “We are going into space with lasers,” warned Carroll. “Space is seen as a new place to wage war. Already, we are underwater, over-water, on the land, in the air—and now we want to go to another dimension: space.”
The admiral said he has asked journalists why they’re not reporting the wider space military program. They explain that “as long as the White House doesn’t present it that way, as long as there is no talking about this in Congress, it is a non-event. . . . The news flag has to be up so they can report on it,” said Carroll.
One mainstream reporter who managed not to miss the import of the Rumsfeld report is Larry Wheeler, Washington correspondent of Florida Today, which covers the “Space Coast.” “In a matter of weeks and without presidential appointment or decree, the nation’s policy toward space appears to have shifted from one of civilian exploration and commercial development to one dominated by war fighters,” he reported (2/9/01). “In the weeks since President Bush was sworn in, four-star generals and their aides have stepped forward to flex their new-found muscle, driven largely by recommendations contained in [the] recent [Rumsfeld] report.”
Gagnon of the Gainesville, Florida-based Global Network sees corporate power as the major reason why media don’t report on the broader space military program. “My experience is that the staffs from the top to the bottom of newspapers, TV and radio are timid to report on the U.S. program for space warfare because of fear that their corporate sponsors will pull the money strings,” he said. “The result is that this vital information is being censored. It is a sin of media omission.” He added that the current “downsizing of media outlets” has exacerbated media people’s “fear for their jobs.”
Follow the briefer
Mike Moore did a lengthy story on Rumsfeld’s Space Commission report in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (3-4/01). “The heart of the report lies in the bald assertion that it is time to weaponize space,” wrote Moore, until last year in editorial charge of the Bulletin.
A newspaper reporter before he came to the Bulletin, Moore told Extra! that he is amazed that other journalists have missed the central message of the report. Under the pressure of time and other tasks, he said, “very few reporters looked at the entire document” and instead did “superficial” pieces following the lead of government briefers. “Rumsfeld is our defense secretary and this report should be looked at quite carefully,” Moore said.
Rumsfeld is a key to the new Star Wars push. William Hartung, a researcher at the World Policy Institute at the New School University in New York, did extensive research on Rumsfeld and his ties with “the Star Wars lobby” and offered to share it with media. The material was also included in an article—”Star Wars II: Here We Go Again”—by Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca in The Nation (6/19/00).
A main focus: Rumsfeld’s links with the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing “think tank” in Washington, D.C. whose advisory board includes such Star Wars promoters as Edward Teller and executives of aerospace companies including Lockheed Martin (Extra!, 11-12/00). Rumsfeld, who received the Center for Security Policy’s “Keeper of the Flame” award in 1998, has been described by it as a “trusted adviser” and financial supporter.
But “none of the mainstream articles talked about Rumsfeld’s connection to the Star Wars lobby,” Hartung noted. “I sent several letters to the New York Times since he was tapped as secretary of defense, but no response.”
The mainstream media have given Rumsfeld “a free ride,” complains Alice Slater, president of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment in New York. “It’s appalling. The U.S. is opening up a new battleground in space but the mainstream media just keep reporting on it as a ‘protective shield.’ Never is it put in the context of the sweeping program to militarize and weaponize space.”
Rumsfeld has a media connection too: Since 1992, he was on the board of the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Newsday. It describes itself on its website as “a leading media company with operations in television and radio broadcasting, publishing and interactive.”
Citizenry in the dark
Although U.S. citizens, due to the laziness (and worse) of U.S. media, are unaware of what their country is up to militarily in space, other nations do know.
Because of U.S. space military plans, last November 20 at the United Nations, a vote was held on a resolution for “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.” It sought to “reaffirm” the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, the basic international law on space, and specifically its provision that space be reserved “for peaceful purposes.” The U.S.–an original signer of the treaty–abstained. Did you read or hear about this in U.S. media?
The legislation that got the Rumsfeld Space Commission established in 2000 was authored by Sen. Bob Smith (R.-N.H.), who was interviewed in February for Star Wars Returns, a documentary I’m working on. Of the U.S. “controlling space,” Smith said: “It is our manifest destiny. You know we went from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States of America settling the continent, and they call that manifest destiny, and the next continent, if you will, the next frontier, is space, and it goes on forever.”
“Just” missile defense? It’s far more–although U.S. citizens aren’t being told.
Sidebar: Military-Industrial Platform?
Along with Donald Rumsfeld, the Center for Security Policy’s advisory board includes Bruce Jackson, vice president of corporate strategy and development of Lockheed Martin. When I interviewed Jackson in December for a book on Star Wars, he proudly noted that he had chaired the Foreign Policy Platform Committee at the Republican National Convention at which he was a delegate. “I wrote the Republican Party’s foreign policy platform,” he declared.
I wrote an article for The Nation (with Judith Long; 1/29/01) highlighting this startling admission, but with little if any pickup. A handful of articles in the Nexis.com database (Washington Times, 8/2/00; Washington Post, 8/22/00; Boston Globe, 10/2/00) mention Jackson and his work on the GOP foreign policy platform. But none of them mention his day job at Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest weapons manufacturer and a major player in U.S. space military activities.
Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury. His book, Weapons in Space, is forthcoming from Seven Stories Press, and his TV documentary, Star Wars Returns, from EnviroVideo (1-800-ECO-TVGO).