Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Friday, January 26, 2007

CHINA'S SPACE TEST REMINDS OF URGENT NEED FOR NEW SPACE TREATY


By Karl Grossman

China’s successful test of an anti-satellite weapon last week brought me back to a conference I keynoted at the United Nations in Geneva in 1999 on “The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.” I was followed by the first secretary of the Chinese delegation to the UN.

As a journalist who has written on this issue, I presented on a screen documents starting with the U.S. Space Command’s Vision For 2020, issued the year before, envisioning U.S. space-based laser weapons zapping targets on Earth by the year 2020. It spoke of the U.S. military “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment” and “integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”

This “pushes us ­- all of us ­- toward war in the heavens,” I said, because “other nations will follow leading to a new arms race and ultimately war in space. This all must be stopped before it gets completely out of hand.”

The Chinese first secretary, Wang Xiaoyu, then declared: “Outer space is the common heritage of human beings. It should be used entirely for peaceful purposes and for the economic, scientific and cultural development of all countries as well as the well-being of mankind. It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”

The next day, a vote was to be held on a bill advanced by China and Russia -­ and our neighbor, Canada -­on “banning the test, deployment and use of any weapons, weapons system and their components in outer space.”

On my way to watch the vote, I came upon a high official of the U.S. delegation to the UN. He attended the earlier conference and wasn’t happy with my remarks. He welcomed providing me some “background.” With limits to U.S. power, he explained on the street outside the UN, the U.S. military believes “we can project power from space” and this is why the country is moving in this direction.

As to other nations responding in kind, he said the U.S. military had done analyses and determined China is “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money” for it.

I recounted my travels in China, observing its technological strength, and noted China’s space prowess. And, I pointed to the enormous space capabilities and economic potential of Russia. A huge, potentially catastrophic miscalculation is being made, I said. We parted in disagreement.

A few hours later, a near-unanimous vote was held on the measure to ban weapons in space. The U.S. voted no and, because consensus was required, it failed.

This was during the Clinton administration. Under President George W. Bush the U.S. stance on space warfare has intensified. As the administration took office, a commission chaired by soon-to-be Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a report proclaiming that “in the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in, and through space to support its national interests.” Last October, the administration formally adopted a more aggressive U.S. position in a new U.S. National Space Policy that said the country will “develop and deploy space capabilities that sustain U.S. advantage.” It also said the U.S. “will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions” its “use of space.”

What, in this context, does the Chinese test signify?

Was it a demonstration showing that China never deserved to be trusted, its words mere rhetoric? Or, does it signify China, pushed by the U.S., indeed starting to respond in kind? Or does it mean, as China is maintaining in the face or international protests, that China is seeking to force the U.S. into negotiations on keeping weapons out of space?

Two things are certain: China is not, as I was told by that U.S. diplomat, “30 years behind” in the military use of space, and there is a very a narrow window available for an international agreement keeping space free of weapons.

The template is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a visionary pact developed by the U.S., United Kingdom and Soviet Union to prevent what 40 years ago was already feared as the weaponization of space. It bans nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in space. What China, Russia ­- and our friends to our north, Canada -­ have been doing is trying to broaden that to all weapons.

It’s high time that be done and it must done be soon.

The U.S. has the technology to move into space with weapons. Believing it will end up the only nation up there with arms if it does so is a huge and tragic mistake. China and Russia ­- and who knows what country next ­- will follow us up. And, no nation will have an advantage. Meanwhile, vast amounts of financial resources will need to be expended for space weaponry by the people of these countries­money desperately needed for medical care, education, the environment and all the other great needs on Earth.

The U.S. must join with the nations of the world now on an agreement (that includes a system of verification) providing the heavens not become a place for war.

***

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, is the author of Weapons In Space (Seven Stories Press) and The Wrong Stuff (Common Courage Press) and host of the video documentary Nukes In Space: The Nuclearizaton and Weaponization of the Heavens (EnviroVideo).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

NO MORE MONEY FOR IRAQ OCCUPATION


On April 4, 1967 Martin Luther King, while speaking about the Vietnam War said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Each month the U.S. occupation of Iraq is costing the American taxpayer $8.5 billion. Congress is now poised to appropriate another $100 billion for fiscal year 2007 – on top of the $70 billion they already authorized for this year.

How can we afford health care, education, child care, environmental programs, and the like while spending so much money on this mad war for oil?

While Congress talks about passing non-binding resolutions against the Bush “troop surge” in Iraq they are already committed to an increase in funding for the occupation. How will it ever end unless the people force the politicians to cut the funding?

Please help us by calling our Congressional delegation and urge them to vote NO on more funds for Iraq. They tell us the money is to “support the troops” but we know that the bulk of the money ends up in the coffers of Halliburton, Bechtel, Exxon, Lockheed Martin and other big corporations. Meanwhile the parents of the troops have to purchase body armor and phone cards to send the troops.

Please call:

- Rep. Tom Allen at (207)774-5019
- Sen. Olympia Snowe at (207)874-0883
- Sen. Susan Collins at (207)780-3575

Protests will be held throughout the U.S. in mid-February to call on Congress to vote NO on more Iraq occupation funding. Non-violence training sessions will be held in Portland at the Peace & Justice Center (1 Pleasant St, 4th Floor) on February 10 and 17 from 1-4 pm. Please plan to attend and share this flyer with others.

King concluded his famous Riverside Church speech with these words: “We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

For more information contact: 443-9502 or 772-0680 or globalnet@mindspring.com

Maine Veterans for Peace * Peace Action Maine * Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space * PeaceWorks * Maine WILPF * Maine Commonwealth * Addams-Melman House

Monday, January 22, 2007

Honoring the Past, Serving the Future


We got all moved in to our new place in Bath yesterday. Karen Wainberg joins MB and I in creating the Addams-Melman House in honor Jane of Addams (founder of WILPF) and Seymour Melman (economist who led the fight for economic conversion while teaching at Columbia University).

Jane Addams (pictured above)was a co-founder of the field of social work, a peace activist during WWI and won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

It is our hope to draw on the spirit of these two great Americans as we move into this next phase of our lives.