Associated Press / Commondreams – 2005-05-20 08:34:34
Bush Likely to Back Weapons in Space
Julian Borger / The (London) Guardian
WASHINGTON (May 19, 2005) — GuardianPresident George Bush is expected to issue a directive in the next few weeks giving the US air force a green light for the development of space weapons, potentially triggering a new global arms race, it was reported yesterday. .
The new weapons being studied range from hunter-killer satellites to orbiting weapons using lasers, radio waves, or even dense metal tubes dropped from space by a weapon known as “Rods from God” on ground targets.
The national security directive on space has been sought by the air force since last year. The New York Times yesterday quoted a senior administration official as saying a decision is expected within weeks. Neither the air force nor the White House returned calls seeking comment.
The directive will replace a 1996 directive signed by Bill Clinton which was vaguely worded but which emphasised the peaceful use of space, in line with almost unanimous global opinion. Plans for potential space weapons were vetoed by the Clinton White House.
Space warfare experts said they expected the Bush administration directive to be similarly vague but also to signal a shift in attitude towards exploring ways of affirming US dominance in space militarily.
“Up to now, this has been a campaign by the air force to have the freedom to do what they want to do in space,” said Theresa Hitchens, vice-president of the Centre for Defence Information. “This will, for the first time in US history, will give them the go-ahead.”
Ms Hitchens argued the directive would trigger an arms race in space. “Let’s think of a world where US has ‘death stars’ everywhere in space that are going over countries every 10 minutes. Do you think other countries are going to accept that?” she said.
The new push to develop space weapons comes as the earth-based missile defence system, intended to hit an incoming missile with another missile and which was heavily promoted by the Bush administration, has been set back by technical problems and failed tests. The air force’s intentions were spelt out last September by General Lance Lord, head of its space command, who said satellites had given US military power a decisive advantage with their spying, communications and targeting capacities. That advantage had to be maintained by “space superiority”.
“It can be our destiny if we work it hard and continue to aggressively follow that,” he said.
The potential weapons fall into two main categories as defined by a 2002 Pentagon planning document: “space control” or anti-satellite warfare, and “space force application” or attacking the ground from orbit. The air force claims that it can design military satellites that could protect US military and civilian satellites already in orbit. However, most space experts argue that the satellites are aimed at destroying other country’s satellites.
“Space force application” weapons include the global strike programme, which envisages a space plane armed with half a ton of munitions. The “Rods from God” scheme would aim tungsten, titanium or uranium cylinders at targets on the ground from a position in low earth orbit. By the time they hit the earth they would be travelling at around 7,500mph , with the impact of a small nuclear warhead.
Another option would use mirrors to focus an intense laser beam onto terrestrial targets, referred to as a “death star” by its critics. But according to one estimate a space-based laser would cost $100m (around £55m) per target.
“It’s an enormously expensive way of hitting the ground,” said Laura Grego, a space weapons expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists. She said the “space control” satellites were more likely to be deployed, but even they could trigger an arms race.
“We’re legitimising the idea of attacking other people’s satellites and we have the most to lose. This technology is diffusing rapidly,” Ms Grego said. “To be the masters of space you’d have to not allow anyone else to launch into space. But you can’t blow up everyone’s launch pads.”
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
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‘Star Wars’ Raises Questions on US Policy
David Germain / Associated Press http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0517-07.htm
(May 17, 2005) — Without Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11” at the Cannes Film Festival this time, it was left to George Lucas and “Star Wars” to pique European ire over the state of world relations and the United States’ role in it.
Lucas’ themes of democracy on the skids and a ruler preaching war to preserve the peace predate “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” by almost 30 years. Yet viewers Sunday — and Lucas himself — noted similarities between the final chapter of his sci-fi saga and our own troubled times.
Cannes audiences made blunt comparisons between “Revenge of the Sith” — the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering — to President Bush’s war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.
Two lines from the movie especially resonated:
“This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause,” bemoans Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as the galactic Senate cheers dictator-in-waiting Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) while he announces a crusade against the Jedi.
“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy,” Hayden Christensen’s Anakin — soon to become villain Darth Vader — tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The line echoes Bush’s international ultimatum after the Sept. 11 attacks, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
“That quote is almost a perfect citation of Bush,” said Liam Engle, a 23-year-old French-American aspiring filmmaker. “Plus, you’ve got a politician trying to increase his power to wage a phony war.”
Though the plot was written years ago, “the anti-Bush diatribe is clearly there,” Engle said.
The film opens Wednesday in parts of Europe and Thursday in the United States and many other countries. At the Cannes premiere Sunday night, actors in white stormtrooper costumes paraded up and down the red carpet as guests strolled in, while an orchestra played the “Star Wars” theme.
Lucas said he patterned his story after historical transformations from freedom to fascism, never figuring when he started his prequel trilogy in the late 1990s that current events might parallel his space fantasy.
“As you go through history, I didn’t think it was going to get quite this close. So it’s just one of those recurring things,” Lucas said at a Cannes news conference. “I hope this doesn’t come true in our country.
“Maybe the film will waken people to the situation,” Lucas joked.
That comment echoes Moore’s rhetoric at Cannes last year, when his anti-Bush documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” won the festival’s top honor.
Unlike Moore, whose Cannes visit came off like an anybody-but-Bush campaign stop, Lucas never mentioned the president by name but was eager to speak his mind on U.S. policy in Iraq, careful again to note that he created the story long before the Bush-led occupation there.
“When I wrote it, Iraq didn’t exist,” Lucas said, laughing.
“We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam. … The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.”
The prequel trilogy is based on a back-story outline Lucas created in the mid-1970s for the original three “Star Wars” movies, so the themes percolated out of the Vietnam War and the Nixon-Watergate era, he said.
Lucas began researching how democracies can turn into dictatorships with full consent of the electorate.
In ancient Rome, “why did the senate after killing Caesar turn around and give the government to his nephew?” Lucas said. “Why did France after they got rid of the king and that whole system turn around and give it to Napoleon? It’s the same thing with Germany and Hitler.
“You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody’s squabbling, there’s corruption.”
© 2005 The Associated Press
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