Associated Press & David Swanson / Liveblog – 2008-04-13 22:40:03
Groups Converge on Omaha to Protest StratCom Mission
• Video: View the Global Network conference intro on You Tube. Created by Dave Webb, chair of the Global Network and Vice-Chair of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
OMAHA, Neb. (April 11, 2008) — Hundreds of people from anti-nuclear and peace organizations around the world are converging on Omaha today. The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space is holding its 16th annual international space organizing conference in Omaha this weekend, starting today.
The organization is made up of more than 145 groups around the world who are working to oppose the introduction of weapons and nuclear power into space.
The theme for this year’s meeting is “StratCom: The Most Dangerous Place on the Face of the Earth.” The conference targets the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, just south of Omaha.
Besides nuclear weapons command and control, StratCom missions include space and missile defense for all branches of the US military.
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No Weapons in Space Conference in Omaha
David Swanson / After Downing Street
Over 200 activists are here in Omaha (the root of all evil?) from over a dozen countries and over half the 50 US States and over a half dozen Native American tribes.
Here’s an AP story.
Bruce Gagnon of http://www.space4peace.org (where you can learn about the conference) opened this first evening’s session and introduced Tim Rinne of Nebraskans for Peace, who introduced Frank LaMere of the Winnebago tribe, who introduced a group of Native American singers and drummers who sang and drummed in the front of the room below banners reading “No Weapons in Space” and “Bush’s Illegal Attack on Iran Will Start at Stratcom.” Remarkable juxtaposition.
LaMere is now speaking of the traditions of the Omaha people who first lived here, people responsible for neither the destructive modern sprawl outside this building nor the pit outside of town from which Stratcom will coordinate the mass slaughter that, if we do not change course, will eventually take all of us out.
LaMere’s remarks were moving and focused on empathy for others. Better to get the video than for me to summarize.
We were to have a speaker here from Poland, an Irishman now living there. But “Homeland Security” sent him back to Poland when he got to Chicago. He had been charged with symbolically disarming US weapons in Ireland, but an Irish jury had found him innocent. Here is his story.
First Night’s Gathering
We have a speaker here from the Czech Republic. Poland and the Czech Republic are opposing US plans for “missile defense” bases. Jan Tamas, a young man from the Czech Republic, is speaking now, representing one of 60 Czech organizations opposing a US base in their country. He says they opposed the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation and do not want any more foreign troops.
Polls find the 70 percent of the citizens do not want the base. Over 50 mayors oppose the proposed “missile defense” radar base. Yet Condi and the Czech minister of foreign affairs recently announced that they would announce the deal to build the base on May 5th. But, says Tamas, the base WILL NOT be built.
• Sign this petition:
Marybeth Sullivan, Outreach Coordinator for http://www.space4peace.org , is speaking now about homelessness and poverty in “the richest nation on earth.” The #1 industrial export from the United States is weapons. She recommends “The Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline,” by Seymour Melman.
She wants to convert from a war-economy to a peace economy. It’ll take work, since our non-military industrial economy is nearly gone. It can be reborn with new industries, including green energy and mass transit. Very moving speech. Get the video!
UPDATE: HERE ARE SULLIVAN’S REMARKS:
To frame my comments tonight, you need to know I am a social worker. I have worked with homeless people. Imagine that: homeless people in the richest nation in the world. I’ve known people who have had to make a choice between eating and taking their medication. Can you imagine that choice? How does one decide whether to pay for insulin or food? What I have to say is very personal for me.
American industry. What do we make anymore? What are the factories in the U.S. producing? Do we know the #1 industrial export of this country? We make weapons. At the heart of industrial America lies weapons production.
Seymour Melman, an economics professor and the grandfather of the economic conversion movement, wrote extensively about the dangers of the permanent war economy. He told us that since the end of World War II, the federal government has spent more than half its tax dollars on past, current and future military operations.
It is the largest single sustaining activity of the government. Let me say that again: Military operation is the largest, single sustaining activity of the US government.
Balance sheet calculations are not relevant to military weapons manufacturers. The Pentagon is not playing by the economic rules of producing goods a community needs, selling them for profit, then using the profit for further investment and productions. The managers who work for the Pentagon know their financial capital – America’s taxes – is a cash cow waiting to be milked.
The consequences are real and quite serious. Melman noted years ago that U.S. industry doesn’t even have the TOOLS needed to produce consumer products anymore. If we wanted to get back into industrial production, we would need to build new tools and use consultants from other countries to show us how!
The Pentagon’s work typically provides union jobs and health benefits (both of which are “endangered species” in America) and the false hope of job security. Local communities defend the jobs when there is a threat of loss, knowing that America has few other industrial jobs, and the service sector doesn’t provide the same standard of living.
Corporate giants who work for the Pentagon figured out a long time ago that if they distribute production out across the country, they will generate increased political support – and therefore protection – for their weapons’ systems. As a result, the military industrial complex has spread its tentacles throughout the USAs Congressional Districts.
Last spring, I was at a conference where I heard Rep. Jim McDermott from Washington State say that the 1991 Gulf War occurred not because the US feared Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait – the Arab nations in the area were prepared to resolve that issue. Rather, the US had a stockpile of weapons that needed to be used… we needed to keep production flowing.
The Gulf War was also the US’s opportunity to test satellite-directed warfare – the world’s first venture to militarize space. Although the patriot missiles used in that war rarely hit their mark, US war fighting had taken a turn toward what the Pentagon calls “full spectrum dominance.” The US domination is complete: on the ground; in the seas, in the air – and now in space.
Back in the 1980’s, with the fall of the Berlin wall, there were hopeful conversations and real planning in this country and in other parts of the world about what to do with what was called “the peace dividend.”
Now that we had no enemy, no military competitor in the world, it was time to plan for how to rebuild our industry to produce goods that would create a stable, and sustainable future for America’s workers. Sadly, war makers have created more bogeymen – more enemies, that delude us into believing the ludicrous notion that space-dependent weapons systems, and even space-based weapons will keep us safe.
It is time for us now, to dust off the reports from the 1980’s. Let’s review how planners advocated converting from a war economy to a peace economy. This planet needs dramatic change if we are to survive. We need to generate alternative, renewable energy systems. America needs a rail system that connects our communities. We need to stop planning for future wars, and start building for a sustainable future.
Seymour Melman tells the story of the New York City Transit Authority effort to spend between $3 – $4 billion on subway cars. City government put out a request for bids and not a single American company responded. The industrial base in this country no longer manufactures what is needed to maintain, improve, or build our infrastructure. Instead, the city contracted with companies in Japan and Canada to build its subway cars. Melman estimated that such a contract could have generated, directly and indirectly, about 32,000 jobs in the US.
Another story: A shipyard in the town of Ringkobing, Denmark went broke in 1999. Vestas Wind Systems, a private company, moved in and converted the facilities to make windmills.
In April of 2001, Business Week Online reported that the company had doubled its initial workforce, and that all the shipyard workers had become employed making windmills. Vestas leads a cluster of companies that have made Denmark, with a populations of 4 million people, the world’s top producer and exporter of windmills.
We just drove through Kansas. We passed by a wind farm. It was a beautiful sight to see. Where were the Kansas windmills made? Is American industry gearing up for the future? Can we increase the research, development and production of safe, sustaining energy systems that harness the power of the sun, the wind, the tides? We commented: if we hadn’t invaded Iraq; if we had a different set of priorities; if we weren’t dependent on war making, we could have been building an infrastructure to put windmills in every community in Kansas; solar panels on every home in Colorado. Imagine the jobs, the excitement, the possibilities.
In closing, I must tell you: I have a friend who is a navy veteran. She served on an Aegis Cruiser made in our hometown, Bath, Maine. It was her job to keep the aegis cruiser in position so that it could launch the first tomahawk missiles into Iraq for the “shock and awe” bombing on March 19, 2003.
Hours later, she left the deck of the ship, and went below to see images of Baghdad burning on CNN. Images that are burned into the head and heart and soul of this sweet, gentle woman.
We have damaged this young woman’s life. A civil engineer who wants to build bridges and roads is haunted by the full capacity of destruction she helped unleash on a populated city.
We have failed this woman, and this generation of young people who are looking for meaningful, satisfying, life-sustaining jobs.
Last week, we visited with a friend who lives in New Orleans. She had what to me was a heartening fact to share. Since Katrina, a number of high schools have organized to send student work crews down to do some of the physical labor of rebuilding. This year, applicants to colleges in the area grew at a rate never before seen. I was heartened to hear this because it confirmed my profound belief that what we want to do in this country is to build.
The young people understand. We want to care for each other. We want to build, not to destroy. We want our neighbors to be safe. We were appalled by the images of how our neighbors in New Orleans were left behind. Our young people want to make it right. They found meaning in caring for their neighbors; they want to recreate that feeling by being there.
We must work to create a vision. A different economy. A caring economy. We can change. We need a funding source to do the conversion that is necessary in our society to properly create the sustainable technologies needed to deal with the effects of climate change. The funding source is there. It is in the Military Industrial Complex. The peace communities need to collaborate with environmental activists, with union organizers, with church communities to demand a conversion process that creates meaningful jobs that are about building a collective future.
I used to wonder: if I had lived during the time when Andrew Jackson was forcing the Cherokee off their lands through the Trail of Tears, what would I have done? If I had been a German during Hitler’s reign – where would I have put my body? Would I have taken action? What would it have looked like?
My friends, we are living in dark and difficult times. This IS our Trail of Tears. This IS our Nazi Germany. Our country/ our people are enslaved to an economy that depends on endless war.
Now is the time for courage.
Now is the time to act.
We opened today with a video (soon to be posted to Google Videos), then some singing that everyone joined in. Now, Tim Rinne is speaking. He says that since GWB hid in Stratcom on 9-11, it has been transformed from something theoretically supposed to never be used into something that is used for everything.
Stratcom does not just control nukes anymore. It controls aggressive wars that use satelite technology. It has missions that include space, cyberspace, intelligence-survelliance-reconnaissance, full-spectrum global strike, information operations, missile defense, combatting wmd, and nuclear deterrence. The current commander of Stratcom thinks it would be better named Global Command, because all of its missions are global.
Rinne says Nebraskans love Stratcom for the jobs and more so for the pride. They loved the recent satelite shootdown. Nebraskans are obsessed with national security, he says. Nevermind that Stratcom makes Omaha a major target, conveniently placed between two nuclear plants. Nebraskans think Stratcom keeps them safe. (Yesterday Rinne told me that most Nebraskans also don’t care if Stratcom is used for aggressive wars, as long as those wars are against people who are not Christians.)
Stratcom ran Shock-and-Awe. Stratcom requires the base in the Czech Republic, the bases in Alaska, and Stratcom “knitted” together 16 organizations (Army, FBI, etc.) to shoot down that satelite. Stratcom can take out any target on the face of the earth within 60 minutes with conventional or nuclear war.
Therefore, says Rinne, Stratcom has usurped the role of Congress. There’s no time for Congress. The President decides. This is a Constitutional crisis and an international security crisis.
TOP TEN POINTS:
On 9/11, President George W. Bush was rushed to U.S. Strategic Command’s underground headquarters outside Omaha, Nebraska for safekeeping. From that day forward, the legendary command that for over half a century had maintained America’s nuclear deterrent would never again be the same.
1. Within months of the terrorist attack of 9/11, StratCom began undergoing a drastic makeover at the hands of the Bush/Cheney Administration. From its previously ‘unthinkable’ mission of nuclear holocaust, StratCom was tasked with offensively waging the White House’s “War on Terror”. The command now fields eight missions—nuclear weapons; cyberwarfare; missile defense; global command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR]; global strike; space; and combating weapons of mass destruction.
StratCom Commander Kevin Chilton: “In 2002 this command did not experience a sea-state change but a tsunami of change in the way it was organized and the missions that they were given to perform.” Former StratCom Commander James Cartwright: “When we got to 2002 we brought space. In 2003 we had a fire sale and picked up missile defense, ISR and global strike. In 2005 we picked up combating weapons of mass destruction. I’m hoping in 2008 we’ll get the world hunger piece.” [Laughter].
2. Although Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska remains the command headquarters, StratCom now boasts a network of hundreds of military bases distributed around the globe. The command’s broadened missions in computer warfare, signals intelligence and Homeland Security give it direct authority over the four services—Army , Navy, Marines and Air Force—and indirect authority over multiple agencies like the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA and FBI.
StratCom Commander Chilton: “Here in Omaha we are an operational headquarters working to enable the successful prosecution of our component commanders that are scattered throughout the country. We are called on to be the most, in my view, the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal.” (www.stratcom.mil) “The FBI and CIA are in our operations center 24/7.” Deputy Commander Jennifer Napper, StratCom’s Global Network Operations. (http://www.alternet.org/audits/67699/)
3. The next war the White House gets us into, be it against a so-called ‘rogue state’ like Iran or geo-political rival like China, will be planned, launched and executed from StratCom—utilizing either conventional or nuclear weapons. Commander Chilton: “Responsible today for… time-sensitive planning to conduct global strike operations anywhere on the planet, we will remain as ready as ever in our nuclear deterrent role and global strike mission areas.” (www.stratcom.mil). Former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi: “Under instructions from Vice President Cheney’s office, STRATCOM is drawing up a contingency plan [for] a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.” American Conservative, 8/01/05.
4. Under the Doctrine of Preemption and CONPLAN 8022-02 (Contingency Plan), StratCom is now authorized to attack anywhere on the face of the Earth within one hour on the mere perception of a threat to America’s national security—without first seeking congressional approval as required by the U.S. Constitution and the “War Powers Resolution.”
“StratCom established an interim global strike division to turn the new preemption policy into an operational reality. In December 2002, Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., then StratCom’s head, told an Omaha business group that his command had been charged with developing the capability to strike anywhere in the world within minutes of detecting a target.” William Arkin, Washington Post,
5. StratCom, as an extension of the executive branch, has become an accessory in flouting both national and international law. It’s usurping Congress’s authority to declare war, conducting constitutionally suspect “warrantless wiretaps” on our citizens, developing new generations of nuclear weapons, pursuing ‘first- strike’ Star Wars missile defense systems and launching ‘vigilante-style’ preemptive attacks—like the one on Iraq.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “I hope we do not see another Iraq-type operation for a long time—without U.N. approval. …I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. charter from our point of view—from the charter point of view, it was illegal.” (9/15/04). Seventy percent of the weapons targeted on Iraq during the preemptive “Shock and Awe” air assault were precision-guided from space by StratCom assets. www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/24/eveningnews/main537928.shtml
6. StratCom’s fingerprints are everywhere nowadays, and we don’t even realize it… The threatened attack on Iran—that’s StratCom’s global strike… The proposed ‘Star Wars’ bases in Poland and the Czech Republic— that’s StratCom’s integrated missile defense… The NSA’s “warrantless wiretaps” on American citizens— that’s StratCom’s ISR mission… The current showdown with China over its space program—that’s StratCom’s space command… Developing new generations of nuclear weapons like the bunker buster ‘mini- nuke’ and Reliable Replacement Warhead—that’s StratCom’s strategic deterrence.
“In December 2001, the administration issued a provocative Nuclear Posture Review calling for the development of new, more usable nuclear weapons [which runs] completely counter to U.S. obligations under the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.” Union of Concerned Scientists, “Global Security.” U.N. World Court: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotia-tions leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international control.” (7/8/96)
7. Under the goals outlined in the Bush/Cheney Administration’s revised “National Space Policy,” StratCom is actively seeking the total domination of space for the U.S. and a few approved allies… because whoever controls space controls the Earth. “President Bush has signed a new National Space Policy that rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space and asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone ‘hostile to U.S. interests,’” Washington Post (10/17/06).
“The United States was alone in voting against the [United Nations] resolution on prevention of an arms race in outer space… The PAROS resolution was adopted by a vote of 166 in favor, one against.” Nuclear Threat Initiative, March 2007 (www.nti.org)
8. StratCom is fast becoming the “Big Brother” that George Orwell warned of in his novel 1984. It’s spying on our citizens and infringing on our civil liberties. It’s generating round-the-clock spin about threats to our national security and the need for increased military strength.
And it’s consuming an ever-greater share of the budget for national defense as it pursues a strategy of permanent war. For the 21st Century, it’s like Darth Vader in the service of the Empire. “StratCom is a laboratory for the future of warfare.” Space Foundation President Robert Walker in his opening remarks at the “Strategic Space and Defense” conference in Omaha, Nebraska (10/11/06).
Billed as “the definitive global security conference, where the senior leadership of U.S. Strategic Command, component and supported commands, and the executive leadership of the national security industrial base gather,” the event is annually co-sponsored by Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed
9. The key elements of StratCom’s mission—such as global missile defense—will greatly exceed, in size and cost, many of the major military-industrial projects of the past. With the current Pentagon budget already totaling well over a half-trillion dollars annually, paying for the cost of such StratCom projects will necessarily translate into cuts in social spending and entitlements programs, like Medicare and Social Security.
“If the majority of top policymakers have longstanding ties to the companies that will benefit from the Bush Administration’s ‘war without end’ approach to foreign policy, the development of a missile defense ‘shield’ and a new generation of nuclear weapons, who will represent the public interest?”
William Hartung, World Policy Institute. “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Dwight Eisenhower (1961).
10. In the wake of 9/11, StratCom has become the most dangerous place on the face of the Earth.
But this transformation has happened so fast, hardly anybody knows it, and nobody’s talking about it. And it’s high time we do.
Nebraskans for Peace StratCom Watch Committee
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Jackie Cabasso is speaking now about how Stratcom and the U.S. empire: over 1,000 foreign bases and 6,000 US bases, and rising quickly. Jackie showed a map with countries colored if they had US bases, and there were very few white nations. They appeared to include: Mongoloa, Turkmenistan, and Iran, as well as several nations scattered around Africa, assuming I have my geography right. How many Americans who think we’re going to attack Iran because Iran is threatening us have seen this map?
How many Americans know about the new Africom, Africa Command, and our humble little democracy’s plans to occupy and dominate Africa.
Bush is playing a giant game of Risk (TM) and has nearly won.
Cabasso displayed a map of nations the US has invaded or overthrown regimes in during the past 35 years. The blank nations are different than before but include Europe, India, Mongolia, Australia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Greenland, and two-thirds of Africa.
Cabasso quoted from a Bush document that quotes an Irroquois statement about stewardship for 7 generations in speaking about 7 generations OF NUKES.
Now Loring Wirbel from Citizens for Peace in Space is speaking. Nuclear weapons have been fully integrated into aggressive strategies, he says. “Intelligence” has also been fully integrated.
Goals include weapons in space, and mirrors in space to redirect lasers shot from the ground.
12 private space ports are being built in the US, and the military will work with private space launch companies.