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World opposes U.S. space weapons stance

By Tim Rinne, The Grand Island Independent

Just as it's done every year since 2005, the Bush/Cheney Administration has once again opposed a UN resolution to prevent an arms race in outer space. Every other country on earth except the U.S. (and Israel which abstained) supported the resolution in the December 2 vote. Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Great Britain, France, Japan, Canada, Venezuela-177 nations total-all voted in favor of the annual "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" (PAROS) resolution, as they have for the past twenty years. Only the U.S. dissented.

Although our government didn't actually start voting against the PAROS resolution until four years ago, the U.S. has never supported it. Prior to 2005, we'd always abstained. Neither Republican nor Democratic administrations showed any inclination to heed the will of the world community on this issue. And the reason is plain.

As the world's only remaining superpower, the U.S. has had unchallenged space superiority-and we weren't going to forfeit that advantage to be placed back on an equal footing with others. The Bush/Cheney White House made clear its hostility to any new space treaty when it stated in 2006 that "there is no-repeat, no-problem in outer space for arms control to solve." That same year, the administration released its new "National Space Policy" which openly calls for U.S. space dominance and asserts that we have the unilateral right to "dissuade or deter… and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. interests." And this past February, when, Russia and China proposed a draft treaty banning weapons in outer space, the administration dismissed the plan out of hand as "a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage."

We Americans are justifiably concerned about our national security. But in our head-long rush to protect our own national interests, we tend to forget that other nations have national security concerns of their own. Imagine for a moment how America's policy on space-where we get to rule supreme-must strike the rest of the world… And then imagine how we, as Americans, would react if Russia or China were to adopt such a policy.

We'd be outraged. And appropriately so.

But it should come as no surprise then that the U.S.'s stanch opposition to a measure seeking to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes doesn't sit particularly well with our global neighbors.

Perhaps after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the U.S. was the only space power still standing, we could get away with that kind of high-and-mighty attitude. But those days are gone. China is now shooting down its own weather satellites. India has just landed a probe on the Moon. Iran is launching missiles into space. And Russia's rejuvenated space program is matching the glory days of the old USSR. America is still the big shot on the block, but the neighborhood is changing fast. And rather than annually stonewall efforts to negotiate a new space treaty, it's now in the U.S.'s national interest to sit down at the table and hammer out a comprehensive and verifiable accord.

For those of us in Nebraska though, the threat of an arms race in outer space hits particularly close to home.

Along with its missions of nuclear deterrence, cyberspace, intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance, information operations, missile defense, full-spectrum global strike, and combating weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Strategic Command in Bellevue is now responsible for space. And StratCom's fingerprints are everywhere.

Seventy percent of the munitions targeted on Iraq during the "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign, for instance, were directed from space by StratCom assets. Those proposed Missile Defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic that are sparking a new Cold War with Russia are StratCom's handiwork. This past February, StratCom used that self-same Missile Defense system to shoot down a dying U.S. satellite, demonstrating that Missile 'Defense' can just as easily double as an offensive anti-satellite weapon. And those unmanned Predator drones that are invading Pakistani airspace and firing missiles at al-Qaida targets are being flown courtesy of StratCom's satellite network.

StratCom is up to its eyeballs in turning space into the next battleground. And if we have any hope of preventing war from erupting in the heavens, the incoming Obama Administration needs to reverse twenty years of short-sighted White House policy and set about negotiating a treaty on space.

Nebraska native Tim Rinne is the State Coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace, the oldest statewide peace and justice organization in the nation. /


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