Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Above Photo: By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | CC BY 2.0
If Donald Trump gets his way on formation of a Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone. Inevitably, there would be military conflict in space.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which designates space as the global commons to be used for peaceful purposes—and of which Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties—and the years of work facilitating the treaty since would be wasted.
If the U.S. goes up into space with weapons, Russia and China, and then India and Pakistan and other countries, will follow.
Moreover space weaponry, as I have detailed through the years in my writings and TV programs, would be nuclear-powered—as Reagan’s Star Wars scheme was to be with nuclear reactors and plutonium systems on orbiting battle platforms providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.
This is what would be above our heads.
Amid the many horrible things being done by the Trump administration, this would be the most terribly destructive.
“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council this week.
“Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon,” he went on Monday, “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces; that is a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal, it is going to be something.”
The notion of the U.S. moving into space with weaponry isn’t new.
It goes back to the post-World War II years when the U.S. government brought former Nazi rocket scientists from Germany to the U.S.—mainly to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, who retired last year as a professor at the State University of New York/Environmental Science and Forestry College, in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.
“Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he relates. “It was like a professional sports draft.”
Nearly 1,000 of these scientists were brought to the U.S., “many of whom later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”
Manno writes about former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program who, “in 1947, as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”
For my 2001 book, Weapons in Space, Manno told me that “control over the Earth” was what those who have wanted to weaponize space seek. He said the Nazi scientists are an important “historical and technical link, and also an ideological link….The aim is to…have the capacity to carry out global warfare, including weapons systems that reside in space.”
But then came the Outer Space Treaty put together by the U.S., Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. In the 2001 TV documentary I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns.”
Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation, notes that the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967. It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations.
It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”
Atomic physicist Edward Teller, the main figure in developing the hydrogen bomb and instrumental in founding Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, pitched to Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California visiting the lab, a plan of orbiting hydrogen bombs which became the initial basis for Reagan’s “Star Wars.” The bombs were to energize X-ray lasers. “As the bomb at the core of an X-ray battle station exploded, multiple beams would flash out to strike multiple targets before the entire station consumed itself in in a ball of nuclear fire,” explained New York Times journalist William Broad in his 1986 book Star Warriors.
Subsequently there was a shift in “Star Wars” to orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators on board that would provide the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.
The rapid boil of “Star Wars” under Reagan picked up again under the administrations George H. W. Bush and son George W. Bush. And all along the U.S. military has been gung-ho on space warfare.
A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982.
“US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it trumpeted in its 1998 report Vision for 2020. It laid out these words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Warsmovies. The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as the motto of one of its units declares, to be “Master of Space.”
Vision for 2020states, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”
“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology (8/9/96):
“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight fromspace and we’re going to fight intospace…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.”
Or as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Keith R. Hall told the National Space Club in 1997: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it and we’re going to keep it.”
The basic concept of the Pentagon’s approach to space is contained in The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century. Written by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman, the 1996 book concludes: “Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium [by dominating the oceans with fleets], so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.”
Or as a 2001 report of the U.S. Space Commission led by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted: “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.”
Nuclear power and space weaponry are intimately linked.
“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, a 1996 US Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”
Or as General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.
Thus nuclear power would be needed for weapons in space.
Since 1985 there have been attempts at the UN to expand the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to prohibit not only nuclear weapons but all weapons from space. This is called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty and leading in urging its passage have been Canada, Russia and China. There has been virtually universal backing from nations around the world for it. But by balking, U.S. administration after administration has prevented its passage.
Although waging war in space was hotly promoted by the Reagan and Bush administrations and ostensibly discouraged by the Obama administration and Clinton administration, all U.S. administrations have refused to sign on to the PAROS treaty.
In my book Weapons in Space, I relate a presentation I gave at a conference at the UN in Geneva in 1999 on the eve of a vote the next day on PAROS. I spoke about the “military use of space being planned by the U.S.” being “in total contradiction of the principles of peaceful international cooperation that the U.S. likes to espouse” and “pushes us—all of us—to war in the heavens.”
I was followed by Wang Xiaoyu, first secretary of the Delegation of China, who declared: “Outer space is he common heritage of human beings. It should be used for peaceful purposes…It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”
The next day, on my way to observe the vote, I saw a U.S. diplomat who had been at my presentation. We approached each other and he said he would like to talk to me, anonymously. He said, on the street in front of the UN buildings, that the U.S has trouble with its citizenry in fielding a large number of troops on the ground. But the U.S military believes “we can project power from space” and that was why the military was moving in this direction. I questioned him on whether, if the U.S. moved ahead with weapons in space, other nations would meet the U.S. in kind, igniting an arms race in space. He replied that the U.S. military had done analyses and determined that China was “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” Then he went to vote and I watched as again there was overwhelming international support for the PAROS treaty—but the U.S. balked. And because a consensus was needed for the passage of the treaty, it was blocked once more.
And this was during the Clinton administration.
With the Trump administration, there is more than non-support of the PAROS treaty but now a drive by the U.S. to weaponize space.
It could be seen—and read about—coming.
“Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look,” was the headline of an article in 2016 in Washington-based Roll Call. It said “Trump’s thinking on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect’s other defense proposals….But experts expect such programs to account for a significant share of what is likely to be a defense budget boost, potentially amounting to $500 billion or more in the coming decade.”
Intense support for the plan was anticipated from the GOP-dominated Congress. Roll Call mentioned that Representative Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and an Arizona Republican, “said the GOP’s newly strengthened hand in Washington means a big payday is coming for programs aimed at developing weapons that can be deployed in space.”
In a speech in March at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego, Trump declared: “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force—develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the Space Force.”
Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, notes that Trump cannot establish a Space Force on his own—that Congressional authorization and approval is needed. And last year, Gagnon points out, an attempt to establish what was called a Space Corps within the Air Force passed in the House but “stalled in the Senate.”
“Thus at this point it is only a suggestion,” said Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network.
“I think though,” Gagnon went on, “his proposal indicates that the aerospace industry has taken full control of the White House and we can be sure that Trump will use all his ‘Twitter powers’ to push this hard in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, relates Gagnon, there is the “steadily mounting” U.S. “fiscal crisis…Some years ago one aerospace industry publication editorialized that they needed a ‘dedicated funding source’ to pay for space plans and indicated that it had come up with it—the entitlement programs. That means the industry is now working to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. You want to help stop Star Wars and Trump’s new Space Force. Fight for Social Security and social progress in America. Trump and the aerospace industry can’t have it both ways—it’s going to be social progress or war in space.”
As Robert Anderson of New Mexico, a board member of the Global Network, puts it: “There is no money for water in Flint, Michigan or a power grid in Puerto Rico, but there is money to wage war in space.”
Or as another Global Network director, J. Narayana Rao of India, comments: “President Donald Trump has formally inaugurated weaponization of space in announcing that the U.S. should establish a Space Force which will lead to an arms race in outer space.”
Russian officials are protesting the Trump Space Force plan, “Militarization of space is a way to disaster,”Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, told the RIA news agency the day after the announcement. This Space Force would be operating in “forbidden skies.” He said Moscow is ready to “strongly retaliate” if the US violates the Outer Space Treaty by putting weapons of mass destruction in space.
And opposition among legislators in Washington has begun. “Thankfully the president cannot do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,” tweeted Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.
“Space as a warfighting domain is the latest obscenity in a long list of vile actions by a vile administration,” writes Linda Pentz Gunter, who specializes in international nuclear issues for the organization Beyond Nuclear, this week. “Space is for wonder. It’s where we live. We are a small dot in the midst of enormity, floating in a dark vastness about which we know a surprising amount, and yet with so much more still mysteriously unknown.”
“A Space Force is not an aspiration unique to the Trump administration, of course,” she continued on the Beyond Nuclear International website of the Takoma Park, Maryland group, “but it feels worse in his reckless hands.”