Bush orders the militarisation of space

In signing the recent executive order creating a new National Space Policy, President Bush has announced that the US will reject future arms-control agreements that might limit US military manoeuvrability in space. The document further announces that the US “will preserve its rights, capabilities and freedom of action in space ... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests."

“Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power,” the policy declares and that to “increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity, and to enhance the national security, the United States must have robust, effective, and efficient space capabilities.”

One wonders why the US fears other countries may have “hostile” intentions in the use of their space capabilities. Clearly the answer has to be because this is exactly what the US is itself intent on using space for. What else was Clinton’s Star Wars programme all about?

The White House, however, insists that the new policy does not refer to the development or deployment of weapons in space. Indeed, in those sections of the policy made widely available recently, there is no explicit reference to the militarization of space. However, while the policy document insists that the main concern of the US is to “strengthen the nation’s space leadership”, to facilitate “US operations in and through space to defend our interests there”, it boldly asserts that national security is critically dependent upon space capabilities.

Moreover, it calls upon Donald Rumsfeld, the hawkish Defence Secretary and John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, to “develop and deploy space capabilities that sustain US advantage and support defence and intelligence transformations.” In this regards the policy document adheres to the militaristic and offensive tone that runs through every national defence document the White House has produced since Dubya’s inauguration.

Clearly the US dislikes anything perceived as an attempt to muscle in on its standing as the foremost power in space and the world’s leading military power; the two titles now looking likely to merge. Hence, US concerns about the EU’s Galileo project. At the outset, the US feared the project would allow the transfer of state of the art technology to countries it perceives as antagonistic to its interests. What really spooked Washington was the realisation that China was investing £150 million in Galileo.

Michael Kriepon of the Stimson Centre told the Washington post: “The Clinton administration opened the doors to developing space weapons, but that administration never did anything about it. The Bush policy now goes further.” (The Independent, 19th October).

One wonders just how other countries will now respond to US ambitions for the militarization of space for, make no mistake, this is exactly what Washington’s masters of war have in mind – this is full spectrum dominance in the making. Back in 1999, when Republican hawks celebrated a Senate vote not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and announced their intention to scupper the 1972 ABM Treaty which outlawed Star Wars missiles systems capable of intercepting incoming missiles, Russian Defence Minister Nikolai Mikolov, acknowledging Russia could not match US technology, declared Russia would simply deploy more warheads capable of overwhelming the US nuclear umbrella system.

Theresa Hitchens of the Washington based Centre for Defence Information said: “You would think that we would have learnt our lessons about the danger of military pre-emptive action and unilateralism in Iraq, yet we are repeating the same policy towards space.” (The Independent, 19th October).

Experts argue that the new space decree has put the US on perilous path in so far as it extends Bush Doctrine policy to brand new military arena, whilst at the same time discarding endeavours to limit US military ambitions.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones, in an attempt to discourage the military significance of the new policy, said: “Technology advances have increased the importance of and use of space…Now, we depend on space capabilities for things like ATMs, personal navigation, package tracking, radio services, and cell phone use.” (Asia Times, 20th October)

What really concerns international observers and the US ‘s budding competitors, and which should concern all of us, is that the US absolutely refuses to negotiate any space arms-control agreement. Washington is promoting the line that because there is currently no space-arms race then there is no need for any such accord – which is utter hypocrisy when one considers the number of actual international agreements in existence, aimed at maintaining the peace, preventing weapons proliferation and the like , that the US refuses to ratify or even acknowledge.

Meanwhile, though, the US Air Force has produced the Counterspace Operations Doctrine, calling for “a more active military posture in space,” and arguing that defence of US satellites and spacecraft necessitates the use of “deception, dirpution, degradation and destruction.” Nothing like a bit alliteration to hammer your message home.

Make no mistake; the militarization of space is now well underway. The very fact that the US is playing down the military dimension of its new space policy is evidence it wants a real head start and to thus be in a position to better oppose any country with similar ambitions.As socialists have announced several times in recent years, if we are to prevent the 21st Century becoming a more violent re-run of the 20th, that witnessed two world wars, the first use of nuclear weapons and many hundreds of smaller conflicts – all in the name of profit – it is essential we, the victims, the cannon fodder, the class that has the biggest price to pay to satisfy the whims of the mighty, begin to organise now; not tomorrow when space is militarised, nor in years to come when the sirens are screaming and lasers are zapping the planet from US defence satellites orbiting the earth . We as a class have suffered too much and have too much to lose to leave decisions regarding the future of our planet in the hands of group of arrogant, conceited and profit crazed individuals. Let’s really organise to take their power away now, before it is too late.


Sudan: one country, two stories

Some 200,000 people have died during the present conflict in Darfur, in which militias loyal to the government are charged with committing genocide against the region’s black African population. An estimated 2 million have been made homeless. Starvation, fear and insecurity are an everyday reality for millions of Sudanese.

This is, of course, not the complete picture, as the New York Times reports. An economic boom is taking place in Sudan – despite western imposed sanctions. In Khartoum, 600 miles away from the epicentre of the humanitarian crisis, posh supermarkets are opening, skyscrapers are reachingupwards, the well-to-do are driving around in brand-spanking-new BMWs and relaxing at home on an evening in front of their plasma screen TVs and munching on Dubya’s favourite snack – Pringles. There is even a Coca Cola plant churning out 100,000 bottles of the tongue-tingling stuff per day - a plant set up by Sudanese investors.

Oil is rapidly turning the country into the fastest growing economy on the planet. While the US and Europe have prevented their countries from investing in Sudan, China, India and Middle Eastern oil states are ignoring Sudan’s appalling human rights record and realising there are profits to be had – investment is pouring in.

Sadly the wealth does not trickle as far as Darfur. Seventy per cent of the oil-gleaned wealth is spent on defence. President Lt-Gen Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a military coup back in 1989, realises he cannot depend on sourcing weapons contracts outside of Sudan, so has armaments produced and stockpiled at home, less supplies are cut off.

The NYT reports:
“Despite all the new materialism, Sudan still marches to a martial tune. Army officers enjoy special status, foreign visitors must register with the police and schoolchildren are required to wear camouflage uniforms to class. But the boom is changing much about society, from the careers people pursue, to the music they listen to, even what they eat.

“The traditional meal of ful, a bean stew eaten for breakfast and lunch, is giving way to kebabs, yogurt, hamburgers and hot dogs.”
Many believed the US would lift sanctions last year when the government made peace with rebels in the south, but not so. By then the conflict in Darfur was raging and the US became only more pissed off.

The US may well cite Sudan’s human rights record as a reason for not lifting the sanctions, but this is utter hypocrisy – the US has sucked up to the worst human rights offenders around the globe for decades. What really seems to be narking the US is that an oil rich country looked elsewhere for investment and to economic competitors such as China and India.

At the moment US/UN concerns do not bother Khartoum– hence the recent expulsion by the Sudanese government of the UN envoy Jan Pronk and the refusal to allow 22,000 UN peace keepers into the Darfur region (they say it would simply be an attempt to restore colonial rule).
A pressing fear in the business community is that the US might just manage to persuade others to fall in line and also impose sanctions; which just about says it all. To hell that an area of Sudan is war ravaged; to hell that millions are homeless, living lives of utter deprivation; forget that 200,000 have been murdered because of their skin tone, there’s a whiff of profit in the air.While the Sudanese master class lives it up in fine old style and the US profit merchants fear rising economic powers will get one up on them, via their contracts with Khartoum, it is our fellow workers – the real wealth producers in society - that are left to suffer.



In a lengthy piece on AlterNet, Joshua Holland explains how, as Iraq falls apart, four big oil companies are homing in on the country’s natural resources.

If ever an article revealed the stench of corruption emanating from the Iraq saga, this is it. At a time when major world players are staking their claim to the world’s oil resources, most notably China - an emerging contender for the US no. 1 position - it is clear the oil drenched cabal that decides US foreign policy knew exactly what they were doing in dreaming up pretexts to invade Iraq.

Iraq's oil reserves have to be the biggest prize since the end of WWII. The US Department of Energy has stated: "Iraq contains 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the second largest in the world (behind Saudi Arabia), along with roughly 220 billion barrels of probable and possible resources. Iraq's true potential may be far greater than this, however, as the country is relatively unexplored due to years of war and sanctions."

Moreover, Iraq’s oil is cheap and easy to extract, thus it yields greater profits. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, observes how oil companies "can produce a barrel of Iraqi oil for less than $1.50 and possibly as little as $1, including all exploration, oilfield development and production costs." Contrast that with other areas where oil is considered cheap to produce at $5 per barrel or the North Sea, where production costs are $12-16 per barrel.Iraq has more undeveloped oilfields than anywhere on the planet.
The "Holy Grail" of the oil fields lies beneath the sand of the immense western desert. There is perhaps enough oil there to propel the country to the global oil reserves number one position. As Holland comments: “the country's enormous reserves could break the back of OPEC, a wet dream in Western capitals for three decades.”
The oil fraternity are unanimous on one thing - namely. who will walk off with the profits from the plunder of Iraq's oil: US firms Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, the British BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell -- that dominate the world oil market.

What I find utterly sickening, reading Holland's report, is that at a time when half a million Iraqi childen were dying (nay, murdered) as a direct result of the US-UN imposed sanctions on Iraq, by one means or another, the US received 37% of Iraqi oil. Perhaps this is exactly what Madeleine Albright (the then US Sec. of State) was thinking of when, questioned about the deaths of so many infant Iraqis, replied it was "a price worth paying."
Read on here...


Too late" to stop global catastrophe?

“At every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing over nature – but that we, with flesh and blood and brain, belong to nature and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly. We are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our productive activity, and so are afforded the opportunity to control and regulate these effects well. This regulation, however, requires a complete revolution in our existing mode of production…in our whole contemporary social order”

You could be forgiven for thinking the above quotation came from a modern day ecologist or environmentalist, commenting on impending global ecological catastrophe and drawing upon the myriad reports currently in existence, written by scientists that portend cataclysmic changes to our life styles if we don’t stop abusing our natural environment immediately. The quote is in fact 131 years old and is taken from Dialectics of Nature, written by Frederic Engels (1875).

So let’s get one thing straight from the outset. Socialists have been warning about the effects of capitalism’s penny-pinching production methods for well over a hundred years, and how they impact on the wider environment, and it is often with despair that we reiterate the Engels message from the latter 19th century, more so now that state of the art technology exists that provides hard evidence as to the dire effects of capitalist production.

So it is not with any great sigh of relief, or shock and disbelief, that socialist’s would have read the lead story in today’s Independent, which covered the findings of Sir Nicholas Stern’s long awaited report on climatic change and indeed the government’s reaction to it. It does make for grim reading, suggesting that time is running out to really address the environment question – previous opportunities having been pathetically squandered at the Hague and Kyoto Summits – and that the possibility of preventing a global disaster is "already almost out of reach".

The Independent informs us: “With world temperatures on course to rise by two to three degrees in 50 years, rainfall could be catastrophically reduced in some of the world's poorest countries, while others grapple with floods from melting glaciers. The result could be the largest migration of refugees in history.”

Amongst the reports shocking revelations, writes Andy McSmith, is “that changes in weather patterns could drive down the output of the world's economies by an amount equivalent to up to £6 trillion a year by 2050, almost the entire output of the EU.”The 700 page report, commissioned by the Treasury and carried out by the former World Bank chief economist (Nicholas Stern) argues environmental problems will be "difficult or impossible to reverse" unless something is done now. It says: "Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century."

All is not lost, believe Chancellor Gordon Brown and Environment Secretary David Miliband. They point to the “positive message” arising from the report; this being that the world has the means to avoid the awaiting cataclysm. Money can be thrown at the problem – the earth shattering sum of 1 per cent of Global GDP (£0.3 trillion dollars); a figure, incidentally, which is dwarfed by global military spending.

Labour’s elite would have it that Sir Nick is something of a drama queen, but there again the government is first and foremost the executive of the capitalist class, with powerful interests to defend, so is not wont to panic their pals in big business with hints at environmental legislation that might eat into their profits. Milliband sounded quite optimistic being interviewed by The Independent. He said: "The second half of his message is that the technology does exist, the financing, public and private, does exist, and the international mechanisms also exist to get to grips with this problem - so I don't think it's a catastrophe that he puts forward. It's a challenging message.”

And what are offered are capitalist remedies, and to make it all the more attractive there are profits to be had – well, the master class have to have some damned incentive before they act. As The Independent reported:

“Combating climate change could become one of the world's biggest growth industries, generating around £250bn of business globally by 2050.” Providing, that is, that we still have a planet worth saving in 50 years time.

Governments appear oblivious to the fact that oil production will shortly peak, that half the earth’s available oil is estimated to by used within 10 years , and within another 20 years countries like China and India will have huge demands that will outstrip supply. Consider the global conflicts this will create.

Far worse than a shortage of oil is a shortage of water. We already know that 500 million live in regions prone to chronic drought. Scientists have forewarned us that within 20 years that figure is expected to increase fivefold to between 2.5bn and 3.5bn people. Already over 5 million people die annually - including 2 million children - from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water. Again, what desolation does this portend for the human race?

In the oceans, almost 50% of fish stocks are fully exploited, 20% are over-exploited, and only 2% are recovering. On land, soil erosion and degradation mean that half a billion people live in countries whose arable land can no longer support their own populations. The natural habitats of many animal species are being lost on an alarming scale, which with the decline of bird species, plants, forests - on which, ultimately, the human race depends – signals a crisis for biodiversity.
And the best capitalist politicians can think up is to tempt the master class with the whiff of profits to come if they agree to mend their ways. The very people who have disregarded the effects of their production methods on the natural environment for hundreds of years are now being asked to show it some mercy! Global environmental catastrophe can be halted by throwing money at the problem!

Right across the planet the economic system that governments defend plunders and squanders the Earth’s non-renewable mineral and energy resources and with one object in mind – profit. All over the world it pollutes the seas, the air we breathe, the forests, rivers and lakes, upsetting natural balances, eco-systems and defying the laws of ecology. Clearly, this destruction and waste cannot continue indefinitely. It should not and must not and no amount of money is going to redress the delicate balance.

Socialists have long argued that it is quite possible to meet the material needs of every person on this planet without destroying the natural systems on which we depend and on which we are party. So what stands in the way? Why isn’t this done? The simpler answer, which we must not get tired of reiterating, is that under the present economic system, production is not geared to meeting human needs but rather to accumulating profits for a few. Consequently, what we produce and the methods and the materials we employ are not decided rationally and democratically, but are dictated by market forces.

Production today is in the hands of business enterprises of one sort or another, all competing to sell their products at a profit. All of them – and it does not matter whether they are privately owned or state-owned – aim to maximise their profits. This is not the result of the greed of the owners or managers, as some Greens claim, but an economic necessity, imposed by the forces of the market. If a business does not make a profit it goes out of business. “Make a profit or die” is the law of the capitalist jungle.

Under the demands of the market, businesses only take into account their own narrow financial interests, ignoring wider social and ecological considerations. The whole of production, from the process employed to the choice of what to produce, is distorted by this drive to make and accumulate profits. The result is an economic system governed by anarchic market forces which compel decision-makers, however selected and whatever their personal views or sentiments, to plunder, pollute and waste.

So it’s no wonder that nature’s balances are upset today, and that we face problems like global warming, acid rain and the widening hole in the ozone layer, to name just a few. It’s no wonder that the Earth’s easily accessible resources are plundered without a thought for the future; that the power stations and factories release all sorts of dangerous and noxious substances into the air and water; that chemical fertiliser and pesticides that get into the food chain are used in agriculture; that animals are injected with hormones, fed unnatural diets; that human waste is not recycled back to the land; that non-biodegradable plastics and textiles are produced; that lead is put into petrol; that goods are made so as not to last, etc. The list of anti-ecological practises imposed by market forces is endless.

The conclusion is clear: If our needs are to be met while at the same time respecting the laws of nature, the present market-driven profit system must go and be replaced with a system capable of producing the essentials humans need, but in an ecologically friendly way.

Most Greens believe that things could be put right with a change of government policy, which is exactly what Labour now proposes. What is needed, they say, is a government that will pass laws and impose taxes – on air travel, motoring and high emission vehicles - to protect the environment. But experience shows that no government, however well meaning or determined, can protect the environment. Governments exist to run the political side of the profit system. They do not have a free hand to do what is sensible or desirable. They can only act within the narrow limits imposed by the market system. This is why the reformist policy advocated by the Green Party, Friends of the Earth etc. is not working. At most it could only succeed in slowing down the speed of decay, not in making the profit system work in an environmentally friendly way. Those who want a clean and safe environment are up against a well entrenched economic and social system, based on class privilege and property and governed by the overriding law of profits first. What Greens should work towards is not a change of government, but a change of society.

If we are to meet our needs in an ecologically acceptable way, we humans must first be in a position to control production or, to put it another way, to consciously regulate our interaction with the rest of nature – and the only basis on which this can be done is the common ownership of productive resources.

Once the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity, then production can be geared to meeting needs in an ecologically acceptable way, instead of making profits without consideration for the environment. These include types of farming that preserve and enhance the natural fertility of the soil, the systematic recycling of materials obtained from non-renewable energy sources while developing alternative sources that continually renew themselves (i.e. solar energy and wind power); industrial processes that avoid releasing poisonous chemicals or radioactivity into the biosphere; the manufacture of solid good made to last, not planned to break down after a period of time.

We are talking about a system of society based on common ownership and democratic control of productive resources. That is the only basis on which we can meet our needs whilst respecting the laws of nature. And it’s the only basis on which we can begin to successfully reverse the degradation of the environment caused by the profit system. The only effective strategy for achieving a free and democratic society, in harmony with nature it to build up a movement which has the achievement of such a society as its sole aim.

Thisa posting can also be found here