Sunday, December 12, 2004

Turning to Noam Chomsky (Hegemony or Survival) to make sense of the Times and Washington Post; plus we're bombing Falluja again

In today's New York Times:

A highly classified intelligence program that the Senate Intelligence Committee has tried unsuccessfully to kill is a new $9.5 billion spy satellite system that could take photographs only in daylight hours and in clear weather, current and former government officials say.
The cost of the system, now the single biggest item in the intelligence budget, and doubts about its usefulness have spurred a secret Congressional battle. The fight over the future of a system whose existence has not yet been officially disclosed first came to light this week.
In public remarks, senators opposed to the program have described it only as an enormously expensive classified intelligence acquisition program without specifically describing it as a satellite system.
Outside experts said on Thursday that it was almost certainly a new spy satellite program that would duplicate existing reconnaissance capabilities. The Washington Post first reported the total cost and precise nature of the program on Saturday, saying that it was for a new generation of spy satellites being built by the National Reconnaissance Office that are designed to orbit undetected.

(From Douglas Jehl's "New Spy Plan Said to Involve Satellit System: $9.5 Billion Program is Facing Criticism"

Dana Priest's Washington Post article ("New Spy Satellite Debated on Hill" (presumably the Saturday Washington Post article referred to by Jehl):

The stealth satellite, which would probably become the largest single-item expenditure in the $40 billion intelligence budget, is to be launched in the next five years and is meant to replace an existing stealth satellite, according to officials. Non-stealth satellites can be tracked and their orbits can be predicted, allowing countries to attempt to hide weapons or troop movements on the ground when they are overhead.

From Thursday's Democracy Now!:

Sen. Rockefeller Warns Against Top-Secret Spy Program The Associated Press reports however the intelligence bill includes the creation of a highly secretive and expensive new spy program. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said the program was ''totally unjustified and very, very wasteful and dangerous to the national security.'' He called the program "stunningly expensive." Outside intelligence experts speculated that the secret program was likely a spy satellite system, perhaps with technology to destroy potential attackers. Defense analyst John Pike warned sending even defensive satellite weapons into orbit could start an arms race in space (

Jehl also reported on it in Friday's New York Times (

An intense secret debate about a previously unknown, enormously expensive technical intelligence program has burst into light in the form of scathing criticism from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
For two years, the senators have disclosed, Republicans and Democrats on the panel have voted to block the secret program, which is believed to be a system of new spy satellites. But it continues to be financed at a cost that former Congressional officials put at hundreds of millions of dollars a year with support from the House, the Bush administration and Congressional appropriations committees.

Of the above, only Democracy Now! (referencing John Pike whom both the Times and the Washington Post quote) mention the possibility that this program might include the "technology to destroy potential attackers." And that this could lead to "an arms race in space."

What are we talking about? The Times and the Washington Post repeatedly note the secrecy of this program. We learn that there are reportedly objections to the plan on both sides of the aisle. We learn that some are arguing that the techonology is questionable and the money would be better spent on human intelligence. Those are interesting points but since reporters for both the Times and the Washington Post presumably spoke with John Pike (they quote him), what's this talk of "technology to destroy potential attackers?" Of "an arms race in space?"

Below are excerpts from Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. To explain what Priest and Jehl didn't address in their articles.

Extension of the arms race to space has been a core program for some years; race is a misleading term, because the US is competing alone, for the moment. Militarization of space, including such programs as ballistic missile defense (BMD), increases the danger of destruction for the US, as for others. [page 223]

Military defense is only a small component of much more ambitious programs for militarization of space, with the intent to achieve a monopoly on the use of space for offensive military programs. The plans have been available in public documents of the US Space Command and other government agencies for some years. The projects outlined have been under development with varying intensity since the Reagan administration proposed the "Star Wars" (Strategic Defense Initiative) programs. SDI appears to have been largely an effort to "disarm BMD opponents" -- by then a huge international antinuclear popular movement -- by "stealing their language and cause," invoking the terms peace and disarmament, while proceeding to construct a more advanced offensive military system. [pages 225 -226]

BMD is widely recognized to be a "Trojan horse for the real issue; the coming weaponization of space," with highly destructive offensive weapons placed in or guided from space. BMD itself is an offensive weapon. This is understood by close allies, and also by potential adversaries. Canadian military planners advised their government that the goal of BMD is "argubly more in order to preserve U.S./NATO freedom of action than because U.S. really fears [a] North Korean or Iranian threat." China's top arms control official was revealing nothing new when he observed that "once the United States believes it has both a strong spear and a strong shield, it could lead them to conclude that nobody can harm the United States and they can harm anyone they like anywhere in the world." [pages 226-227]

China's interpretation of BMD is shared by US strategic analysts, in virtually the same words: BMD "is not simply a shield but an enabler of U.S. action," a Rand Corporation study observed. Others agree. BMD "will facilitate the more effective application of U.S. military power abroad," Andrew Bacevich writes in the conservative National Interest: "by insulating the homeland from reprisal -- albeit in a limited way -- missile defense will underwrite the capacity and willingness of the United States to 'shape' the environment elsewhere." He cites approvingly the conclusion of Lawrence Kaplan in the liberal New Republic that "missile defense isn't really meant to protect America. It's a tool for global dominance." In Kaplan's own words, missile defense is "not about defense. It's about offense. And that's exactly why we need it." BMD will provide the US with "absolute freedom in using or threatening to use force in international relations. [page 227]

Chomsky goes into much more detail so if the above interested you, please pick up the book (Hegmony or Survival).

In addition, the Friday after Thanksgiving, Democracy Now! devoted the full hour to an interview with Chomsky. To watch or listen to that broadcast click; to read the transcript click

We're bombing Falluja again

From the last time we went into Falluja, Dahr Jamail notes:

Two weeks ago someone was allowed into Fallujah by the military to help bury bodies. They were allowed to take photographs of 75 bodies, in order to show pictures to relatives so that they might be identified before they were buried.
These pictures are from a book of photos. They are being circulated publicly around small villages near Fallujah where many refugees are staying.
The man who took them was only allowed to take photos and bury bodies in one small area of Fallujah. He was not allowed to visit anywhere else. Keep in mind there are at least 1,925 other bodies that were not allowed to be seen.

To read more click and note that on that page there is a link to go to the photos mentioned.

On Falluja, Baghdad Burning notes:

The assault on Falloojeh and other areas is continuing. There are rumors of awful weapons being used in Falloojeh. The city has literally been burnt and bombed to the ground. Many of the people displaced from the city are asking to be let back in, in spite of everything. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for the refugees. It's like we've turned into another Palestine- occupation, bombings, refugees, death. Sometimes I'll be watching the news and the volume will be really low. The scene will be of a man, woman or child, wailing in front of the camera; crying at the fate of a body lying bloodily, stiffly on the ground- a demolished building in the background and it will take me a few moments to decide the location of this tragedy- Falloojeh? Gaza? Baghdad?

And that things aren't much better for Iraqis in Baghdad:

The situation seems to be deteriorating daily. To brief you on a few things: Electricity is lousy. Many areas are on the damned 2 hours by 4 hours schedule and there are other areas that are completely in the dark- like A'adhamiya. The problem is that we're not getting much generator electricity because fuel has become such a big problem. People have to wait in line overnight now to fill up the car. It's a mystery. It really is. There was never such a gasoline crisis as the one we're facing now. We're an oil country and yet there isn't enough gasoline to go around...Oh don't get me wrong- the governmental people have gasoline (they have special gas stations where there aren't all these annoying people, rubbing their hands with cold and cursing the Americans to the skies)... The Americans have gasoline. The militias get gasoline. It's the people who don't have it. We can sometimes get black-market gasoline but the liter costs around 1250 Iraqi Dinars which is almost $1- compare this to the old price of around 5 cents. It costs almost 50,000 Iraqi Dinars to fill up the generator so that it works for a few hours and then the cost isn't so much the problem as just getting decent gasoline is. So we have to do without electricity most of the day.

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
And so this is Xmas
And what have we done

Indeed. Words and music to "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Available on a variety of albums (and done my a number of different artists). I'd recommend The John Lennon Collection.

Throughout history it has been recognized that such steps are dangerous. By now the danger has reached the level of a threat to human survival. But as observed earlier, it is rational to proceed nonetheless on the assumption of the prevailing value system, which are deeply rooted in existing institutions. The basic principle is that hegemony is more important than survival. Hardly novel, the principle has been amply illustrated in the past half-century.
For such reasons, the US has refused to join the rest of the world in reaffirming and strengthening the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to reserve space for peace purposes. [Hegemony or Survival, Chomsky, pp. 231-232]