FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rejecting the Rule of Law

by ALICE SLATER

The most important lesson one can acquire about US foreign policy is the understanding that our leaders do not mean well. They do not have any noble goals of democracy and freedom and all that jazz. They aim to dominate the world by any means necessary. And as long as an American believes that the intentions are noble and honorable, it’s very difficult to penetrate that wall. That wall surrounds the thinking and blocks any attempt to make them realize the harm being done by US foreign policy.

— William Blum, former member of the US State Department, author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II[i]

More than 5,000 satellites have been launched into orbit since the space age began[ii]. Today, eleven countries have space launch capability, with over sixty countries operating about 1,100 active satellites orbiting the earth providing a constant stream of data and information relied upon for critical civilian communications as well as for military operations by some.[iii]   As we grow ever more dependent on the ability of these satellites to perform their essential functions without interruption, there are growing concerns that this useful technology is giving rise to a new battleground in space for the purpose of sabotaging or destroying the vital services our space-based communications now provide.

The US and Russia have been testing anti-satellite technology (ASAT) since the space age began, and have even contemplated using  nuclear tipped ballistic missiles to destroy space assets.    In 1967, the US and Russia  realized it would be in their interest to support the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which banned the placement of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in space, although they failed to ban the use of conventional weapons in space.   And in 1972 they agreed to sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) to slow down the space race and the ability to harm each other’s assets in space.  Unfortunately, George Bush walked out of the ABM treaty in 2002, and the race to weaponize space was on once again in full force.  China is getting into the act too, having launched, in 2007, a device which destroyed one of its aging weather satellites orbiting in space.   The US followed suit in 2008, destroying a non-functioning satellite, while both nations denied any military mission for their acts, claiming they were merely trying to destroy outdated satellites that no longer functioned.

With the proliferation of military spacecraft such as imaging and communications satellites and ballistic missile and anti- missiles systems which often pass through outer space, there have been numerous efforts in the UN Committee on Disarmament (CD) to outlaw the weaponization of space through a legally binding treaty.    But the United States is having none of it.  In the CD, which requires consensus to take action, the US has been the only nation to block every vote to begin negotiations on such a treaty, with Israel generally abstaining in support.   Russia and China actually prepared a draft treaty to ban weapons in space in 2008, but the US blocked the proposal, voting against it each year thereafter when it was reintroduced for consideration, saying the proposal was “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage”.[iv]

While continuing to block a legally binding treaty to ban weapons in space, the US has recently begun to work with a group of nations in a new initiative that began in the European Union in 2008, proposing a “Code of Conduct  for Outer Space Activities“  which would lay out a non-binding set of rules of the road for a safer and more responsible environment in space.  Some of its key objectives are to mitigate damage to satellites that could be caused by space debris orbiting the earth,  to avoid the potential of destructive collisions, and to manage the crowding of satellites and the saturation of the radio-frequency spectrum, as well as to address direct threats of hostility to assets in space. [v]   At first, the US rejected any support for the Code, but has now agreed to participate in drafting a new version based on the third iteration from the European Union.   Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, acknowledged in 2012 the necessity for a Code to deal with orbital debris and “other irresponsible actions in space”,  while at the same time, noting that,

It is important to clarify several points with respect to the code. It is still under development, we would not subscribe to any code unless it protects and enhances our national security, and the code would not be legally binding. [vi]

In addition, the US is insisting on a provision in this third version of the Code of Conduct that, while making a voluntary promise to “refrain from any action which brings about, directly or indirectly, damage, or destruction, of space objects”, qualifies that directive with the language “unless such action is justified”. One justification given for destructive action is “the Charter of the United Nations including the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense”, thus lending legitimacy and codifying the possibility for warfare in space as part of the Code’s established norm.  And while the Charter of the United Nations prohibits aggressive action by any nation without Security Council approval unless a nation acts in self-defense, we know there have been numerous occasions where nations have by-passed the Security Council to take aggressive action, often protesting they were acting in self-defense.   Instead of banning ASAT development and warfare, this Code justifies such warfare as long as it’s done, individually and collectively, under the guise of “self-defense”.   Thus despite lacking the force of law that would be established with a legally binding treaty, this new US version of the Code creates, as the norm it is proposing, a possibility for space warfare.

Our world deserves better!

Alice Slater is NY Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Council of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

 

 

More articles by:

Alice Slater is a founder of Abolition 2000, which works for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. 

November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail