Reading about the unfathomable beauty of the aurora borealis recently in the April 29 issue of the New Yorker magazine, I mused that space should be the world’s peaceful commons, a vast place that people worldwide would agree is off limits for militarism and greed. It isn’t.
“The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people, to our nation,” Vice President Mike Pence told an audience at the Pentagon last August according to the New York Times. The next battlefield he was talking about is the U.S. military in space.
President Donald Trump had previously said, “We must have American dominance in space,” according to The Guardian. And that means maintaining full protection of U.S. satellites. There are currently 2,062 operating satellites in space, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The U.S. has 901, Russia 153, China 299. Of the U.S. satellites, 38 are civil, 523 commercial, 164 government and 176 military.
According to Encyclopedia.com, military space operations are divided into five main areas: reconnaissance and surveillance, signals intelligence, communications, navigation, and meteorology. Only the United States and Russia operate spacecraft in all five areas. Several other countries have long used communications satellites for military purposes.
Probably the worst nightmare for Russia and the U.S. is concern about the other country’s anti-satellite weaponry. According to Pentagon officials and aerospace experts, the concern about anti-satellite weaponry from Russia and China is a real one. A United States intelligence assessment of threats in February warned that Russia and China will be able to shoot down American satellites within two to three years — and, presumably, vice versa.
Such an ability could destroy global-positioning system satellites, as well as military and civilian communications satellites and spy satellites.
The U.S. GPS satellites guide aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, drones in the skies above Yemen and fighter jets over Syria. American ground troops on patrol in Afghanistan use GPS coordinates to track their movement, and intelligence officers depend on spy satellites to gather information on adversaries. What a nightmare!
Both U.S. and Russian drones have surveyed and dropped bombs on Syria, directed from space. In an interview in GQ Magazine with former drone pilot Brandon Bryant, Bryant recalls “sitting in a control station on an Air Force base in Nevada. Three victims were walking on a dirt road in Afghanistan.” After the Hellfire missile fired from his drone struck the three men, Bryant watched them die on his infrared display.
Won’t the day of reckoning arrive? Aren’t we engendering the wrath and indignation of more and more of the world’s citizens by our imperious behavior?
“Our violence spawns violence and never-ending configurations of enraged militants,” says Chris Hedges, of TruthDig.
Stop drones. Stop perpetual war. Make space peaceful for all.
Have a look at space4peace.org to learn more.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.