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More reporting needed on 'Star Wars'.

Some officials in the current Bush administration tout it as "Star Wars a simple revival of the high-tech Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), first unveiled during President Ronald Reagan's administration.

While we no longer have to worry about a full-scale nuclear attack from a now-defunct Soviet Union, the Bush officials contend that we do need a space defense to protect us from missile attack by "rogue states" and terrorists.

They also contend that the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty should be scrapped as obsolete and immoral, because it is based on the premise of mutually assured destruction-the idea that no one will start a nuclear war since it can't be won, because no one can defend against it.

Additionally, Bush officials contend this new version of Star Wars will come at a relatively small price tag of about $60 billion-a small amount to pay to save American cities from a destructive launch by terrorists or a terrorist state.

Charles J. Guenther Jr., once a senior design engineer at McDonnell-Douglas (now Boeing) and now a full professor of engineering and technology at St. Louis Community College at Meremac, finds plenty of technical and moral arguments to shoot down the contentions of officials in the Bush Defense Department.

Guenther counters:

* At first the bogeyman was villains in the Kremlin; now it's evil "rogue states" and terrorists. The military-industrial complex will come up with any rationale to make space the next frontier for militarization.

* The ABM Treaty has kept the peace for 50 years. The signaling by the Bush Administration that it intends to abrogate the ABM Treaty is already alienating close allies, while some adversaries promise a renewed arms race to counter the proposed U.S. arms programs

* The idea that anybody can pin a $60-billion price tag on a space defense program is laughable. Once approved and underway, it will become a bottomless pit for hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of taxpayer dollars.

"This is just a colossal waste of money-never mind the fact that it can be foiled in so many ways," said Guenther. "This is a system that will require tinkering and testing forever at a cost of billions every year- money that should be spent on health care, medical advances, education and in so many other ways that can make us a stronger nation.

"Does anybody really think that Lockheed or Boeing or Martin Marietta are ever going to sign off on such a space system and say: 'Okay, it's in place now, we're all safe.' This will be siphoning off a finite federal budget forever," said Guenther. "It will go on forever."

"Single dumbest thing"

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota has described-the Bush space defense plan as "the single dumbest thing I've heard so far in this administration." Guenther would argue that Daschle is being kind. Guenther said the plan is preposterous, immoral and bound to make the planet a more dangerous place to live.

"As a nation, we've worked for and signed off on treaties against putting weapons in Antarctica," explained Guenther. "Why would we then turn around and start building a multi-layered defense system that would have us militarizing space? Do we want to make space a new arena for war?

"We have a mentality that we can go it alone-that we don't need to care what the rest of the world thinks," added Guenther. "We can forget the treaties and put together a system of space weapons to protect ourselves, because we are the good guys.

"Well, I'm not sure we are always the good guys-and the rest of the world has these doubts," continued Guenther. "I have a real fear that we would be capable of provoking some small wars, just to test out our new weapons in space. I feel that one of the hidden agendas of the Persian Gulf War was to have a chance to test some of our new high-tech weapons."

Guenther can point to a lot of scientific and military experts who are wary of expanding the arms race into space, and who are convinced there can never be a dependable, fail-safe system to meet our defense objectives.

He cites the work of Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col. USAF retired, and an official with the Institute for Space and Security Studies. Bowman's studies reveal space defense systems to be entirely too "leaky."

Bowman contends that decoy projectiles and alternative means of delivering nuclear devices can always overcome space defense systems. Even a few "leaks" in space shields will spell disaster for any nation that puts its confidence in such systems.

According to Bowman, "Star Wars" plans are "far more than is required to protect offensive weapons for use in retaliation.., and far less than is required to protect people." Bowman argues that space should be reserved for civilian exploration and for peaceful research purposes to solve environmental and agricultural problems on earth.

Retired Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll Jr., vice president of the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C., argues that the Bush Administration's bogeyman of missile attacks from "rogue states" is a complete ruse.

Carroll argues that the least likely threat we face is from a third-rate nation developing an ICBM for delivery against the U.S., because that country knows it will get back 50 times what it sends. A more likely scenario is for a terrorist nation to smuggle in a suitcase nuclear bombs that inflict harm, but cannot be easily traced for instant retaliation.

Carroll insists that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knows the "rogue state" argument is phony, but uses it as a pretense to militarize space and as a launching pad to a new, fourth branch of the military, the "Department of Space."

According to Carroll, the national news media have failed to alert the public to the deception involved in the Bush Administration's space defense program. He said the current administration's real objective is to militarize space, not to protect U.S. cities from ICBMs deployed by a wild man at the helm in North Korea, Iran or Iraq.

News media coverage

While the Bush Administration is intent on shifting national policy in space from one of civilian exploration and commercial development, to one dominated by generals with plans for high-tech space warfare--the news media have failed to report on the broader implications of the space military program proposed.

Because of a shifting U.S. space policy that is alarming other countries, a vote was held on a resolution late last year in the United Nations on a resolution for the "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space." It sought to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a basic international law on space with the provision that space be preserved for "peaceful purposes."

More than 160 nations voted in favor of the U.N. resolution, the United States--an original signer of the treaty--abstained. The U.S. vote in the U.N. and the apparent shift in national policy have received scant attention in the American news media.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, sees corporate power as' the major reason for the news media's "sins of omission" in not covering the tilt toward space warfare in U.S. policy.

"My experience is that staffs from the top to the bottom of newspapers, TV and radio are too timid to report on the U.S. program for space warfare because of fear that their corporate sponsors will pull the money strings," Gagnon told EXTRA, in the June edition of the magazine. EXTRA is the monthly of FAIR, a news media watchdog group.

"The result is that this vital information is being censored," added Gagnon. He added that downsizing of media outlets has intensified media employees' fear for their jobs and concern about rocking any boats.

Locally, engineering professor Guenther agrees that there has not been enough national or local news media coverage of an obvious national policy shift to move warfare to the final frontier of space.

The subject of weapons in space appears to be too esoteric for local radio or TV outlets, even though St. Louis is home to a number of aerospace manufacturers. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has editorialized against the Bush space policy, but Guenther feels the St. Louis daily has an obligation to give the subject more news coverage, and also to open its pages to a full debate on the issue of the militarization of space.

"I think the Post editors try to steer us within the bounds of what they believe is 'thinkable thought'--what is acceptable to debate about," said Guenther, who occasionally writes op-ed pieces for the paper. "As a result, we have never-ending letters on abortion, on gun control, on a new stadium... but there seems to be a feeling that we don't have the learning or sophistication to do things on military policy.

"I also don't like this new 'we' policy at the Post that came with its public journalism attitude," said Guenther. "It gives us cheerleading journalism: 'We' got the new jet plane order here in St. Louis ... 'We've' got plans for a new baseball stadium here in St. Louis ... 'We' got the new bio-tech contract here in St. Louis ... Let's all rejoice. Well, maybe some of us don't think a new bio-tech contract is such a good thing."

Guenther's epiphany

Professor Guenther was a bona fide employee of the military-industrial-complex--which he now criticizes--for almost 15 years. After taking his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from St. Louis University in 1966, he worked for McDonnell Aircraft Company at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In his final years with McDonnell Douglas Corporation, from 1979 to 1981, Guenther was senior engineer in flight test data systems design and development. He worked on fighter aircraft such as the F-4, the F-15 and F-18. Among his work projects, he implemented gunfire vibration tests for fighters to measure the effects of such vibrations on flight worthiness.

"I quit in 1981. I began questioning what I was doing during the Nixon era," said Guenther. "I had a sort of revelation later when my son had a question about a poster of a fighter I had put up in his room. He asked how many passengers the plane held. I had to explain that it was a plane for warfare and I got a sick feeling about it in my stomach."

Guenther said that with the Reagan Administration, federal money began pouring into defense contractors. He said he decided it was time to get off the "gravy train" of weapons work, or he would never make a career move that would make him feel more comfortable about his life's employment.

Guenther added that before he quit McDonnell Douglas, he began asking questions of fellow employees in carpool rides to work. Questions like How many fighters does American really need? Should we be selling fighters to countries that may use them for the wrong reasons?

"The people I worked with were good people, but they didn't think my questions were appropriate," said Guenther. "They told me that it was our job to build the jet fighters; it was not our concern as to how they would be used or who they might be sold to. Those were questions for higher-ups."

As a college professor, Guenther has written a number of position papers on ethics and presented them in such forums as the National Association for Science & Technology. Guenther said he believes ethical questions about weapons and technology should not simply be left to the wisdom of the higher-ups.

When it comes to political leaders shifting the goals of U.S. space programs away from exploration and peaceful purposes and more toward militarization, Guenther thinks all Americans should be concerned.

"We pay the taxes and we all have a responsibility to know how our tax money is going to be used," said Guenther. "We all have a moral responsibility to be aware of what is being done in our name, and how it may have an impact on the rest of the world."

Don Corrigan is a professor in the School of Communications at Webster University; he also edits three weekly newspapers.
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Author:Corrigan, Don
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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