George W. Bush:
Opposing Viewpoints on Torture and Weapons in Space


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Bush policy stresses weapons in orbit:

MARC KAUFMAN - October 19th, 2006.

WASHINGTON—U.S. President George W. Bush has quietly signed a new National Space Policy that asserts his country's right to deny access to space to anyone "hostile to U.S. interests."

The policy also rejects future arms-control agreements that might limit U.S. flexibility in space.

The document characterizes the role of U.S. space diplomacy largely in terms of persuading other nations to support U.S. policy, encourages private enterprise in space and emphasizes security issues.

"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," the document, a revision of the U.S.'s previous space policy, asserts in its introduction.

The Bush administration bluntly denied the revisions were a prelude to introducing weapons systems into orbit.

"This policy is not about developing or deploying weapons in space. Period," said a senior administration official, who asked to remain unnamed.

Nevertheless, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a non-partisan think-tank that follows the space-weaponry issue, said the policy changes will reinforce international suspicions that the U.S. may seek to develop, test and deploy space weapons.

The concerns are amplified, he said, by the Bush administration's refusal to enter negotiations or even less formal discussions on the subject.

Theresa Hitchens, director of the non-partisan Center for Defence Information in Washington, said the policy "kicks the door a little more open to a space-war fighting strategy" and has a "very unilateral tone to it."

The Bush administration official strongly disagreed with that characterization, saying the policy encourages international diplomacy and co-operation.

But the official said the document also makes clear the U.S. position: that no new arms-control agreements are needed because there is no space arms race.

The document, the first revision of U.S. space policy in nearly 10 years, was signed by Bush more than a month ago but was not publicly announced.

Unclassified details of his decision were posted on the website of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said in written comments that an update was needed to "reflect the fact that space has become an even more important component of U.S. economic, national and homeland security."

The military has become increasingly dependent on satellite communication and navigation, as have providers of cellphones, personal navigation devices and even ATMs.

The Bush official said the administration has briefed members of Congress as well as a number of governments, including Russia, on the new policy.

The National Space Policy follows other administration statements that appeared to advocate greater military use of space.

In 2004, the Air Force published a Counterspace Operations Doctrine that called for a more active military posture in space and said that protecting U.S. satellites and spacecraft may require "deception, disruption, denial, degradation and destruction."

Four years earlier, a congressionally chartered panel led by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recommended developing space weapons to protect military and civilian satellites.

Because of the political sensitivities, several analysts said, the Pentagon probably will not move forward quickly with space weapons but rather will work on dual-use technology that can serve military and civilian interests.

But because many space initiatives are classified, Krepon and others said, it is difficult to know what is being developed and deployed.

Some of the potential space weapons most frequently discussed are lasers that can "blind" or shut down adversary satellites and small, manoeuvrable satellites that could ram another satellite.

The new Bush policy calls on the defence secretary to provide "space capabilities" to support missile-warning systems as well as "multi-layered and integrated missile defences," an apparent nod toward placing some components of the system in space.

The new document grew out of Bush's 2002 order to the National Security Council, with support from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, to assess America's military and civilian space policies.

A number of nations have pushed for talks to ban space weapons, and the United States has long been one of a handful of nations opposed to the idea.

Although it had abstained in the past when proposals to ban space weapons came up in the United Nations, last October the United States voted for the first time against a call for negotiations — the only "no" against 160 "yes" votes.

The U.S. position flows in part from the fact so many key weapons systems are now dependent on information and communications from orbiting satellites, analysts said.

The U.S. military has developed and deployed far more space-based technology than any other nation, giving it great strategic advantages.

But with the superior technology has come a perceived vulnerability to attacks on essential satellites.

The new policy was applauded by defence analyst Baker Spring of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Spring said he supported the policy's rejection of international agreements or treaties, as well as its emphasis on protecting military assets and placing missile defence components in space.

News of the policy was being widely discussed at an international symposium on personal spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico yesterday.

Some delegates said the possibility of a greater U.S. military interest in controlling space would, if anything, be favourable to emerging private companies.

"The military is developing things that will spin-off to us. And if we develop things, they'll spin-off to them," said George French, chairman and CEO of Rocketplane Kistler, a company that's working on both space tourism and on developing a supply vehicle for NASA.

There was a note of caution, however, from Michael Simpson, president of the International Space University in France.

"On the one hand, it worries people like me who would really love to believe that space will be a place where we don't take our combat and our history of conflict with one another," Simpson told reporter Scott Simmie.

"The concern, and where the rest of the world has got to get involved, is how do you decide what is a threat, and what is really the legitimate use of space by someone else?"

59% oppose torture: Poll

OLIVIA WARD - October 19th, 2006.

Government efforts to legitimize torture of suspected terrorists have largely failed, according to a new poll that found the majority of people around the world are opposed to the practice, even to gain information that could save lives.

Overall, 59 per cent of those questioned were unwilling to compromise on human rights, according to the 25-country survey of 27,000 people conducted for the BBC World Service by GlobeScan and University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes.

"The results give one the sense of common values in the world, in spite of the fear that is present," says GlobeScan's London-based president Doug Miller, a Canadian. He said it reveals "a public relations climate in which human rights violations by governments are likely to cause outrage, especially in Western Europe."

Canada ranks third worldwide in rejecting torture, behind Italy, Australia and France, which are tied. Of Canadians surveyed, 74 per cent said it was unacceptable; 22 per cent believe "some degree" could be used by governments to save innocent lives.

Italy ranks first with 81 per cent opposed to torture and 14 per cent in conditional agreement. France and Australia jointly rank second with 75 per cent opposedunder any circumstances.

The survey asked whether clear rules against torture should be maintained, or governments should be allowed to use "some degree" in view of a terrorist threat.

Alex Neve, the Canadian head of Amnesty International, called the results "very encouraging." But he said, after the Maher Arar report, "this should be a wake-up call to the Canadian government that more needs to be done to ensure that our laws, policies and practices unequivocally align with a ban on torture."

The U.S., where a fierce debate is raging over the use of torture, rates significantly lower than Canada: 58 per cent absolutely opposed it while 36 per cent believed it could be used conditionally. The percentage of those condoning limited use was "one of the highest" of the 25 countries polled, said the survey.

"The message for Canadians is that we probably share more values with Europe than with the U.S. these days," says Miller. In international law, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture bar the use of brutal coercion. But since the "war on terror" was declared in 2001, Washington has led the drive for more flexible rules. A law signed by President George W. Bush this week allows coercive interrogations of "unlawful combatants."

In general, fewer citizens in countries with political violence believe in banning torture. However Britain, which has endured attacks by the IRA and Islamic terrorists, is strongly opposed to torture, with 72 per cent against and 24 per cent conditionally agreeing to its use. In Israel, 43 per cent of those surveyed favoured some degree of torture, the most in any country. Still, 48 per cent of Israelis were totally against its use. India, also rocked by sectarian and political violence, is the only nation where those conditionally favouring torture outnumber those opposed.


Possible space weapons of the future

By Jack Kelly - July 28th, 2003.

In April, within 15 minutes of receiving a report that Saddam Hussein had entered a restaurant in Baghdad, a B-1B bomber dropped four 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs on the place.

It now appears Saddam slipped out of the building by a secret exit. But if one space-based weapon now being researched had been orbiting above Iraq - and had worked as envisioned - Saddam almost certainly wouldn't have got away.

Colloquially called "Rods from God," this weapon would consist of orbiting platforms stocked with tungsten rods perhaps 20 feet long and one foot in diameter that could be satellite-guided to targets anywhere on Earth within minutes. Accurate within about 25 feet, they would strike at speeds upwards of 12,000 feet per second, enough to destroy even hardened bunkers several stories underground.

No explosives would be needed. The speed and weight of the rods would lend them all the force they need.

This principle was applied in Iraq to destroy tanks that Saddam's forces shielded near mosques, schools or hospitals. U.S. aviators used concrete practice bombs.

Jerry Pournelle, a science writer and chairman of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, came up with the idea, which he originally named "Thor" after the Norse god of thunder. The Pentagon won't say how far along the project, or variants of the idea, may be in development.

Space planes

Closer to operational readiness is a hypersonic bomber which could attack nearly any target in the world within four hours from bases in the United States.

The FALCON (an acronym for Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States) would be sent into the upper atmosphere by a boost vehicle and cruise at an altitude of 100,000 feet at speeds up to 12 times the speed of sound. The first flight demonstration is scheduled for 2006.

Besides being able to engage a target faster than conventional bombers, the FALCON would be virtually invulnerable. No fighter aircraft or anti-aircraft missile could fly as high, and at Mach 12, the FALCON could outrun antiaircraft missiles. No foreign bases would be needed because the FALCON's range and speed would allow it to be based on U.S. soil.

Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs is already thinking about a follow-on to FALCON -- a genuine space plane that would fly even higher and faster, stay up longer and carry more weapons.

"Once a target is identified, the space plane can respond from the U.S. and strike worldwide targets in under an hour," SpaceCom researchers said in a white paper last year.

A key advantage of a space plane, the writers said, is its weapons could enter the atmosphere over a target, so there would be no need to seek overflight permission from other countries. "Technology exists today to create this capability and evolve it now," they wrote.

Space lasers

The Air Force soon will begin integrated testing of its first Airborne Laser. If it proves reliable, it could be deployed in three or four years.

Housed in a modified Boeing 747, the airborne laser is designed to cruise at 40,000 feet and engage tactical ballistic missiles like the Scud shortly after liftoff. If a missile is lazed for 3 to 5 seconds, its oxidizer or fuel tank would explode, destroying the missile and spreading debris over the launch site.

Lasers that work in the atmosphere would work even better in space. Air refracts and weakens laser beams, and a great deal of power is required to punch through it.

President Ronald Reagan conceived of space-based lasers as a key element of his "Star Wars" defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles, but they have proved difficult to develop because of the need to push their heavy power sources into orbit.

Besides destroying enemy ICBMs, space-based lasers would also be designed to disrupt or destroy enemy satellites and knock out high- flying enemy aircraft or cruise missiles.

Satellite killers, 'bodyguards'

The Air Force has plans for a variety of weapons to protect U.S. satellites, and to destroy or disable enemy satellites. They are known collectively as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. Some would be based in space. Others would be on the ground, on ships, or mounted on airplanes. Some would be directed energy weapons (lasers or high-powered microwaves). Some would have explosive warheads, and some would destroy a target by running into it.

An ASAT weapon that could be used for both defense and offense is described in an Air Force 2025 study. "Satellite bodyguards" would consist of approximately five satellites placed in close proximity to the satellite being protected. Some would be decoys. Others would be "hunter-killers," armed with directed energy weapons to blind or destroy enemy ASAT weapons. The "hunter-killer" satellites would be designed to detect space-based threats themselves and receive warnings from Earth.

Unmanned aerial vehicles

The Air Force is working on a family of "long loiter" Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): one for reconnaissance, another to strike targets and a "mother ship" -- a UAV itself -- which would deploy and recover smaller combat vehicles. The "mother ship" would store solar energy and transfer it to vehicles.

The "Strike" UAV would be able to loiter over a target for 24 hours or more. It would carry missiles and bombs for precision strikes on ground targets but would have only limited air-to-air capability.

The more ambitious "Uninhabited Combat Aerial Vehicle" could be used either for reconnaissance or attack. It would contain "multispectral" sensors -- optical, infrared, laser, radar, etc. -- and a variety of precision-guided weapons to attack ground targets. This vehicle also could jam enemy transmissions and protect U.S. transmissions from electronic countermeasures.

Also under consideration are UAVs that could airdrop supplies to troops from high altitudes.

UAVs operate in the atmosphere, but must be controlled through satellites if they are to operate at ranges beyond line of sight, approximately 130 miles.


Torturing The Truth: President Bush Has Lied And Continues To Do So

Dick Meyer - September 7th, 2006.

"I've said to people we don't torture. And we don't."

That's what President Bush told Katie Couric yesterday.

That was a very odd thing to say on the very day his Pentagon repudiated interrogation "techniques" it had been using and embraced international standards for humane treatment of all detainees in military custody. These standards, by the way, will still not apply to detainees in CIA custody who can still be subjected to "techniques" — translation: torture.

The president also told Ms. Couric that one of the things he felt badly about from his tenure was Abu Ghraib. Now Abu Ghraib was where torture was photographed and then shown to the world. Similar torture was carried out, we learned, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

But, "I've said to people we don't torture. And we don't."

What is being tortured here is the truth.

The president's statement here is beyond doublespeak and above spin. It's untrue, it's egregious. The Pentagon's backhanded, long-delayed and uncourageous acknowledgment that torture was used also repudiated what the president has been telling citizens for years. We've been lied to and we are still being lied to. By the president.

Now, foes of President Bush are indignant that he can "get away with it." They blame a biased press, a manipulative regime and, I suppose, an electorate they see as ignorant.

The president's defenders also blame a biased press. They split hairs about what torture is — sleep deprivation is OK, but jumper cables aren't. They also argue that torture may be justified in some cases, though that is not really what the president himself has asserted.

I'm guessing that one reason that the president "gets away with it" is that many people do what the president's formal defenders do: make strong arguments themselves even though the president doesn't. If a voter sees a rationale for, say, "interrogation techniques," even though the president has never stated it, and in fact speaks dishonestly about it, that voter may still give the president the benefit of the doubt.

In truth, many people pragmatically and ethically believe that what anyone would call torture may be permissible if it has a certainty of preventing other loss of innocent life. This is an ancient, ongoing debate. It is not immoral to come out on the tough side. But the international community, through vehicles such as the Geneva Conventions, has long been on the other side.

The president has danced all around this. We do what's necessary, he says, but we don't torture. Right.

I can't see what the downside would be of a simple honest declaration now that the Pentagon is formally changing its policy. Something like: "Yes, in the wake of 9/11, military and intelligence agencies trying to protect our country, interrogated terrorists using methods that can only be called torture. We felt this was necessary to prevent the loss of innocent life, perhaps on a massive scale. This did involve a compromise with international standards and American values and we paid dearly for that. We are changing that policy, which we once felt was justified. But we reserve the right to do what is necessary to protect human life and certain U.S. agencies will not be covered by the new Pentagon policies."

I may not agree with that — but it is honest.

The administration, of course, is in the midst of yet again repackaging its entire justification for the war on terror and the war on Iraq. By invoking Hitler, Stalin and Nazism, they are trying to rev up their conservative base and somehow discredit the Democrats by implying they aren't worthy of taking on Adolf bin Laden.

This is a fool's errand. Voters already have a very modest opinion of the Democrats' national security credentials, and that will not change in this election cycle. Most voters also have settled views on the threat of Islamist terrorism.

What is unsettled for voters is their view of the president's and the administration's honesty and competence in combating what it calls the "great battle of the 21st century."

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