Organising A Campaign Against Space Weapons: A Draft Treaty And A Planning Conference

Recent events have been drawing attention to the frightening intention of the USA to fill space with a blanket of orbiting weapons to “protect US interests and investment”, and meanwhile to “deny others the use of space”. (The intention is documented in several US government publications, and notably in “Vision for 2020” (1997), available at www.spacecom.mil/_private/about_sp ace.htm;a copy is also at our sitewww.noos.ca.)The space weaponswould allow the US to enforce world-wide hegemony, and with impunity.

The chief barrier to these plans has until now been the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty (ABM). However on Dec. 13 President Bush took advantage of distractions resulting from the so-called “war on terrorism” to give the required six-month notice of US withdrawal from the ABM treaty, which accordingly died on June 13. This may well be a date of extreme significance in world history, but it passed with scarcely a murmur from our media. The immediate effects are to put a stop to moves toward nuclear abolition, to ensure that multiple-reentry-vehicles are mounted on ICBMs and that such missiles are kept on high (and dangerous) alert, and that “horizontal proliferation” of nuclear weaponry accelerates. In short, we are returning to a period where the danger of nuclear disaster will be at least as acute as at the height of the Cold War; (this was recognised by the readjustment of the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists toseven minutes to midnight,a point it reached before only in those days). In this article, however, we are concerned instead with the perils of space weaponry and its potential for imperial enforcement — – for the longer-term threats (in case we survive so long).

In this regard a new factor emerged with a proposal of a “Space Preservation Treaty” (SPT) by the Institute for Cooperation In Space (ICIS).The treaty would go beyond the“Outer Space Treaty” by forbidding ALL orbiting weapons, not just so-called “weapons of mass destruction”. ICIS is a joint US/Canada organisation; its strategy is to secure wide international subscription to the proposed treaty and its consequent adoption by the UN. The hope is that Canada, which has a long-held policy of seeking a similar outcome by bargaining within the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), might take the lead in such a process, mimicking the “Ottawa process” by which the Landmines Treaty was introduced. ICIS approached Science for Peace and Voice of Women toseek assistance inthis endeavour.

Our reaction was that if a campaign of this scale were to be attempted, it should be undertaken with the widest possible collaboration of civil-society groups which shared our concern. Accordingly we began a series of consultations with a slightly expanded version of the NOOS Committee (which has been organising other events and activities around the space weapons issues for over a year — “NOOS” stands for Network Of Opposition to Starwars). The committee decided we should hold an all -day Strategy Conference, involving as many groups as possible; this took place in Toronto on June 18.

Along with SfP and ICIS, the following groups were represented: Voice of Women, Physicians for Global Survival, Project Ploughshares, Canadian Peace Alliance, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Toronto PeaceAction Coalition, Homes Not Bombs, the United Nations Association, Oakville Centre for Peace Ecology and Human Rights,and theInternational Holistic Tourism Education Centre.Regrettably, however, the mass-membership political and environmental organisations which were invited sent only their good wishes — – groups like the Council of Canadians,theSierra Club,Greenpeace,etc.; (this highlights theeducational work we need to do so that such groups will re- examine the priorities they must adopt if they are to have any real hope of long-term success in their particular specialised areas of interest).

After some general discussion about shared hopes and purposes, and about the opportunities and barriers we face, some particular proposals were discussed, and primarily the ICIS initiative. Alfred Webre, the Secretary-Treasurer of ICIS, (who flew from Vancouver for the Conference) recounted the history of their activity. This includes close cooperation with Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) who has introduced Bill HR3616,along lines identical to theproposed SPT, and has now joined with other congressmen to challenge the legality of Bush’s withdrawal of the USA from the ABM Treaty. The draft SPT and a 65-page supporting document are currently being distributed to all national governments worldwide. It is hoped to provoke an international conference to examine the space-weapons issue and the SPT as a response.

ICIS regards Canada’s role as key to chances of success. Senator Doug Roche has proposed to the Senate the need for adoption of an “Ottawa process” on space weaponry; Svend Robinson is presenting to the House a petition in this sense organised by ICIS, and has just tabled a motion (M527) along the same lines. The meeting discussed whether the government was likely to regard such an initiative as cutting across their efforts within the CD (where the matter seems quite stalled, however), or to welcome it as a complementary tactic. In this regard, Webre reported what ICIS interprets as a welcoming response from John Manley, of our present government, and ongoing plans for further direct conversations with Ottawa. The meeting agreed that we should try to aid the ICIS approach, both by lobbying and by public education.

One of the specific suggestions was to request a “round-table” discussion of the proposal at DFAIT’s “ Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development”.Science for Peace isalready preparing resource packages to aid in education on the space weapons issues, in schools (contact sidraha@hotmail.com)and elsewhere.It is intended that fact sheets on the issue should be prepared during the summer for use in a fall campaign, and that papers on such matters as conversion of space-weapons industries is also needed. Such materials are to be posted at www.noos.ca,from where they may befreely downloaded. (If you have produced, or know of, appropriate material in this regard, please contact paul.hamel@utoronto.ca orCarolyn Bassett at cpa@web.ca.)

A separate proposal, communicated by Bev Delong, was to arrange a Canadian conference of business people, government and NGOs, to discuss the implications for our economy, and particularly our aerospace and communications sectors, of the weaponisation plans. There was a split in opinion about the validity and dangers of such an initiative; the group decided it would not support the proposal.

Among several other related initiatives discussed, SfP proposed to attempt to generate a detailed analysis of university involvement in military activities, beginning with the University of Toronto. (If you are interested in helping with this research project, please get in touch.)

In order to maintain momentum in the collaborations discussed, it is intended that a steering committee should meet about monthly, with representatives from SfP, PGS, CPA, ICIS, Ploughshares and a student rep — in essence an updated version of the NOOS committee — and that information on the campaign, as well as materials for it, should systematically be posted at www.noos.ca (in connection with which Carolyn Bassett of CPA volunteered to assist Paul Hamel with the extra work it will entail). We will welcome your input about these plans.

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ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)