From: Bruce Gagnon’s Blog,
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Reflections from space law conference in India
My long-time friend JV Prabhakar hands me flowers at the Visakhapatnam, India airport as Peter Kuznick (American University Professor of History from Washington DC) on left in blue and I just arrived. On the right side is Dr. Aruna Kammila (Global Network board member and organizer of the space law conference at the DSNLU law university.)
My flight from Newark, NJ was 13 hours to Mumbai with a seven-hour layover before catching the flight to Visakhapatnam. When we arrived we were treated to a traditional southern India meal at the law school cafeteria and then went to bed where I slept like a new born baby.
The conference was opened by a terrific welcoming speech by Professor S. Surya Prakash, Vice-Chancellor of the DSNLU law university. He made a moving connection between space exploitation for profit and degradation of the Earth as humans have lost their spiritual connection to our mother planet. When I rose to speak I noted that I have attended many conferences over the years and usually most welcoming words from university leaders are perfunctory with little substance. On this occasion the welcomes by Prof. Prakash, and another by his mentor Prof. A. Subrahmanam, were full of substance and were deeply connected to the subject at hand. It was an important beginning .
The hall was full of students and faculty from 20 law universities across India. Throughout the first day students and faculty from these law schools each made presentations on various aspects of space law. After the students made their presentations a panel of faculty members from schools in Kolkata and Bhopal critiqued the student presentations.
I was surprised and happy that during breaks students would approach me with questions concerning space issues – my thoughts on Mars colonization, the use of nuclear power in space, could they intern at the Global Network – and as I began to answer the questions crowds of students formed to hear my responses. Simply amazing.
In one discussion I lamented how it was so costly and wasteful that individual nations are organizing their own space exploration programs rather than having one program representing all of humanity from our tiny spinning satellite called Earth. One student commented to me, “The problem sir is that we don’t trust the US thus we must do our own space program.” That observation speaks for itself – sad but dripping with reality. I constantly raised the question – what kind of seed are we carrying with us as we venture off into the heavens?
India now has a robust space program and recently launched a moon mission. India is soon to become the most populated nation on Earth with over 300 million living in poverty.
I was handed a cell phone by another Global Network member, Prabhu Yadev from Nepal, who had one of our most revered GN board members J. Narayana Rao from Nagpur, India on the line. Rao, a retired railway union worker, is the father of the peace in space movement in India. For many years he has been traveling across this country organizing students and faculty to learn about space issues. Due to cancer treatments he was unable to attend the conference here but I am certain he would be reduced to tears of pride if he had been able to come.
Today we will continue with even more presentations. We will hear from Peter Kuznick and Global Network board members Lindis Percy (UK) and Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT in Boston).
I’ll post my own speech soon with more photos as I get them. I still do not have a cell phone – out of rebellion over the expense and health implications. Thus I must rely on others to provide me with photos. When I went through immigration in Mumbai the man working at the station checking my Visa and passport was stunned that I left blank the space for cell phone number. I’m likely one of the few people in the world without such a device.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Space Law must be respected, upheld and strengthened
My Speech at
Speech By Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
This is a very important and timely conference and the Global Network is happy to be part of this historic event.
I say historic because this is the first, that I am aware of, space law conference that has a purpose to promote the idea, as Dr. Aruna Kammila says, “Explore but don’t exploit”.
In the 1997 US Space Command document entitled ‘Vision for 2020’ they wrote, “Historically military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments – both military and economic. During the rise of sea commerce, nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests…..Likewise, space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial national interests and investment in the space medium due to their increasing importance.”
This quote from the US Space Command is quite instructive. We know that during the 15th century and beyond the European powers created the global war system in order to control resources and markets in what they called ‘the New World’. This was essentially the seed of the competitive, dog-eat-dog system that the world suffers from today. India has a very close understanding of that history.
In 1996 two organizations called United Societies in Space and The World Bar Association published a book called Space Governance. They created these organizations in order to re-write space law – particularly the two United Nations treaties – the Moon Treaty and the Outer Space Treaty that declared that the celestial bodies were the province of all humankind. The treaties stated that no individual, no corporation, no country could lay claim to the heavenly bodies.
These treaties were smartly attempting to prevent the global war system from carrying the bad seed of war, greed and environmental degradation into space.
International space law is a subject presently thoroughly dominated by leaders of the aerospace industry who are more than eager to privatize space to the benefit of corporate sponsors and wealthy individuals.
The aerospace industry has established space law departments at various universities around the world and are busy trying to rewrite United Nations space law that was established by the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty.
Both of those treaties also state that celestial bodies and their resources are “the common heritage of mankind and that an international regime should be established to govern” their extraction.
Currently no such international agreements exist. In fact, during the Obama administration a bill passed the Congress and was signed into law giving US corporations and individuals the legal authority to make land claims on the moon and asteroids. This violates existing UN space law and will surely cause conflict in the future.
What is sorely needed at this time is a body of legal experts who wish to explore this celestial privatization issue from the point of view and interests of all humankind.
Next weekend in Montreal, Canada a conference is being held called ‘Strategic Space Law’ where representatives from the aerospace industry, the US military and others are gathering. They will be discussing topics such as space governance, development of a space-industry strategy, space situational awareness, space traffic management, space weapons, cybersecurity law, law of space commercialization, insurance programs for space investors, governmental affairs strategy and more.
Today there are over 2,000 active satellites in orbit and the number of nations directly involved in launching or operating satellites has grown substantially in recent years. The parking spaces in orbits above the Earth are getting full and conflict will be increasing around the issue of who has the right to fill these orbital parking spots. Currently the US military occupies many of these orbital parking spaces.
The private launch company called SpaceX was recently given permission by the US government to launch 11,943 mini-satellites to form the expansive Starlink broadband network, designed to provide worldwide high speed internet access by ensuring that at least one satellite is always above the horizon for anyone on Earth.
Alice Gorman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of space archaeology and senior lecturer at Flinders University in Australia, said earlier this year, “One of the issues that we have with the space junk problem is that we don’t know precisely where a lot of objects are. When you try to model these millions of bits of stuff circling around the Earth in order to make space safer for functioning satellites, it’s just so complex; it’s a really difficult task.”
So obviously when you launch nearly 12,000 new mini-satellites into this unregulated mess in Earth orbit the problem only gets worse.
Amateur sky watchers have started sharing images of those mounting numbers of satellites in night skies, igniting an uproar among astronomers who fear that the planned orbiting clusters will wreak havoc on scientific research and trash our view of the cosmos. “This has the potential to change what a natural sky looks like,” said Tyler Nordgren, an astronomer who is now working full-time to promote night skies. And SpaceX is not alone in filling the skies. Other companies, such as Amazon, Telesat and OneWeb, want to get into the space internet business. While private companies see major business opportunities in low-Earth orbit and beyond, many sky lovers fear that space will no longer be “the province of all mankind,” as stated in the Outer Space Treaty.
Even nations that have no direct involvement in launching or operating satellites rely heavily on space infrastructure: for television, cell phone, radio, banking, communications, transport, agriculture, and especially for modern military operations.
Yet, those satellites are under increasing threat from hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris. Furthermore, some countries (US, Russia and China) already possess the ability to destroy or disrupt satellites and other nations (like India) have plans to develop those same anti-satellite capabilities.
Outer space is becoming more contested, congested and competitive. In addition the global security situation generally is less certain. Ballistic missiles, as the means of delivery of nuclear weapons, involve space flight and ballistic ‘missile defense’ also relies on space-based infrastructure. Thus, space is a key element in global security, yet it is also increasingly being militarized and weaponized.
There is a real danger that outer space will become the next war zone. A conflict in space could have devastating implications for the space systems of all nations and for modern society on Earth.
Therefore, in order to avoid potentially devastating conflicts, there is a dire need for a global discussion about of enforcement of existing space treaties like the Moon and Outer Space Treaty. We also need new treaties that would allow for the banning of new emerging space weapons technologies.
For more than 25 years Russia and China have annually introduced a new treaty to ban all weapons in space at the United Nations. It is called PAROS – Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. Each year a resolution calling for the new treaty overwhelmingly passes the General Assembly in New York City – with the US and Israel voting against. Then the treaty resolution is sent to the UN’s Conference on Disarmament at Geneva but the US and Israel block its development. All through both Republican and Democrat administrations in Washington the US says, “There is no problem in space, thus there is no need for a new treaty.” It is obvious that the aerospace industry views space as a new market for maximum profits and thus are the force behind blocking the treaty.
At the same time the nuclear industry also views space as a profitable new market. The nuclear industry dreams of nuclear-powered mining colonies on the moon, Mars, asteroids and the like. The little rover driving around Mars today is powered with a plutonium generator. Nuclear reactors on rockets are envisioned for travel to Mars. Those same nuclear reactors could be used to power orbiting battle stations just above Earth. There is currently no true legal regulation on any of this and the aerospace industry wishes to keep it that way.
In 1989 the US Congress published a study called Military Space Forces: The Next 50 Years. The study begins with this quote: ‘Who rules circumterrestrial space commands Planet Earth; Who rules the moon commands circumterrestrial space; Who rules L4 and L5 (lunar libration points) commands the Earth-Moon System.’
Later in the study the author underscores the vital character of the L4 and L5 positions on either side of the moon and writes: “Nature reserves decisive advantage for L4 and L5, two allegedly stable libration points that theoretically could dominate Earth and moon, because they look down both gravity wells. No other location is equally commanding……Armed forces might lie in wait at that location to hijack rival shipments on return.”
Thus we find that even in 1989 the US was conceptualizing its plan for ‘full spectrum dominance’ by some day placing orbiting battle stations in space that would enable the Pentagon to deny other nations access on and off the Earth as they saw fit.
One can easily infer that Trumps new proposal to create a separate ‘Space Force’ is intended to give the Pentagon two distinct capabilities: first to control the Earth on behalf of corporate interests and secondly to be the Master of Space by being the gate keeper to the heavens.
The US, dragging the western allies behind them, is preparing for war with Russia and China. Washington wants India ‘onside’ for obvious reasons of geography, history, and growing economic power. The US also needs allies with money to help pay for the Pentagon endless war machine that is heavily dependent on very expensive space technology.
Washington wishes to bring India under its ‘Space Command’ so that your military forces will be run through the Pentagon space warfighting satellite program. A term ‘interoperability’ has been coined to describe the process where all allies must have warfighting systems that can be technically run thru the US Space Command system. In the end this means the US is controlling the deadly ‘tip of the spear’ because no other nation has all the satellites and ground stations around the globe that give Washington the ability to see everything on Earth, hear everything, and ultimately target every place on the planet.
All the NATO members (and ‘partners’ like Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand) are being brought into the global military alliance to control and dominate the planet on behalf of western corporate capitalism. That means London-Washington-Brussels-Paris-Berlin running the world.
Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and a few other nations are on the Pentagon’s wish list for ‘regime change’. They still stand outside full control by the western bankers and militarists.
The recent formation of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) alternative economic institution would loan money to developing countries and not exploit them the way western bankers do using the IMF and World Bank as their tools of domination. The west is not happy about BRICS and thus we saw the past progressive leader of Brazil was dethroned in a coup essentially orchestrated by Washington. He was replaced by the fascist President Balsonaro who is allowing the destruction of the Amazon in order to enable expansion of cattle grazing areas for Brazil’s beef industry and other development. Thus the ‘lungs of the Earth’ are being destroyed for corporate profits.
The US-NATO alliance is not happy to see any nation stand up against this long run of western imperialism. Many nations are calling for a multi-polar world and the US demands to remain as the unipolar leader of the planet. Washington appears willing to create a global war to defend its collapsing empire.
The US is like a cowboy gambler with a black hat on a Mississippi riverboat playing cards. The cowboy looks around and sees himself surrounded by those he has exploited for years. He thinks his only way out is to start shooting – the law of the west. That, I think, is essentially still the foreign and military policy of the US. Its part arrogance and part fear that the world has woken up at last and is rejecting the cowboy mentality of ‘full spectrum dominance’.
Growing global poverty and the reality of climate change though are banging on Washington’s front door. The corporations love for the dollar bill is so great that they cannot see beyond their lust for power and greed. I call them pirates.
The pirates have buried a chest in the US – it is our national treasury created from the taxes from the people’s hard work. More than 55% of every federal tax dollar under the discretion of Congress goes to the Pentagon. America has become a war culture. Our economy is addicted to military production. People are increasingly being indoctrinated that the ‘Russians and Chinese’ are trying to take over the world so we must spend more on weapons for war and we must have the very best space technology system in place to protect ourselves. We are a paranoid nation – massive guilt and fear comes from our long legacy of genocide and endless war.
We have a wedding in America of the government and corporate power – they are one in the same. Democracy has essentially been drowned in the United States.
Thus no one anywhere on our Mother Earth should ever listen to the moralistic preaching that comes from Washington about democracy, freedom, peace, or the rule of law. It’s all Hollywood talk – a scripted propaganda machine that attempts to sell an image to the world. Fortunately the initial shine has worn off the Stars & Stripes and most people around the globe clearly understand what is really going on.
Again now is the time to build an international consciousness and campaign to protect the heavens from this insane global war system. India is becoming a leading space power and thus your voices and good hearts are needed to prevent moving this bad seed into space.
The Global Network thanks you for organizing this very important conference and we look forward to further collaboration with each of you.