Star Wars Is Back
by Gar Smith

This so-called election was a victory for putting weapons in space, at enormous cost to US taxpayers and to world stability, says Bruce Gagnon, of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space [www. space4peace.org]

The Bush-Cheney team has made it clear that they consider the National Missile Defense (NMD) an essential part of our strategic system.

The NMD, a failure-plagued leftover from the Reagan Era that has outraged our allies and enemies alike, would violate international treaties and promises to ignite a new arms race. So who stands to gain? The answer: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW.

These "Big Four" weapons makers routinely win 60 percent of all US defense contracts, worth as much as $4 billion each year.

Between 1997 and 2000, defense industry interests handed out nearly $3 million in soft money contributions to the Democratic and Republican parties. They also tossed more than $10 million in political action committee (PAC) money in the direction of the Republicrats. Nearly half of this money came from the coffers of the Big Four.

Watch how this works: The politicians take the money from the taxpayers and give the money to the corporations, knowing full well that a good chunk of the money will come back to them in the form of "campaign contributions." There is a word for this practice. It's called a "kickback."

The planet's biggest weapons-builder, Lockheed Martin, kicked back more than $2.6 million to the two Big Parties during the past election cycle. Lockheed plunked down $60,000 for the "Lott Hop" fundraiser at the GOP National Convention and promised $1 million to endow the University of Mississippi's "Trent Lott Leadership Institute." (Lott, a Mississippi Republican, serves on the Armed Services Committee.)

Lockheed also partied down at the Democratic convention in LA, co-sponsoring "Mardi Gras Goes Hollywood," a bash celebrating Sen. John Breaux.

Boeing, which has a $2.2 billion contract to build the NMD's Lead Systems Integrator, has pumped $2.2 million in funds to political candidates and their parties.

TRW and Raytheon account for nearly $2 million in political payoffs. Raytheon (which has the contract to develop NMD's Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle) spent a rumored $50,000 to help entertain the "Blue Dog" caucus of conservative Democrats at a party on California's Santa Monica Pier. Not to be outdone, TRW rented the posh Philadelphia Union Club for a luncheon honoring Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

When the Pentagon's $20 billion contract to produce a Space-Based Laser Readiness Demonstrator entered its final phase last November, the winners were--surprise--Lockheed Martin, Boeing and TRW.

"President" George W. Bush's point-man for NMD is "National Security Council Deputy Director" Stephen Hadley. Hadley is a partner in Shea and Gardner, the same DC law firm that represents Lockheed Martin.

"The heart and soul of the missile defense lobby is former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney," report William D. Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca in the October 2000 Multinational Monitor. Gaffney is the founder and director of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), whose "100-member board of advisors is made up of a virtual Star Wars Hall of Fame," Hartung and Ciarrocca note. About 20 percent of CSP's funds flow directly from corporations, including three of the Big Four.

In 1997, Rep. Curt Weldon, a CSP advisory boardmember, created a commission to reevaluate the ballistic missile threat--after the CIA concluded that there was no imminent threat of a missile attack on the US.

The resulting Rumsfeld Report, presided over by former Reagan Defense Secretary and Bush's new "Defense Secretary" Donald H. Rumsfeld, single-handedly manufactured the hysteria over the supposed missile threat from the "rogue states" of Iraq and North Korea.

The Washington Post tags Rumsfeld as the "leading proponent not only of national missile defenses, but also of US efforts to take control of outer space."

Not even the slickest radio ad could cover up the dismal performance of NMD prototypes. At the end of 2000, only three of 19 NMD interception tests had managed to get off the ground. Of those, only one hit the target And even that "success" was bogus.

The Pentagon belatedly admitted that the "kill vehicle" drifted off course and would have failed completely had it not been guided back to the target by a large, decoy balloon.

George W. Bush and Lockheed first tied the knot in Texas where, as governor, Bush tried to hand over operation of the state's welfare system to the weapons contractor. Public protests and a regulatory rejection from the Clinton White House blocked that deal, but Lockheed's Vice President Bruce Jackson remained wedded to the Bush ticket, even serving as finance chair of the Bush-for-President juggernaut. Jackson publicly bragged that, if Bush won the election, he (Jackson) would be able to "write the Republican platform" on defense.

Dick Cheney has also been blessed by Lockheed's largesse. Cheney's wife, Lynne, pulled down a $120,000 stipend for sitting on Lockheed's board of directors. (She has since relinquished her seat.) Cheney, for his part, has served on the board of TRW.

Lockheed needs all the friends it can get. Last June, the corporation paid a $13 million fine for illegally selling to China satellite technology that could be used to launch a rocket attack on the US. Lockheed's record of launch disasters has seen more that $2 billion of commercial and military satellites go up in flames or spin off into completely useless orbits.

One of Lockheed's proudest moments was the successful test of the Star Wars intercept system in 1984--a critical factor in validating the much-criticized "missile shield" concept. In 1993, The New York Times revealed that the test was a fraud.

"We rigged the test," a Lockheed scientist told Times reporter Tim Weiner. "We put a beacon with a certain frequency on the target vehicle. The hit looked beautiful, so Congress didn't ask questions." In effect, Weiner concluded, Lockheed rigged the target to tell the incoming missile, "Here I am, come get me."

There was one simple reason Lockheed conspired to defraud the government, the scientist said. "We would lose hundreds of millions of dollars if we didn't perform it successfully." Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), John Conyers (D-MI) and 51 other House members have demanded an FBI investigation of fraud in the NMD program. Meanwhile, the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) that would have required that all future NMD tests be conducted under "realistic conditions."

This report draws heavily on an article in the October 2000 Multinational Monitor [1530 P St., NW, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 387-8030] and on research supplied by Professor Karl Grossman whose documentary "Star Wars Returns" is available from EnviroVideo [800-ECO-TV46].

© Earth Island Journal, Summer 2001

 

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