By Dave Lindorff
Anybody who thinks that the government is telling the truth about the plan to shoot down a dead spy satellite--that it's all about protecting us, and not about testing an anti-satellite weapon--has to be really stupid.
And stupid is what the Bush administration and the Pentagon apparently think we are.
They're claiming they need to shoot this thing down because it's got a tank with 1000 pounds of hydrazine, a fuel used for maneuvering satellites while in orbit which is said to be as toxic as chlorine if breathed.
Well, the odds of a tank of hydrazine surviving an 18,000 mph plunge into the atmosphere intact and making it to the ground is basically zero. That sucker will heat up to a fine redhot glow and blow up before it even makes it to the stratosphere.
If you want to know how likely it is that such a tank would make it to ground, check out the pieces of the space shuttle Columbia that made it back to earth when it came down in pieces. That shuttle, a damned sight bigger than this spy satellite, included some heavy pieces of equipment like landing gear that had to carry the full weight of the vehicle on the tarmac, and even that stuff got toasted. (The shuttle also contained tanks of hydrazine, by the way, which didn't make it to earth).
No, the risk of this spy satellite toxifying anyone is nil. The risk of pieces of it, which might make it to earth, hitting anything of consequence is next to nil, especially as the government will be able to give pretty precise warning to the impact area well in advance of its final descent.
So what this is really all about is the government getting an excuse to violate the international treaty against weapons in space, to test a missile it has that it hopes can "take out" a satellite. The Chinese did this last year to one of their own satellites, to widespread condemnation from other space-faring nations, including the US.
The only difference between the US and China here is that the Chinese at least have the integrity to violate international law frontally. The US has to do it dishonestly, pretending it is a public service.
Let's at least not be willing stooges here.
We have had eight years of government by lying. It's not that lies and deception weren't practiced by governments before the advent of the Cheney/Bush regime, but this administration more than any other before it clearly believes that democracy and integrity are simply obstacles to power, and has worked assiduously to try to eliminate them entirely from Washington.
It's past time to bring a little integrity and openness back.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net