By Tim Rinne & Bruce Gagnon
Admittedly, “StratCom: The Most Dangerous Place on the Face of the Earth” sounded a bit over the top for the title of a conference. But by the time the participants caught their flight home from Omaha, Nebraska last month, there wasn’t anybody disputing whether U.S. Strategic Command deserved the label.
Two hundred people from 12 countries and 28 states gathered April 11-13 at the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space 16th Annual Space Organizing Conference to learn about this remote command in America’s heartland. And the local sponsor, Nebraskans for Peace, who for years had been fretting about what was going on in its own backyard, couldn’t have been more excited. There’d never before been an international conference specifically addressing the transformation that’s taken place at StratCom. But then, until just recently, StratCom had never before represented the threat to the world that it does now.
From the moment George W. Bush was rushed to StratCom’s underground headquarters at Offutt A.F.B. on 9/11, the U.S.’s nuclear command began to undergo what StratCom Commander General Kevin Chilton described as “not a sea-state change, but a tsunami of change” in its role and mission. In the years since 9/11, the command has seen its traditional and sole responsibility of maintaining America’s nuclear deterrent proliferate to include missions for space, cyberspace, intelligence/reconnaissance/surveillance, missile defense, full spectrum global strike, information operations and combating weapons of mass destruction.
In the blink of a strategic eye, the command has gone from being something that was ‘never supposed to be used’ (i.e. the doomsday machine) to ‘being used for everything.’ It’s gone from being putatively ‘defensive’ to overtly ‘offensive’ to become, in the words of Nebraska activists, “Dr. Strangelove on steroids.”
With now eight missions under its belt, StratCom’s fingerprints are seemingly everywhere. Though it’s almost never mentioned by name, you can hardly open a newspaper anymore without reading about one of its various machinations. Here’s a rundown:
- Now charged with actively waging the White House’s “War on Terror,” StratCom is authorized to attack any place on the planet in one hour—using either conventional or nuclear weapons—on the mere perception of a threat to America’s ‘national interests.’
- Through its National Security Agency “component command,” StratCom is regularly conducting the now-infamous ‘warrantless wiretaps’ on unsuspecting American citizens.
- The proposed “missile defense” bases in Poland and the Czech Republic that are reviving Cold War tensions with Russia are StratCom installations under StratCom’s command.
- Having conducted what it touts as “the first space war” with its “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign on Iraq, the command is now actively executing the Bush/Cheney Administration’s expressed goal of the weaponization and “domination” of space.
- StratCom’s recent shoot-down of a falling satellite using its Missile Defense system, just after the U.S. had repudiated a Russian proposal banning space weapons, demonstrated the anti-satellite capability of this allegedly ‘defensive’ program and is certain to jump-start an arms race in space.
- In actively promoting the development of new generations of nuclear weapons (the so-called ‘bunker-buster’ tactical nukes and the Reliable Replacement Warhead), StratCom is seeking to ensure America will wield offensive nuclear capability for the remainder of the 21st century.
- Under the White House’s “Unified Command Plan,” StratCom commands access to the hundreds of military bases around the globe and all four military service branches, while working hand-in-glove with the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
- Operating like some executive branch vigilante and scofflaw, StratCom is now poised to routinely violate international law with preemptive attacks and to usurp Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war under the “War Powers Act.”
StratCom, in the words of Commander Chilton, is today “the most responsive combatant command in the U.S. arsenal”—and the next war the White House gets us into (be it against Iran or geo-political rival like China) will be planned, launched and coordinated from StratCom. In fact, Chilton recently told Congress, he believes the name actually ought to be changed to “Global Command,” to better reflect the “global” nature of its new role and mission.
This is the “New StratCom” that Nebraskans for Peace has watched materialize before its eyes. This is the enhanced threat, which the world community has no notion of whatsoever, because the changes at StratCom have occurred with the speed and power of a “tsunami.” This is the global menace the Global Network sought to expose to the international public at its conference in Omaha this past month.
And while the media coverage of the conference was minimal, the word is neverthess starting to get out nationally and internationally. Most of the people in attendance were activists, organizers and academics from all across the country and around the world. Picking up on the comment that StratCom is now a global problem, Jackie Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation stressed that addressing it will in turn require a global response. Americans, she said, can no more be expected to halt this threat than we can expect Nebraskans to do it: “It’s going to take the efforts of the world community.”
That sort of international commitment was already strongly in evidence. While the speaker from Poland was prohibited from entering the U.S. by Homeland Security, Jan Tamas of the “No To Bases Initiative” in the Czech Republic tied the proposed Star Wars radar in his country directly to StratCom. From the title of his talk alone, “StratCom is the Main Threat to Peace in the Korean Peninsula,” Ko Young-Dae, the representative from Solidarity for Peace and Reunification in Korea (SPARK), made it clear that he understood the connection to the Omaha command center. British activist Lindis Percy of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, who regularly contends with StratCom’s presence in her homeland, sized it up perfectly with the expression, “horrid StratCom.” Similar sentiments were expressed by the German, Swedish, Indian, Japanese, Filipino, Mauritian, Italian, Romanian and Canadian participants. In country after country, an understanding the StratCom menace is starting to take hold.
The final keynote of the conference was delivered by Bishop Emeritus Thomas Gumbleton, who back in the mid-‘80s had committed civil disobedience at Offutt A.F.B. when it was still the “Strategic Air Command.” Back then, all we had to fear—and it was plenty—was nuclear holocaust. Today, the Bishop said, because of our greed for wealth and power, we now have to fear StratCom’s nuclear prowess and much more.
That greed for ever-more wealth and power had been the message of the conference’s first speaker, national Indian activist and Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska member, Frank LaMere. The city of Omaha, LaMere noted, was named after the Indian Tribe of the same name that had inhabited this area for centuries and still has a reservation about an hour north of the city. The Omaha, he said, had a covenant with Mother Earth, that in return for the corn and buffalo she so generously provided them to live, they would in turn honor her by living in a good way. Never, LaMere said, when the Omaha deeded their lands to the U.S. government—without once going to war—had they ever imagined that an instrument of destruction like StratCom, capable of destroying the Earth multiple times over, would rest on their ancestral homeland, on that sacred ground.
The Omaha, he said, cannot stop what is happening today by themselves. Nor for that matter can the people of Nebraska, nor even the people of the United States. To stop what is happening at StratCom—indeed to save ourselves from our own greed and self-destruction—Americans will need, LaMere said, the help of all their relations around the world. So he was cheered, he said, to see all these relations from around the world here in Omaha, willing to help. That was good, he said. But we need to act fast. Time is getting short.
A five-minute introductory video about StratCom created by Global Network chairperson Dave Webb, who is also the Vice-Chair of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), can be viewed by clicking on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkOeUHHV1eU