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Smart Bombs Over Iraq
J anuary 29, 2003 was the date that the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) was expected to launch. Those working on the last “great observatory” of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were getting ready to put decades of work to the test. If all went well, the spacecraft would be launched into Solar orbit to measure the infrared light from our own Milky Way and other galaxies.
In November 2002 we were told that the launch would be delayed until April. The reason was that a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite was taking the January 29 slot and that a host of other military spacecraft needed to use that late January/early February launch window. Most of us didn’t question why the military would take precedence over science; the assumption was that someone somewhere was making the right decision. Our acceptance of the delay demonstrated the U.S. space program’s “pecking order” in practice. This subordination allowed the Pentagon to field crucial tools in time for its conquest of Iraq.
GPS as Force Multiplier
T he GPS vehicle was “the first in a flurry of military satellites” to go up prior to the expected U.S. invasion (which as of this writing has not yet happened). According to Lt. Colonel Mike Rein, however, it has “nothing to do with the war.” The conventional picture is that GPS technology is so widely available and so useful that the Air Force is helping us by getting these satellites into orbit. After all, the Department of Defense (DoD) is just one of many users. According to Space News , “Car navigation is the most frequently used application of the system, while marine and military uses are the least used applications.” After the recent Space Shuttle accident, the use of GPS to map precisely the debris path has been touted as a success of the U.S. space program. Lee Meeks, a sales manager for Leica Geosystems, told the New York Times , “It’s really cool that the military put all those satellites up there so we can tie into this and get these positions.” Major Mike Mason, chief of GPS operations at U.S. Air Force Space Command, emphasized that “GPS systems can be used by any person out there, whether it be my grandmother going in the car to the grocery store or Saddam Hussein.”
But it is difficult to believe that automobile navigation was the main reason GPS displaced an astronomy satellite on the Cape Canaveral launch pad. The aerospace trade journal, Aviation Week and Space Technology , was more honest about why we needed to get the new satellites into orbit. Craig Couvault wrote, “The U.S. Air Force is beginning to replenish the GPS, Milstar, and Defense Satellite Communications System constellations with critical spacecraft...to provide unprecedented warfighting capabilities to the U.S. forces arrayed against Iraq.” Rather than to help people drive to the grocery store, the goals of the current “U.S. Military space surge,” according to Couvault, are to “substantially bolster overall U.S. military satellite bandwidth capability going into the critical February/March time frame, when an attack on Iraq could begin.”
GPS technology is extremely useful in modern warfare, especially for bomb and missile guidance. For bombing Afghanistan, “The Pentagon’s weapon of choice has been the Joint Direct Attack Munition, a device attached to the tail of a 2,000-pound bomb that enables it to be guided by a satellite-assisted Global Positioning System.” GPS-guided weapons will also be the “weapon of choice” over Iraq. Rajat Baijal and Manoj Arora of the Indian Institute of Technology write, “With war clouds looming large over the west Asian region, the world is likely to witness...state of the art weaponry being used by the U.S. led forces. Most of these, either directly or indirectly shall be using GPS to accurately target and achieve the desired results.”
The New York Times confirms this assessment. “The Pentagon’s war plan for Iraq calls for unleashing 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of the opening air campaign.... The initial bombardment would use 10 times the number of precision-guided weapons fired in the first two days of the Persian Gulf war of 1991.” The purpose of this onslaught would be “to stagger and isolate the Iraqi military and quickly pave the way for a ground attack to topple a government in shock.” Somehow this is to be accomplished so as to “limit damage to Iraqi infrastructure and to minimize civilian casualties.”
“Precision-guided weapons” sound humane, and this is why the phrase is used in public descriptions of war plans. If nearly all weapons hit their intended targets, we don’t have to worry about the “wrong” people getting hurt. But the real reason so-called precision-guided weapons are the “weapons of choice” is because they allow the military to kill more people, not less. The term, “force multiplier” is often used to describe how GPS technology really benefits the U.S. military. Maj. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman Jr. of the Air Force Space Command expressed it this way: “Our pilots are no longer tied to their target...they can ‘fire and forget’ thanks to the accuracy provided by GPS targeting and guidance systems.… [P]recision- guided munitions allow one pilot on a single pass to take out several targets. This makes space technology a real force multiplier—it allows us to send fewer people to do the same job.” It is not clear that a strategy of “fire and forget” is compatible with minimizing civilian casualties.
The U.S. record in Afghanistan makes clear the horrific consequences of GPS-enhanced “force multiplication.” According to a study by the Los Angeles Times , “The American air campaign in Afghanistan, based on the high-tech, out-of-harm’s-way strategy, has produced a pattern of mistakes that have killed hundreds of Afghan civilians...[T]he Pentagon’s use of overwhelming force meant that even when truly military targets were located, civilians were sometimes killed.” The study concluded, “as many as 400” civilians were killed by U.S. air strikes in 11 locations studied. Since the U.S. bombed over 40 locations, the overall civilian toll is certainly much higher.
A front page article in the New York Times declared, “Afghanistan will be remembered as the smart- bomb war.” The article touted the ability to target “terrorist safe houses and command centers hidden among schools, hospitals and homes in crowded urban areas,” but did not explain how Pentagon planners validate the intelligence behind urban targeting. It only boasted of “the Pentagon’s confidence about striking near civilians.” A U.S. invasion of Iraq will likely involve more bombing of crowded urban areas. But even when targets are far from cities, the results can be devastating. The village of Charykary, where 30 people were killed by “errant bombs,” illustrates the effect of “force multiplication.” A report hidden in the back pages of a Saturday edition of the New York Times told how the village was destroyed by U.S. forces attacking Taliban soldiers on a ridge a half mile away. “The Americans bombed those positions [on the ridge] for days. Many bombs missed their mark. They landed on farmers and their families, flattening homes and killing people in bunches. Some died in flashes of heat and fire, others were crushed under rubble, and a few were killed by shrapnel.” One villager named Muhibullah told the reporter, “The United States killed my daughter and injured my son. Six of my cows were destroyed and all of my wheat and rice was burned. I am very angry. I miss my daughter.” Another villager, Muhammad Usef lamented, “We thought this was a very safe place because we heard on the radio that the United States drops its bombs on its targets. If we knew how they missed, we would have run away from here.”
Jim Ingalls is a staff scientist at the Space Infrared Telescope Facility Science Center, California Institute of Technology.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.