Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space
- Directed by Denis Delestrac
- Classification: G
Animated simulations of military satellites - even the U.S. government films for its Strategic Defense Initiative (a.k.a. Star Wars missile defence) - can seem too cartoonish, too far from reality to get worked up about.
But one simulation is truly terrifying in this internationally co-produced documentary by French director Denis Delestrac on the American-led weaponization of space. The clip doesn't show a satellite being shot down or one missile intercepting another in orbit. It simply shows an array of satellites loaded with weapons hanging, in a grid-like pattern, above the Earth, waiting.
This is a weapons plan apparently in development, known as Rods from God. It's just one among the Pentagon's initiatives to create a "prompt global strike" using weapons in space, according to a Washington Post journalist and a former State Department diplomat in the film. Rods from God would shoot conventional missiles, i.e. giant "rods" without nuclear warheads, from space down into enemy bunkers.
Because they aren't nuclear, they wouldn't go against the international Outer Space Treaty of 1967 banning weapons of mass destruction in space. But the damage the rods would cause, due to the kinetic energy of a missile fired from space, would conceivably cause nuclear-like destruction.
It's one of the many unsettling details in this thorough piece of investigative filmmaking, for which the director got surprising access into the U.S. Air Force. It particularly excels at showing the nuances of the militaristic mindset, especially the language it employs.
As General Kevin Chilton (a former fighter pilot and astronaut) of the U.S. Air Force Space Command says in a rah-rah speech to a partisan crowd, "How cool is it is to know that you operate the most powerful radars in the planet and survey the heavens, that you operate telescopes that are critical to national defence? How cool is it to tell people that you are responsible for maintaining nuclear missiles on alert for the defence of this country? This is a cool business that we are in."
Both China and the United States have already demonstrated the capabilities of shooting down satellites, which could cripple global and military communication. The space junk this kind of destruction creates is, even now, turning the heavens into a minefield of projectiles hurtling at 10 times the velocity of rifle bullets. Most countries are trying to stop the American military domination of space (to use the U.S. military's own rhetoric). But those countries increasingly see no alternative but to arm themselves to deter the United States.
As Noam Chomsky says in the film, "If we move toward the weaponization of space, we can bid farewell to the planet. The chances of survival are very slight."
"Cool" in this context is reprehensible.