james oberg logo



space shuttle



Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, December 17, 2006 (not published)

Re: "Talk of Satellite Defense Raises Fears of Space War"

By Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer // Sunday, December 17, 2006; Page A12"


Mr. Kaufman’s lament about how some people are growing alarmed over supposed US moves to weaponize outer space omits an accurate account of where this alarm is really springing from. It is not from the actual US space policy, as described in released ‘white papers’ and public speeches by administration officials such as Robert Joseph. Instead, it is from the misrepresentation and falsification of that policy by crisis-mongering public policy lobby groups and their tools in the news media.

This accusation can be documented and it strikes close to home at the Washington Post. Referring to a Russian space agency official, Vitaliy Davydov, Kaufman claimed that “he called the Bush space policy ‘the first step towards a serious escalation of the military confrontation space’.” This statement is false – what Davydov denounced was NOT ‘the Bush space policy’ at all, but instead, was the way that Kaufman himself had misrepresented it on the front page of the WaPo last Oct. 18 in a story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/17/AR2006101701484_pf.html) where Kaufman reported that the US “asserts a right to deny access to space to anyone ‘hostile to U.S. interests.’”

Davydov’s comments were reported in a Novosti news agency story last November 29, in which Davydov asserted that "now the Americans say that they want not only to move into outer space but want to dictate to others who can move there", and it was this ‘dictate’ that Davydov expressly identified as a step towards military confrontation. However, this ‘dictate’ came not from the actual space policy document but from the Washington Post.

The policy (http://www.ostp.gov/html/US%20National%20Space%20Policy.pdf) doesn't talk about denying anyone access to space. Rather, it states that the United States will "preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space. ... and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. interests."

Compare this to the Clinton-Gore policy document 10 years earlier: "...the United States will develop, operate, and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries." The key verb, "deny," is common to both policies, and neither policy is talking about denying access. That which is to be 'denied' is any hostile action by adversaries – hardly an unreasonable policy to advertise.

Nevertheless, within days the Washington Post’s inflammatory misinterpretation of it spread around the entire planet and was quoted angrily in Europe, Russia, China, Canada, and elsewhere – all expressing strongly negative views of the “Bush Administration plans”, without anyone ever actually reading the original plans.

Further, according to Novosti, “Davydov spoke out against the American plans to station weapons in space.” It was this action, not mentioned in Kaufman’s current article, that was described with the phrase “global and will hang over the entire world." These alleged plans spring not from official records but from the writings of alarmist lobby groups such as the “nonpartisan Center for Defense Information” that Kaufman extensively quoted from. But the imminent reality of the programs remains highly debatable, as even Kaufman admits when he wrote that funding for them might (or might not) be sought next year – hardly the sort of project that is a looming threat.

The genuine and lamentable threat of igniting a “space weapons race”, from this and dozens of similar examples, is not from an explicit policy of firmness and deterrence (as exemplified by the new policy) but from careless misinformation and deliberate disinformation from groups that profit from international tensions, and from careless reporting by news media figures whose professional standards need reviving.


oberg corner piece

home | profile | articles | books | lectures | jim speaks | humor
links | email

Copyright 2010 James Oberg. All Rights Reserved
Site Designed and Maintained by YoeYo.com

oberg corner piece