It is not often that the empire is put in the position of one its victims, in fear of the military and technical prowess of another country, forced to talk of peace and cooperation, just as Iraq and others, hoping to put off an American attack, were forced to do over the years -- just as Iran now. No, China is not about to attack the United States, but the Chinese shootdown of a satellite (an old weather satellite of theirs) in space on January 11, has made a US attack on China much more dangerous and much less likely; it's made the empire's leaders realize that they don't have total power to make any and all other nations do their bidding.
Here's how the gentlemen of the Pentagon have sounded in the recent past on the subject of space.
"We will engage terrestrial targets someday -- ships, airplanes, land targets -- from space. ... We're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space." -- General Joseph Ashy, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Space Command, 1996 
"With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we're going to keep it." -- Keith R. Hall, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, 1997 
"US Space Command -- dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict. ... During the early portion of the 21st century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare. ... The emerging synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance. ... Development of ballistic missile defenses using space systems and planning for precision strikes from space offers a counter to the worldwide proliferation of WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. ... Space is a region with increasing commercial, civil, international, and military interests and investments. The threat to these vital systems is also increasing. ... Control of Space is the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required." -- "United States Space Command: Vision for 2020", 1997 
"Space represents a fundamentally new
and better way to apply military force"
And now along comes China, with the ability to make all this proud talk look somewhat foolish. At a State Department press briefing a week after the shootdown, the department's deputy spokesman Tom Casey stated, presumably without chuckling: "We certainly are concerned by any effort, by any nation that would be geared towards developing weapons or other military activities in space. ... We don't want to see a situation where there is any militarization of space." He spoke of the "peaceful use of space", and was concerned about the threat to "modern life as we know it", because "countries throughout the world are dependant on space based technologies, weather satellites, communications satellites and other devices."
A reporter asked: "Has the United States conducted such a test destroying a satellite in space?"
Yes, said Casey, in 1985. But that was different because "there was a Cold War that was being engaged in between the United States and the Soviet Union" and there were much fewer satellites moving about space. 
Cong. Terry Everett, senior Republican on the House armed services subcommittee on strategic forces, said China's test "raises serious concerns about the vulnerability of our space-based assets. ... We depend on satellites for a host of military and commercial uses, from navigation to ATM transactions." 
Even prior to the Chinese test, the Washington Post pointed out: "For a U.S. military increasingly dependent on sophisticated satellites for communicating, gathering intelligence and guiding missiles, the possibility that those space-based systems could come under attack has become a growing worry. ... The administration insists that there is no arms race in space, although the United States is the only nation that opposed a recent United Nations call for talks on keeping weapons out of space. ... Although the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United States, allows only peaceful uses of space, some believe that the United States is moving toward some level of weaponization, especially related to a missile defense system." 
Tom Casey, the State Department spokesperson, tried his best to give the impression that the United States has no idea why China would do such a thing: "We would like to see and understand and know more about what they're really trying to accomplish here" ... "exactly what their intentions are" ... "questions that arise about what Chinese intentions are" ... "not only the nature of what they've done, but the purpose and intent." 
But the United States can well imagine what China's intention was. The Chinese were responding to the efforts of the Bush administration, and the Clinton administration before them, to establish and maintain US military supremacy in space and to use that supremacy as a threatening, or actual, weapon. Beijing wished to put Washington on notice that in any future conflict with China the United States will not be dealing with Iraq or Afghanistan, or Yugoslavia, Panama or Grenada.
"But what did anyone expect?" asks Lawrence Martin, columnist for The Globe and Mail of Canada. "For several years, China, Canada, and virtually every country in the world have been urging the United States to enter into an arms-control treaty for outer space. Leave the heavens in peace, for god's sake. Come together and work something out. It's called collective security. ... Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney showed no interest in a space treaty. Their national space policy is essentially hegemony in the heavens. They oppose the development of new legal regimes or other measures that restrict their designs. A UN resolution to prevent an arms race in space was supported by 151 countries with zero opposed. The U.S. abstained. It wants strategic control." 
The ideology of the ruling class in any society is one that tries to depict the existing social order as "natural."
In 1972, I traveled by land from San Francisco to Chile, to observe and report on Salvador Allende's "socialist experiment." One of the lasting impressions of my journey through Latin America is of the strict class order of the societies I visited. There are probably very few places in the world where the dividing lines between the upper and middle classes on the one hand and the lower class on the other are more distinct and emotionally clung to, including Great Britain. In the Chilean capital of Santiago I went to look at a room in a house advertised by a woman. Because I was American she assumed that I was anti-Allende, the same assumption she'd have made if I had been European, for she wanted to believe that only "Indians," only poor dumb indigenas and their ilk, supported the government. She was pleased by the prospect of an American living in her home and was concerned that he might be getting the wrong impression about her country. "All this chaos," she assured me, "it's not normal, it's not Chile". When I relieved her of her misconception about me, she was visibly confused and hurt, and I was a little uncomfortable as well, like I had betrayed her trust. I made my departure quickly.
There's the classic Latin American story of the servant of a family of the oligarchy. He bought steak for his patrón's dog, but his own family ate scraps. He took the dog to the vet, but couldn't take his own children to a doctor. And complained not. In Chile, under Allende, there was a terribly nagging fear amongst the privileged classes that servants no longer knew their place. (In Sweden, for some years now, they have been able to examine children of a certain age -- their height, weight, and various health measurements -- and are then not able to tell which social class the child is from; they have ended class warfare against children.)
In the 1980s, in Central America, servants rose up in much of the region against their betters, the latter of course being unconditionally supported with Yankee money, Yankee arms, even Yankee lives. At the end of that decade the New York Times offered some snapshots of El Salvador:
Over canapés served by hovering waiters at a party, a guest said she was convinced that God had created two distinct classes of people: the rich and people to serve them. She described herself as charitable for allowing the poor to work as her servants. "It's the best you can do," she said. The woman's outspokenness was unusual, but her attitude is shared by a large segment of the Salvadoran upper class.
The separation between classes is so rigid that even small expressions of kindness across the divide are viewed with suspicion. When an American, visiting an ice cream store, remarked that he was shopping for a birthday party for his maid's child, other store patrons immediately stopped talking and began staring at the American. Finally, an astonished woman in the check-out line spoke out. "You must be kidding," she said. 
The same polarization is taking place now in Venezuela as Hugo Chávez attempts to build a more egalitarian society. The Associated Press (January 29, 2007) recently presented some snapshots from Caracas: A man of European parents says that at his son's private Jewish school, some parents are talking about how and when to leave the country. The man wants a passport for his 10-year-old son in case they need to leave for good. "I think we're headed toward totalitarianism." A middle-class retiree grimaces at what she sees coming: "Within one year, complete communism. ... What he's forming is a dictatorship." The fact that Chávez is himself part indigena and part black, and looks it, can well add to their animosity towards the man.
I wonder what such people think of George "I am the decider" Bush and his repeated use of "signing statements", which effectively means a law is what he says it is, no more, no less; his Patriot Act, and his various assaults on the principle of habeas corpus, to name but a few of the scary practices of his authoritarian rule.
Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator of the Washington-based Nicaragua Network, was part of a group which visited Venezuela last fall. Following is part of his report:
Venezuela is politically polarized. We witnessed the extremes of this during a dinner with lawyer and author Eva Golinger. Some very drunk opposition supporters recognized Golinger as author of The Chávez Code and a strong Chavez partisan. Some of them surrounded our table and began screaming at Golinger and the delegation, calling us "assassins" "Cubans," and "Argentines." The verbal abuse went on for long minutes until waiters ejected the most out-of-control anti-Chávez woman. We were later told that she worked in the Attorney General's office, highlighting one of the many contradictions arising from the fact that Chávez' Bolivarian revolution came into power democratically through the ballot box rather than by force of arms. Armed revolutions generally sweep opponents out of government jobs and places of influence such as the media, but in Venezuela many in the opposition are still in the civil service and most of the media is virulently anti-Chávez. 
I admire Hugo Chávez and what he's trying to do in Venezuela, but I wish he wouldn't go out of his way to taunt the Bush administration, as he does so frequently. Doesn't he know that he's dealing with a bunch of homicidal maniacs? Literally. Someone please tell him to cool it or he will endanger his social revolution.
Liberalism's best and brightest
A report in the Washington Post, headlined "Soldier's Death Strengthens Senators' Antiwar Resolve", informs us that Senators Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) have been rather upset upon learning of the death in Iraq of an Army Captain whom they met on a visit to the country in December, and who made a strong impression upon them. Dodd has been "radicalized", the story says, and Kerry has been "energized" in his opposition to the war.
Why, it must be asked, does it take the death of someone they met by chance to fire up their anti-war sentiments? Many millions of Americans, and many millions more around the world, have protested the war vehemently and passionately without having met any of the war's victims. What do these protestors have inside of them that so many members of Congress seem to lack?
"This was the kind of person you don't forget," said Dodd. "You mention the number dead, 3,000, the 22,000 wounded, and you almost see the eyes glaze over. But you talk about an individual like this, who was doing his job, a hell of a job, but was also willing to talk about what was wrong, it's a way to really bring it to life, to connect." 
Dear reader, is it the same for you? Do your eyes glaze over when you read or hear about the dead and wounded of Iraq?
Neither senator has apparently been "energized" enough to call for the immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. That would be too "radical."
This gap -- emotionally and intellectually -- between members of Congress and normal human beings has been with us for ages of course. The anti-Vietnam War movement burst out of the starting gate back in August 1964, with hundreds of people demonstrating in New York. Many of these early dissenters took apart and critically examined the administration's statements about the war's origin, its current situation, and its rosy picture of the future. They found continuous omission, contradiction, and duplicity, became quickly and wholly cynical, and called for immediate and unconditional withdrawal. This was a state of intellect and principle it took members of Congress -- and then only a minority -- until the 1970s to reach. The same can be said of the mass media. And even then -- even today -- our political and media elite viewed Vietnam only as a "mistake"; i.e., it was "the wrong way" to fight communism, not that the United States should not be traveling all over the globe to spew violence against anything labeled "communism" in the first place. Essentially, the only thing these best and brightest have learned from Vietnam is that we should not have fought in Vietnam.
In the land where happiness is guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence
"Think raising the minimum wage is a good idea?"
That was the message of a full-page advertisement that appeared in major newspapers in January. It was accompanied by statements of approval from the usual eminent suspects:
"The reason I object to the minimum wage is I think it destroys jobs, and I think the evidence on that, in my judgment, is overwhelming." -- Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chairman
"The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws." -- Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist. 
Well, if raising the minimum wage can produce such negative consequences, then surely it is clear what we as an enlightened and humane people must do. We must lower the minimum wage. And thus enjoy less unemployment, less social unrest. Indeed, if we lower the minimum wage to zero, particularly for poor blacks ... think of it! ... No unemployment at all! Hardly any social unrest! In fact -- dare I say it? -- What if we did away with wages altogether?
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
Some little-known items from my old files
Here is US General Thomas Power speaking in December 1960 about things like nuclear war and a first strike by the United States: "The whole idea is to kill the bastards! At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!" The response from one of those present was: "Well, you'd better make sure that they're a man and a woman." 
Edward R. Murrow is of course a much-honored newsman and "legendary broadcaster." There's the annual Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy, with nominations made by the State Department, and there's the recent acclaimed film about Murrow, "Good Night, and Good Luck," amongst many other tributes. In 1960, CBS aired Harvest of Shame, a documentary made by Murrow, which was lauded for exposing the terrible abuses endured by migratory farm workers in the United States. The following year, Murrow left broadcasting to become the director of the United States Information Agency, whose raison d'étre was to make the United States look as good to the world as it does in American high school textbooks. Thus it was that when the BBC planned on showing Harvest of Shame in the UK, Murrow called them in an effort to suppress the broadcast, saying it was for US domestic use only. But the film was shown in the UK. 
One could wax cynical about Jimmy Carter as well; for example, while in the White House, he tried hard to sabotage the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua; even worse, Carter supported the Islamic opposition to the leftist Afghanistan government in 1979, which led to a decade of very bloody civil war, the Taliban, and anti-American terrorism in the United States and elsewhere. However, I think that overall Carter was closer to a decent human being than any post-World War Two president. In 1978, he invited 1960s anti-war activist and leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Tom Hayden, to the White House. (Think George W inviting Michael Moore.) As recounted by Hayden, in their private conversation he said to Carter: "You are the elected President of the United States, yet I'm concerned that you have less power than the chairmen of the boards of the large multinational corporations -- men we don't elect or even know."
"After looking pensively out the Oval Office window, President Carter nodded and said, 'I believe that's right. I've learned that these last 12 months'." 
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire, and West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir. Visit his website: www.killinghope.org. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
Other Articles by William Blum
 Aviation Week and Space
Technology (New York), August 5, 1996, p.51.