Ira Chernus  


So Many Scandals. So Little Time.


So many scandals. So little time. To help you sort it out, here’s a handy chart of the different types of scandals a thoughtful citizen has to deal with these days.

Scandal Type A: The out-in-the-open, everyone-talks-about-it scandal. These are the "official" scandals, the ones that we all take seriously because the mainstream media tell us to.

Current example: One or more White House officials broke the law by "outing" CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson. Welcome back to the "what did the president know and when did he know it?" show. If the president knows who named Plame, he is an accomplice to crime. If he doesn’t know, he is no longer in control of his own administration. What else don’t he know? In either event, the stain of this scandal is worse than anything Monica Lewinsky ever got on her dress.

But should it be the only scandal making headlines? Consider:

Scandal Type B: The out-in-the-open, but-no-one-talks-about-it scandal. These are the scandals that are being fully reported in the mainstream press, but not treated as scandals.

Current example: Congress is bitterly debating the president's request for $20+ billion for reconstructing Iraq. Why should we spend all that money on hospitals, power plants, schools, and roads over there, when we have such crying needs at home, the Democrats cry. While the debate they stir up duly makes headlines, no one debates the $60+ billion that Bush wants for the military, not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan and wherever else the U.S. Empire wants to strike back.

The Democrats agreed at the outset that Bush would get the military money, no questions asked. Billions for bombs and bullets, but not for bandages or books. It is a time to kill, but not to heal. That seems to be the slogan of the Democrats and the dissident Republicans who side with them. This may be the ultimate moral scandal of the Iraq war. It’s all there to see. Yet no one talks about it.

Then there is:

Scandal Type C: The no-one-talks-about-it-because-so-few-know-about-it scandal. These are the scandals that get no coverage in the mainstream media, the ones you have to dig very deep to discover.

Just one current example, from thousands that would be worth knowing about: I recently stumbled across an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette, boosting the town’s biggest growth industry, the militarization of space. The Gazette was happy to announce that "Col. Rick Patenaude of Air Force Space Command is soliciting ideas for what future nuclear delivery systems might look like."

Wondering why the Space Command is developing the next generation of nukes, I Googled on Rick Patenaude and found a few more pieces of the puzzles. Patenaude is Chief of the Deterrence Strike Division in the Requirements Directorate of the Space Command. His job is to figure out what we will need in the space age to deter and strike at our enemies.

Jane’s Defense Weekly recently reported that Patenaude is also looking for ideas for a new missile system to replace the aging Minuteman III missiles. Those are land-based missiles. So why is the Space Command involved? Three years ago, a high-level Commission On National Security Space Management And Organization recommended that missile development should be handed over to the Space Command and folded into the larger project of militarizing space. The head of that commission was Donald Rumsfeld, now Secretary of Defense. Not surprisingly, the commission’s recommendation has been put into practice.

It makes sense, according to a recent article in Space News: "The U.S. Air Force’s effort to replace its ground-based nuclear missile arsenal by 2020 likely will be closely linked with a push to develop low-cost satellite launchers that could be used on short notice. Close coordination between the programs is necessary to keep costs down, said Col. Rick Patenaude. ICBMs and so-called quick-reaction satellite launchers employ similar technology. Patenaude said in a telephone interview, ‘We have to think of multiple uses for new platforms.’"

One of those uses will be to launch nuclear weapons. What we used to do from land-based missiles only, we will soon do from satellites in space too. Patenaude summed it up in the title of a paper he will give later this month at a major conference on Military Space: "From ICBM to Global Deterrence/Global Strike."

Could that global strike be a first strike? The U.S. has never renounced its doctrine of being the first to use nukes. Now we know that it’s also U.S. doctrine to launch "preventive" strikes against nations that have not attacked us. No secrets here. Last summer Reuters quoted Gen. Michael Ryan, who was then still Air Force Chief of Staff: "Sometime in the future we are going to have to come to a policy decision on whether we're going to use space for both defensive and offensive capabilities.…If you are going to be up there trying to protect them defensively, where do you cross the line on offensive operations?'' In other words, the best defense is a good offense. That’s what "preventive" war is all about.

Ryan was equally honest about the bottom line: "`We have a huge equity in orbit. Wherever commerce has gone and our national interests have gone, so have gone our forces." Next stop: the final frontier. And next time, the Empire strikes first.

All of this leads me to the last type of scandal we should know about:

Scandal Type D: Using one scandal to distract public attention from all the others. What the White House did to Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame was unforgivable. But in the long run, is it really a worse offense than building up our military, and giving it nuclear first-strike capability in space, while ignoring the crying human needs in Iraq, in the U.S., and around the world? Will we be so voyeurstically transfixed by the "official" scandal of the season that we ignore the greater scandals, the ones that may haunt us for decades to come? That would be the greatest scandal of all.