On Aug. 18, less than three weeks after scrapping the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF), the U.S. launched a ballistic cruise missile from San Nicholas Island, Calif. The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) of flight. The test would have been banned under the INF treaty.
San Nicholas Island is the former home to the Nicoleño tribe of Native Americans, massacred by Russian fur traders in 1811 before the remaining population was forcibly relocated to the nearby Spanish Mission.
The Channel Islands and Ventura County have long been at the center of U.S. militarism. Naval Base Ventura County is a sprawling military installation consisting of three separate facilities. Pt. Hueneme is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco and has long been used as a staging ground for ships in the Pacific. During and after WWII, Pt. Mugu was where the majority of new missiles and weapon systems were tested.
San Nicolas Island is currently the main location for rocket and weapons systems testing and was on the short list for locations to test the first nuclear bombs. The remaining islands have passed through the U.S. military’s control and still have smaller installations located on them. It is dark yet fitting that a group of islands whose human population was brutally murdered for profit is now being used to test weapons systems that one day may be used in the murder of all life on Earth.
Signed in 1987 with the Soviet Union, and later expanded to include former Soviet states, the INF banned launching land-based nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,000 kilometers. The treaty resulted in the dismantling of over 2,600 missiles and was one of the first treaties to be predicated on reducing the stock of arms instead of imposing a ceiling on their production. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and NATO have long maintained that Russia was in violation of the INF — which the Russian government denies — the excuse the U.S. has used to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty.
The dissolution of the INF was preceded by two other events that may shed light on the intentions of the Trump administration. In February 2018, the Pentagon released a new Nuclear Posture Review, outlining U.S. nuclear strategy. In this document, the Trump administration has proposed expanding the use of nuclear weapons as a response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” to its interests or those of its allies.
Preparing for ‘great power conflict’
While the report does not specify exactly what constitutes a “significant” attack, it includes as threats to U.S. interests cyber, chemical and biological attacks. In addition, the NPR stated that the U.S. is preparing for what it describes as great power competition or conflict, which can only be taken as a call to arms against Russia and China.
In January, it was announced that low-yield “tactical” nuclear weapons were already rolling off assembly lines. Arms control experts believe that the world is on the verge of a renewed nuclear arms race. As the only country to have used nuclear weapons on a civilian population, U.S. withdrawal from the INF marks a significant escalation in tensions in the world, and further positions the U.S. as an unreliable negotiating partner.
All of this points to the U.S. foreign policy goal of maintaining worldwide hegemony no matter the cost to human lives or the environment. As the U.S. empire falls into decline, it will stop at nothing to rescue its dominant role in the world, which is why we must bury the U.S. empire once and for all.