Mar. 16, 2001
In the annals of flat out crazy things, the Bush Administration’s crusade to build an anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) aimed at intercepting “rogue state” warheads ranks right up there with…well, that’s the problem. It’s hard to come up with something that:
1. Demolishes 30 years of nuclear arms control agreements;
2. Ignites an arms race between China, India and Pakistan;
3. Costs, at the minimum, $240 billion;
4. Doesn’t work.
This is not hyperbole.
1) The plan will violate Section V of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which clearly states, “Each party undertakes not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems which are sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile-land-based.” The ABM Treaty is the cornerstone of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). START I reduced the number of missile launchers contingent on the condition that no side would attempt to build a missile shield. Since START II (yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate) builds on START I, and is essential for START III (which would reduce the number of warheads from 13,983 on both sides to between 2500 and 1500 each), we can kiss all three treaties goodbye.
2) An ABM system would make China’s 18 to 20 single warhead ICBMs obsolete, which Chinese arms negotiator, Sha Zukang says is unacceptable. “We won’t sit on our hands,” Sha warned recently. If China builds more missiles, India will follow suit. Remember, the two fought a sharp border war in 1962, and China supplies India’s rival, Pakistan, with military hardware and missile technology. If India increases its missile force, so will Pakistan. The two countries fought a major war in 1972 and came very close to another one over Kashmir last summer.
4) The damm thing can’t hit the side of a barn.
So why is this happening, and why did I skip No# 3? Well, if the press bothered to read its own history, it might rediscover what used to be one of our guiding principles for explaining things: follow the buck.
Now granted there are some world class crazies pushing this, and they could care less about profit margins and stock options. For a really scary experience, pull Robert Scheer’s “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush & Nuclear War” out of the library some time. Lots of the people in that book are back in power and would dearly love to militarize space and rule the world. Check out the U.S. Space Command’s Vision 2020 website (spacecom.af.mil/usspace), the goal of which is, “dominating the space dimensions of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.”
But crazy people have always been there. Why the sudden stampede to militarize the Final Frontier? If you think of space as both a payoff and a huge trough filled with taxpayer money, then you get it.
This is less about foreign policy than it is about Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW, the “big Four” heading up the pack to build the ABM system. Those four companies have handed out more than $8 million in campaign contributions (mostly to Republicans) since 1996 and shell out between $18 to $20 million each year lobbying Congress. Their fingerprints are all over the ABM campaign.
Take Sec. of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, a major backer of the ABM. Back in 1998, the Center for Security Policy (CSP) gave him its “Keeper of the Flame” award for heading up the commission that recommended building an ABM system. Among CSP’s major backers are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and TRW. Lynne Cheney just exited TRW’s board. Bruce Jackson of Lockheed Martin sits on CPS’s board of directors, and brags that he played a major role in writing the defense platform for the Bush campaign.
CSP, underwritten by billionaire right-wingers Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors, has a board heavy with aerospace executives, and members of High Frontier, the people who brought us Star Wars during the Reagan Administration. Rumsfeld was also a major force behind Empower America, the outfit that ran ads touting an ABM system during the 1998 elections
Jackson is also a member of the Vulcans, an eight-member group that includes National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Bush foreign policy advisor Richard Perle. The Vulcans played a key role in getting Stephen Hadley appointed Deputy Director of National Security. Hadley is out of the lawfirm of Shea & Gardner, which represents Lockheed Martin, and is a certified crazy in his own right. Hadley, a big fan of using nuclear weapons in conventional warfare, has proposed a new generation of low-yield warheads aimed at taking out command bunkers, hidden arms dumps, and germ warfare factories.
The buck doesn’t just stop with the Big Four, but percolates down into an enormous, corrupting network of companies and universities. Our own state is number #1 in ABM spending, and a roll call of the outfits involved reads like California’s Fortune 500: Westinghouse, SRI International, United Technologies, NASA Ames, GTE, Varian Associates and Physics International, not to mention UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Stanford University. Add up all those lobbying dollars to see why this scheme is so hard to stop.
While the price tag is presently $240 billion, it is not likely to remain that. According to the General Accounting Office, the $12 billion satellite part of the ABM system is behind schedule and already over budget. The 24 satellites, which will be used to distinguish between real and dummy warheads, are scheduled for launching by 2006. But the software to run them won’t be done until 2009? Now there’s a faith-based program for you.
The Bush Administration may consider this ABM nonsense a payback for corporate donations, as well as some raw meat for their berserker wing. But other countries are seeing it less as a payoff, and more as a real threat.
Neither China nor Russia buy the “rogue state” rationale for the ABM system. Instead, they see it aimed at them.
Putin’s security advisor, Sergi Ivanov says the ABM will annihilate “the whole structure of strategic stability and create the prerequisites for a new arms race. Konstantin V. Cherevkov of the Russian Space Academy argues the system is “deceptive” and really aimed at blocking Russia’s “retaliatory capacity.”
Nor is this all hot air.
The Chinese are already working up designs on how to put multiple warheads on their missiles, and the Russians are now considering the same for their single warhead Topol ICBM. And on Feb. 16, the Russians sent a more direct message: they coordinated the simultaneous launching of land-based, sea-based, and airborne nuclear weapons.
That “buck” is liable to buy some awfully expensive and dangerous fireworks.