The Guardian August 2, 2000


Star Wars and the ABM treaty

by Tim Wheeler

Arms control advocates regard the 1972 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty 
as the most important arms control agreement of the years of US-Soviet 
detente. The treaty bound both nations to the doctrine that a nuclear 
holocaust would be so mutually destructive there would be no winners.

It prohibited both sides from constructing anti-missile defences other than 
a single site for each side to protect Moscow and Washington. The treaty 
was so effective that neither side bothered to construct the permitted 
site.

But George W Bush and his chief military adviser, Richard Perle, openly 
scorn the ABM treaty and promise to abrogate it if Bush is elected in 
November. Why? Because at the heart of their foreign and military policy is 
a crash program to immediately deploy not one but two anti-missile systems.

Perle laid out his dangerous, extremists views in a July 13 op-ed piece in 
The New York Times.

Perle's entire political career has been intertwined with the drive for an 
anti-missile "defence". He joined the staff of Cold War Senator Henry M 
Jackson "the senator from Boeing" in 1969. His assignment was to promote 
the Safeguard System, an ABM system blocked by the ABM treaty.

In the 1980s, he served in the Pentagon and again his main assignment was 
promotion of President Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative [the original 
Star Wars], a scheme so costly and dangerous it never got beyond "research 
and development".

Even so, $120 billion has been squandered on "Star Wars" R&D. Now Perle and 
his ilk see George W Bush as their last, best hope for actually deploying 
Star Wars regardless of its cost and its destruction of arms control.

In his Op-Ed piece, Perle ridicules the Clinton plan, and offers his, or 
rather Bush's, alternative: "A more effective system, although inconsistent 
with the treaty, would be to intercept hostile missiles ... just after 
lift-off during what is known as the `boost phase'," Perle writes.

"One approach to a national missile defence would be to deploy interceptors 
on Navy ships, possibly on Aegis cruisers ... Such a sea-based 
system might work together with lasers and other devices in space ..."

Here, Perle reveals that Bush embraces the full Star Wars plan dreamed up 
by Dr Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, who sold it to President Reagan 
in a private tete-a-tete at the White House in the early 1980s.

At the heart of Teller's plan were nuclear-powered laser battle stations in 
space capable of zapping missiles or land targets. The US Space Command, 
"Masters of Space", based in Colorado Springs, continues to promote this 
scheme.

The Pentagon sees Star Wars as central to their plan for permanent US 
global domination. They are so obsessed that they are attempting to silence 
scientists and engineers who are blowing the whistle on the program.

Nira Schwartz, who served as TRW Corporation's senior engineer in the 
development of BMD [ballistic missile defence], exposed TRW's falsification 
of tests to make it appear that the anti-missile system is workable.

Now the Pentagon is investigating her on charges that she leaked classified 
material to the media, with the clear insinuation that she is a "spy".

"Our missile defence must be designed to protect all 50 states and our 
friends and allies and deployed forces overseas", says Bush.

Critics warn that the easiest way to counter an ABM shield is to build 
enough missiles to overwhelm it. Thus, ABM could trigger a costly arms race 
with Russia, China and other nations deploying thousands of additional 
nuclear armed missiles to penetrate US anti-missile defences in the event 
of a US attack.

Some supporters of arms control say the Clinton administration's limited, 
ground-based, BMD is just as bad as Bush's plan. The Clinton-Gore plan, 
they say, is an "entering wedge" for a full-fledged Star Wars program.

But Perle's column shows that the military-industrial complex sees it as 
just the opposite: They believe the wily Clinton is killing Star Wars one 
inch at a time. They want Bush.

If he and a majority Republican House and Senate are elected, they will 
abrogate the ABM treaty and deploy Star Wars. It will gobble up every 
dollar of the vaunted budget surplus needed to bolster Social Security, 
Medicare, public education and other vital programs.

It will make the world more dangerous. The only winners will be Raytheon, 
United Technologies and Boeing.

* * *
People's Weekly World

Back to index page