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Saving Us from the Bad Guys, Again

Missile Defense Redux

by RON JACOBS

Huh? According to Condi Rice, the US attempt to put missile shields in Poland and the Czech Republic is to counter some future Iranian missile threat? What would that be? Does Tehran want to conquer Poland? For its strategic position, perhaps? Or maybe to set up an outpost of the Revolutionary Guard? This tale of Ms. Rice’s proves that she not only thinks the US public is gullible, she thinks they are stupid. In addition, she doesn’t have much of an opinion of the Russians either, who are pretty upset about the US attempt to extend its missile shield to Russian borders. To those Russians, Rice dismissed their concern, stating "Anyone who knows anything about this will tell you there is no way that 10 interceptors in Poland and radar sites in the Czech Republic are a threat to Russia, that they are somehow going to diminish Russia’s deterrent of thousands of warheads."

If that is the case, than it must certainly be true for anyone who knows anything about this will tell you there is no way that 10 interceptors in Poland and radar sites in the Czech Republic need to be constructed since the US has the ability to take care of any imaginary threat from Iran with its existing arsenal and defense system. Now, I’m sure some missile shield proponent would tell me that placing missiles to protect the US on lands thousands of miles await from both the US and Iran is necessary, but they would be hard put to make a convincing case. It sounds to me kind of like putting your alarm system and pit bull in that guy’s house two streets over to prevent anybody from burglarizing your house. Or maybe it’s like a drug dealer keeping his stash at a friend’s so that they’ll get robbed instead of him. Either way, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

If I were Russian I would be concerned. After all, those shields would be right on my borders. If I were Czech or Polish, I would be even more concerned, since those shields would be in my backyard. Talk about inviting trouble. Especially when the whole threat exists primarily in the paranoid brains of Washington and the hopeful bank accounts of the war industry.

Anyone with a memory capable of stretching back to the 1980s must of course remember the placement of cruise missiles around Europe during the Reagan years. These placements took place amidst massive public protest throughout the continent and in the United States. Encampments were erected around the US bases involved in the project; blockades of sites occurred and millions of people attended protests in the countries that the missiles were sited for. Despite this, the European governments assented to the missile placements and they were installed. In the current situation, there has been some opposition expressed by citizens groups, and the Polish deputy Prime Minister suggested that the country hold a referendum on the question. This suggestion was immediately dismissed by his superior, who probably remembers the aforementioned cruise missile opposition as well and hopes to avoid a similar scenario in his country. The only official opposition in Poland has come from the pro-business Civic Platform Party which has brought up safety concerns. In the Czech Republic, the Social Democrats have also expressed opposition, but only because the shields are not scheduled to be incorporated into the NATO missile shield. The European Greens, who were major players in the organizing against the cruise missiles and rose to prominence based on their role, issued a statement that read in part: "Fundamentally, the missile defense scheme promoted by the US weakens the security of the people ­ it is neither a fail-safe technology nor a deterrent to aggression. History has shown us that building walls ­ on land, at sea or in space ­ is not the way to achieve sustainable peace. Furthermore a reversion to the ‘old system’ of ignoring public opinion and local communities, is not the behaviour expected of a democratically elected European government." Whether or not the 2007 version of the European Greens can mobilize a wave of protest comparable to that unleashed in the 1980s remains to be seen. The party itself is a much different beast than it was then, thanks in part to its successes in the parliamentary arena.

Getting back to Russia. The announcement by the US has caused some in Moscow to suggest that if the plans go ahead it could give the Kremlin a reason to pull out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. As Yury Baluyevsky, the Chief of the Russian General Staff put it, "What they (the Americans) are doing at present, building a third missile defense ring in Europe, is impossible to justify." The INF treaty has been the cornerstone of peace and detente in Europe for almost twenty years. A Russian withdrawal could mean a new arms race with Moscow. Of course, this would certainly make the US war industry happy and would certainly please its Russian counterpart. As for the rest of the world, well, it would only move that doomsday clock a few seconds closer to midnight.

There are those (myself among them) who consider the entire idea of a missile shield to be something contrived of, by and for the war industry. In fact, the early cost estimates (made in 2000 under Clinton) for the shield discussed here that the Polish and Czech bases would be part of came in at around $60 billion and that was almost seven years ago. The entire project assumes many things, foremost among them is that there will be a need for missiles to intercept other missiles coming from a hostile source. Another assumption is that, if such a war does occur, the interceptor missiles can actually intercept the incoming projectiles. Yet another is that if the missiles do collide and esp lode in midair the explosions and debris will not be as destructive as if the hostile missiles had hit their intended targets. Then, of course there is the more general assumption that any battle involving nuclear armed weaponry will have an aftermath that even matters. The aforementioned practical matters may matter to the individuals involved in the project, but it is apparent from their involvement that the moral ones do not. Those politicians that support its continuation and expansion, whether they are US, Polish, Czech or from some other country, should be ashamed to be involved. The fact that this project continues to be funded and promoted proves that they are not. Then again, if the citizens of their respective countries do not call them to task, then perhaps they can continue to convince themselves that they are just doing the people’s will.

UPDATE: As this was being considered, Tony Blair’s spokesperson told the press that Blair wants part of the US missile shield built in Britain.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is forthcoming from Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net