FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Star Wars Credibility Problem

Without fanfare, the Department of Defense has revised and substantially changed the most important missile defense announcement to come out of a US administration in the last decade. In a variety of ways, these revisions effectively lower the bar for what will be expected of the upcoming deployment, while simultaneously allowing the Pentagon to enjoy the more expansive and robust view of capabilities widely publicized in the press.

On December 17th, President Bush announced to the nation that the United States would begin fielding initial missile defense capabilites in 2004-2005. His announcement was accompanied that same day by much-reported press conferences involving most of the major missile defense players in the administration: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, Director of the Missile Defense Agency General Ronald Kadish, and Assistant Secretary of Defense J.D. Crouch. With much publicity, the speakers touted the missile defense deployment announcement and praised the “layered” missile defense approach. A press release from the Defense Department laid out the plan in detail. The deployment plans were rolled out in print and television media, using the press conferences and the press release as resources.

Indeed, a scan of the US press following December 17th reveals wide coverage of the announcement activities, including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Reuters, the Associated Press, and others. However, the facts and details for much of their stories–their coverage of the biggest missile defense story in recent history–were taken from a press release that really no longer exists, because it’s been replaced by the Defense Department with a different version on their website. The Defense Department has never issued a retraction or a correction notice to the media or the public regarding these changes, and instead has chosen only to modify the December 17 document. The original version of the press release is no longer available.

A careful reading of the current news release on the Pentagon’s website shows substantial changes to the stated goals of one of the three systems to be deployed and eliminates all references to an overall “layered” system, which has been a hallmark of this administration’s missile defense efforts. The new version also strikes references to the use of “prototype and test assets.”

The layered system envisioned for missile defense and outlined in the original press release envisions a series of overlapping, redundant programs, each of which would be able to take a shot in an effort to destroy an enemy missile from rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. In this way, a missile defense interceptor that misses the enemy missile in the boost phase (soon after it’s launched) would be backed up by a mid-course interceptor, and subsequently perhaps a terminal phase interceptor as well. This approach system would enhance the effectiveness of the overall system just by virtue of the number of attempts.

But while the original press release portrays the 2004-2005 deployment within the framework of a layered system, the revised version envisions a much less ambitious plan. The only system potentially capable of knocking out a missile launched at the United States from North Korea or Iran is the ground-based midcourse system. The other two systems – Patriot and Aegis sea-based – are only theater systems, i.e., only useful against short-range missiles. While the original press release touts the sea-based Aegis system as a “boost and ascent phase” system (ostensibly part of the layered approach), the altered release changes this being a mid-course system for “short and medium range ballistic missiles,” reducing it’s capabilities in a layered system.

All of the changes suggest a lowering of abilities, a simplicity, and a thinness that is strikingly different from the original release. The effect of this exercise is that the press, and therefore the public, are initially given the impression of a missile defense program that sounds remarkably robust and capable. A month later, a corrected version revealing a much different reality is dropped in the bowels of the Defense Department website, where it will qualify as “updated,” but essentially unexamined.

A spokesperson from the Missile Defense Agency said that he was not aware of the changes and that the press release had been put together by the Defense Department. He also stated that it was unusual for the Defense Department to modify a press release so substantially without issuing a separate retraction. He went on to say that although the original press release could have been a mistake, it would be highly unlikely given the amount of attention and personal involvement by multiple people at the very top of the U.S. government. A call to the Defense Department has not yet been returned.

Critics of the administration’s missile defense deployment have argued that the current approach is long on talk and short on proof. With the discovery of the changes scaling back the deployment announcement, it would seem as though the Pentagon agrees. They just don’t want to hold a press conference to say so.

MATT MARTIN is Assistant Director of the Missile Defense Project
at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, DC. He can be reached at: mmartin@armscontrolcenter.org

For a comparison of the two different press releases, go to the Center’s website: www.armscontrolcenter.org/

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail