By Dave Lindorff
A CBS/Associated Press story yesterday reported that the man who runs the Pentagon’s anti-missile program, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, had warned incoming President-elect Barack Obama that any reversal of Bush/Cheney administration plans to install anti-ballistic missile missiles in Poland would “severely hurt” American interests.
It was a classic “stupid” story of the type that we now expect to get from our corporate media—basically a regurgitation of the statement of one self-interested official, backed up by a few supporting quotes from other government officials, and the usual “anonymous” official sources, and lacking any context or opposing viewpoints.
Let’s analyze this a little more. The Bush/Administration, since coming into office eight years ago, has been putting intense pressure on Russia by pressing to have NATO expanded right up to Russia’s borders—also to have NATO forces fighting in Afghanistan, to Russia’s south in central Asia. As one ratchet up in that pressure, the administration pushed to get anti-missile sites placed in some countries on Russia’s western border. One such proposed location was the Czech Republic, but that was rejected because of local opposition. Poland, however, agreed, after being pressed hard by the administration.
For US consumption, the move was presented as being aimed at Iran, which Bush and Cheney keep insisting is constructing nuclear bombs. No one could explain why anti-missile missiles placed in Poland, which sits in northern Europe, would have any utility in knocking down would be Iranian missiles aimed at Europe, or, for that matter, why Iran would want to fire nuclear missiles at Europe, which, in Britain and France, has a large and sophisticated nuclear stockpile capable of incinerating Iran. The real target of those missiles became clear when Georgia provoked Russia into sending its army into the breakaway state of Ossetia. Before that little military conflict, Poland had been resisting US pressure to agree to the missile sites, because of strong local opposition. After Russia moved its troops and tanks into Ossetia, and trounced Georgia’s military, Poland went ahead and approved the anti-missile site.
If the anti-missile missiles were intended to protect against Iran, such a decision by Poland would have made no sense whatever. Clearly the US was pointing those things at a different enemy: Russia. And that of course is how the Russians view things. Earlier this month, within days of the US election, Russia’s president warned that if the anti-missile battery were placed in Poland, Russia would move short-range nuclear-capable missiles up to its border with Poland, thus not only rendering the US missile “shield”, such as it is, useless because there would be no notice of any attack from that close, but also escalating the wholly unnecessary conflict between the US and NATO on the one hand, and Russia on the other.
Of course, this is exactly what the Bush/Cheney plan has been all along: to increase tensions with Russia, and thus justify continuation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which should have been dismantled along with the demise of the Soviet Union. The Bush/Cheney strategy has been to use NATO as a kind of global cover for its military adventures, such as Afghanistan, which is, it should be noted, about as far from the “North Atlantic” as one can get.
None of this history made it into the CBS/AP story yesterday. Nor was there any mention of the fact that the anti-missile missile program itself is little more than a $160-billion boondoggle.
The only thing that would be “severely hurt” if the Polish basing plan were killed by the incoming Obama administration would be Lt. Gen. Obering’s career, the more so if Obama did the right and proper thing and killed the whole “Star Wars” project altogether.
There are plenty of critics of this Reagan-era boondoggle. After the spending of $160 billion on the program, not one missile has ever actually been shot down if flight in a real test, where the trajectory of the target wasn’t strictly plotted out in advance to guide the interceptor. Moreover, as many scientific critics have repeatedly pointed out, even low-tech Third World nations like North Korea could include countermeasures such as decoy warheads, which would render any effort at interception of a real warhead impossible. The entire idea of an anti-missile shield against nuclear weapons is an incredibly expensive fraud, yet one which promises to revive the threat of nuclear war, because the simplest way to overcome an anti-missile system is to increase the number of incoming missiles, and to put them as close to the target countries as possible to reduce warning time.
Yet none of this kind of criticism of the Polish missile-basing plan was mentioned in the CBS/AP story.
It’s funny. If CBS or AP ran a story about a warning by the chairman of General Motors saying that failure to give the company a $25 billion bailout would “severely hurt” the US economy, without any comment by critics of such a taxpayer gift, everyone would recognizing the article as junk. But with national security stories, no one raises an eyebrow when this kind of thing is done.
President Elect Barack Obama has a chance to do what President Clinton should have done, which is to kill the whole “Star Wars” program. He can start by killing the absurd and dangerous plan to put anti-missile platforms in Poland.
If the media will report fairly and honestly about this issue, instead of simply passing off the arguments of self-interested proponents like anti-missile program director Lt. Gen. Obering, maybe the American people will demand that it be ended, and that the billions of dollars that have annually been wasted in pursuing this Pentagon fantasy be put to better use, perhaps building schools or developing electric cars to replace the gas guzzlers nobody wants to buy anymore.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net