The Guardian August 2, 2000


Putting Australia and the World at Risk:
US National Missile Defence

by Dr Hannah Middleton

In Australia recently to give the Howard Government its orders, US Defence 
Secretary Cohen stated that the US "expects" Australia to be "very much 
involved" in the US missile defence system and to increase military 
spending.

The target of the US Star Wars program, now renamed National Missile 
Defence (NMD), is China.

NMD is not a benign, defensive nuclear umbrella. It is a controversial 
space battle system, an offensive program that aims to provide a shield 
behind which the US could fire its nuclear arsenal at an enemy. In other 
words, it is intended to allow the US to attack other countries with 
impunity, without fear of retaliation.

Armaments corporations

The program's most important and influential proponents are the armaments 
corporations which will make billions of dollars if it goes ahead.

With $12.7 billion already committed if the system is deployed and the 
prospects of tens of billions more, the armaments industry is making large 
political donations.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Boeing, the lead 
contractor for the missile defence program, had already given over $290,000 
to federal candidates by February of this year.

Raytheon, which is building the kill vehicle, has already given over 
$140,000.

Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor for SBIRS High, one of the proposed 
systems' satellite components. It has already given over $377,000 to 
election 2000 campaigns, making it the third largest corporate contributor 
in the country.

George Bush is using NMD as a political ploy against his rival Al Gore in 
the lead up to the Presidential elections.

Decision already made

There is considerable talk about "If a positive decision is made.....". The 
Australian Government has used the same approach to conceal its support for 
NMD by suggesting it is waiting for a final decision by the US Government 
before it makes its own decision.

This is a farce. The decision has already been made.

The National Missile Defense Act of 1999, signed by Clinton in July, states 
that it is US policy to deploy a limited NMD system "as soon as 
technologically feasible".

Thus, a negative decision will simply be to delay deployment until an 
unspecified date in the future. 

Pine Gap

US Defence Secretary William Cohen said on July 16, during his visit to 
Australia, that Pine Gap had been "very much" involved in NMD since October 
1999.

The admission was less than the full truth for Pine Gap will be the front 
line of the planned tracking and missile defence network.

This will make Australia a front line nuclear target.

Cohen's statement was also a total fabrication historically.

Pine Gap, which has been operated by US intelligence since 1968, is a CIA 
intelligence base. It is one of the largest and most important US satellite 
ground control stations in the world.

It controls a small number of geostationary signals intelligence 
satellites, the most secret of all US intelligence collection satellites.

Pine Gap has been used to collect data on ballistic missile launches for 
over 30 years. The satellites it controls monitor missile telemetry and the 
exhaust plumes of missiles.

These two pieces of information reveal the type of missile, its range, 
speed, trajectory and number of warheads  all of which is crucial 
information if missiles are to be shot down with a Star Wars style system.

Over the years Pine Gap has quietly been converted into a front-line base 
for the controversial National Missile Defence system

During a May 1992 visit, then US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney (now George 
Bush's presidential running mate) confirmed that the US bases in Australia 
would play a role in the Strategic Defence Initiative or "Star Wars".

The Keating Government agreed to collaborate with the US in developing the 
newer version of Star Wars, the NMD program.

In 1997 four ballistic missiles were fired from a secret coastal site 
between Broome and Port Hedland in the north of WA, were tracked by 
Australia's Jindalee over-the-horizon radar as they travelled 117km through 
the air at high speed, and were allowed to land in the ocean.

The 14m Terrier-Improved-Orion rockets were not armed and simulated 
ballistic missiles similar to the Scud missiles fired by Iraq during the 
Gulf War.

Flight International reported last month that the US and Australia plan to 
build a major testing facility north of Broome in WA.

The new range would allow the US Navy to stake a larger claim in the "Star 
Wars" plan by testing ship-based anti-missile systems.

No real threat

The Pentagon claims that the NMD program is intended to counter potential 
threats from so-called "rogue states" or, as the US State Department now 
calls them, "states of concern", including North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya 
and Syria.

But any country which launched a missile attack against the United States 
would know that it faced national suicide.

Of the named "rogue" states, only North Korea could conceivably field an 
intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the US, but it has 
not yet tested a missile-with-warhead that is capable of doing so and it 
currently does not have a missile capable of reaching the United States.

More importantly, the North Korean Government announced in June that it was 
extending its self-imposed ban on missile testing and that flight testing 
would remain on hold while negotiations with the United States continue.

Arms control and disarmament

The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was signed by the USA and the USSR 
(now Russia) and entered into force in 1972.

It obligates them not to undertake to build a nation-wide defence system 
against strategic ballistic missile attack and severely limits the 
development and deployment of permitted missile defences. 

The testing and deployment of the systems currently under development by 
the USA threaten to undermine the ABM as one of the cornerstones of the 
strategic nuclear balance.

US representatives are becoming increasingly strident in their attacks on 
the ABM. Republican Jessie Helms, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee, said recently: "If I succeed, we will defeat the ABM Treaty, 
toss it into the dustbin of history and thereby clear the way to build a 
national missile defense."

The consequence of this is likely to be the collapse of all existing arms 
control and nuclear disarmament treaties. The fragile foundation for recent 
progress in nuclear disarmament will come crashing down.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently told the Russian parliament that 
if, "the US proceeds to destroy the 1972 ABM Treaty ... we can and will 
withdraw not only from the START II Treaty ... but from the whole system of 
treaty relations having to do with the limitation and control of strategic 
and conventional arms." 

Chinese arms control ambassador Sha Zukang, told the Washington 
Post: "Any amendment, or abolishing of the treaty, will lead to 
disastrous consequences. This will bring a halt to nuclear disarmament now 
between the Russians and Americans, and in the future will halt 
multilateral disarmament as well."

New nuclear arms race

Both Russia and China have repeatedly warned that US plans for a National 
Missile Defense will lead the world into a new nuclear arms race. Both 
countries have pledged to meet any US Star Wars scheme by building up their 
nuclear forces.

Mr Sha Zukang, Director-General of arms control in the Chinese Foreign 
Ministry, has said the US missile shield poses an unacceptable threat to 
China's security. The US proposal would spark a global arms race and the 
"nightmare scenario" of weapons proliferation.

If China builds up its nuclear forces to counter NMD, India and Pakistan 
are likely to follow suit.

We are on the brink of a new, more dangerous nuclear arms race.

It won't work.

Any country capable of developing a ballistic missile that could reach the 
United States could also develop countermeasures, such as decoys, that 
could foil NMD.

The multi-billion dollar Star Wars scheme will be completely useless 
against the most likely threat to the USA  a truck or boat carrying 
chemical, biological, or nuclear warheads.

States would be likely to build larger nuclear arsenals to increase their 
chances of simply overwhelming the NMD.

World-wide hostility

There is world wide hostility and resistance to the US plans.

The G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Japan, the United Nations Secretary 
General, the European Union, Germany, France, Sweden, Russia, China, the 
Non-Aligned movement, and 50 US Nobel prize winners are just some of the 
many who have expressed opposition to NMD.

The Hiroshima Day commemorations this year will be the first opportunity 
many ordinary people will have to voice their opposition to NMD and large 
demonstrations are expected around the world.

The only protection

The reality is that greater efforts for nuclear abolition and arms control 
are the only protection against such threats  but the US clearly does not 
have the political will or commitment to achieve this.

As the peace movement has argued for decades, indeed since the first 
nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the 
only answer to the nuclear threat is to abolish nuclear weapons.

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