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.