Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
— A tone poem by Richard Strauss
It has an appealing symmetry. George Bush is deploying a missile defense system that may or may not work to defend against nuclear weapons that might be fired from Iranian secret weapons sites that may or may not exist. This strategy is of a piece with the rest of George Bush’s foreign policy strategies that have produced such successes as, for example, Iraq.
In February it was disclosed that Mr. Bush plans to plant a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Poland gets a missile battery and the Czech Republic gets a radar site. The United States has not declared the missile defense system fully operational. Under the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s approach to things military, the fact that the system is not operational is no reason not to deploy it. In 2003 Mr. Rumsfeld testified about the money being spent on deployment of an anti-defense missile system before it even worked, explaining: “I happen to think that thinking we cannot deploy something until you have everything perfect, every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed, is probably not a good idea in the case of missile defense. I think we need to get something out there, in the ground, at sea, and in a way that we can test it, we can look at it, we can develop it, we can evolve it, and find out – learn from the experimentation with it.”
Responding to that bit of Rumsfeldian foolishness, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said: “It would be a lot better if we have confidence that the system will work before it is deployed, because otherwise it just creates a lot more uncertainty.”
The reason the system has not been declared fully operational is because it doesn’t always work. As of January 2007 there had been 10 tests of the system and 6 of them were successful. A dummy long-range missile launched from Alaska in September was hit by an interceptor sent up from California. The success of the launch was that the interceptor got out of the silo, since in 2004 and 2005 tests the interceptor missiles failed in that endeavor, thus making it unlikely that they could have brought down a missile. There was a bonus in that test. The interceptor not only got out of the silo – it destroyed the target missile. According to Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, the agency had only hoped for a “close approach.” The fact that it actually bumped into the missile and destroyed it was a “bonus.”
The most recent test took place in January 2007, when a dummy target missile launched from a platform in the Pacific Ocean was shot down by a missile launched from Hawaii’s Kauai Island.
Notwithstanding the success of these tests, if a hostile missile were being fired towards one of our friends there would be a 60% chance of shooting it down. There would be a 40% chance of not affecting it. The good news is that that may not really make much difference. Iran (together with North Korea) is the country against whom the defense system is supposed to defend. It now turns out there may not be all that much to defend against and hence the fact that the system may not work may be of no consequence.
According to the Los Angeles Times and other sources, in making sounds of alarm about Iran’s secret nuclear weapons sites, the United States is deploying the same kind of disinformation that characterized its Iraq effort. Although the administration has given information about suspected weapons sites to the IAEA, an inspector who commented on the information and was quoted by Julian Borger of the Guardian Unlimited said: “Most of it has turned out to be incorrect. They gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities.” An official with the IAEA who was quoted in the Los Angeles Times said, “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong.”
As a result of the foregoing, what the world now knows is that missiles that may not work will end up being deployed to defend against missiles launched from sites that may not exist. It proves, if proof were needed, that George Bush never runs out of ideas for pranks to play on the world. The pranks amuse not only the prankster but the sycophants who consort with him and enjoy playing major roles in George Bush’s Theater of the Absurd. The audience is not amused. It’s terrified.