As Walter Pincus reported in the Washington Post last week, Senate Democrats plan to follow the House lead in “reducing funds” for the insidious Bush plan for a European-based missile defense system when the Senate takes up the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill this month. The Bush plan – which senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Joseph Cirincione calls “rushing to deploy a technology that does not work against a threat that does not exist” – would place 10 interceptor missile sites in Poland and the system’s radar in the Czech Republic.
The House has already passed its version of the bill which slashed $160 million from the Bush Administration’s $310 million request in FY2008 and denied funding for construction of the European sites. It would also require the Bush administration to report by January on how it will “bring NATO on board.” The Senate Armed Services Committee has recommended $85 million in cuts and “firm agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic before funds are released.” According to Pincus, the Committee pointed to the unreliability of the weapons system and a desire for completed talks between Russia and the US (as well as NATO) prior to any funding.
In addition to Congressional opposition in the US, the Czech and Polish people are about as thrilled with the Bush Push as the American people are with his Surge. I initially wrote about opposition in the host countries here and here, and that opposition has only grown. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 25 Czech villages and towns have voted against the plan in referendums. McClatchy Newspapers reported on these recent referendums: in the town of Vesin, west of Prague, 98 percent of the people voted against the plan; in Sedlec, 96.5 percent; Vranovice, 96 percent; and in Rozmital, 94.5 percent. Perhaps Lenka Jelinkova, 24, of Rozmital, put it best: “From the perspectives of safety, ecology and quality of living, all it promises is destruction.” Despite the overwhelming Czech opposition “… most people believe the government has made up it’s mind, and it will be built here” (An all too familiar feeling these days for too many people in too many democracies – including our own.)
But the LA Times artricle noted that legislative support in Prague and Warsaw “is thin and fading… the most heated debate has come in Poland, where many believe Warsaw has done a series of favors for the US, including sending troops to Iraq, without reciprocation.” And Victoria Samson, Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information, told me, “There are NGOs gearing up in Czech to increase awareness about the potential impacts of the bases on local people’s lives. Congress is right to be concerned about funding projects that may not receive approval from the host country parliaments.”
It’s good to see signs of life and opposition to the Bush missile defense folly in the US–and in the very countries we claim to be protecting with this so-called shield.