American People VS. Military Retirees

April 1, 2004

Dear Members, Supporters and Friends,

MDAA sent a “Letter to the Editor” on Monday, March 29, 2004, in response to the following statement that was issued publicly last Friday, March 26, 2004, to the following five national newspapers: Washington Post, Washington Times, New York Times, Los Angeles ,Times and USA Today:

49 GENERALS AND ADMIRALS ASK FOR MISSILE DEFENSE DELAY

The following “Open Letter” released by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is signed by nearly fifty retired senior military officers, including former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral, William Crowe, Air Force General, Alfred Hansen and Marine Corps General, Joseph Hoar.

The letter concludes: “We therefore recommend, as the militarily responsible course of action, that you postpone operational deployment of the expensive and untested GMD system and transfer the associated funding to accelerated programs to secure the multitude of facilities containing nuclear weapons and materials and to protect our ports and borders against terrorists who may attempt to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the United States.”

The following “Letter to the Editor” by Riki Ellison, President of MDAA, offers a powerful rebuttal to the 49 retired senior military officers sponsored by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation:

227,000,000 SAY YES, 49 SAY NO. I SAY, “NO CONTEST”

During the past nine months, independent statewide polls were conducted in Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire and South Carolina to gain the views of the American public on funding and deployment of the Missile Defense system now under development. Last week, 49 retired military officers sent an open letter to President Bush with their views on the same subject. It is startling to see just how far out of step the generals and admirals are with the American people. Some might say, “No wonder they’re retired.”

In each of the four polls, 78 percent of the American people – some 227,000,000 citizens — supported the decision to begin deploying a Missile Defense system before the end of this year. The 49 retired officers say don’t do it.

Score: American people 1; Retirees: 0.

Addressing the issue of cost, the polls asked whether the Missile Defense program was too expensive and the money should be spent on something else, 73 percent of the American public said the money is well spent. Americans recognize that the Missile Defense budget accounts for only three percent of the U.S. defense budget.

Score: American people 2; Retirees: 0.

Addressing the issue of Missile Defense testing, the poll in South Carolina asked whether a Missile Defense system should be deployed as soon as possible even if more testing will be required to gain more confidence in the system’s capability. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said yes. Perhaps the men and women of South Carolina understand that four of five integrated flight tests have been successful. On a related issue, the South Carolina poll noted that “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior defense officials have acknowledged that the initial Missile Defense system scheduled to become operational later this year will lack many desired features. But they say it will be, at least, a rudimentary, or basic, defense against a potential North Korean missile attack, and they argue that having some Missile Defense in place is better than having none.” Eighty-four percent of South Carolinians agreed that some defense is better than no defense at all.

Score: American people: 3; Retirees: 0.

When asked whether the threat of a ballistic missile attack by weapons of mass destruction is real and should be taken seriously, 77 percent of the American public said yes. The polls were consistent in every state that was polled. The retired military officers expressed the conclusion that it would be highly unlikely that any country or terrorist organization would dare attack the U.S. due to the risk of total annihilation from a U.S. retaliatory strike. It seems as though the MAD theory (mutual assured destruction) of the Cold War era still lives in the minds of some retired officers. Perhaps they also thought that September 11th wouldn’t happen.

Score: American people: 4; Retirees: 0.

The letter by the retired generals and admirals does make a valid and important point when they note that “our highest priority is to prevent terrorists from acquiring and employing weapons of mass destruction.” Those terrorists can be rogues like Bin Laden or rogues like North Korea. Well, the American public may not wear stars on their shoulders, but their collective voice seems to recognize that both rogues can bring unspeakable tragedy to our nation and that an active, robust and multi- layered defense system must be a high priority.

Final Score – American public: 4; Retirees: 0.

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