Bush Says Rogue Nations, Extremists Aim To Hit United States
President Bush said “extremists” of many stripes are seeking to kill Americans and gain access to weapons of mass destruction.
These elements “slaughter the innocent,” he said, and now are reaching to “gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.”
His comment in his televised annual State of the Union address to Congress came as military analysts say North Korea poses a danger not only because it is developing a nuclear weapons arsenal and long-range missiles, but also because North Korea might sell these weapons or their basic technology to terrorists.
The fear is that such groups then might smuggle them into the United States to destroy cities.
The president observed that “with our partners in China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, we are pursuing intensive diplomacy to achieve a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.”
Bush, whose personal popularity ratings are at their nadir, harked back several times to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, following which his popularity reached its zenith.
“In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended,” he said. “They have not.”
Bush pledged “to protect the American people.”
In his six years in office, he has led the nation in developing a multi-layered ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield, a development effort still in progress, including the Airborne Laser, the sea-based Aegis system, and the ground-based missile defense program (GMD)
These programs involve The Boeing Co. [BA], Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Raytheon Co. [RTN].
The United States also has opposed moves by Iran to produce nuclear materials, fearing that will mean Iran becomes a Middle Eastern nation wielding nuclear weapons. The Bush administration and some European nations have pressured Iran to abandon its nuclear program, with no success thus far.
“The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons,” Bush noted.
And the United States is pressing an effort to erect a ballistic missile shield to protect allied nations from ballistic missile attack by Middle Eastern nations, possibly including installation of radar and other facilities in Europe.
Bush was chided for not stressing the vital need for ballistic missile defense in his speech.
In a paper published by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, senior fellow Peter Brookes and research fellow Baker Spring argue that Bush “should have also talked about the critical importance of missile defense,” because BMD programs may be hammered fiscally in the new Congress.
“Now that the Democrats have taken control of both houses of Congress, pushback on this increasingly important area of our national defense is likely, especially as the president asks for additional funding for the troop increase in Iraq,” the paper predicts. Tight finances may provide Democrats with a pretext to short-change BMD programs.
“The Democrats have never really liked missile defense, and empowered by their new position in the Congress, they will likely use the Pentagon’s request for funding for the ongoing Iraq operation and additional manpower for the Army and the Marine Corps as a lever to hammer defense programs they don’t particularly like — such as missile defense,” the paper warns.
“This would be a big mistake,” because a shield against ballistic weapons is needed, critically.
“The U.S. has made significant progress on missile defense since the Bush administration took office,” the paper notes. “But despite the deployment of launchers in Alaska and California for dealing with the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, more work needs to be done, especially as Iran moves towards a nuclear breakout.”
In his speech, Bush also proposed a phased increase in troop strength that eventually might cost roughly $11 billion yearly.
He said it is time to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 personnel, but over five years.
That could mean an increase in financial strains on the Department of Defense totaling more than $11 billion a year, hitting a Pentagon already running short of funds for existing and planned procurement programs.