They'd Shoot NMD Down
The high-powered American radar base at Fylingdales in a wild moorland corner of one of Britain's national parks is slated to become a crucial element in the NMD program.
The base, known for the large pyramid-shaped radar array based there, would house the early warning radar that would alert batteries of "kill vehicles" to an enemy missile launch.
The Blair government appears to support the idea of NMD, but there is a problem: 100 British Parliamentarians oppose it.
"We should have no business whatsoever with national missile defense," said Labor Party MP Jeremy Corbyn. "It makes us a potential target for anyone who's looking for a war against the United States."
The locals hate it too.
"Anybody who wanted to attack America would most likely attack Fylingdales first," said Jackie Fearnley.
People here have watched the simulations and listened the message that the NMD "is designed to protect all 50 states," but heard no promise it would protect Britain.
The national missile defense is needed, supporters say, because a group of "rogue" nations like North Korea, Iran and Iraq could soon develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering chemical, biological or nuclear bombs to the United States.
The project is estimated to cost as much $60 billion for te land-based leg of interceptors, radar stations and battle management network.
The Clinton administration conducted several tests of the missile defense technology but held off on a decision on whether to start building NMD. The Bush administration has vowed to push ahead, and said it plans to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which prohibits such systems.
Outlining his plans for missile defense, President Bush said the system is needed "to counter the different threats of today's world."
The administration believes the ABM treaty is outdated, and has pledged to cut nuclear stockpiles in coordination with building an NMD.
Domestic opponents criticize the program's cost and say it could trigger an arms race. Russia opposes scrapping the ABM treaty, China believes the missile shield could erode its nuclear deterrent, and some European allies are skeptical.
American envoys have been shuttling around the world explaining what's involved. But here in the communities that have to live alongside the secret American facility, people complain that they've been told nothing.
During the Cold War Fylingdales was a series of domed radar apparatuses designed to give Britain four minutes warning of a nuclear attack. In the 1960s people understood the purpose of the installation.
"We really thought there could be a nuclear war," said Fearnley.
But people don't buy the current American argument.
"Some idea that Saddam Hussein might chuck a missile and hopefully hit Washington the whole concept is so ludicrous," said Laureen Shaw.
The Washington Post reported Friday that administration officials are considering speeding up development of the system to install a few missile interceptors by 2004. But along with the technical hurdles the Pentagon faces, there is a growing political obstacle in Britain.
"By God, if Tony Blair and President Bush between them decide to go ahead with this, then by heck, just stand by because there will be a lot of people here who will be very, very upset and who will be making a lot of noise," said Fylingdales neighbor Tom Thomson.
© MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report
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