First, it is supposed to help guide intercepting missiles toward their targets, and second it assists in the process of confirming the target's destruction. While it is unclear how well the radar performed the former task, it was an unquestionable failure when it came to confirming the "hit."

Essay by Carol Schiffler

It is rainy season in Florida, and as any long-time resident can tell you the price of living in a tropical climate can be measured in insect repellant.

Yes, bug-whacking is big business in Florida and the variety of ways that bugs can be whacked is truly astonishing. Old-timers prefer a good old-fashioned shoe to the thorax, while modern families favor highly trained teams of professional assassins. Most of these methods are not particularly effective, and the ones that are, tend to result in a good deal of collateral damage. A family re-entering a home after the pros have paid a visit, for example, may expect to find that while Skippy the Hamster is no longer missing, he is no longer very much fun to play with either.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered a new widget on the market - an electronic device that plugs into the wall and emits a high-pitched tone that is the insect-equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. "Oh the wonders of modern technology, " I exulted. "Is there no human suffering, no matter how trivial, that cannot be alleviated by an expensive high-tech toy?"

If you are George Bush and the subject is missile defense, the answer is a resounding "no." Whether the offending entity is a hoard of rampaging Communists or a lone lunatic with a nuke strapped to his chest, there is no foreign policy crisis that cannot be finessed provided one has the proper amount of plutonium.

The only problem with junior's new toys is that they don't work. And they don't work to the tune of three billion taxpayer dollars. On July 19, the New York Times reported a problem with the X band radar system. The purpose of the radar is two-fold. First, it is supposed to help guide intercepting missiles toward their targets, and second it assists in the process of confirming the target's destruction. While it is unclear how well the radar performed the former task, it was an unquestionable failure when it came to confirming the "hit."

The Times quotes a Pentagon official who issued the following statement. "The system locked up, like your PC at home. It was too much work to track all the debris." Now I have not been to Radio Shack lately, but I am pretty sure that if they were selling X band radar systems, they would cost a good deal more than the average home PC. It is also interesting to note that the average home PC user does not expect to defend the fate of the free world from his or her desktop.

But wait. There's more. On July 27, we discover that the intercepted missile had a beacon affixed to it - a regular Hey-Stupid-Over-Here homing device. Lt. Rick "Lame Excuse" Lehner now finds himself deflecting an incoming missile of a different sort. If only he could find some way to attach a nuke to those pesky questions. This time Rick tells us, "The only thing it does is help to get the booster in the right direction." We certainly are asking a lot of our adversaries these days. First we expect them to clean up the messy debris caused by their intercepted missiles; now we are expecting them to give written directions to our boosters.

Finally, after eight months of wrangling with Pentagon officials, civilian test evaluator, Philip Coyle releases his study of the proposed Star Wars system. The report tells us what we already know. Bush's missile defense system is an abortion of a project, tested under conditions that in no way simulate an actual military operation. And oh by the way - it doesn't work. It seems that in past testing exercises, interceptors could not tell the difference between phantom missile tracks and real ones, resulting in an accidental launch of additional interceptors. An attempt to manually override the system - well, that didn't work either. The report concludes that even the most rudimentary system will not be ready until the year 2011. Notwithstanding inconvenient reality, the Pentagon has already requested additional funding for this project, inflating the 2002 total defense budget to a whopping 345 billion dollars.

On October 13th, the Global Network Against Weapons in Outer Space will host an international day of protest to stop the militarization of outer space. CLG is a proud sponsor of this event. Please plan to attend a protest in your area. Details can be found by visiting our ACTIONS web page. Also, please be sure to send Senators Biden and Levin a note voicing your concerns.

As for the electronic bug zapper,like the (p)resident's Star Wars missile defense system, it turned out to be a total failure. Being a wise consumer, I unplugged the defective device and returned it to the store from whence it came. Would that George would do the same.