- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2001

The intricate planning and near perfect execution displayed in the airborne attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are a tribute to the ruthlessness and resourcefulness of the terrorist forces that are now at war with the United States.
In addition to seeking out and punishing those responsible for the mayhem visited upon thousands of unarmed civilians last week, the U.S. must figure out how to thwart the inevitable next wave of attacks in whatever form they may come. Among the many possibilities open to the well-financed terror network is striking American cities with ballistic missiles.
What was done with hijacked 757s and 767s could be done much more efficiently with a ballistic missile. Increased airport security will make a repeat of what happened on Sept. 11 extremely difficult. But when one avenue of mass murder is blocked, others will be sought. To the terrorist, the missile is an attractive option.
As lawmakers from both parties close ranks with the White House on the necessity of devising ways to protect Americans from future acts of terrorism, the Senate Armed Services Committee may well restore the $1.3 billion it recently cut from President Bush's missile defense program. However, if a group of environmental organizations get their way, construction of an emergency anti-missile system set for operation as early as 2004 will be put on hold.
On Aug. 28 two weeks before the attacks in New York and Washington the Natural Resources Defense Fund (NRDC), Greenpeace, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and an array of Alaskan environmental and arms control groups sued the Pentagon, demanding that it prepare a new environmental impact statement before beginning work on a missile test range in the North Pacific.
As people the world over express the hope that something can be done to prevent last week's carnage from happening again, those suing the Pentagon would appear to have other concerns. In its complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the NRDC, which is spearheading the suit, claims the administration's missile defense program would have a "significant environmental impact."
The NRDC and its allies argue that:
"Constructing new facilities, laying communications cables, and performing test launches could disrupt unique and pristine ecosystems. The Kodiak launch facility in Alaska, for example, is located in a relatively untouched environment that provides habitat for endangered and threatened species."
"Powerful new missile tracking radars would emit hazardous electromagnetic radiation."
"Test rocket launches would emit large quantities of ozone-depleting chemicals into the atmosphere."
"Missile defense facilities would store and use solvents and other explosive chemical compounds."
The plaintiffs further argue that the environmental impact statement developed in the Clinton era is now "defunct and deficient" because of changes the Bush administration has made to the missile defense program.
Under the Clinton plan, 100 missile interceptors were considered for deployment in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, near Fairbanks. By contrast, the Bush program would construct five silos at Fort Greely and create a test range stretching from Alaska to the Marshall Islands to Hawaii and to California.
For its part, the Defense Department says its original environmental impact statement for 100 interceptors covers the five silos foreseen in the Bush plan and no new assessment is needed.
The NRDC plans to ask a federal judge to issue an injunction blocking construction of the test range until a new environmental impact statement has been finished. Completion of a new document would delay construction of the test range by over a year.
"Obviously, the hope is that delay will lead to cancellation," Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace activist, told the New York Times. "That's what we always hope for in these suits."
Whether other Americans, distraught over the unfathomable loss of life the nation suffered last week, share these hopes is another matter. Indeed, claims that test launches of missiles could "disrupt unique and pristine ecosystems," or that new missile tracking radars could "emit hazardous electromagnetic radiation," must seem grotesquely out of place to a nation reeling from the tragic the events of Sept. 11.
Developing measures to counter the acts of terrorists resolved to use every means at their disposal, high-tech and otherwise, to inflict pain on the United States will require all the patience, creativity, and determination Americans can muster. To delay by as much as a year or more any step that holds the promise of providing the country additional protection from those bent on its destruction is to be wantonly irresponsible.
In light of the thousands already killed, and the millions more threatened with death at the hands of terrorists, it will be interesting to see if the NRDC, Greenpeace, and their cohorts have the decency to withdraw their preposterous lawsuit.

Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute in Arlington.

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