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Kerry Says Star Wars ‘Based on Illusion’

June 4, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Critics of President Reagan’s vision of a foolproof ″Star Wars″ missile defense system are urging the Senate to limit spending for the proposal on grounds it is impossible to achieve and a dangerous ″dream based on illusion.″

The Senate, debating the pending $302 billion defense authorization bill for fiscal 1986, faces votes on as many as 16 Star Wars amendments, almost all of which would keep the program from expanding as fast as the Reagan administration seeks.

But the system has its defenders. One of them, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R- Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told his colleagues as debate opened Monday: ″Let us not be overwhelmed by those who think that war can be overcome by amendment.″

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., opened the battle, proposing that Star Wars spending be frozen at the current annual level of $1.4 billion and that all elements of the program that might violate the 1972 treaty limiting anti- ballistic missile systems be scrapped.

Reagan had sought to increase spending for Star Wars research to $3.7 billion next year. The Armed Services Committee trimmed that back to $2.97 billion.

Kerry said his amendment would not kill basic Star Wars research but would permit it to continue at present levels ″as a hedge against any future evidence that the Soviets are moving toward a nationwide strategic defense system.″

But he said that to place complete reliance on the hope that the research will achieve Reagan’s goal of rendering nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete is ″a fantasy and an illusion.″

This is true, Kerry said, because it is cheaper to attack with nuclear missiles than to defend against them, because counter measures can be developed for every component of a missile-defense system and because the Soviets would re-aim their missiles almost exclusively against U.S. cities. ″Star Wars will not stop other methods of delivering nuclear weapons to American soil,″ he said.

″We must also recognize that we could never test a Star Wars system under realistic conditions until the moment of an all-out nuclear attack,″ Kerry said. ″If Star Wars didn’t work perfectly the very first time (the result) would be the destruction of our society.″

″This is the time we must say ‘no’ to the president’s dream, a dream based on illusion, but one which could have real and terrible consequences,″ Kerry said.

The Soviets, who have their own Star Wars research program, have attacked the U.S. research effort. Space arms are a principal agenda item of the current round of superpower arms control talks in Geneva.

Reagan proposed his Star Wars program two years ago as a possible way of developing a futuristic defensive shield that could end the current reliance on mutually assured nuclear destruction as a way of deterring nuclear attack.

The Pentagon is currently involved in basic research, trying to find out if there is any promising way to build non-nuclear defensive weapons using laser and particle beam technology that could stop attacking Soviet missiles before they reached their targets.