Andrew Cockburn tells a story about a Navy Captain clutching his companion in the officers club at Fort Myers, while President Reagan announced his new program, "Missile defense," a.k.a. "the strategic defense initiative." As the Gipper declared his intent to develop a new weapons system in space the Navy Captain burst out in excitement.

"He’s done it. He’s done it. I’m rich, I’m rich, I’m rich."

Twenty four years later, the boondoggle that Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy immediately dubbed Star Wars has sucked up at least $100 billion dollars. And what’s to show for it?

A lot of people have made a lot of money. Especially at private firms like Lockheed. And lots of top level physicists have been attracted to the research funds available for this, when they’re available for little else.

But even for $100 billion dollars, star wars trials have failed and failed, even when the tests were rigged. If it ever went into effect, the only thing space based weapons could be counted on to destroy are Arms Control agreements like the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation pact.

And yet the program lives on.

The fact is, "Missile defense," a.k.a. "the strategic defense initiative," a.k.a. "Star Wars, has always been more about budgets than bullets. Under George W. Bush it kept on track, consuming close to 20 percent of the defense budget. And the gravy train rolls on down the track.

Projected spending on Missile Defense over the next six years is $50 billion — $10 billion more than the money the Senate just cut to needy states.

The United States vowed on Saturday to press ahead with plans to build a missile shield in central Europe. In the Obama administration’s first major foreign policy address, Vice President Joe Biden told European leaders at a summit in Germany that, “We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective."

Proven and cost-effective? $100 billion taxpayer dollars later, change we can believe requires admitting SDI was never either of those things and should be scrapped.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.