18. SURPRISE! THE MX MISSILE IS HEADED YOUR WAY
You would think that one of the largest public works projects in American
history, which will take more than 100,000 construction workers several
years to build and cost at least $ 33 billion, would be a well publicized
subject of national debate. But it wasn't.
It wasn't, that is, until early in January, 1980, when an elite team
of Air Force generals and Pentagon officials started conducting several
weeks of public relations presentations to tell thousands of people
how little they would be affected.
The decisions to go ahead with the project had already been made, and
approved by President Carter, and now all that remained was to convince
many residents of Nevada and Utah to accept the massive project.
The project is the MX missile - a mobile intercontinental missile system
that would cover thousands of square miles. Plans call for 200 individual
missiles, each located on a 15-mile road loop, which would travel around
the loop and dash into any one of 23 separate shelters. The idea is
to make it harder for them to be detected and thus less vulnerable to
Long before residents of the area knew what was heading their way,
the Air Force had decided that 47 valleys in the Utah-Nevada "intermountain
area" provided ideal sites for the missiles.
Most observers concede that the new weapons system would create huge
environmental and economic problems. In late March, 1980, the governors
of the two states complained that local authorities were being "stampeded"
by the Pentagon into accepting the weapon.
Nonetheless, Pentagon and Air Force officials believe that the potential
economic fallout of the MX will overcome local environmental reservations
and that the patriotism aroused by events in Afghanistan and Iran would
lead the residents to accept the system.
Social and environmental concerns aside, the missile system itself
has been criticized on Capitol Hill and by private defense experts as
too costly, too complex, and, ironically, potentially too vulnerable
to a missile attack.
The failure of the mass media to put the MX missile project on the
national agenda qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best
censored" stories of 1979.
Inquiry, Mar. 5, 1979, "Citizens Versus the MX," by DeFeldman;
The Nation, Nov. 10, 1979, "Derail the MX," by Gordon Adams
and David Gold; N.Y. Times Service, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 18
and Mar. 27, 1980.