Iraq, Max and Malmstrom

by Pete Talbot

In our previous meetings, I have noted that I am unwilling to vote against funding the occupation. The President has made it clear that if such funds were cut off, he would allocate resources from other defense projects like Malmstrom Air Force Base.”

Those awkwardly worded sentences come from a letter by Sen. Max Baucus to a peace activist in Butte. What Max is trying to say, I think, is that he will continue to funnel money to Iraq so an air force base in Great Falls gets it funding.

So, it’s all about the pork. We’ll stay in Iraq for, let’s say 100 years, so that military bases in places like the Electric City can continue to get their share of the pork pie. Can’t cut the Iraq occupation funding because we’d have to cut Malmstrom funding. Talk about fuzzy logic.

Malmstrom’s main mission, by the way, is to guard those nuclear missiles we have in holes in the ground all over Charlie Russell country.

I like Great Falls and certainly wouldn’t want it to suffer economically but as is pointed out in an email thread I received from peace groups around the state, Malmstrom isn’t that great a deal. This from a Great Falls resident:

“In short, it’s corporate welfare, and most of the money spent goes to a few out of state companies like Boeing. The Minuteman system (periodically upgraded at the same price it would cost to develop new systems, now) has cost the U.S. taxpayers some $50 billion in Montana alone over the life of the program, but not even 10% of that was actually spent in Montana.

(snip)

And the nuclear mission profoundly discourages local private business investment and other forms of real economic growth. Who wants to live in a nuclear garrison town? Yet, our Congressional delegation thoughtlessly supports this mission (with lobbying co-ordinated by Boeing and other major military contractors), just as though it were somehow to our advantage. It’s absolutely despicable.

(Most) every other city in Montana has grown and prospered over the past 40 years. Great Falls is much poorer and less developed now than it was in 1968, with almost exactly the same population. If Malmstrom was so good for our local economy, we’d be rich and the other Montana cities in decline.

Another email contained this gem:

” … dollar for dollar (Malmstrom is) one of the worst investments in Montana’s economy compared to investment in the immensely pressing Montana needs in affordable/decent housing, genuine economic development, health care, protection of the environment, education, children’s well-being and all issues that progressives care about.”

And this from a Great Falls resident:

“The idea that Bush would close Malmstrom if Congress refused to fund the Iraq occupation is insane. The correct policy would be to demand that Bush (it is actually Congress that decides, unfortunately) close Malmstrom as part of an overall military spending reduction focused on ending the war and occupation, as well as the nuclear arms race. Both are very positive and necessary steps to take.”

The logic in the above quotes is certainly stronger than Max’s.

We’re in year number five in Iraq and the violence there continues. Max is slated to go back to the U.S. Senate for six more years, barring some extremely bizarre twist of fate. When is Max going to give us the real reason he’s still supporting the Iraq occupation, or if he isn’t, what’s his strategy for getting us the hell out?

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  1. JC

    What a red herring. Max is spinning like a dervish here. While Bush may be able to cut funding for some of the missions at Malmstrom, no way he is going to unilaterally disarm that part of the U.S. nuclear deterrence.

    While we no longer are in an nuclear arms race, no way is the status quo going to let go of the Malmstrom nuclear missiles, unless they were redeployed somewhere (like eastern Europe…???). I think some of the ideas from Sam Nunn about disarmament are are great, though.

    Great Falls is a post-Cold-War casualty. I was born and raised there, and spent a lot of time at Malmstrom and at the Gore Hill base, as my father was a Lt. Colonel and pilot in the Air National Guard. So I’ve got some serious feelings about the place.

    Max and every other politician in the state will stumble over each other trying to protect every dollar of spending that they can propping up the old institutions of MAD (mutually assured destruction). The fearful thing about Hillary Clinton, is that she already is playing into reviving the cold war with Iran, and whoever else is “with them” instead of “with us.”

    You didn’t see the Clintons get rid of nuclear missiles in Montana in the 90’s, and they sure aren’t going to do it in the next 4-8 years, if they get re-elected.

    So of course Max is playing the gumby here. He’s running for re-election, and has to remind us that he doesn’t stand for anything controversial.

  2. goof houlihan

    I know, you pretend not to support Max Baucus so I will say good things about him.

  3. Jim Lang

    Seniority and the pork that goes with it is over-rated. I can’t wait for this man to retire.

  4. JC

    Bush will never relinquish his nukes. Baucus is just blowing smoke and giving himself cover for not using his position to influence war spending. Gumby politics at work for the re-election. Path of least electoral constituency, or “what is it that I really stand for?”

    What is it they say?

    “He who takes no stands offends no one.” –Max’s incumbent credo. Flash, you listening?

  5. Widowmaker

    Quick lesson there Pete. Malmstrom’s main mission is not to “protect those missiles in the ground” as you so crudely put it. Mind you the ICBM mission is very important. Factually, it controls more ICBM’s than any other base in the world. It has essentially made Montana the nuclear power of the world. But, lets break it down. Malmstrom consists of the 341st Space Wing, and the 819th Red Horse Support Squadron. The 341st is THE NATION’S space deterrent for over 40 years. That being said, its not pork. In no way or fashion is it pork. Its the opposite of pork. Its the very last budget thing to go. Thats Max taking people for a ride. Where does the funding go; everything from medical to housing. But, what about the bases other half, RED HORSE or Rapid Engineer Deployable, Heavy Operational Repair Squadron, Engineer. Yes, they are self sufficient, but utilize many of the bases resources. From the BX, Movie Theater, Hospital, Bowling Lanes, Library, Lemon Lot, etc. They are a rapid deployable highly trained engineering group. This conversation is excluding the F-15 wing, the Border Patrol area and Air National Guard resources not at the airport. Malmstrom is a small base in comparison. They are lean, with exceptional services to a variety of missions. None of them are “pork”.

  6. JC

    Widowmaker, it all depends on what you think “main mission” is. Malmstrom’s missiles will not be moved elsewhere, for enduring strategic and logistical reasons. And if you have the world’s largest nuke-u-lar assemblage, well then, you’d better protect it to your bet ability.

    Make no mistake, the neocons are still using nuclear deterrence a huge portion of their foreign policy. Malmstom’s deterrence mission is not going to change without some serious policy revisions and a lot of forethought, treaty work, and pressure. Sam Nunn has been making some great strides at the Nuclear Threat Initiative in proposing ways to demilitarize the world’s nuclear capacity.

    In the meantime, Sen. Gumby relies on a red herring to cover his inaction. And Nancy Pelosi is going to turn up the heat on him when her new war funding bill hits the Senate. I’m sure she’s relying on him to help water the bill down to pablum.

    From Politico today:

    “The final version of the Iraq bill — the one that reaches the president’s desk — will inevitably fund the troops with no strings attached, aides from both parties admit. Sure, there will be a conscience-soothing vote on a troop withdrawal timetable, but Democrats acknowledge such provisions will yet again fail to make it to the final version.

    “The troops will get what they need,” said one Democratic aide.

    In 2006, Democrats promised to “ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty … with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.””

    So once again, the political posturing before the elections begins.

  7. petetalbot

    Widowmaker, your comment caused me to do some more research, and I appreciate that. What I came away with is, that except for the Minuteman ICBM sites, Malmstrom Air Force Base is in a constant state of flux — a squadron is deactivated, a wing is moved, another division is reactivated and then moved again to Wyoming or Florida or Colorado.

    My guess is that if it weren’t for those ICBMs, Malmstrom would be no more than a shell. And with the Cold War being over, it’s time to rethink our deterrent strategy and continue to negotiate in earnest the decommissioning of all nuclear missiles.

    I’m certainly not opposed to having a useful Air Force presence in Great Falls: engineering, refueling and the like. I think it’s appropriate that the Montana Air National Guard is stationed there, too.

    But funding a major operation that should be obsolete is one definition of pork. Funding an operation to garner voter support is another definition of pork. But the most odious of all of this is holding that pork hostage to fund the war in Iraq.

  8. Warren AFB in Cheyenne is sister to Malmstrom. At one point, back in the early 1990s, we thought that the Warrens and the Malmstroms of the world would go the way of the Dodo. But so many corporations had invested so much during the Cold War that politicans couldn’t afford to mothball the nukes and make prairie condos of the silos. The Reds were gone, but other enemies appeared. The paranoia quotient went way up. And now we have nukes standing ready to obliterate our worst enemies — guys in pajamas planting I.E.D.’s along the road to the Baghdad airport. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.

  1. 1 business strategy

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