Kerry in ‘86: Missile Defense System is a ‘Cancer on Our Nation’s Defense’

Patrick Burke | April 5, 2013 | 2:38pm EDT
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FILE - In this April 2, 2013 file photo, Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

( – In the 1980s, when now- Secretary of State John Kerry was a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts, he criticized the Reagan administration’s plan for a missile defense system -- known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) -- calling it a “cancer on our nation’s defense.”

According to an Aug. 5, 1986 story from the Associated Press, then-Sen. Kerry wanted to cut funding for SDI -- critically known at the time as ‘Star Wars’-- and called the program a “cancer.”

“In debate, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., called Star Wars ‘a cancer’ and said ‘what we must do is deny this program the funds that would enable this cancer on our nation's defense to grow any further,’” the 1986 AP report said.

At the time, the Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to cut SDI funding by $3.2 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

One year earlier in June 1985, AP reported that Kerry was advocating the same position of limiting funding to SDI, calling it, “a dream based on an illusion.”

FILE - A Nicaraguan Contra fighter and Sen. John Kerry (D- Mass.) in 1985. (AP file)

“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,” he later added.

On Mar. 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan gave what has now become known as his ‘Star Wars’ speech, in which he outlined a plan for a US missile defense system to protect against the threat of missile attack from the Soviet Union.

The Strategic Defense Initiative involved developing a multi-layered missile defense system that undermined the longstanding Cold War policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD.) Critics of the plan dubbed it ‘Star Wars’ because of the futuristic technology the program hoped to achieve.

President Ronald Reagan (AP Photo)

“After careful consultation with my advisers, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I believe there is a way. Let me share with you a vision of the future which offers hope,” Reagan said in 1983.

“It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today,” Reagan said.

The Obama administration this week announced it would deploy a ballistic missile defense system in Guam in the coming weeks as a precaution against threats made by North Korea to utilize ballistic missiles in a war against the United States.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would add 14 interceptors to the 30 already in place in California and Alaska – part of a West Coast-based missile defense system designed to shoot down long-range missiles in flight before they could reach U.S. territory.

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