A brief history of Lyndon LaRouche's role in the origination and fight for the Strategic Defense Initiative, featuring an interview with Jeffrey Steinberg.
"I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace; to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.... We seek neither military superiority nor political advantage. Our only purpose—one all people share—is to search for ways to reduce the danger of nuclear war."
Ronald Reagan changed the course of world history on March 23, 1983, when he took to national television to announce what came to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan made history by announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) on live national television, shocking even some of his closest advisers. Presenting what he called "a vision of the future which offers hope," Reagan committed the United States to a crash program for the development of missile defense technology to "free the world from the threat of nuclear war." Reagan's announcement was a declaration that the era of the international reign of terror known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was over.
The dramatic policy decision unveiled in this historic speech came as a surprise to many outside observers; however, it was not a surprise to Lyndon LaRouche. This revolutionary announcement had come as the result of years of effort by LaRouche personally and his association, developing the programmatic outlines of such a policy over the span of nearly a decade, and engaging in direct back-channel negotiations on the idea with Soviet representatives over the immediately preceding months — negotiations which Lyndon LaRouche had conducted personally on behalf of and at the behest of leading members of Reagan’s national security team, reporting directly to the closest advisers of the President.
On March 24, the day following Reagan's broadcast, Lyndon LaRouche greeted Reagan's announcement saying:
Today I am prouder to be an American than I have been since the first manned landing on the Moon. For the first time in 20 years, a President of the United States has contributed a public action of great leadership, to give a new basis for hope to humanity's future to an agonized and demoralized world. True greatness in an American President touched President Ronald Reagan last night; it is a moment of greatness never to be forgotten."
—Lyndon LaRouche, March 24, 1983
OLyndon LaRouche and his associates had already begun examining and promoting the development of ballistic missile defense systems employing "new physical principles" as far back as 1977. At that time, following an announcement by Major General George Keegan, retired chief of U.S. Air Force Intelligence, that the Soviet Union was making rapid strides towards the development of high-energy beam weaponry as a military application of breakthroughs in their fusion research program, Lyndon LaRouche called for the immediate mobilization of scientists in the United States to replicate these breakthroughs in plasma physics and high-intensity laser beam technology.
Pamphlet issued by the US Labor Party in 1977 calling for a crash program for laser-based missile defense.
An association of scientists, the Fusion Energy Foundation (FEF) co-founded by LaRouche in 1974, had already been closely studying the work of Soviet scientists in self-organized plasma structures in the context of its implication for fusion. LaRouche commissioned a campaign pamphlet issued by the U.S. Labor Party titled Sputnik of the Seventies: The Science Behind the Soviets' Beam Weapon which called for an international crash program to develop a space-based missile defense system based on new physical principles, a Manhattan Project-style mission which would provide the economic driver to fuel global development. The pamphlet proposed:
The key principle behind such a crash program was economic at its core, as well as strategic. LaRouche's proposal for such an economic driver came in the context of his role as a global leader in the campaign for a New International Economic Order. Only two years previously, LaRouche had authored his seminal document titled "IDB: How the International Development Bank Will Work, proposing a sweeping reorganization of the world monetary system in order to free the euphemistically-named "developing world" from the poverty and backwardness which were the direct result of enforced colonial-like conditions imposed upon them. This proposal was adopted in large part the following year by the Non-Aligned Movement during its summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This would develop in the following years into a proposal drafted by LaRouche at the request of the President of Mexico named Operacion Juárez.
LaRouche emphasized that human survival depends fundamentally on constant up-shifts in technology and the energy flux density of power sources utilized in the productive process. A full-scale crash program for fusion would be accompanied by a general surge in productivity which would be more than sufficient to revitalize the full productive capacity of the United States and lift the entire human species out of poverty.
In 1976, LaRouche ran his first campaign for President as a candidate for the US Labor Party. On the eve of the elections, LaRouche appeared on a half-hour national television broadcast and warned that the advisers associated with Jimmy Carter were committed to a population reduction policy and, if elected, would threaten to carry the United States into thermonuclear war.
Nationwide television broadcast in 1976 by Lyndon LaRouche, appearing as a presidential candidate for the US Labor Party.
This broadcast attracted the attention of patriotic networks from inside the military and intelligence community, who were similarly concerned with the prospects of a Carter presidency. These individuals solicited LaRouche to serve as an unofficial channel of communications between these elements inside the US intelligence establishment and Soviet intelligence counterparts. These informal exploratory discussions by LaRouche with Soviet representatives continued throughout the four-year term of the Carter administration, while domestically the team who had solicited these communications formed themselves into what would become the core of the Reagan presidency.
LaRouche speaks to Ronald Reagan at a candidates forum in New Hampshire during the 1980 presidential election campaign.
During the Presidential election campaigns in 1979, discussions were conducted by representatives of LaRouche's campaign with Reagan campaign personnel on the subject of energy beam defense. Lyndon LaRouche personally met Ronald Reagan during a presidential debate sponsored by the National Rifle Association in Concord, New Hampshire in 1980.
Following Reagan's election, LaRouche and his representatives were brought in for meetings on the strategic doctrine and related scientific and energy policies, with members of the presidential transition team including Energy Secretary Donald Hodel, Interior Secretary James Watt, Science Adviser Dr. George Keyworth, and State Department official Richard Morris. Later that year Lyndon and Helga Zepp-LaRouche met with CIA Deputy Director Robert Inman. In July of 1981 LaRouche's PAC released a mass circulation pamphlet on the SDI.
History of the Back-Channel
In early March 1981, a senior Soviet diplomat posted at the Permanent Mission to the United Nations approached a representative of Lyndon LaRouche, soliciting LaRouche's views on the new Reagan Administration. On instructions from the same U.S. intelligence channels through which the earlier Soviet discussions had been conducted, word of that approach and a detailed summary of the discussion, was forwarded to White House counselor Edwin Meese.
By the early Autumn of that year, Lyndon LaRouche had spelled out his proposals for a joint or parallel U.S.-Soviet strategic ballistic missile defense program. During this same period, representatives of LaRouche's Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) held preliminary discussions with a senior diplomat at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. named Shershnev.
As the result of these developments, in December 1981, Lyndon LaRouche was again approached by senior U.S. intelligence officials and formally asked to initiate "back-channel" discussions with appropriate Soviet representatives on the possible adoption of a modification of existing strategic doctrine—ie. LaRouche's own Mutually Assured Survival concept. LaRouche was informed that the back-channel discussions were classified as a compartmentalized secret operation known to a select number of senior officials under a code-name.
By this time, Lyndon and Helga LaRouche had met personally with CIA Deputy Director Bobby Ray Inman at the Agency's facility adjacent to the Old Executive Office Building and the White House.
In support of his back-channel efforts on behalf of the ballistic missile defense policy, on Feb. 18-19, 1982, LaRouche participated in a two-day EIR seminar on the subject and related topics in Washington, D.C. Of the 600 or so attendees, a number were Soviet and Warsaw Pact diplomats.
National Press Club, 1993
At an EIR reception for participants in the conference, LaRouche was introduced to Mr. Shershnev, and they had the first of a number of discussions about strategic policy issues affecting the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. At their first private discussion, which took place in a suite at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington shortly after the February 1982 event, LaRouche informed Shershnev that he had been designated by the Reagan Administration to conduct exploratory discussions, and that he would distinguish clearly when he was conveying official messages from U.S. government agencies and when he was providing his own personal evaluations.
In the early Spring of 1982, Admiral Inman announced his resignation as Deputy Director of the CIA effective several months later. The channels under whose auspices LaRouche had been carrying out the negotiations with Moscow representatives informed him at that point that the operation was for the time being aborted. Sensitive to the highly restricted "need to know" security surrounding the back-channel negotiations, LaRouche prepared a written memo to Edwin Meese seeking some guidance on how to proceed. That memo was hand-delivered by a representative of the National Security Council. With the appointment of Judge William Clark as Special Adviser to the President for National Security Affairs in January 1982, LaRouche representatives had established ongoing discussions with a number of NSC officers.
After Ed Meese failed to provide any clear response to the LaRouche memo, Richard Morris, the Executive Assistant to National Security Adviser Clark, informed LaRouche that the Council would take charge of the operation and that the sanctioned back-channel negotiations should continue uninterrupted.
Jeffrey Steinberg and Paul Gallagher deliver insider reports on the history of Lyndon LaRouche's role in the formation and adoption of the SDI policy during a ten-year anniversary conference in 1993.
By the Autumn of 1982, momentum had built up inside sections of the U.S. military and intelligence establishment in support of Lyndon LaRouche's ballistic missile defense proposals. General Volney Warner, a retired head of the U.S. Army's FORCECOM, told LaRouche associates in October 1982 that the policy was winning strong support among some of the President's key advisers. Also in October, Edward Teller, a close personal friend and science adviser to President Reagan, threw his support behind BMD, citing recent breakthroughs at Lawrence Livermore Labs on some of the very "new physical principle" approaches advocated by LaRouche. Significantly, Teller also advocated sharing these scientific and technological breakthroughs with Moscow.
LaRouche publicly alluded to his role in the back-channel process in a Dec. 12, 1982 EIR memorandum titled "The Cultural Determinants of an Anti-Missile Beam-Weapons Policy":
"During the months since I first announced the proposed beam-weapons policy, since February of this past year, I have had a number of occasions to discuss this policy with Soviet and other East Bloc representatives, both in person and through relayed communications. In such discussions one must acknowledge that the Soviet representative in question is speaking as a representative of his government to me as a person whom that representative views as connected to policy influencing agencies of the United States. Therefore, the kinds of discussions which occur have two functional aspects. In one aspect, each of us is speaking for the record. I am careful to indicate what I believe to be my government's policy, as well as I know that policy, as for the record. My Soviet discussion partner in each case will do the same. Then, apart from such statements of policy for the record, we are able to enter into a more or less frank discussion of possible other, additional policy options."Lyndon LaRouche, Dec. 12, 1982
During this same period, the LaRouche movement was engaged in a very high-profile public campaign to promote the development of beam weapon defense. Fusion magazine, the journal of the FEF, put out a series of special reports on the science behind beam defense, and the Fusion Energy Foundation drafted legislation for Congress titled "The Directed Energy Beam Ballistic Missile Defense Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 1983" which began:
"A bill to provide for an accelerated program of research, development, and demonstration of directed energy beam weapons to protect the United States from thermonuclear attack within a decade, to be carried out by the Department of Defense."
Representatives of the Fusion Energy Foundation delivered a series of briefings to Congress on the bill, including a presentation on Nov. 20, 1982 to a standing-room only audience of 65 congressional staffers diplomats, Executive branch representatives, and members of the press in the Rayburn House Office Building.
Special report titled "Beam Weapons: The Science to Prevent Nuclear War" issued by Executive Intelligence Review, November 1982.
Executive Intelligence Review also produced a series of special reports. On Nov. 30, 1982 EIR published a cover feature, "Beam Weapons: The Science to Prevent Thermonuclear War," which included an open letter by Lyndon LaRouche in which he detailed the background behind the development of his proposal for such a technology.
The next, crucial development in advancing this policy was an address I delivered to a Washington, D.C. seminar of the Executive Intelligence Review on February, 1982. On this occasion, with representatives of both the Pentagon and Soviet agencies present, I proposed that beam-weapons development become the keystone of both changes in U.S.A. strategic policy and in U. S. -Soviet strategic-arms negotiations. Both superpowers, I proposed, must independently develop such systems in parallel, agreeing to use this means to end the age of thermonuclear terror, the age of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)."
LaRouche again addressed the urgency of the beam defense policy in a Dec. 31, 1982 speech to the International Caucus of Labor Committees conference in New York City, at which he declared that the Reagan Administration must scrap the MAD doctrine "within 90 days" or the world was on a course toward thermonuclear war:
"If we succeed, if President Reagan does this thing, in the coming weeks, then we shall have administered to that ancient foe of the human race not a killer blow, but a very deadly defeat... The choice exists for us in the next few weeks. If we do not grab it, then I believe we will have reached, for civilization, the point of no return... It is in that sense, in that act, which, I believe—in this great tragedy through which we are now living—that choice, is the punctum saliens of our age. Either we can grab it, or I know not what we can do."Lyndon LaRouche, Dec. 31, 1982
In February 1983, the Soviet representative Shershnev reported to LaRouche that the Soviet leadership were concerned that the development of such a policy would be to the advantage of the West because of its superior productive capabilities and therefore were rejecting Reagan's back-channel overtures. LaRouche shuttled between U.S. officials and Soviet representative in an intensive phase of back-channel negotiations. He warned the Soviets that a military buildup will destroy their economy and break their empire within five years (i.e., by 1988), unless they accepted the new "science driver" represented by relativistic beam technologies.
Mass-circulation pamphlet issued by the National Democratic Policy Committee (NDPC) on the crash program for beam defense.
In late February, LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee published another of many such mass circulation pamphlets on relativistic beam weapon defenses. This included a white paper written by a Fusion Energy Foundation scientist on how beam weapons work, also being used by LaRouche in his contacts with U.S. government officials. The call for a political mobilization on the front page of the pamphlet was prophetic: "Let us make the month of March..."
During the early weeks of March, scientific representatives of Lyndon LaRouche met with National Security Council scientists and consultants on the possibly of a forthcoming Reagan announcement of new military doctrine. However, at the same time, at a meeting in the Pentagon with other LaRouche representatives, generals from Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Navy all insisted that there was no immediate prospect of any change in American strategic policy.
Paul Gallagher, executive director of the Fusion Energy Foundation (FEF), appearing on CBS evening news on March 24, 1983 to explain the science behind Reagan's policy that he had announced the evening before.
Exactly one week later, Ronald Reagan acted, making his historic appearance on national television and announcing that what would come to be called the Strategic Defense Initiative was now the official policy of the United States. This announcement of the most sweeping change in US strategic policy in four decades came as a total surprise to all but his closest advisers. The following morning, and several days following, representatives of LaRouche's organization were brought in as experts and interviewed on multiple national television shows to explain what the President had announced the night before. Lyndon LaRouche was personally interviewed by Armed Forces Network radio and by various Italian television stations and press.
LaRouche immediately threw his full support behind Reagan's policy announcement and initiated a mass-educational campaign, publishing multiple mass-circulation reports to inform the American people and policy makers on the details of how such a program would work.
An array of publications issued by the LaRouche movement, supporting Reagan's announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative and detailing the scientific, economic, and military-strategic implications of the policy.
Yuri Andropov and the other Soviet leadership were shocked by the announcement, which they had been convinced would not occur. At a Fusion Energy Foundation conference on beam defense in Washington, D.C. on April 8th, which had already been scheduled prior to Reagan's announcement, 800 people attended, including representatives of the Executive branch, Congressional offices, and the diplomatic community, including 16 East bloc representatives. Representatives from the Soviet embassy and press attended, but then walked out.
The Soviet designate Shershnev informed LaRouche that he had been ordered from the highest level in Moscow to terminate the discussions with him. Shershnev had reacted to the Reagan announcement by seeking to have senior Soviet KGB representative Georgi Arbatov meet with LaRouche; this proposal was rejected by Moscow, and Shershnev was ordered back to Russia.
Along with the Soviet government, the Democratic Party leadership in the United States also aligned against the SDI. In August on 1983, the Democratic Party National Chairman Charles Manatt publicly declared war on Reagan's SDI policy, and ordered that all Democratic candidates for President in 1984 would totally oppose SDI, despite its broad popular support. Immediately, LaRouche announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President, specifically on a platform of supporting the SDI and rallying Democratic voter support behind it. During 1984, LaRouche's campaign put the candidate on half-hour network policy broadcasts no fewer than 15 times; one-third of these were directly on U.S.-Soviet strategic relations and the SDI.
In March 1984, Democratic Party Chairman Manatt held a press conference in Chicago to demand that Reagan immediately break all administration contact with LaRouche or his associates. The Andropov-controlled Soviet press, including Izvestia, Pravda, and Literaturnaya Gazeta all published articles demanding the same thing. The Washington Post published a three-day series of articles listing all the contacts between LaRouche and his associates, and anyone connected with the Reagan Administration, name by name, in order to try to force those contacts to be broken.
Meanwhile, the Fusion Energy Foundation continued to hold conferences around the world, in Rome, Paris, Bonn, and Tokyo on the Strategic Defense Initiative, to inform European and Asian military leaders and scientists of both the military and economic implications of the policy.
In 1985, EIR published a special report on the Soviet military buildup in response to Reagan's SDI policy, called Global Showdown. LaRouche repeated the warning he had originally issued to the Soviet leadership in 1983, that the East bloc economies would collapse under the weight of this desperate military buildup by the year 1988, unless the Soviets accepted the new scientific and technological driver implied by Reagan's offer of a joint, cooperative development of the SDI missile defense to end the threat of a nuclear holocaust.
Despite pressure from all sides, including from within his own administration, Reagan continued to push the SDI policy, delivering a speech in Washington D.C. on August 6, 1986 in which he declared that under no circumstances would he trade away the SDI as a bargaining chip in negotiations on arms reduction, as many of his own advisers were attempting to convince him to do.
"In SDI, as elsewhere, we've put technology that almost boggles the mind to work increasing our productivity and expanding the limits of human potential... The future is, literally, in our hands, and it is SDl that is helping us to regain control over our own destiny."
─Ronald Reagan, August 6, 1986
Reagan repeated his assertion that the SDI would continue to be the cornerstone of US policy in a speech at the United Nations in September, and prepared for the upcoming summit with Gorbachov in Reykjavik, Iceland which was scheduled to begin on October 7, 1986. Gorbachov continued to reject the SDI and the Soviet press escalated their attacks against LaRouche as the author of the policy, demanding that he be eliminated as a condition for agreements at the upcoming summit.
One day before the Reykjavik summit was to begin, 450 armed agents of the FBI, IRS, Virginia State Police, and other agencies conducted a massive raid on LaRouche publications' headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia. LaRouche's residence was completely surrounded by armed agents, armored cars and personnel carriers, helicopters; a shootout and killing of LaRouche was threatened throughout the day. Leaders of LaRouche's movement were indicted and the U.S. Attorney in Boston, William Weld, was attempting to get indictments of LaRouche himself.
While 1,000 journalists waited outside the summit meetings in Reykjavik, CNN played footage of the raids in Virginia the previous day. The coverage reported LaRouche's charge that the Soviets were demanding his political elimination as a summit condition at Reykjavik. However, inside the summit, Reagan refused to give in to Gorbachov and insisted that the SDI was non-negotiable. The summit broke down as Gorbachov declared that he would not make any arms control agreements as long as Reagan continued to defend the SDI.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in an action without precedent in U.S. history, acted alone to bankrupt, seize, and liquidate the major publications associated with Lyndon LaRouche, seizing their subscription lists as well. At the time of the seizure, Fusion magazine had a total of 140,000 subscribers in the United States alone, the second largest circulation scientific journal in the country. Two years later, the government's bankruptcy seizure was declared illegal. In July 1987, LaRouche was personally indicted for conspiracy by the Federal government. This was now increasingly a government of then-Vice President Bush, who was diametrically opposed to Reagan's SDI.
On October 12, 1988, LaRouche delivered a televised press conference in West Berlin, during which he forecast the imminent breakup of Soviet control of Eastern Europe and the consequent reunification of Germany. For the third time. he detailed that the Soviet bloc could not continue beyond 1988 in its military buildup. He proposed specific initiatives by the West to start rebuilding the East economically in the form of what he called a Marshall Plan for Eastern Europe.
"Let us say that the United States and Western Europe will cooperate to accomplish the successful rebuilding of the economy of Poland. There will be no interference in the political system of government, but only a kind of Marshall Plan aid to rebuild Poland’s industry and agriculture. If Germany agrees to this, let a process aimed at the reunification of the economies of Germany begin, and let this be the punctum saliens for Western cooperation."
—Lyndon LaRouche, West Berlin, October 12, 1988
On January 27, 1989, the railroading of LaRouche was completed, and he was imprisoned with a 15-year sentence. Less than nine months later, the Berlin Wall collapsed, and LaRouche's forecast was fully vindicated.