Andy GrottoHeritage's Missile Defense Infomercial

A trailer for the Heritage Foundation’s forthcoming video on “the very real threat that hostile nations and rogue dictators now pose to every one of us” is available. Heritage bills the video, scheduled to come out in February 2009, as a “high-definition documentary.” It looks to me more like an infomercial for ground-based national missile defenses.

Starring, in order of appearance (partial):

  • Edward Feulner, President, Heritage Foundation
  • Robert Joseph, Undersecretary of State, 2005-2007
  • Kim Holmes, Assistant Secretary of State, 2002-2005
  • General Henry A. “Trey” Obering, Director, Missile Defense Agency
  • James Carofano, National Security Analyst, Heritage Foundation
  • His Excellency Petr Kolar, Ambassador of the Czech Republic
  • Ken Alibek, Former Director, Soviet Weapons Programs

The trailer’s opening sequence (my transcription):

Mournful, Islamic-sounding music. Text flashes across the screen in ominous font: “Over 20 nations have ballistic missile capability.”

Cut to a wave heading to shore. The camera pans — the shore is New York City. Music fades out, cut to Heritage President Edward Feulner. “One of the most fundamental roles of government is to protect us from enemies. And right now, we are not protected.”

A montage of missile launches and storm clouds. A resonating bass note adds tension, urgency. Cut to Robert Joseph, Undersecretary of State, 2005-2007. “Hope is not a good foundation for a national security strategy.” Montage — more missile launches, Kim Jong Il. Cut back to Robert Joseph as the resonating bass note picks up and the Islamic-sounding music fades back in. “We need to recognize the threats that are out there, and the threat of ballistic missile attack is real.”

Text flashes across the screen, same ominous font: “A ballistic missile armed with a weapon of mass destruction.” Cut to Kim Holmes, Assistant Secretary of State, 2002-2005. “Americans need to know that we are completely vulnerable to a ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon.”

New text flashes across the screen: “Can reach the United States within minutes.” Voiceover then fade in to General Henry A. “Trey” Obering, Director, Missile Defense Agency. “The longest times are typically around 30-33 minutes, 34 minutes, and that would be for a long range missile that would be fired, for example, from North Korea to the United States, or from Iran to the United States.”

Cut back to Edward Feulner, interspersed with sped-up images from urban life—a bustling subway station, a busy sidewalk. “Less than 33 minutes away, their whole city, their whole life, could be annihilated.” Fade to countdown in red digital font, images of missile launches, then Dr. James Carofano, National Security Analyst, Heritage Foundation. “If an enemy of the United States had a ballistic missile they could basically use it to hold America hostage. Then someday there will come a moment when America wants to go forth in the world and do something good, and the enemy will say, ‘If you do that [cut to image of Statue of Liberty, image of Los Angeles, people on the beach], we’re going to shoot this missile at New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco’.”

Cut back to Robert Joseph. “It’s very difficult to guess the number of states that will have ballistic missiles in ten years. If one follows a straight line projection, the number gets quite large. It’s the type of state [images of Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the background to Joseph’s foreground] that acquires ballistic missiles that is most disturbing.”

Cut to more missile launches, fade into General Obering. “We’ve already seen the transfer of more short range rockets and missiles from a state to a terrorist organization. When you marry that with a weapon of mass destruction, even one, fired into an American or allied city, could cause tremendous devastation.” Music picks up.

Cut to image of mushroom cloud, then to Robert Joseph. “My number one concern today is a terrorist with a nuclear weapon.” Music picks up more.

Cut to His Excellency Petr Kolar, Ambassador of the Czech Republic. “For some crazy maniacs to attack us, harm us, and destroy our lives.” Cut to Ken Alibek, Former Director, Soviet Weapons Programs. “Biological weapons are mass casualty weapons. They can cause diseases in humans in animals, and kill them. We should expect not dozens, not hundreds, even not thousands. We should talk about tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties.” The music breaks into a suspenseful, up-tempo action movie-like theme as text flashes “The growing threat cannot be ignored.”



  1. Page van der Linden (History)

    Reagan had SDI infomercials, if I recall correctly.

    I’m trying to come up with some profound Cold War rhetoric vs. this stuff… but I can’t.

    I’ll echo your “wow”. This is profoundly creepy.

    I do have one question: I’ve read Alibek’s “Biohazard” book about the Soviet bioweapons program, but I don’t know much about him beyond that. To be blunt: has he always been a tool of the neocons?

  2. Alex Bell

    Absolutely disturbing.

  3. Brian

    All it took to convince me was the scary arab music!

    Page van der Linden – I’ve wondered the same thing about Alibek. I read that book years ago and occasionally see him pop up in less-than-reputable places so I don’t know. Have any outside academics fact-checked his book?

  4. FSB

    too bad BMD doesn’t make any sense from either a policy or technical viewpoint

  5. Jonathan Thornburg (History)

    Maytbe I’m missing something: To me, the Heritage infomercial seems like “dog bites man”: BMD/SDI/ABM/etc have been a major part of the Heritage Foundation playbook for a long time, and Obama has expressed significan doubts. So how is a Heritage PR campaign to try to save the existing BMD program surprising? And since it’s a PR campaign, is anyone surprised that it’s a one-sided presentation of the issues?

    Jeffrey, you know a lot more than I do about the politics involved here. Could you explain why you find this surprising enough to say “Wow.”?

  6. Smith (History)

    That is very, very creepy.

  7. Serving Patriot (History)

    Personally, I’m still waiting for all those ICBM armed countries the Rumsfeld Commission promised me all the way back in 1998!


  8. Cameron (History)

    Page – I can’t speak to his current political leanings but last I heard Alibek works at a defense contractor developing sensors for BioWeapons. His inclusion in a movie like this appears to be serious cherry picking of his quotes. You’ll note that his quote has nothing to do with BMD, and is instead about how WMD’s are bad.

    I still can’t believe that BMD is an issue, who would trade the symbolic destruction of a city for the loss of their entire country? And what terrorists are going to bother developing WMD and a big honking missle for it.

    Oh well.

  9. Page van der Linden (History)

    Hi Cameron,

    I just realized that myself, re: how his quote is generic, with reference to WMDs. Something rings a bell there; I think he <i>might</i> have been part of an online chat about bioweapons, leading up to the Iraq War. IIRC, he wasn’t pushing the “Saddam has a bioweapons program” stuff; rather, he was discussing general issues with bioweapons.

    I’ll have to go look it up.

  10. FSB

    OK, I think we are being a bit harsh on poor little Heritage foundation — one has to appreciate that in their world view it actually does make some sense for (Team) America to be arrogant pr*cks worldwide.