DELTA JUNCTION (AP) -- A protest of the proposed national missile defense system turned into a forum Saturday as protesters mingled with residents who back the project at Fort Greely, the Interior Alaska Army base targeted for closure.
About 50 people carpooled the 100 miles from Fairbanks to Fort Greely, just south of Delta Junction, for a peaceful protest of the proposed missile defense system. The protest was organized by Stacey Fritz, coordinator of No Nukes North.
About 40 Delta residents greeted the protesters and the exchange provided more illumination than sparks. Supporters and opponents of a missile test bed at the shuttered Army base milled beneath a warm fall sun swapping points of view. The arguments ranged from the lack of evidence that the anti-missile technology will work to the economic benefits and the threat of nuclear war.
''We really realize it is a critical jobs issue,'' Philip Marshall told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Marshall, of Fairbanks, attended to protest the long-term allotment of tax dollars for a problem-ridden technology.
Rena Case, a Delta resident in favor of the project, acknowledged that there are flaws with the missile defense proposal. But Case said some sort viable defense for Alaska is critical.
''There's got to be an answer,'' Case said.
''Let's hope we don't find out the hard way,'' said Jan Lokken of Fairbanks.
Suzanne Rich of Fairbanks suggested the Delta economy could be boosted by a wind generator that provides an alternative energy source.
''I'm sure Delta needs money and that's why it likes missile defense,'' she said.
But Delta residents indicated their endorsement of the missile defense system is about national security and patriotism as well as economic benefits.
Luke Bowdre, 14, said the project is about keeping America safe.
''I want us to keep the American flag over our nation,'' Bowdre said. ''Right now, the only way to do that is to have missiles that would stop nuclear warheads.''
Holly Beck and Anna Stitt said they saw the missile defense system as a precursor to an arms build up.
''Nuclear war scares me,'' Beck said, calling on a new peace movement to restore the country's peaceful image.
Delta residents Nat Good and Nancy Kennedy said the United States needs a strong defense against an attack from countries such as North Korea. Lynn DeFilippo of No Nukes North said such fears are not rational, since North Korea is not a nuclear threat.
Many of the discussions centered on how the United States will spend its money -- billions on missile defense instead of on environmental cleanup, education or social programs.
''My main deal for being here is NMD system is not the best way to protect Alaska and to stimulate the economy,'' said Jay Strange of Fairbanks.
His position didn't sway Stormie Mitchell of Delta.
''He's entitled to his own opinion,'' Mitchell said. ''We've agreed to disagree.''
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