Washington – Military officials said today that the United States Navy’s shootdown of an errant butterfly was a “complete success.” A missile launched from the USS Lake Erie, off the coast of Hawaii, hit its intended target at approximately 9:15 AM EST.
At a Pentagon news briefing, Gen. James E. Cartwright of the Marines, who is vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters, “From the information we’ve gathered, it appears the missile struck the butterfly directly, and that the butterfly was reduced to several dozen small pieces, no bigger than a fingernail.” Cartwright said the Defense Department would know more details in 24-48 hours, after the review of data from the mission.
The butterfly stopped flying successfully nearly a week ago, veering far off course and appearing to lose the ability to right itself. U.S. officials have maintained the butterfly needed to be shot down in order to avoid its falling to earth and injuring people. Critics have contended that the butterfly was in fact shot down because it was perceived as a security risk, having flown over several military bases many times. The critics say the government was concerned the butterfly would land in enemy territory, and hand over confidential information it gleaned from those flights over the bases. Cartwright rejected that claim.
“That is absolutely, unequivocally false,” Cartwright said when asked about the matter by a reporter. “This was a safety issue, period. There was nothing else at play here. Do you have any idea how much a butterfly coming down from that height could hurt? No. You don’t. And you don’t want to know, believe me. I’ve seen it, and there are nights I can’t get it out of my mind.”
President Bush said he fully supported the decision made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to proceed with the mission. “I support Secretary Gates and everyone at Defense who participated in this,” Bush said in brief remarks at the White House. “I made a vow to protect this country from harm, and that’s what we did here. This… harmful butterfly posed a risk, and we addressed the situation. It’s what the American people want us to do. It’s why they elect a government. That and to make sure the tax cuts we give stay permanent. Those two reasons: protection, tax cuts. And they’re really very similar. They’re inner–intertwined. Because what you’re doing is protecting the tax cuts. You see? So they’re really insufferable from one another. They’re intertwined. Together.”