Armagideon Time: Bush's Nuclear Folly and the National Security Lie
By Chris Floyd, TO UK Correspondent t r u t h o u t Perspective
Tuesday 07 November 2006
Last Friday, just hours after the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration had posted advanced plans for building nuclear weapons on a public web site for months, six Arab nations formally announced they were launching nuclear programs of their own. The potential for disaster posed by this development is almost immeasurable: everything from Chernobyl-style accidents to the theft or transfer of nuclear material to terrorists to the near-certainty of new atomic arsenals appearing in the powder-keg of the Middle East.
The announcement also signals the final and utter failure of the Bush administration's demented "non-proliferation" strategy, which has been centered around a relentless, deliberate drive to gut existing nuclear arms treaties in order to free the United States to enhance its own arsenal. This open denigration of legal strictures on the development of the most dangerous technology on earth has been accompanied by a cynical inconsistency. Bush has heaped monetary and military rewards on India and Pakistan for their illegally developed nuclear arsenals, while threatening war on Iran for what has so far been a peaceful nuclear power program carried out in accordance with international treaties - and doing nothing at all to head off North Korea's now apparently successful bid for atomic weapon capability.
It is a record of astonishing recklessness and incompetence, one that has plunged the world into a new abyss of instability, insecurity and the ever-increasing likelihood of mass death and horror on an unfathomable scale. And the criminal negligence of Bush and his Congressional rubberstamps in dumping plans from Iraq's almost-complete, pre-1991 nuclear weapons program on the Internet - solely for partisan political advantage - has exacerbated these dangers by several magnitudes.
On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that six nations had given notification of their intention to pursue nuclear programs, the Times (UK) reports: Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, which had revealed its nuclear ambitions last month, but had not given official notice to the IAEA. As the Times notes, arms experts view the announcement as "a stunning reversal of policy" in the Arab world, which has long called for a nuclear-free Middle East - a stance aimed at dismantling Israel's large if nominally secret nuclear arsenal and preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weaponry.
But ill winds are blowing through the Middle East from all directions, and the six nations are seeking shelter from the storm - a "security hedge," as proliferation analyst Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told the Times. One of the major factors behind the turnaround is certainly Bush's wanton destruction of Iraq, the Arab world's traditional bulwark against Persian Iran. Not only has the American blunderbuss cleared the way for unprecedented Iranian influence in the region - not least in Baghdad itself - it is also enflaming sectarian, political, ethnic and social tensions across the Arab lands.
And in the case of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there is also the desire to avoid becoming yet another target of "regime change" from the "full spectrum dominance" gang that is still, well, dominant in the White House under Dick Cheney. In Cairo and Riyadh they will not have forgotten how in 2002, top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle - then chairman of the Defense Policy Board, now a rather fat rat leaving the sinking ship of Bushism - sponsored a presentation calling for the American conquest of Saudi oil fields on the way to capturing the strategic "prize" of Egypt: one of the many presentations and papers of the Bush Faction and its neo-con outriders in which the Arab world is regarded as so much raw meat to be processed and repackaged as the Beltway poobahs see fit.
But the radioactive core of these concerns is Israel's outlaw nuclear arsenal, hundreds of missiles strong, capable of wiping any and every country in the region "off the map," to quote the widespread misquote of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in one of his rabble-rousing fulminations. The Israeli arsenal serves as a veritable breeder reactor, generating the fear and strategic necessity that drive surrounding nations to follow suit. These anxieties have of course been elevated by the intensified bellicosity and reckless disregard for Arab lives displayed by the hardline Israeli government against Lebanon this summer - and day after day in Gaza.
It's true that the six Arab nations told the IAEA they wanted nuclear capability solely for peaceful purposes: to run desalinization plants, for example, or to provide cheap, abundant energy for their economies. (Perhaps the supposedly oil-glutted Saudis, who trotted out the latter rationale, know something they're not telling us about "peak oil" and such.) But it's also true that this technology can always be weaponized - as the Bush administration never ceases to remind us when lambasting Iran for its nuclear program.
Of course, converting a peaceful, public energy program into a covert weapons development scheme is much easier if you have a "cookbook" showing you how to do it. And that's exactly how the Bush administration's Iraqi data dump was described by European experts. With six new entrants in the nuclear sweepstakes - just a fraction of the 30 nations that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei says "have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short time" - the ramifications of the administration's nuke blogging are far more serious than the near-total media and political silence that has followed the revelations would indicate. How could this have happened? And more importantly, why did it happen and what does it really mean? Here's how the deal went down.
Last March, in a bid to generate media smoke from overheated right-wing bloggers flailing their way ignorantly through raw intelligence data, the Bush Faction dumped thousands upon thousands of captured Saddam-era Iraqi documents into a public web archive. There was absolutely zero intelligence value to be gained from the exercise, as the administration's own intelligence experts repeatedly warned. Then again, history has shown us just how scantly the Bush Gang regards careful intelligence analysis; as in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, what they wanted was cherry-picked garbage that could be used for partisan propaganda.
And so the sewage pipe of the unsifted Iraqi intel was opened, in hopes of generating a few stories that might dominate a news cycle here and there with "revelations" that could provide even the most tenuous "justification" for the administration's pre-war mendacities about Iraq's non-existent WMD threat and its equally spurious ties to 9/11 and al Qaeda. As we've seen in many other cases - such as the long-running spy fiction thriller, "Atta in Prague" - the barest micron of a hint of a whisper from some unnamed, uncorroborated source is enough for the warmongers and their sycophants to feast upon for years.
But this trove of dross has produced no propaganda gold, and with good reason: the archives cannot yield what is not there. There are no records documenting active WMD programs, or even dormant WMD programs, because there had been no such programs in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War - a fact that the western intelligence agencies, and the Clinton and Bush White Houses, knew very well, because they had been told of this in 1995 by the man in charge of the programs and their destruction: Saddam's own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.
However, as the New York Times reports, there was a good deal of material in the archives on Iraq's pre-1991 WMD programs. These included, says the NYT, "detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb." They contain "charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums."
One of the most important aspects of the information is that it spells out many of the mistakes and wrong turns that Iraqi scientists encountered on their road to the bomb. The handy roadmap provided by Bush will allow new aspirants for atomic weaponry to avoid these pitfalls and accelerate their programs accordingly. Secret nuclear weapons programs once took decades to complete, as in Pakistan, India and North Korea, or else simply sputtered out from technical ignorance, as in Libya. Now much of this knowledge gap has been bridged by the Bush administration, cutting years of trial and error out of the process.
This potentially deadly data has been cast forth upon a world where long-effective non-proliferation structures are either collapsing or already dead. From the very beginning, the Bush administration deliberately set out to overthrow the old "containment" treaties that had held the demon of nuclear war at bay for decades. The administration was adamant that no shackles should hold back its expansion of the entirely ineffective but crony-enriching boondoggle known as "missile defense." Plans for "enhancing" the nation's nuclear arsenal with new, more "useable" tactical nukes, and weaponizing the global commons of outer space were also stated goals of the militarists who dominate the administration: the "Project for a New Century" crowd, led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who spelled out their disdain for arms treaties and their plans for an aggressive nuclear weapons revamp in speeches and publications well before the unelected Bush was shoe-horned into the White House by the Supreme Court.
Once in office, Bush "unsigned" the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty and ash-canned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - the cornerstone of nuclear containment for a generation. In their place, Bush and his "unitary executive" counterpart in Russia, Vladimir Putin, signed the ludicrous "Moscow Treaty" in 2002. This worthless rag - which covers less than a single typewritten page - is perhaps the most cynical sham in international diplomacy since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
The treaty sets a nominal limit on the number of nuclear warheads actually mounted on working missiles and bombers, as the National Resources Defense Council reports. But this limit is operative for one day only - December 31, 2012, the day the treaty expires. "Before and after that date, the number of deliverable nuclear warheads could exceed the treaty's maximum 'limit' of 2,200 'operational' warheads," the NRDC notes. "Both countries would be free to keep thousands of 'reserve' warheads in storage, which could be remounted on delivery systems within weeks or months."
There were no other limits placed on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, nor does the treaty require "the destruction of a single nuclear warhead, missile, silo, bomber or submarine," the NRDC reports. It places no restrictions at all on tactical nuclear weapons: the ones most likely to be used in battle - and the ones most likely to be pilfered by "non-state actors." Nor does the treaty include any interim benchmarks for eliminating weapons or provisions for monitoring compliance. Why should it? It only requires that on the expiration date, both sides temporarily mothball enough weapons to reach the arbitrary limit - then start loading them up again the next day.
Meanwhile, the administration has made a mockery of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As noted, Bush has embraced the nuclear weapons programs of three renegade nations that remained outside the NPT - India, Pakistan and Israel - while attacking nations that have remained within the treaty's allowances for carefully monitored peaceful nuclear energy programs. And Bush has of course continued the practice of all of his predecessors in arrogantly ignoring the obligations which the treaty placed on existing nuclear powers to liquidate their own stockpiles and work toward an international disarmament agreement.
As with the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter and the Magna Carta, the Bush Faction regards the NPT as a "quaint relic" to be evoked - or discarded - according to the political needs of the moment. The concept of a binding law - even to protect the American people and the world from the nightmare of unbridled nuclear proliferation - means nothing to the Bushists. For them, the unfettered exercise of executive power - and the attendant wealth and privilege it brings - overrides all other values and considerations.
And now, in heedless pursuit of this ultimate value, George W. Bush and his political allies have given every terrorist, "rogue" state, and aspiring nuclear state in the world unprecedented access to advanced plans for building a nuclear weapon. Bush has done more to actualize his much-trumpeted scenario of a "mushroom cloud" rising over American cities than any other group in the world: more than al Qaeda, more than the mullahs of Iran, more than the "unitary executive" of North Korea, Kim Il-Jong.
Only a sociopathic idiot of the highest order would dump raw intelligence about weapons systems onto the Internet without even examining it first. What's more, the Bush Party knew for a certainty that there was very dangerous material lurking in the archive. As the NYT reports: "Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure."
Those particular documents were finally pulled - after finding their way into how many hard drives of Islamic extremists, homegrown white-power nuts, or freakish death cults like Aum Shinrikyo? - but the archive stayed wide open. Why? Because the Bush Party fanatics still hoped to squeeze some propaganda value out of it. And even after the IAEA complained about the nuclear data on the site late last month, the administration took no action. Not until the New York Times story was about to appear did the Bushists finally take down the site, to lessen the political embarrassment.
So who is responsible for this criminal idiocy? Let's name names:
Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who led the campaign for the web site - and now, predictably, with breathtaking, Perle-like hypocrisy, is criticizing the White House for "not doing it right." Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who joined Hoekstra in the formal request for the document dump. John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence, who clearly realized the danger and stupidity of such a web site, but cravenly approved it anyway. George Walker Bush, Idiot in Chief, whose political handlers pressured Negroponte into giving his reluctant approval and launching the "cookbook" for nuclear weaponry into the public domain.
What then can we make of such shallow fools, and their years of chest-thumping about "national security" and "keeping America safe?" The plain, unavoidable, indisputable fact of the matter is that they do not care about the security of the American people. This fact has been confirmed over and over by the public record of their policies and actions, as shown above. And it is underscored by this latest outrage. Had some intelligence agent or other government official posted such incendiary material on a web site on the sly, they would rightly be condemned as criminals, even traitors. Hoekstra, Roberts, Negroponte and Bush stand in that same rank.
The Bush Faction's remaining claim to political power - that they are the "party of national security" - is a gargantuan lie. Those who believe them, those who support them, those who vote for them are tying a noose around their own necks, and the necks of all their fellow Americans.
Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His weekly political column, "Global Eye," ran in the Moscow Times from 1996 to 2006. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Bergen Record and many others. His story on Pentagon plans to foment terrorism won a Project Censored award in 2003. He is the author of "Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium," and is co-founder and editor of the "Empire Burlesque" political blog.