The Nuclear Terror Card
excerpted from the book
the Roots of Terrorism
edited by Ellen Ray and William
Ocean Press, 2003, paper
Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap
In considering nuclear force, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
advised the Pentagon to "think the unthinkable."
The United States is considering military
action against "40 to 50 countries," announced Vice-President
"If we... just wage a total war,
our children will sing great songs about us years from now,"
was how the Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Richard Perle,
It is terrifying when the world's only superpower is in the hands
of a cabal that seems not merely to believe in Armageddon, but
to relish the thought The links between Christian fundamentalists
and the pro-lsrael Zionist fundamentalists. They all love the
The nuclear policy posturing of George
W. Bush is chillingly transparent. The president asserted in the
2000 campaign that there was no longer any need for "a nuclear
balance of terror," but after he took office, his Pentagon
hawks prepared a Nuclear Policy Review, which was leaked to the
press in early 2002. It appeared at first glance to call for a
sharp reduction in U.S. dependence on nuclear weapons, along with
an expansion of the use of conventional weapons. An initial news
report quoted Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz saying
the policy review "includes a much reduced level of nuclear
strike capability." The United States, It appeared, was going
to put two-thirds of its nuclear arsenal in storage; Russia would
do the same.
But the real effect of the new policy,
follow-up reports revealed, was to lower the threshold for the
use of nuclear arms, to increase the likelihood of their use,
not the contrary. The plan was to speed up the development and
stockpiling of "lower-yield" nukes, tactical weapons
for use in limited conflicts, to take out specific enemy installations,
especially underground ones like the deep caves in Afghanistan
or the thick walls of the underground bunkers in Iraq. Nuclear
weapons are no longer seen as tools of deterrence, but as tools
of warfare. The talk is of "mini-nukes," "neutron
bombs," "bunker-busters," and of "enhanced
radiation weapons." There is also reference to "e-bombs,"
high-powered microwave emissions designed to wipe out enemy equipment.
The review further identifies Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq,
Iran, Syria and Libya as potential nuclear targets.
As a result of the advocacy and adoption
of this policy, the United States and consequently the other nuclear
superpowers, have abandoned earlier commitments to the reduction
of nuclear arsenals as overall policy goals. While they want to
prevent new members from joining the nuclear club, the United
States has withdrawn from the ABM Treaty and threatens to scrap
or ignore other conventions against weapons of mass destruction
even as it bemoans their proliferation. Washington's nuclear fever
has awesome repercussions in China, North Korea, Pakistan and
India, any of whom might become embroiled in a nuclear conflict.
Neither India nor Pakistan rejects the notion of nuclear war.
And, as the Pentagon has contingency plans for using tactical
nuclear weapons against North Korean nuclear sites, it and China
threaten to retaliate.
The key to this development, in fact,
overturning 50 years of international consensus, is not Iraq,
but North Korea, a long-standing obsession of many key administration
officials. J.D. Crouch, for example, the Assistant Secretary of
Defense for International Security, has long called for returning
nuclear weapons to South Korea and for using force to destroy
the North Korean nuclear complex. The underground facilities in
North Korea were the impetus for the development of bunker-busters
long before the world learned of Osama bin Laden's caves. North
Korea is the justification for Washington's plan to station missiles
along the West Coast and in Alaska, even before they have been
fully tested and why it has sent dozens of bombers to Guam.
While the United States insisted on the
need for multilateral negotiations over the threat posed by North
Korea's reactivation of its nuclear facilities and refused to
engage in any dialog with Pyongyang, it was merely buying time
to deal unilaterally with Iraq before dealing unilaterally with
North Korea. The administration clearly is as prepared to "go
it alone" in Korea as it is in Iraq. The president said of
his efforts to convince North Korea to shut down its facilities,
if they "don't work diplomatically, they'll have to work
The threat of a second Korean War is real.
U.S. belligerence is escalating and it only fuels the understandable
paranoia of the North Koreans. At the same time, it terrifies
the South Koreans, for whom the first Korean War was incredibly
destructive and whose people were the victims of U.S. war crimes
during that conflict. The Defense Department commenced the redeployment
of some 12,000 U.S. combat troops stationed along the demilitarized
zone, allegedly because they were easy targets for North Korean
retaliation in the event a provocative U.S. action. The move is
seen as far more frightening by the South Koreans, who viewed
these northernmost troops as limiting the likelihood of a direct
U.S. attack on North Korea's nuclear facilities. The Pentagon,
meantime, noted that a new conflict on the Korean peninsula could
kill a million people. Yet another surreal aspect of the current
administration posturing is Rumsfeld's role in North Korea's nuclear
status. He was on the board of the Swiss-based technology giant
ABB when, in early 2000, it entered into a $200 million nuclear
power station contract with Pyongyang.
Intoxicated with the impending opportunity
to field test every possible newfangled weapon, military brass
are speaking with awesome acronyms of the "RMA"-the
revolution in military affairs-concentrated in "NCW"
-network centric warfare-to counter "asymmetric" challenges.
Anything is possible with technological superiority. Our computers
will zap their computers. And meanwhile tactical nuclear weapons
are being integrated into NCA.
The open talk of the U.S. use of nuclear
weapons in Iraq, including pre-emptive use, only increases the
likelihood that Israel will avail itself of this option, as it
asserts itself into the conflict, something most observers think
is inevitable. And Washington's atomic warmongering does nothing
to foster nuclear restraint in Russia or China, much less North
While Washington demanded that Iraq and
North Korea abide by UN resolutions and international treaties
and forgo nuclear capability, it steadfastly flouted such resolutions
and treaties over the years, actively assisting Israel and apartheid
South Africa in nuclear development. Though the apartheid regime
is gone, along with its atomic weapons program (having simply
been moved north to a more pro-U.S. neighbor), Israel became one
of the nuclear superpowers, willing since the October 1973 war
to use them on its neighbors. Since the first Gulf War, in fact,
Israel has moved from number six to number five in the nuclear
club, now with more thermonuclear warheads than the United Kingdom,
reportedly between 200 and 500. Both Israel and the United States
speak fondly of neutron bombs, miniature thermonuclear devices
designed to kill as many people as possible while inflicting as
little property damage as possible. They are reportedly a staple
in the Israeli nuclear arsenal, a convenient weapon in future
Middle East wars. Indeed, Israel's nuclear program is a source
of deep resentment and fear in the Middle East and there is no
likelihood it will be constrained.
Not content to be the nuclear superpower
in its region, Israel insists it must be the only nation in the
Middle East with any nuclear capacity. As its then Deputy Chief
of Staff put it in 1992, "I believe that the State of Israel
should from now on use all its power and direct all its efforts
to preventing nuclear developments in any Arab state whatsoever."
Israel, as it happens, provides a little-known
precedent for the frustrations currently expressed by nuclear
weapons inspectors in Iraq. U.S. inspectors were sent to Israel
in the 1960s to inspect the then secret reactor at Dimona, a move
reluctantly approved by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion in order to
prevent international inspections. Nevertheless, they were tightly
controlled, lied to, shown false control panels pasted over the
real ones and led past bricked up entrances to hidden rooms. The
program, little more than a fig leaf, was abandoned in 1969 when
Nixon and Kissinger concluded (perhaps with a sigh of relief)
that Israel had irrevocably achieved nuclear capability.
The United States no longer pays even
lip service to non-proliferation having rejected the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty and moved ahead with a National Missile Defense
program, reviving the Star Wars fantasies of the Reagan era and
seriously threatening the weaponization of space. When the current
U.S. administration took office, Rumsfeld announced that Washington
"must have the option to deploy weapons in space"; the
United States must "control space." Bush spoke of "total
management of the planet."
Hiroshima: Needless Slaughter, Useful
by William Blum
For months Japan was desperately trying to surrender. With full
knowledge that the war could be ended on its terms, without a
land invasion, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs. Rather than
the last act of World War II, this attack was the opening shot
of the Cold War.
After the war, the world learned what
U.S. Ieaders had known by early 1945: Japan was militarily defeated
long before Hiroshima; it had been trying for months, if not for
years, to surrender; and the United States had consistently rebuffed
these overtures. A May 5  cable, intercepted and decoded
by the United States, dispelled any possible doubt that the Japanese
were eager to sue for peace. Sent to Berlin by the German ambassador
in Tokyo, after he talked to a ranking Japanese naval officer,
it read: "Since the situation is clearly recognized to be
hopeless, large sections of the Japanese armed forces would not
regard with disfavor a U.S. request for capitulation even if the
terms were hard."'
As far as is known, Washington did nothing
to pursue this opening. Later that month, Secretary of War Henry
L. Stimson almost capriciously dismissed three separate high-level
recommendations from within the administration to activate peace
negotiations. The proposals advocated signaling Japan that the
United States was willing to consider the all-important retention
of the emperor system; i.e., the United States would not insist
upon "unconditional surrender."
Stimson, like other high U.S. officials,
did not really care in principle whether or not the emperor was
retained. The term "unconditional surrender" was always
a propaganda measure; wars are always ended with some kind of
conditions. To some extent the insistence was a domestic consideration-not
wanting to appear to "appease" the Japanese. More important,
however, it reflected a desire that the Japanese not surrender
before the bomb could be used. One of the few people who had been
aware of the Manhattan Project from the beginning, Stimson had
come to think of it as his bomb, "my secret," as he
called it in his diary. On June 6, he told President Truman he
was "fearful" that before the A-bombs were ready to
be delivered, the Air Force would have Japan so "bombed out"
that the new weapon "would not have a fair background to
show its strength." In his later memoirs, Stimson admitted
that "no effort was made and none was seriously considered,
to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the bomb."
And that effort could have been minimal.
In July, before the leaders of the United States, Britain and
the Soviet Union met at Potsdam, the Japanese Government sent
several radio messages to its ambassador, Naotake Sato, in Moscow,
asking him to request Soviet help in mediating a peace settlement.
"His Majesty is extremely anxious to terminate the war as
soon as possible said one communication. "Should, however,
the United States and Great Britain insist on unconditional surrender,
Japan would be forced to fight to the bitter end."
On July 25, while the Potsdam meeting
was taking place, Japan instructed Sato to keep meeting with Russian
Foreign Minister Molotov to impress the Russians "with the
sincerity of our desire to end the war [and] have them understand
that we are trying to end hostilities by asking for very reasonable
terms in order to secure and maintain our national existence and
honor" (a reference to retention of the emperor).
Having broken the Japanese code years
earlier, Washington did not have to wait to be informed by the
Soviets of these peace overtures; it knew immediately and did
nothing. Indeed, the National Archives in Washington contains
U.S. Government documents reporting similarly ill-fated Japanese
peace overtures as far back as l943
Thus, it was with full knowledge that
Japan was frantically trying to end the war, that President Truman
and his hardline Secretary of State, James Byrnes, included the
term "unconditional surrender" in the July 26 Potsdam
Declaration. This "final warning" and expression of
surrender terms to Japan was in any case a charade. The day before
it was issued, Harry Truman had already approved the order to
release a 15 kiloton atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima.
Many U.S. Military officials were less
than enthusiastic about the demand for unconditional surrender
or use of the atomic bomb. At the time of Potsdam, Gen. Hap Arnold
asserted that conventional bombing could end the war. Adm. Ernest
King believed a naval blockade alone would starve the Japanese
into submission. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, convinced that retaining
the emperor was vital to an orderly transition to peace, was appalled
at the demand for unconditional surrender. Adm. William Leahy
concurred. Refusal to keep the emperor "would result only
in making the Japanese desperate and thereby increase our casualty
lists," he argued, adding that a nearly defeated Japan might
stop fighting if unconditional surrender were dropped, as a demand.
At a loss for a military explanation for use of the bomb, Leahy
believed that the decision "was clearly a political one,"
reached perhaps "because of the vast sums that had been spent
on the project.'' Finally, we have Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's account
of a conversation with Stimson in which he told the Secretary
of War that:
Japan was already defeated and that dropping
the bomb was completely unnecessary... I thought our country should
avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment
was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save U.S.
lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking
some way to surrender with a minimum loss of "face."
The secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily
refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions.
If, as appears to be the case, U.S. policy
in 1945 was based on neither the pursuit of the earliest possible
peace nor the desire to avoid a land invasion we must look elsewhere
to explain the dropping of the A-bombs.
It has been asserted that dropping of
the atomic bombs was not so much the last military act of World
War II as the first act of the Cold War. Although Japan was targeted,
the weapons were aimed straight to the red heart of the Soviet
Union. For three-quarters of a century the determining element
of U.S. foreign policy, virtually its sine qua non, has been "the
communist factor." World War II and a battlefield alliance
with the Soviet Union did not bring about an ideological change
in the anticommunists who owned and ran the United States. It
merely provided a partial breather in a struggle that had begun
with the U.S. invasion of the Soviet Union in 1918. It is hardly
surprising then, that 25 years later, as the Soviets were sustaining
the highest casualties of any nation in World War II, the United
States systematically kept them in the dark about the A-bomb project-
while sharing information with the British.
According to Manhattan Project scientist
Leo Szilard, Secretary of State Byrnes had said that the bomb's
biggest benefit was not its effect on Japan but its power to "make
Russia more manageable in Europe.''
The United States was planning ahead.
A Venezuelan diplomat reported to his government after a May 1945
meeting that Assistant Secretary 1~ - of State Nelson Rockefeller
"communicated to us the anxiety of the United States Government
about the Russian attitude." U.S. officials, he said, were
"beginning to speak of Communism as they once spoke of Nazism
and are invoking continental solidarity and hemispheric defense
against it." Churchill, who had known about the weapon before
Truman, applauded and understood its use: "Here then was
a speedy end to the Second World War," he said about the
bomb and added, thinking of Russian advances into Europe, "and
perhaps to much else besides... We now had something in our hands
which would redress the balance with the Russians."
Referring to the immediate aftermath of
Nagasaki, Stimson wrote:
In the State Department there developed
a tendency to think of the bomb as a diplomatic weapon. Outraged
by constant evidence of Russian perfidy, some of the men in charge
of foreign policy were eager to carry the bomb for a while as
their ace-in-the-hole... U.S. statesmen were eager for their country
to browbeat the Russians with the bomb held rather ostentatiously
on our hip.
This policy, which came to be known as
"atomic diplomacy" did not, of course, spring forth
full-grown on the day after Nagasaki.
"The psychological effect on Stalin
[of the bombs] was twofold," noted historian Charles L. Mee,
Jr. "The Americans had not only used a doomsday machine;
they had used it when, as Stalin knew, it was not militarily necessary.
It was this last chilling fact that doubtless made the greatest
impression on the Russians."
After the Enola Gay released its cargo
on Hiroshima, common sense- common decency wouldn't apply here-would
have dictated a pause long enough to allow Japanese officials
to travel to the city, confirm the extent of the destruction and
respond before the United States dropped a second bomb.
At 11 o'clock in the morning of August
9, Prime Minister Kintaro Suzuki addressed the Japanese Cabinet:
"Under the present circumstances I have concluded that our
only alternative is to accept the Potsdam Proclamation and terminate
Moments later, the second bomb fell on
Nagasaki. Some hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died
in the two attacks; many more suffered terrible injury and permanent
After the war, His Majesty the Emperor
still sat on his throne and the gentlemen who ran the United States
had absolutely no problem with t s. They never had.
Nuclear Threats and the New World
by Michio Kaku
On the eve of the Gulf War, opinion polls indicated that the U.S.
public was evenly split, about 45 to 45 percent, on military intervention.
To tip the scales, the Bush Administration unleashed a blistering
torrent of accusations, branding Saddam Hussein a threat to Middle
East oil, a renegade, a trampler of international law and even
a new Hitler. None of these tactics, however, proved particularly
effective in rousing war fever. A sizable fraction of the U.S.
people resisted administration propaganda and preferred to pursue
patient negotiations, rather than to pull the trigger.
Then, the Bush Administration unleashed
the unsubstantiated claim that Iraq would develop the atomic bomb
within one year-even though most nuclear physicists concluded
it would take about 10 years. Within days, well-meaning U.S. citizens
who had grave reservations about the use of bloodshed to restore
a reactionary, feudal emirate, began to wave the flag and support
Given the success of the tactic, it is
not surprising that the nuclear bogeyman reared its head again.
Soon after the conclusion of the Gulf War, the New York Times
raised the specter of a North Korean atomic bomb. For 40 years
the situation in Korea had been relatively stable and, in fact,
ignored by the media. Within weeks, however, the Bush Administration
created a major international crisis by focusing world attention
on the alleged atomic bomb factory at Yongbyon. Similarly, it
had been known for years that Cuba was building a Chernobyl-style
reactor. After the Gulf War, however, the right-wing press ignited
a fierce controversy by claiming that because Florida could be
contaminated by a nuclear accident, a U.S. invasion of the island
Proliferation Justifies Invasion
Nuclear threats, of course, have historically
been at the heart of U.S. foreign policy and have proven extremely
useful for justifying U.S. actions. This time around, however,
there is a new twist added to the more traditional threats by
the United States to unleash nuclear devastation on any nation
challenging its powers.
In the past, preventing nuclear proliferation
had been a low priority for U.S. policymakers. Now, the United
States claims the right to intervene militarily around the world
to stop alleged proliferation.
Iraq, North Korea and Cuba are the first
beneficiaries of this new "Bush Doctrine." As we shall
see, the basis for calculating the extent of the threat these
nations pose is a political judgment by U.S. policy makers, not
an objective assessment by scientists and military analysts.
Now that the only other superpower, the
Soviet Union, no longer exists one might conclude there is no
need to threaten the use of nuclear weapons. This is not the case.
On January 14, 1991, days before the beginning
of the Gulf War, the Pentagon leaked to Newsweek a major study
on the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq. It publicized the
Pentagon's varied contingency plans to use nuclear weapons and
pointedly mentioned General Norman Schwarzkopf's request for permission
to use them in the Gulf. The plan called for neutron bombs to
destroy enemy troops, nuclear "earth penetrators" to
vaporize underground bunker positions and hydrogen bombs detonated
over Baghdad to wipe out its communications systems. During the
war itself, there were approximately 300 U.S. hydrogen bombs in
the Gulf aboard U.S. ships.
This policy was further clarified by a
Pentagon paper leaked to the New York Times in March 1992. According
to the secret draft, top priority for the future will be preventing
the rise of another rival to U.S. military supremacy. It listed
seven possible nations or combinations of nations which may threaten
U.S. military domination of the world. A careful look at these
seven possibilities, however, shows that the Pentagon is shadow
boxing. Iraq, one of the contenders, for example, is devastated
and has a gross national product that is one percent of the U.S.
GNP. Nonetheless, the report unleashed a firestorm of protest,
including diplomatically tempered outrage from some U.S. allies
ranked as potential rivals. The Bush Administration tried to distance
itself from this report, calling it unofficial and low-level and
not the basis of U.S. foreign policy.
Two and a half months later, according
to the New York Times, the Pentagon issued its final report in
which it backed away from thwarting "the emergence of a new
rival to U.S. military supremacy" as the primary goal for
the next five years. Official policy or not, the report, which
circulated among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a major
position within the military.
Ever eager to save the administration
embarrassment, some commentators quickly labeled the report a
"trial balloon" meant to test public opinion about a
major defense strategy. More likely, however, it was deliberately
released as a veiled warning to friends and foes alike that the
United States will not tolerate threats to its military supremacy.
One of the key principles of Game Theory,
developed by the mathematician John von Neumann for Pentagon nuclear
war games, is that the enemy can be kept at bay by letting it
know that you are prepared to unleash the "maximum level
of violence" if necessary. The policy is like that of a tiger
snarling in the forest; it knows that if the smaller animals ganged
up, they would win. Through belligerent roaring and strutting
and a few well-timed bluffs, the tiger can intimidate the other
animals and keep them in line without engaging in a single fight.
Likewise, the Pentagon's nuclear snarl warns the rest of the world
not to tangle with the United States.
Although adding charges of proliferation
to the vocabulary of snarls and using it as a justification for
intervention is a recent phenomenon, its inclusion is simply an
extension of long-standing U.S. Cold War strategy. The United
States has consistently dispensed support and in this case nuclear
technology, to selected right-wing governments in reward for containing
the Soviet Union. As Henry Kissinger once remarked, if a nation
is on its way to building an atomic bomb, then why not provide
certain assistance in order to influence its foreign policy.
For decades, then, while publicly decrying
the spread of nuclear weapons, the United States has been providing
extensive covert and overt support, including selectively proliferating
bomb technology to a number of its close allies. The real threat
of nuclear proliferation comes not so much from Iraq and North
Korea, which have only a primitive technological base, but from
those countries such as Israel, South Africa, India and Pakistan,
whose nuclear weapons infrastructures are quite mature and sophisticated.
Interviews in 1988 with top United States intelligence experts
indicated that Israel had at least 100 atomic bombs, South Africa
had up to 20, India 12 to 20 and Pakistan four. Since then, these
countries have considerably modernized their nuclear production
methods and accelerated bomb production.
In its secret nuclear facility at Kahuta,
in the hills near Rawalpindi, Pakistan has been quietly amassing
advanced nuclear technology. The United States gave its tacit
blessing to the project largely in recognition of Pakistan's role
as a strategic CIA-financed staging area for the fundamentalist
rebel fight against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan.
The Reagan Administration, in fact, pressured Congress to grant
exceptions to laws requiring a cut-off of aid to Pakistan because
of its nuclear program arguing that it had not yet technically
assembled an atomic bomb, i.e., it was "one screw turn away"
from constructing a nuclear weapon. A.Q. Kahn, head of the Pakistani
nuclear program, acknowledged that the United States was fully
aware that it had the bomb. "America knows it," said
the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb in one candid interview.
"What the CIA has been saying about our possessing the bomb
is correct.'' In spring 1992, after years of adamant denial, Pakistan
publicly admitted for the first time that it has the capability
of building the atomic bomb.
While the United States richly rewarded
Israel, South Africa and Pakistan, which all had extensive clandestine
nuclear facilities, it used Iraq's primitive bomb-building efforts
to justify a war. In that conflict, the United States and its
allies dropped 88,500 tons of high explosives (seven times the
Hiroshima bomb), killed perhaps 200,000 to 300,000 people and
according to the UN reduced the country to a "preindustrial"
Access to Fissionable Materials
An examination of the relative strengths
of nuclear programs makes the double standard clear. A first step
in building an atomic bomb is obtaining or purifying from natural
uranium the 20 pounds of enriched uranium, of uranium-235, necessary
to fabricate one atomic bomb (less for a plutonium bomb). The
two most common ways of obtaining weapons-grade uranium are manufacturing
it domestically or buying it abroad on the open market. Using
state-of-the-art production techniques, it takes approximately
1,000 ultracentrifuges operating for one year to purify enough
enriched uranium to make a bomb. (Because U-235 is slightly lighter
than U-238, the ultracentrifuge, by spinning natural uranium,
can separate these two isotopes.) Pakistan is known to have about
14,000 ultracentrifuges, or enough, in principle, to make 10 to
15 atomic bombs per year. Having apparently assembled its first
atomic bomb in 1986, Pakistan could now have a small nuclear arsenal.
By comparison, Iraq had 26 ultracentrifuges
before the war, far too few to manufacture an atomic bomb within
a year. Meanwhile, as far back as 1968, the United States provided
South Africa with 230 pounds of enriched uranium to power its
U.S.-made 20 megawatt Safari-1 nuclear reactor, which operates
on weapons-grade (90 percent enriched) uranium. As early as August
1973, the South African Government publicly announced that it
had purified a few tons of weapons-grade fuel for its nuclear
reactor at Pelindaba-Valindaba. In 1975, the South African Minister
of Mines, Dr. Pieter Koornhof, announced an ambitious $4.5 billion
program to build a mammoth facility capable of producing 5,000
tons of enriched uranium a year. 13
In addition, the South African Government
also operates the huge 1,844 megawatt Koeberg I and II nuclear
power plants. Theoretically, these plants are large enough to
yield roughly 500 pounds of plutonium per year, which could then
be extracted by chemical purification processes.
Clearly, South Africa's vast nuclear program,
centered at Pelindaba-Valindaba, dwarfs the puny Iraqi program
by several orders of magnitude and can generously supply both
its own and Israel's need for fissionable materials. The exact
figures on South African plutonium refinement capability are unknown
because Pretoria had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) until 1991.
Iraq, by contrast, was a signatory to
the NPT, allowed inspections by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) every six months and only possessed about 50 pounds
of enriched uranium. Legally obtained under strict IAEA controls
and supervision, this material was apparently the basis of the
Bush Administration's claim-widely disputed by physicists around
the world-that the Iraqis could assemble an atomic bomb within
one year. In fact, only one month before the Gulf War, the IAEA
had conducted its periodic inspection and stated flatly that there
was no threat from this uranium. Compare the unsubstantiated charges
of imminent nuclear capability launched against Iraq with the
solid evidence provided six years earlier by Israeli defector
Mordechai Vanunu. The nuclear technician claimed that Israel possessed
possibly several hundred atomic bombs, developed at the secret
Dimona plant and even sent color photographs of the nuclear bomb
cores to the London Sunday Times. According to Vanunu, Dimona
produces 1.2 kilograms of pure plutonium per week, or enough to
manufacture four to 12 atomic bombs per year. Despite this evidence,
the United States publicly supported the convenient fiction that
Israel did not possess nuclear capability.
Secret Testing Revealed
Even after it is assembled, an atomic
bomb is effectively useless unless the technology has been tested;
no country will risk its existence on a potential dud. To prevent
testing without its knowledge, the United States launched the
Vela satellite in the 1970s specifically to detect unauthorized
detonations of nuclear weapons around the world.
On September 22, 1979, a storm brewed
off the coast of South Africa near Prince Edward Island (1,500
miles from the Cape of Good Hope) Two Israeli Navy warships plied
the rough waters.-Unexpectedly, the heavy cloud cover broke and
the Vela satellite detected the fingerprint "double flash"
(called NUCFLASHES in Pentagon jargon).
Apparently the South Africans and Israelis
were testing a low-yield atomic warhead that was later standardized
for use by the Israeli Defense Force. Had the clouds not parted
on their third test, they would have successfully evaded the Vela
Satellite. As one Israeli official involved with the test said,
"It was a fuckup. There was a storm and we figured it would
block Vela, but there was a gap in the weather, a window and Vela
got blinded by the flash." This joint South African-Israeli
test was the first and only known test by a country not in the
Nuclear Club since India had tested its bomb in 1974.
Developing Technology and a Credible Arsenal
The recent UN revelations that Iraq's
nuclear program was concealed and more diverse than expected do
not change this basic conclusion. The new information was interesting
not because it showed how advanced the project was, but because
it exposed Iraq's low level of technology and high level of desperation.
Unable to legally obtain ultracentrifuge technology, the country
had embarked on a costly search for various alternative and antiquated
methods of uranium separation.
An Iraqi defector divulged that there
were three previously undisclosed nuclear sites where the Iraqis
even resurrected technologies long-abandoned by the West, such
as the calutron (California cyclotron). The on-site UN team found
that only six to 12 of the 30 calutrons in Tarmia were usable
before the war and all were damaged by the war. Iraq's admission
of one pound of low-grade uranium (unsuitable for bomb use) was
consistent with the state of Iraq's unfinished calutron site.
Furthermore, without high speed capacitors needed for precise
electronic detonation of the enriched uranium or plutonium, an
Iraqi bomb would have been quite unusable. The UN found no indications
that Iraq had mastered the technology of high speed capacitors.
The Single Bomb Fallacy
Even if Iraq had been able to manufacture
a bomb, a single nuclear weapon, contrary to public perception,
does not constitute a credible military threat, nor does it have
much military value in an armed conflict. A substantial stockpile
is another matter.
Israel has perhaps the world's sixth largest
nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 300 atomic bombs. During the
1973 October War, the Israelis
were poised to fire their nuclear weapons
at the Arabs if the battle had turned against them. After the
1973 war, the Israeli Defense Force apparently established three
nuclear-capable battalions, each with 12 self-propelled 175-mm
nuclear cannons. Three nuclear artillery shells were stockpiled
for each weapon, making a total of 108 warheads for these nuclear
Adding to its nuclear potency, only Israel,
of all the nations not in the Nuclear Club, has mastered the more
advanced thermonuclear hydrogen bomb technology. The pictures
released by Vanunu and shown to nuclear physicists at U.S. weapons
laboratories revealed that the Israelis have mastered the technology
of neutron bombs -highly sophisticated "enhanced radiation"
weapons, which are ideal for tactical or theater nuclear warfare.
Delivering The Bomb
Lastly, even after constructing, testing
and consolidating a small arsenal of bombs, a nation must be able
to deliver them. The Scud-B weapons launched by the Iraqis during
the Gulf War had great psychological value, but almost no military
value. Most of them broke up in mid-flight-a disaster in a war
fought with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, crude atomic bombs are
so large and bulky that they cannot be carried by conventional
fighter bombers. By contrast, the Pakistani program is advanced
enough to manufacture a lightweight atomic bomb, weighing no more
than 400 pounds, that can be strapped onto the belly of a U.S.
F-16 fighter bomber. The South Africans have made their Overberg
testing range available to the Israelis for tests of their Shavit
(Comet) missile, which uses the Jericho2B missile as its first
two stages. The Shavit missile launched an Israeli satellite into
orbit in 1988 and can hurl a 2,000 pound bomb a distance of 1,700
miles. One top U.S. administration official, commenting on the
close relationship between Israel and South Africa in developing
these weapons, said, "We know everything, names, dates, everything.
We don't have any evidence that it's a plain uranium-for-missiles
deal. Think of the relationship as a whole series of deals."
Divide and Conquer
Puny as Iraq's nuclear program seems in
comparison to that of Pakistan, Israel and South Africa, it could
not have been built in such a short time without substantial foreign
Ironically, Iraq's technological infrastructure
was largely a creation of the West. In the early 20th century,
British success in dominating the Middle East, controlling large
parts of Africa and running a global empire, relied on a strategy
of "divide and conquer." The British sliced up what
is now Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait and much of Africa
in order to pit Arabs against Arabs, Africans against Africans.
The United States, which took over as the major Middle East power
after World War II, learned this lesson well. The Shah of Iran,
for example, was set up by the CIA as regional "policeman
of the Gulf," charged with keeping the Arab nations in line.
After his overthrow, the United States needed a counterweight
to the insufficiently tractable Iranian fundamentalists. In the
interest of Middle East control and eager to see its enemies clobber
themselves the United States largely sustained and then brokered
the long, bloody stalemate between Iraq and Iran.
In order to neutralize Iran, which it
perceived as the greater threat, the Reagan Administration gave
widespread military and economic support to Saddam Hussein, secretly
feeding Iraq military intelligence information on Iran's forces,
in the form of satellite data.
As long as Iraq was neutralizing Iran,
Saddam was the beneficiary of the selective proliferation policy.
As long as Iraq was perceived to be carrying out United States
wishes, it was rewarded, like Pakistan, with substantial aid and
trade concessions. Thus, much of the high technology eventually
destroyed by Desert Storm came from the United States and West
Germany. The U.S. Commerce Department licensed more than $1.5
billion in sensitive high technology for Iraq before the Gulf
War. About 200 major companies in the West were involved in the
high technology transfer. Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, Unisys,
International Computer Systems, Rockwell and Tektronix had lucrative
trade agreements with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission and Saad
16, Iraq's missile research center. Honeywell even did a study
for a power gasoline bomb warhead for the Iraqis.
Nuclear Threats in Korea
Similarly, the Bush Doctrine has recast
the Korean question. After three decades of relative stability
and obscurity, suddenly, within weeks of the Gulf War, international
attention was focused on the "nuclear threat" posed
by the Yongbyon nuclear complex located 60 miles north of Pyongyang.
The irony, as the North Koreans have pointed out, is that the
United States maintains thousands of tactical nuclear weapons
around the world, with approximately 600 concentrated in the Korean
The threat presented by this arsenal is
real. During the Korean War, the United States had authorized
the use of nuclear weapons in the appendix to its secret war plan,
OPLAN 8-52. Recently declassified minutes of the National Security
Council reveal the detailed plans by President Eisenhower and
his secretary of State John Foster Dulles to exploit tactical
nuclear weapons in Korea. To pressure North Korea, President Bush
vowed in September 1991 to withdraw nuclear weapons from South
Korea. The pledge, as the North Koreans have again noted, is largely
symbolic, since U.S. nuclear weapons based on ships, such as nuclear
cruise missiles, can be fired into North Korea within minutes.
An offshore nuclear missile is just as deadly as a nuclear missile
based on land.
In any case, equating the U.S.-backed
South Korean nuclear capabilities with those of North Korea is
absurd. The North Korean nuclear program is qualitatively and
quantitatively even more primitive than the Iraqi one, which in
turn was quite backward by Western standards. The Iraqis, at least,
had access to billions of dollars of advanced Western technology
because of its war against Iran. The Soviets, by contrast, were
historically much more tight-fisted about sharing this kind of
advanced technology with their allies. In the late 1960s, they
provided a small reactor. The North Koreans contracted with the
British to build an old-fashioned, 1950s-style graphite reactor,
called the Calder Hall, which was to be operated by the British
Nuclear Fuels Company. This 20 to 30 megawatt reactor, tiny compared
with the 1,000 megawatts common in the West, was begun in 1980
and was already obsolete when completed seven years later.
In 1985, although North Korea signed the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it has been unwilling to allow
totally unrestricted inspection of its facilities. As a consequence,
the United States began to suspect that the North Koreans were
converting the civilian reactor to military purposes. At present,
the case against the North Koreans is based primarily on satellite
photographs, the interpretation of which is the subject of intense
controversy. The United States asserts the photos show that the
North Koreans are completing a new reactor, possibly 50 to 200
megawatts in power and a new reprocessing plant which could extract
plutonium from radioactive waste. These admittedly speculative
conclusions have even created a dispute between the CIA on one
side and the Pentagon and the State Department on the other. Based
on its claims that the North Koreans will have the atomic bomb
within a few months, the CIA recommends immediate action, possibly
including force. The Pentagon and State Department take a much
more relaxed view, estimating that North Korea is two to five
years from an atomic bomb. This appraisal allows ample time for
a diplomatic solution.
There is some indication that the stalemate
is breaking up. On March 14,1992, a new agreement was signed between
the two Koreas. The South Koreans agreed to drop their insistence
on a rigid timetable for inspections and the North Koreans agreed
to allow a formal inspection of the Yongbyon site-possibly in
June or shortly thereafter. In April, the North Koreans even released
a video of the interior of the reactor site. On May 3, they promised
to hand over to the IAEA a list of nuclear-related sites for inspection.
Part of the controversy has revolved around
the often quoted U.S. position that satellite photographs of the
Yongbyon facility show no electrical wires emanating from the
site. Reactors for peaceful rather than bomb-producing purposes,
the United States argued, would necessitate a network of transformers
and cables connecting the site to the power grid. It was the North
Koreans' word against the West's, until IAEA Director Hans Blix
and his team reported after a May 1992 visit that they found "electric
distribution grids outside two large nuclear power plants, suggesting
that the plants are intended for power generation... [and] supporting
North Korea's assertion that its nuclear plants are strictly for
peaceful power-generation purposes."
They also turned up a "tiny quantity
[of plutonium]," said Blix, "far from the amount you
need for a weapon." In fact, small quantities of plutonium
are often extracted for reprocessing but are usually of a type
not usable in weapons production. Despite exaggeration by the
media about the Yongbyon site, the IAEA has been cautious in drawing
any conclusions until a more complete inspection-expected soon-can
Will the Bush Doctrine Backfire?
Ultimately, the Bush Doctrine may backfire
in any number of ways, with a variety of dire consequences. The
Bush Administration is playing with nuclear fire and it is easy
to get burned.
For example, the United States has allowed
the atomic bomb to proliferate so widely that, without anticommunism
to keep these countries in line, proliferation may be out of its
control. Already in the 1973 October War, the Israelis apparently
threatened to unleash their atomic bomb on the Arabs unless the
United States came to its aid. The United States was thus blackmailed
and put on the receiving end of a nuclear threat.
Another potential nuclear flashpoint is
the centuries-old feud between the Muslims in Pakistan and the
Hindus in India. The recent crisis over Kashmir caused the U.S.
State Department to express public alarm that the conflict would
boil over into open warfare, with the distinct possibility that
nuclear weapons could be used by both sides.
But perhaps most important, the reliance
on nuclear threats to maintain U.S. military supremacy may backfire
by weakening the domestic economic infrastructure. The clear implication
of the leaked Pentagon report is that while other countries, such
as Germany and Japan, may eventually pose a grave economic threat
to the United States, Washington's nuclear superiority will keep
them in line and keep the United States on
Thus reliance on military domination is
a tacit admission that U.S. economic strength will continue to
deteriorate into the next century. Since 1945, U.S. control of
50 percent of the world's wealth has declined to 25 percent, and
is still falling. Most of that wealth was squandered maintaining
a world-spanning network of 395 foreign military bases in 35 countries
at a current cost exceeding $210 billion annually. With such a
colossal military burden, this country is undergoing a remarkable
deindustrialization process, which the world has not seen since
turn-of-the century Britain.
If the Pentagon is relying on nuclear
might to keep its rising economic rivals in line, then this expensive
"solution" will ultimately exacerbate the de-industrialization
of the United States. A journalist once asked President Reagan
whether the right-wing strategy of "spending Russia into
a depression" might backfire; might not the United States
be spent into a depression instead? In one of the few lucid moments
of his presidency, Reagan answered, "Yes... but they'll bust
first." For once, Ronald Reagan was correct. The Soviets
indeed did bust first, but there are indications that the United
States may be next.
Israel, Iran, the United States and the
by Israel Shahak
"The war in Lebanon is the first stage in our conflict with
Efraim Shah, Knesset member
For years, stonewalling in the face of mounting and eventually
irrefutable evidence, Israel denied all reports that it had built
a nuclear bomb. Now openly acknowledged, its substantial nuclear
arsenal forms a grim backdrop to the Middle East political landscape.
While the role of these weapons is discussed
in Israel, the implications of the world's fifth largest nuclear
force are all but ignored in the United States. In the country
whose taxpayers foot the bill for the Israeli program the media
spotlight only the "threat" of nuclearization by other
states in the region. And in Israel, this threat and the national
commitment to remaining the only nuclear state in the region,
are touted as justifications for developing and possibly using
On April 17,1992, Deputy Chief of Staff,
General Amnon Shahak-Lipkin indicated how far he believed Israel
was prepared to go to prevent Middle East nuclear proliferation.
"I believe that the State of Israel should from now on use
all its power and direct all its efforts to preventing nuclear
developments in any Arab state whatsoever." The interviewer
then asked the General: "Does this imply the need for violent
means as well?" Shahak-Lipkin barely couched his answer:
"In my opinion, all or most means serving that purpose are
legitimate." Clearly, the Deputy Chief of Staff was not discounting
an Israeli nuclear first strike.
Currently, the most likely target for
a preemptive Israeli strike, either conventional or nuclear, is
not Arab but Iranian. There is widespread speculation backed by
some hard evidence that Israel is forming antiIranian coalitions
and prodding the United States-either by itself or through its
allies-to destabilize Iran and/or take out its developing nuclear
capability. Israel's new anti-Iranian policy can only be understood
in the broad context of its hegemonic aims.
The scope of the new Israeli grand strategy
was set forth by General Shlomo Gazit (reserves), a former Military
Intelligence commander. The area of military intelligence is regarded
as the most important component of the intelligence community.
It is composed of Mossad (which operates outside Israel and the
areas it physically occupies), Shabak (the General Security Service
which operates within Israel, in the occupied territories and
in the "security zone" of South Lebanon) and Military
Intelligence (which operates as a branch of the army). The Military
Intelligence commander reports to the prime minister on behalf
of all groups on matters of strategic importance.
After his retirement, Gazit became a member
of the prestigious Yaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv
University. His frequent articles on intelligence and strategy
are remarkable for their lucidity and their highly placed sources.
"Israel's main task has not changed
at all and remains of crucial importance. The geographical location
of Israel at the center of the ArabMuslim Middle East predestines
Israel to be a devoted guardian of stability in all the countries
surrounding it. Its [role] is to protect the existing regimes,
to prevent or halt the processes of radicalization and to block
the expansion of fundamentalist religious zealotry. Israel has
its 'red lines' which, precisely because they are not clearly
marked or explicitly defined, have a powerful deterrent effect
by virtue of causing uncertainty beyond its borders. The purpose
of these 'red lines' is to determine which strategic developments
or other changes occurring beyond Israel's borders can be defined
as threats which Israel will regard as intolerable, to the point
of feeling compelled to use all its military power for the sake
of their prevention or eradication."
In Gazit's view, by "protecting"
all or most Middle Eastern regimes, Israel performs a vital service
for "the industrially advanced states, all of which are keenly
concerned with guaranteeing the stability in the Middle East."
In the aftermath of the disappearance
of the Soviet Union as a political power with interests of its
own in the region, a number of Middle Eastern states lost a patron
which guaranteed their political, military and even economic viability.
A vacuum was thus created, with the effect of adding to the region's
instability. Under such conditions, the Israeli role as a strategic
asset in guaranteeing a modicum of stability in the entire Middle
East, far from dwindling or disappearing, was elevated to the
first order of magnitude. Without Israel, the West would have
to perform this role by itself, when none of the existing superpowers
really could perform it, because of various domestic and international
constraints. For Israel, by contrast, the need to intervene is
a matter of survival.
An Iranian Bomb
So far, Israel has abjured the use of
nuclear weapons. But that stated reluctance-like that of the United
States-is tactical rather than moral or absolute. That Israel
is prepared to go to war to defend its perceived interests is
beyond doubt; that it has a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and
a sophisticated delivery system is also well established; but
the circumstances that would promote a decision to use the bomb
are less clear. Some Israeli experts see the expected nuclearization
of the Middle East in general and of Iran in particular as sufficient
threat to justify any prophylactic action.
Although Israeli censorship on the subject
is strict, the subject was discussed at a symposium held by the
Yaffe Center. One of the speakers, Knesset Member Efraim Sneh
(Labor), who had served in intelligence related jobs in the army,
is widely regarded as one of the best informed strategic experts.
" [I]t is still possible to prevent
Iran from developing its nuclear bomb. This can be done, since
Iran threatens the interests of all rational states in the Middle
East. We should therefore do all we can to prevent Iran from ever
reaching nuclear capability. Israel cannot possibly put up with
the nuclear bomb in Iranian hands. If the Western states don't
do what is their duty, Israel will find itself forced to act alone
and will accomplish its task by any means considered suitable
for the purpose."
Israel is unlikely to overthrow the present
regime, to win a military victory with conventional weapons, or
to convince Iran to abandon plans for nuclearization. Given this
military context, Sneh's pronouncement can be seen as a veiled
threat to strike at Iran with nuclear weapons.
Nor are Israeli leaders confident that
intelligence can accurately assess the progress of nuclearization
programs or even know when and if a bomb and delivery system are
on line. Aware of past failures of intelligence units, Sneh warned:
"If, despite all our precautions,
we are confronted with an Iran already in possession of nuclear
installations and in mastery of launching techniques, we would
be better off if the explosive charge of the Israeli
Arab conflict is by then already neutralized
through signing peace treaties with states located in our vicinity-concretely
with Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians. We would also be better
off if, until that time, we succeed in building alliances with
Middle Eastern states interested in fighting Islamic fundamentalism.
It would be good for us if all sane states of this region unite
to resist all forces of radicalism."
Also attending the symposium was General
Avihu Ben-Nun (reserves), who served as commander of the Israeli
Air Force until the end of 1992. Before and during the Gulf War,
he was one of the most important advocates of Israeli intervention
into that war who agreed with Sneh that preventing nuclearization
of Iran might not be possible. Even if an Israeli-Iranian war
broke out after Iran nuclearized, he reassured, the threat of
Israeli retaliation-considered feasible by the Arab world-was
a powerful deterrent against an Iranian first strike. And if that
was not sufficiently discouraging, the United States would launch
a nuclear retaliation. "But Iran will also have another reason
for refraining from using its atomic bomb against Israel,"
Ben-Nun continued, "the fear of destroying the Islamic holy
sites in Jerusalem. The holy sites are our best deterrent."
This statement, considered too crass even for an Israeli general,
was ridiculed by some commentators.
Policy expert Shay Feldman of the Center
for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University concurred. Although
Iran is now trying to reactivate two nuclear reactors built under
the Shah, "the Iranian leaders will not behave irrationally
enough... [to] risk the total devastation of Iran that would result
from an Israeli [nuclear] retaliation." Feldman blames Iran's
current level of nuclear technology largely on Israel's short-sighted
covert support- in defiance of the United States-for the Shah's
nuclear program. "If not for the Khomeinist revolution,"
he argues, "Iran would have already been at a very advanced
stage of nuclearization." Reviewing the status of other countries,
Feldman presumes that Pakistan already has nuclear weapons; Egypt
and Libya, despite renouncing their nuclear ambitions still retain
technical potential and thus remain "a mild threat"
to Israel; Syria presents an "even milder" threat; Iraq's
nuclear capability has been destroyed; and Jordan and Saudi Arabia
have no nuclear potential. Apart from Iran, then, Feldman asserts
that only Algeria poses a "serious" nuclear threat to
Daniel Lesham, a retired senior Military Intelligence office and
member of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University,
expands on the practical uses of the nuclear threat.
"We should take advantage of [Iran's]
involvement in the Islamic terror which already hurts the entire
world... We should take advantage by persistently explaining to
the world at large that, by virtue of its involvement in terrorism,
no other state is as dangerous as Iran.
Middle East Hegemony
Israel is becoming increasingly open about
the possibility of exercising its nuclear option, even though
public discussion is often couched in talk about deterrence. "We
need not be ashamed," wrote Oded Brosh, a distinguished expert
in nuclear politics, "that the nuclear option, as a deterrent
to attack, is a major instrument of our defense. The three big
democracies have relied on the same deterrent for decades."
The Israeli bomb, he implied, was a necessary strategic option.
"Generally, in long-term security planning one cannot ignore
the political factors. Israel must take into account, for example,
that the Saudi royal family is not going to reign forever, or
that the Egyptian regime may also change."
Precisely because of such political contingencies,
Brosh asserts, Israel must remain free to use or threaten to use
its nuclear weapons.
Brosh's analysis carries other implications
as well: The very comparison of Israel's strategic aims with those
of the United States, Britain and France illustrates Israel's
ambition. If Israel is to become the regional superpower, it must
establish its hegemony over the entire Middle East.
There is one crucial difference, however,
between Israel and "the three big democracies": Israel,
rather than paying for its own nuclear development, is financed
by the United States. It is essential, then, that the American
Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC), the organized segment
of the American Jewish community and its various allies ensure
that Congress continues to foot the bill which now approaches
$3.1 billion. To that end, the U.S. public must be effectively
deceived about Israel's real strategic aims.