The Nuclear Terror Card
excerpted from the book
the Roots of Terrorism
edited by Ellen Ray and William H. Schaap
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 Dick Cheney.
"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, put it.
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 bomb.
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 militarily."
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 Korea.
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 Terror
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 the war."
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 genetic damage.
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 this. 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 invasion.
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 was justified.
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" state.
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 cannons alone.
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 assistance.
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 area.
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 be conducted.
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 top.
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 Bomb
by Israel Shahak
"The war in Lebanon is the first stage in our conflict with Iran."
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 the bomb.
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. He declared:
" [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 Israel.
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.
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