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World's Worst Nuclear Proliferator? Stay Away from the Mirror

03.10.2008 | POLITICS

The Bush administration likes to think of itself as nuclear policeman to the world. North Korea? Put those missiles back in your pants. Iraq? Wipe that nuclear smirk off your face. Iran? We don't like the look on your face either -- no nuclear power for you.

Bush & Co. have gotten North Korea to shut down its reactor. But they can't take credit for shuttering Iraq's nuclear labs -- Bush 41's Gulf war convinced Saddam to do that. Still there's no doubt that they've delayed Iran's nuclear evolution.

Never mind any irregularities inherent in our initiatives toward Iran. Such as denying it the nuclear fuel it's guaranteed by Article IV of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Or putting the fear of God into European diplomats by showing them plans for a nuclear warhead designed to fit on a missile with just enough thrust to reach Europe.

Those schematics were downloaded from a laptop smuggled out of Iran. So what if the laptop's chain of custody suffers from not one, but two broken links, that leave it open to charges the documents were fabricated?

But people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. The administration's heart is in the right place when it comes to halting the spread of nuclear weapons. It's just that to Bush & Co., that means keeping them from countries we don't like while making only token efforts to draw down our own.

Not only do we retain several thousand warheads, we've modernized our nuclear arsenal with modulated, dialed-down "tactical" nukes. Why, they're almost like conventional bombs. Look ma, no nuclear stigma!

Apparently the nuclear taboo has been shattered as well. The nuclear posture review drawn up by the administration in 2001 provides for first use of nukes (albeit the new tacticals) -- hitherto unthinkable -- in awkward tasks like bunker busting.

Then there's our NATO strategy: Eastward ho, stopping just long enough in the Czech Republic and Poland to set up missile defense installations. Equally frightening, five of the west's distinguished -- until now anyway -- military officers and strategists composed a manifesto calling on NATO to reserve the right to use nukes preemptively. Way to channel General Curtis LeMay, guys.

Adding insult to proliferative injury are Sibel Edmonds's revelations. She claims that foreign intelligence agents successfully enlisted the support of US officials in positioning moles in our military and in our nuclear institutions.

Which is worse? The senior State Department official that Ms. Edmonds alleges was paid by Turkish agents for nuclear secrets to be sold on the black market to countries like Pakistan? Or how the FBI's investigation into this affair has been hamstrung by the executive branch?

Other treaties which we haven't done right by, besides the NPT, include the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, from which we withdrew, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which we oppose.

Perhaps the signature indicator of our disdain for the NPT, though, is the blind eye we turn to states that refused to sign it, like Israel, Pakistan and India, as they developed nuclear weapons. Then, in December 2006, Congress approved the United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act to provide India with additional nuclear energy.

An untrained observer can't help but wonder if India uses so much uranium for weapons it needs more for peaceful use. In any event, due to pressure from the communist party in India -- thank goodness for small favors -- that deal looks DOA.

Returning to Iran and the NPT, heed Kaveh Afrasiabi on Asia Times Online: "The continuation of the present 'coercive' course of action against Iran by Washington will neither solve the Iran nuclear crisis nor improve the semi-crisis that the NPT finds itself in today; rather, it will augment both."

In another piece he cautions the International Atomic Energy Agency against succumbing to the blandishments of Bush & Co. It "must stay firm on the rules of game and consider the fact that any overstepping of its bounds -- eg, by pressuring Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program in spite of Iran's legal rights and its nuclear transparency -- will definitely backfire against the agency and, indeed, the entire non-proliferation regime." [Emphasis added.]

The aforementioned Article IV giving signatories the right to nuclear fuel was ratified when nuclear reactor fuel was less readily converted to an explosive. Considered the NPT's "loophole," it's now the administration's excuse to neglect the whole treaty.

In truth, we just don't want to feel hemmed in when seeking nuclear deals with nations like India that haven't signed the NPT. More to the point, we ourselves have no intention of disarming according to its dictates. As with all international agreements, the administration would prefer to see the NPT shredded.

But the NPT, however threadbare, is one of our few forms of protection from a nuclear hellstorm, as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed calls it. Nonproliferation can even prevent a nuclear attack by terrorists since their source for bombs is, of necessity, a state.

Behold this illustration of the NPT's importance. The Arab league just announced that if Israel should declare, as it's periodically pressured to, that it's in possession of a nuclear arsenal, the NPT's Arab signatories would walk away from the treaty.

Even the illusion that the NPT works is enough.

About the Author
Russ Wellen is an editor at Freezerbox who specializes in foreign affairs and nuclear deproliferation.
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