"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Arming The World

As mounting suspicion is heaped on to an already unstable Iran, the not so sutble threats being levelled by the US administration makes one wonder is the US forcing governments to develop nuclear weapons as their only means of deterring western military intervention.

As it was quite obvious, "except" to the actual instigators, that Iraq posed no nucleur threat prior to the war, "Now after seven years of work by UNSCOM inspectors, there was no more (WMD) program. It had been eliminated....When I say eliminated I'm talking about facilities destroyed..." (Scott Ritter, Weapons Inspector) (1). There is a relevant question to ask, whether war would have gone ahead if Saddam actually did possess the threat he was said to have.

As the ironically renamed DPRK has recently stated its nucleur capabilities we saw an immediate response by the US, in that the threat was basically discarded as bluff.

"Last week, North Korea announced that it had built nuclear weapons and was suspending participation in the talks." (2)

"ElBaradei (Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency) said North Korea was ''the greatest security challenge" the world faces. ''I am very concerned about the North Korea dialogue right now."" (3)

"The North's top general, Gen Kim Yong-Chun, a close adviser to supreme leader Kim Jong-Il, urged the nation's million-strong army to prepare for a final showdown with US "imperialists"." (4)

Unto which the US administration responded:

"I believe the situation with North Korea will be resolved peacefully," Bush said to reporters at his ranch in Texas. "As I said, it's a diplomatic issue, not a military issue, and we're working all fronts.

"... We are working with friends and allies in the region to explain clearly to North Korea it's not in their nation's interest to develop and proliferate weapons of mass destruction."
(United Press International) (5)

North Korea has long been suspected of attempting and even testing nucleur armament (6). However, even after a loaded admisssion (obviously stating they possess weapons as form of deterrant, "The North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency: "We have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the (North)."" (7)), the threat posed is apparently not an immediate one.

On the other hand Iran has a less convincing past when it comes to capabilities and pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this it seems has more bearing on their supposed threat.

"The director of the UN agency responsible for investigating Iran's nuclear program said yesterday that there have been no new discoveries in the last six months to substantiate claims that the Islamic state is secretly working toward a nuclear bomb."

"In a wide-ranging interview with four US newspapers, Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency also described White House policies on Iran and North Korea as inconsistent"

"The Bush administration contends the program is designed to build nuclear weapons but Iran says the goal is nuclear energy that will someday substitute for its oil and gas reserves." (8)

With most experts believing that it would take Iran five to ten years at their present capacity to develop nucleur capabilites:

"Iran could master the nuclear fuel cycle this year, which would give it the ability to build a nuclear weapon by the end of the decade." (9)

"The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has had inspectors in the country throughout the period. While finding much that is suspect, the inspectors have not found any proof of a clandestine nuclear bomb programme." ('Special forces "on the ground" in Iran,' Ian Traynor, The Guardian, January 17, 2005)

This was met with a different US reaction:

"Iran's announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear programme to the Security Council," Mr Bolton said in a statement. (The US Under Secretary of State) (10)

"We're concerned about reports that show that prior to a certain international meeting, they're willing to speed up processing of materials that could lead to a nuclear weapon," Mr Bush said. (11)

And most importantly, what sort of action is likely:

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week said military action was not on the agenda "at this point"." (12)

Therefore it has been made obvious that US will not instigate the action, most probably due to the backlash it suffered acting without UN approval with regard to Iraq. This, however, does not negate all military options as:

"Cheney...expressed concern that Israel "might well decide to act first" to destroy Iran's nuclear program. The Israelis would let the rest of the world "worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward," he added in an MSNBC interview." (13)

Given that this president has recently claimed recieving a mandate and also being gifted legitimacy by many world leaders in his venture into Iraq (by hosting, so called, democratic elections) his statement that he would "never want...to say 'never', but military action is certainly not, never the...first choice" (The Irish Times) is a disconcerting one.

There is obviously a certain inequaility in how each countries nuclear capabilities are weighted. North Korea has long been considered a nuclear power, which is accepted by most as the reason why the serious human rights abuses cannot be addressed there.

("We have a gift coming from Russia that will enable us to pick up the gap for a month. And then if we don't have additional support, we'll reduce our level of activity by something in the neighbourhood of 3.8 million people in February," Mr Morris warned.

Most of North Korea's 23 million people are extremely poor, with food, clean water, power and medical services in short supply. In some parts, food is so scarce that fields are guarded." (14))

But even an open admission is unamimously played down by western governments. This is polarised in their reaction to Iran's less than obvious threat. In fact showing less potential than it's neighbour Iraq who "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." (Dick Cheney) (15). There is provided here, ample reason to be suspicious.

The question remains, would the US actually risk open war with a nucleur armed country. Certainly the past has shown that this sort of war is avoided at all costs. During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union attempted to maintain a war without ever having to directly attack each others home territory, for the obvious reason of risking nucleur reprisal.

It has been made quite obvious to any country aiming to steer clear of a US led invasion that only a nuclear deterrant is sufficient. Russia, China and more recently India and Pakistan have all benefited from their nuclear capacity. As the US and other western countries have led the way in nuclear armament for the purpose of deterrence it seems quite obvious others would follow.

"During the Cold War, nuclear deterrence occupied center stage, and our strategy was focused on deterring the significant nuclear and conventional threat from the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Now that the Cold War is over, the role of nuclear deterrence has been reduced, but the need for deterrence in today's world is still critical. Our nuclear posture contributes substantially to our ability to deter any future hostile political leadership with access to nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction from aggression against the United States, its forces abroad, and its allies and friends." (Edward L. Warner III, assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction, March 31, 1998) (16)

Not to mention:

"When we signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, we subscribed to Article VI, which calls for the parties to undertake "to pursue negotiations in good faith relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." In 1995, when the NPT was indefinitely extended, we reiterated this pledge to work toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in the context of general and complete disarmament." (16)

But as you may have noticed, this is a direction long forgotten.

1. http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0210-02.htm
2. http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2005/02
3. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles
4. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2003
6. "North Korea fired a missile in 1998 over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. The Taepodong 1 is believed to have a range of up to 2,500 km. North Korea is also thought to be developing missiles capable of reaching the western US."
"A huge explosion in North Korea last week was a deliberate blast during work on a hydro-electric dam, Pyongyang's Foreign Minister, Paek Nam-sun, was quoted as telling a visiting British official yesterday."

Where again, the possibilty of a nuclear threat was dismissed out of hand.

"But a BBC correspondent in Pyongyang with the British Foreign Office Minister, Bill Rammell, quoted Mr Paek as saying: "It was no nuclear explosion or an accident. It was a deliberate controlled detonation to demolish a mountain in the far north of the country.""

"American and South Korean officials immediately played down the possibility the cloud was evidence of a nuclear weapons test, with one U.S. official telling CNN it was "no big deal" and could be from a forest fire."

"US Secretary of State Colin Powell also rejected suggestions of a nuclear blast."

""We're trying to find out more about it and what exactly it was if anything, but it does not appear (that it was) a nuclear event," Powell told the Fox News television program today."

Possibly faithfully, however a certain level of skepticism was shown by the Democrat John Kerry:

"The Boston Herald reported that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry issued a statement that the very idea North Korea could have been testing a nuclear weapon represented a national security failure by President George W. Bush.

"North Korea's nuclear program is well ahead of what Saddam Hussein was even suspected of doing - yet the president took his eye off the ball, wrongly ignoring this growing danger," Kerry said."
7. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2005
8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn
9. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
10. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
11. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world
12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4246517.stm
13. Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, Friday, Jan 21, 2005
14. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/world/2003
15. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002