Proliferation and fear

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The Christian Science Monitor article that follows reminds us of the spiraling world of weapons proliferation and fear we’re enmeshed in, though it has to be read with the head cocked. The information in it is quite good — while decrying the potential spread of rudimentary nuclear weapons and chemical-biological weaponry to Iraq, North Korea and Iran (as well as possible terrorist groups), the administration is promoting so-called small nuclear weapons and renewed nuclear testing with increasing vigor, while researching new biological and chemical weapons in our weapons labs (under the dubious guise of creating defenses against such weaponry). But the CSM reporter puts these matters in a typical American reportorial context in which all horrors of our making are distinctly flattened. It’s certainly hard to get a sense from the article of the way in which the promoters of nuclear weapons have continually recalibrated their supposed uses in a post-nuclear world, where, mission-less, they might have been relegated to the dustbin of history.

The fact that all the dangerous weaponry of mass destruction in the world essentially fell through the cracks of the Cold War superpower struggle, that the anthrax used in the only official WMD attack on Americans seems to have come directly out of our own weapons labs evidently phases next to no one. The obvious conclusion that the more we create these nightmares, the more some of them — or knowledge of how to create them — will slip into the world and proliferate is ignored.

(In addition, don’t you find it strange that, amid the endless panics over terrorists arriving in our cities with horrific new weapons of mass destruction, the only terrorist (or ists) to have done so, clearly came from our shores to begin with, and have now been essentially forgotten? If you simply appeared on earth a few months back and began to read our media, there would essentially be no way of knowing that the event ever happened.)

I’ve included as well a piece from yesterday’s Asia Times that tries to take some of the panic out of media scares about bio- and chemical terror. It’s hard to produce and deliver bio-weapons in particular. It’s quite a sane piece. However, in the long term, one thing is clear, every technological horror created by a superstate sooner or later becomes producible by a smaller state, and then by even smaller states, and then assumedly small groups, or cults, or sects, or fanatics. And this will be so until we genuinely tackle the issue of global proliferation, starting not in the smaller states but where most of the weaponry actually originates in the two former superpowers, one now a hyperpower and the other a faltering power.

By the way, Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire, the same professor I believe who first made a guesstimate of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan, has now put together a website devoted to our use not of atomic weaponry, but of a lesser but terribly dangerous form of radioactive weaponry — armor-piercing tank shells and bunker busting missiles and the like that use “depleted uranium.” A friend passed this descriptive paragraph about the website on to me. Take a look. Such weapons have been used in the first Gulf War, in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. Tom

“As Bush prepares for a new Gulf War it is important to realize the devastation that the U.S. government is unleashing with radioactive depleted uranium weaponary. Marc Herold, at the web site listed below, describes the horrendous impact of US warfare as it has left 2-3 times more depleted uranium in Afghanistan than in the 1991 Gulf War. The heavy use of both bunker-busting bombs and missiles and the General Electric 30 mm cannon in the A-10 Warthog tactical aircraft have been responsible. Severe health and environmental effects will soon be registered.”

To read more at this site, click here.

In an age of biowarfare, US sees new role for nukes

Bush administration mulls resuming nuclear testing and developing tactical warheads to deal with threats like Iraq.

By Brad Knickerbocker, November 26, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor

As United Nations inspectors fan out across Iraq – looking for evidence of Saddam Hussein’s secret arsenal – the United States is rethinking the future of its own weapons of mass destruction.

Among the issues being discussed by US officials and the experts who advise them in this era of stateless terrorism and other forms of “unconventional warfare” are these: The resumption of nuclear weapons testing; ambivalence over controlling chemical and biological weapons at a time when advancing technology offers new opportunities to control the battlefield; and the possible development of tactical nuclear bombs to go after the kind of hardened targets that more than 70 countries – especially Iraq – now use to hide their most threatening weapons.

To read more of this article in the Christian Science Monitor, click here.


Biological terror: A bucket of hogwash

By Todd W John, November 27, 2002, Asia Times

BANGKOK – After the attacks of September 11, 2001, then with the war that followed in Afghanistan, and now with the ensuing weapons inspections in Iraq, we have wondered about the ability of terrorists or rogue nations to strike out with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). These could include biological, chemical and nuclear threats. Indeed, during the war in Afghanistan, the press and military alike frantically waved remnants of terrorist cookbooks for WMD as evidence of an imminent threat. However, they often failed to understand that the documents themselves were rudimentary and often uninformed, incorrect, and reliant on technology and skills that were difficult to procure.

Still, the media in the West caught a whiff of terror from limited anthrax attacks in the United States and fragments of documents in Afghanistan, and set about exhaustive, and unfortunately often incorrect, reporting on weapons of mass destruction.

To read more of this article in the Asia Times, click here.