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Andrew Cockburn on the Islamic Bomb

Posted on Dec 6, 2007
Pakistani Missile
AP photo / B.K. Bangash

A Pakistani missile on display. The country’s notorious nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan was largely responsible for the spread of nuclear technology in the Muslim world and beyond.

By Andrew Cockburn

(Page 2)

Thus, any passing concern about what the Pakistanis liked to call “the Islamic Bomb” was swept aside in the fervor of the anti-communist jihad.  Asked in January 1980 for his views on Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan summed up the official attitude: “I just don’t think it’s any of our business,” he replied.  Torrents of U.S. aid were already pouring into Pakistan, where the regime was devoting energy and funds to the construction of thousands of “madrasas”—Islamic religious schools—with the enthusiastic encouragement of the American paymasters.  Thus the United States simultaneously acted as an enabler for the construction of the “Islamic Bomb” and the molding of the Islamists who might one day control it.

For the sake of appearances, Washington had to retain the posture of an ardent anti-proliferator.  So portions of the bureaucracy labored on as if U.S. policy really was to prevent Pakistani acquisition of nuclear weapons.  Hence the sad but by no means unique story of Richard Barlow, the CIA analyst who told a congressional committee about Pakistan’s extensive nuclear component smuggling network.  Telling the truth while his superiors were blithely lying ruined his career at the Agency.  After transferring to the Pentagon, he pursued the same course and soon suffered the same punishment.  Dick Cheney, defense secretary in the elder Bush’s administration, argued forcefully for a benign attitude toward Pakistan on the issue—after all, there was a lucrative sale of F-16 jet fighters at stake.  When customs agents plotted a sting to catch a key member of the Pakistani network, their quarry escaped thanks to a timely tip-off from a high-level State Department official. 

The indulgent fostering of Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions is, however, just part of the story of these books.  A.Q. Khan was elevated to mega-villain status in the Western press only when it emerged that components and expertise from the Pakistani bomb program had been finding their way to countries that were apparently not on the U.S.-approved list: Libya, North Korea and Iran.  In reality, despite suggestions by Frantz and Collins that Khan was acting without the knowledge or approval of his government, it is beyond the bounds of probability that Khan could have shipped sensitive material out of the country on military aircraft without authorization.  Be that as it may, the story of Pakistan’s nuclear export drive is instructive on two levels.  First, as the various authors make clear, there were no great impediments placed in the way of the technology transfers either from Pakistan itself or its various overseas suppliers, certainly not from the CIA, which had recruited Urs Tinner, an important executive in Khan’s smuggling network, to keep Washington informed. 

Second, the “secret trade in nuclear weapons,” a phrase that Levy and Scott-Clark breathlessly use in the subtitle of their book, doesn’t seem to have helped anyone actually build a nuke.  This is not a point that gets much attention in an anti-proliferation industry vegetating in assorted think tanks and bureaucracies, international and domestic.  Moammar Kadafi, for example, who was simultaneously paying billions to Cheney’s Halliburton to build the “great man-made river” irrigation project, seems to have barely unpacked the various pieces of machinery by the time he traded them away to the Americans for Washington’s blessing and newfound friendship.  The North Koreans, despite having handed over useful missile technology to Islamabad, never got anywhere with their Pakistani-supplied uranium enrichment facilities.  The bombs they did build came via their indigenously developed plutonium production program.

That left Iran.  Despite the inanities spelled out by Therese Delpech in “Iran and the Bomb: The Abdication of International Responsibility,” the most notable feature of the ayatollahs’ bomb program is that it was so unsuccessful, which may be why they abandoned it in 2003. (Delpech confirms the old axiom that there is no more unappealing spectacle than that of a French intellectual aping American political fashions; in this case a crude neoconnery complete with the usual casual misrepresentations of Iranian statements and policy.)  After all, it took Iran’s nuclear scientists 21 years of research and seven years of sporadic experiments to get a mere 164 centrifuges spinning away to produce a nugatory quantity of enriched uranium.  That was a year ago, and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn’t seem to think they have put on much of a spurt since then.  It would be nice to think that the authors of the recently unveiled National Intelligence Estimate rebutting claims of an ongoing Iranian bomb program were inspired by ElBaradei’s observation that “everybody [should] have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons,” but bureaucratic self-interest seems a more likely stimulus.

Does nuclear proliferation matter that much anyhow?  The assorted pundits and bureaucrats, not to mention hard-working journalists such as the authors of these books, would be aghast even to hear the question asked, but it must be admitted that India and Pakistan have stopped fighting full-scale wars since they both got bombs.  If, however, the answer is yes, perhaps an imaginative counter-proliferation strategy would be to sponsor A.Q. Khan to export his technology, on the grounds that it never quite appears to work.  Come to think of it, that seems to be what we did.

Andrew Cockburn is the author of several books, including, most recently, “Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy.”

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By John Hanks, December 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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We had plenty of nukes and yet we scared ourselves to death over Cuban missiles.  Israel is armed with more than 100 nukes and yet it has terrified itself over Iran.  It won’t be terrorists that will start the big one.  It will be the counter terrorists who are afraid of losing an advantage.  On the other hand, there are ignorant suicidal morons like George Bush.

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By cyrena, December 15, 2007 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

#120170 by A Khokar

Thanks A Khokar,

This is the truth of which you speak, with knowledge. And, the truth is what it is, eh?

One must recognize the sad state of affairs when the possession of a nuclear arsenal will be more of a security, (as deterence) from attacks by the bad guys. But, that’s what it is. And of course we have to know that any nation currently holding any such warheads, is highly UNLIKELY to be attacked by the bad guys, IF they have such nukes themselves.

Such an irony, since we all know that despite the claims that Iraq had WMD, the US would NOT have attacked Iraq, if in fact that DID have nukes.

So, there we have it. Mutually assured self-destruction. How sad, how true. So, thanks for the knowledge.

There are those among us, (me included) who believe that NO person, and NO nation, should possess nuclear weapons. If you’re interested, check out the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Meantime, we know that as the largest holder of nuclear weapons, the US is never gonna give ‘em up. It’s pretty disgusting. More than that actually.

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By A Khokar, December 14, 2007 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Nuke is more of deterrence than a weapon.

This has not been easy for Pakistan to acquire the nuclear technology and become a Nuclear state. As per the general information available in press; Pakistan now possesses some 70-80 nukes pieces as well as airplanes and missiles to deliver them. However western media has a mind set of indulgence in the satirical and cutting remarks about Abdul Qadeer Khan- the father of Pakistan Nuke.

Nuclear war head for all the vulnerable countries is more of a deterrent than a weapon itself. Nuclear war head is taken as a sure guarantee of security and to maintain a peace with the neighbouring states as well as in the region. For instance Israel, whose neighbours are with out any such weapon but Israel, is armed to its teeth including its nuclear war heads. US pays some 8 billions dollars for the Israel security and her rattling as an invincible force in the Middle East. Israel Nuclear programme at Dimona nuclear proliferation plant in the Negev Desert, which was built in 1952 with the help of France has since developed (as per Israel production rate estimates) some 200 nuclear war heads along with the delivery system vehicles, Jericho-1 and Jericho-2 missiles. Dimona is served by a near by military air base at Niveta AB and Uranium geochemistry and fission-track mapping of phosphorites facilities at Zefa field, Zefa.Although US Defence Intelligence estimate is at 65 to 80 war heads but these war heads primarily serve as deterrence. For the up keep of this deterrence, any neighbouring state in Middle East including Iran are being shun very vehemently to attain any such capability and off balance the deterrence.

Why after all,  denial of knowledge and restriction of any access to advance technologies to the Arab world in general and suppression of Muslim youth in particular by way of their subjugation and a schematic inhalation (i.e. labelling them terrorists/extremist etc) seem to be the order of the day. On the other hand US lead forces are desperately consolidating their harbouring haven (mega bases in green zone)in Iraq at all costs. They are very anxious to mark it a sure success to attain an impetus for further expansions and advances in other enclaves like Iran and beyond; (cost of this war theatre runs in hundreds of billion of dollars, being spent yearly plus armed forces fatality now running in thousands).

Pakistan may be the ultimate target of US lead forces to occupy and quell the potential of nuclear resistance offered by Pakistan and (later on) also form a formidable defence line there to check the advances of future adversaries like Russia, China and India toward Middle East.

While US is desperately trying to consolidate its positions in Middle East and trying to secure its foot prints in energy rich Central Asia; but to act as master of future in the area; US need to have very cool thinking.

But Questions arise:-
* Do we still believe living a colonial era of subjugation?
*Do we really believe that research in technology and acquiring of knowledge can be denied and restricted in this ‘21st century, to any one or—especially to the awakened youth in Muslim world, who are sitting on the mountains of wealth and with the world critical economic resources at their disposal?

Knowledge is a word of wisdom bestowed to mankind by the creator…our God. It travels on the wings of winds like a musky fragrance to the people who strive for it… and who has ever been able to harness the winds?
Love for all, Hatred for none

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By cyrena, December 14, 2007 at 12:23 am Link to this comment

#119215 by dolgoruky


Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I really enjoyed it and the discussion. I would have gotten back sooner, but I’m just wrapping up term exams. And you’re right, sometimes we can be too intelligent for this world, and I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad.

But, I wholeheartedly agree that we have to use a combination of critical thinking, as well as some gut stuff. It really does have to be a combination of what our conscience and practicality tells us, and sometimes, we DO have to ‘wing it’ to an extent. Maybe even MOST times. But, it nearly ALWAYS has to be a combo of all of those things.

The problem (as I see it) is that we’re in such as totally off the wall time these days, at least in the American mentality. An example is a thread that I was reading from another post here on Truthdig, about Alberto Gonzales being named by the American Bar Association as the “Lawyer of the Year”. Now, I don’t know how closely you follow the politics, or how much of this legal stuff you might know/care about/pay attention to. I realize that not everybody does, and that’s perfectly normal. It happens to be my own field since returning to academia, so of course I’m very into it.

But, here’s my point. When I read the article, and actually, more honestly…the comments, something jumped right out, (I was laughing harder than I can even describe) when one of the posters said that when he first started reading it, he thought it was a joke. WELL…I understood EXACTLY what he meant. Because, there is another regular contributor to this site, Andy Borowitz, who IS a humor/satire author, and even though I KNOW that, when I read some of these his pieces, I DO catch myself sort of jumping ahead to the end, to confirm that it really is ‘satire’, because….IT COULD JUST AS EASILY BE TRUE!!

That’s how crazy things are now. And, the only thing I can say about that for the moment is…it hasn’t always been this way. I know that sounds lame, and I know I’m tired, so I’ll finish more later. But, these times have actually forced ME, to think far more critically than I did during the first 4o or so years of my life.

So, if nothing more, I’m simply far more skeptical, and I resent that it borders on cynicism from time to time, because it shouldn’t have to be that way. Still, for the past 7 years, it’s become like a mantra…everytime I think that things couldn’t become more stupid or totally ridiculous, or just plain EVIL, (like you said) in the very worst sort of way…it happens!!!

On the other hand, the skepticism is very much what may in the end, keep us alive. So, I think it’s a very good thing, to always question what we ‘hear’, and even more so now. But with that comes the responsibility to find out (at least to the extent that we can) where the truth might really lie. All too often, we become so skeptical that we just don’t believe anything, and that’s just as bad. Because, in what has become such a crazy and upside down mentality, we can ‘hear’ something, (like for the past 3 or more years that Dick Bush has been saber-rattling at Iran) and look over the real ‘facts’ ourselves, and employ the common sense or ‘applied psychology’ and say…ya know, these morons will never do something that stupid.

I mean, what…we’re over extended in Iraq. We don’t have any money. (already trillions of dollars in debt,) and besides, Iran is no THREAT to us. Nor are they a ‘threat’ to anybody else. Iran doesn’t have a history of attacking other nations. They’ve been at war with Iraq, when Saddam has attacked them. But seriously..if one looks at real basic stuff, there’s no reason for them to attack us, and I’ve never doubted myself, (from keeping up with the reports from the IAEA) that they are doing exactly what the laws and treaties allow for them to do.

BUT, despite all of that common sense…we know that Dick would in fact do it, if he could! And, that he still may!

OK, more tomorrow. Thanks for the reply.

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By cann4ing, December 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

Oh, I might add, nils, that if the US and Russian nuclear arsenals were to be unleashed, it would do more than “cripple” the world, it would end all life on the planet, save perhaps some microorganisms at the bottom of the ocean.

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By cann4ing, December 13, 2007 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

nils_, good point but I would add that way back in 1970 when he wrote “Pentagon Capitalism” Seymour Melman observed that deterrence wan neither a defense nor a shield.  It was “an experiment in applied psychology” or what Robert McNamara referred to as “assured destructive capability” in which neither possessed first strike capability.

Melman added, that once we reached the level of “overkill” further military technical improvement was meaningless.  But Melman did not anticipate the advent of Star Wars technology that was intended to give the US a first strike capability, further endangering mankind’s existence, though it would serve to significantly enhance the bottom lines of the military-industrial complex.

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By levi civita, December 13, 2007 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Obnoxious little beasties, writing books, and making money by making people afraid, very afraid.

The civilization in the subcontinent has flourished for over 6000 years despite ravages of invaders from the north and the west. Stop worrying about them, and stop stealing their resources.

The bombs you need to worry about are controlled by the kooks in the White House.

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By bachu, December 13, 2007 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One unintended benefit of a nuclear winter is that the global warming problem would be solved once and for all.

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By nils_cognizant, December 13, 2007 at 3:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

#119144 by Ernest Canning on 12/09 at 5:25 pm
E—your quote about the stunning persistence of “hair-trigger alert” maintained by the major powers reminds me how slow military planners are to keep up with the times. The transport, communication, manufacturing, food production and command network of any nation can be disabled with non-nuclear techniques. The notion that nuking another country that nukes you is pleasant to contemplate in an adolescent fantasy but, in practice, there is no military usefulness to this approach. Revenge is not strategy and crippling a world is not really revenge.

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By dolgoruky, December 10, 2007 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

Part II ( maybe I is after this)

My question was, “How do we know.” The “I heard that. . . ” or “I read that. . . ” substitutes for the “I read the procedures and I agree with them because. . . ” or “So-and-so asserts this because he or she used the following logic—. . . “

It’s possible to be too intellectual for living in this world, of course. You might say this about me. And this really is an epistemological question: that is, “How do we know anything?” On reflection, and thanks to your excellent comment, I’ve changed my mind. I still believe we should try and make up our minds through critical thinking. I’d like everybody to consider what the media report, though, and not just to jump to the “facts” that circulate in the general news chatter in the world. I’d like to pound the supporters of the war with the absolute certainty that this war has created an obscene number of civilian casualties so that they would be shocked and change their beliefs. But my inborn scepticism often makes me see both sides of any question. That’s not a very good place to be in life. It leads to some sort of post-existential despair!

After thinking about what you said, as well as letting the ideas ferment in my brain, I think a responsible intelligent person should make up his or her own mind. This is based on gut feelings, of course. And the beginning is listening in the marketplace. From there, it’s a matter of rhetoric. How do you convince the world of your arguments? Though research may be important in reaching or supporting your gut feeling, you clearly can’t present it in debate. Aristotle distingusihed between good rhetoric and good causes. The ideal is to use good rhetoric in a good cause. But he found that bad rhetoric in a good cause was not a breach of ethics—as a matter of fact it was crucial. I’d have to say I agree with him. A corollary is that you don’t have to mire yourself in deep research when you feel passionately about a moral cause. I think we all have to keep in mind, though, that accusing us of bad information is a tactic that one’s enemies use to discredit our cause. Or, in the case of the Bushies, you can always use bad rhetoric in a bad cause and not blink an eye.

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By dolgoruky, December 10, 2007 at 6:52 am Link to this comment


Thanks very much for your thoughtful and intelligent comments on what I said a few days ago. I really appreciate it, AND you certainly gave me something to think about! And I have to agree with your main point which is, I think, that the seeking of information is the beginning of critical thinking.

I am horrified at the figures about my government’s evil deeds in Iraq. That’s really all I can call them—evil. I think I must have suggested that I was quarreling with the 700,000 plus figure, which comes from a particular analysis by a particular group. If I’m not mistaken, high figures like these were originally published in “The Lancet,” the British Medical Journal, in 2006. They very rightly presented the rationale and criteria for their estimates. Wikipedia has a good, down-and-dirty, summary of theirs and other claims and those of others. For example, a Los Angeles Times article from about the same time says, “War’s Iraqui death toll tops 50,000.” Official government reports at the time were similarly low. Some media reports have tried to find some sort of middle ground because the LAT figure is so ridiculously low, but the Lancet figure is so shockingly large.

I think you thought my questions about the “facts” suggested I didn’t believe the 700,000 figure. That’s not what I meant, and I fear I didn’t convey what I was really trying to ask in my comment. In your reply, for example, you try to justify it. Because of my opposition to the war, I would certainly try to use information like this to argue my case. In fact, most of us who are opposed have become so desperate about the Bush administration’s intransigence that we can be satisfied by such a high figure. AND IT MAY VERY WELL BE TRUE!
(contined on Part II)

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By cyrena, December 10, 2007 at 12:00 am Link to this comment

Part 1 of 2 reply to#118856 by dolgoruky

•  “….who reminded me of the American people’s inability to think critically….”


Ironically and paradoxically, I overwhelming agree with your assessment of an inability on the part of many Americans (though, not ALL of us) to think critically. The irony is that your use of the comments from 1drees5 is NOT a good example, because he or she is at least INFORMED about these important matters, or at least thinks critically enough to understand that they ARE important, though anyone of us, (1dree5 included) could nitpick the language of whether someone “heard” or “read” or even personally WITNESSED, some event of circumstance of the truth.

•  “…..mentions that he or she “heard” about the casualty figures in the Iraq War. How many of us, on all sides of questions rely on what we have “heard”? It’s very difficult to see the truth when so much contradictory information passes before our eyes every minute of our lives. How can any of us try to reach the truth?”…

So, how many of us DO rely on what we see, “hear”, or witness about the details surrounding various truths? I would say, NOT ENOUGH. To clarify, I would say, not enough of us utilize a VARIETY of sources of information, (that you call contradictory information) to then exercise the critical thinking that would bring us closer to the truth, which is rarely if ever contained in one single source of information, no matter how correct that information may be.

So, does it matter what we ‘hear’? ABSOLUTELY!! For starters, it means that we’re PAYING ATTENTION, which is a first step in critical thinking. Is it the case that what we ‘hear’ isn’t always the ‘truth’, or is often ‘contradictory’ to some other thing also ‘alleged’ as “truth”? Yep. Does that make it meaningless as well? Nope. That too, should be another step in critical thinking; since it means ferreting out how seemingly contradictory facts can be presented as truth of the same thing. (because this is perfectly possible). It might also force some additional steps in the critical thinking process, for anyone actually seeking these truths, because it would hopefully then lead us to contemplate the importance of these various facts and discrepancies, to what the “BIG Truth” actually is.

So, let us look at your own example for seeking the truth in respect to casualty figures of the Iraq War. First, what and who are you “counting” as casualties? Are we talking just plain and simple death statistics, as in how many have DIED? And, WHOSE DEAD are we counting? Are we just counting U.S. military and civilian personnel in Iraq that have died? Or, are we including the Iraqi civilians, (impossible to separate Iraq’s civilians from its military which was disbanded and shut down immediately after the US invasion, and as an integral part of the US occupation). Ergo, no Iraq military, so those are ALL civilians, even though what we ‘hear’ is that many of them are ‘terrorists’, ‘rebels’, resistance fighters, etc. In short they’re civilians in their sovereign nation state. Are we counting them? It would appear not, since our own officials long ago stated, (of these particular statistics) that….”They don’t do body counts”. Should we also include the dead of the other military forces that have been involved in the Iraq War? The Brits, and whoever else has sent their troops into harms way?


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By cyrena, December 9, 2007 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment

Part 2 of 2

And, if we’re only counting DEATHS, (including the bodies that the U.S. statics don’t cover) do we count all CAUSES of death? Do we include disease, starvation, lack of water, medical services, electricity, and other services like sewage and other things that lead to the ultimate casualty…DEATH? How about ‘accidents’?. Like the man and his sisters who found themselves on a road that had been closed as a result of the ‘occupation’ , as they were enroute to a local hospital for one of the women to deliver her baby. An American soldier ‘accidently’ shot them through the rear window of the car, when they apparently failed to stop. Do we count that?

Do we consider the chain effects or the peripheral consequences of these deaths, when they lead to other deaths? (6 members of one family are killed, the remaining 8 attempt to flee, and 4 die along the way. 4 make it to Syria, but by then, the boarders are closed, because the Syrians can’t absorb any more refugees from Iraq). Do we count the dead babies who would survive in the former infrastructure, (even a less than perfect one) but don’t now, because there’s no longer such a thing as an neo-natal unit, or even the medical personnel available to assist them?

Indeed, how do we count all of these dead, that lead to other dead, to arrive at the truth? There was the Lancelot report of 2 years ago, which put the Iraqi civilian death at about 750,000 since it was as close as they could get, but was surely a low estimate. Should we just ignore that, because of all of the various methodologies that anyone can use to dispute any single thing at all, (as you’ve done) or do we take into consideration the fact that there ARE all of these various prejudices, politics, and other variables built into the equation? (not the Lancelot report, since it was in fact excellent in considering all of these variables).

So, in attempting to seek this truth, should we rely upon what we ‘hear’? Well, as a stand-alone single statement of “THE” TRUTH, (as in absolute terms) I would personally say NO! As one of many of the COMPONENTS of the critical thinking process, I would certainly say YES. We SHOULD pay attention to what we ‘hear’ as well as what we see, and what we read, and we should share that information with each other in a way that allows for that same dose of skepticism’ that you mention, since it is crucial to the process of critical thinking.

So, please don’t be so quick to pass us off as incapable of being able to exercise critical thinking, when we present our own questions, even though they might be framed in terms of what we’ve ‘heard’. For many (those willing to do the ‘seeking’) that IS the process of critical thinking. And, when we can determine the difference between an ideological ‘competition’ of who is right, and who is not, and examine the combination of facts, and how they relate, the critical thinking becomes a natural by product. Are we sharing what we ‘hear’ and presenting it as an absolute ‘truth’? Or, are we involved in the discourse that this forum allows, in presenting all of these different ‘sides’ of an issue, and making ourselves open to comment and other ideas on the questions, from various viewpoints? I would like to believe the latter of those suggestions.

At the end of the truth seeking venture in the casualties of the Iraq War, how much importance should we place on the DIFFERENCE between these figures? In other words, how important is it, (to the larger question) whether there have been 1.37 million casualties, or 4.53 million causalities? Should we not be appalled by the fact that there have been ANY? Should this lead us to wonder the overall ‘worth’ of any of these casualties? I think that’s more in line with the encouragement to critical thinking and healthy skepticism about the ‘truth’, in all the forms that are presented as such.

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By cann4ing, December 9, 2007 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

There is no more irresponsible actor in the nuclear field than the U.S.A.  As noted by Dr. Helen Caldicott in “The New Nuclear Danger,” “At the height of the cold war, the US spend an average of 3.8 billion dollars a year on nuclear weapons design, testing and manufacture.  Now, more than twelve years after the end of the cold war, it is spending 5 billion…annually over a ten-to 15 year period on a project that will violate both the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”—this despite the fact that “overkill” far exceeds cold war levels.  Although 1,000 bombs striking 100 cities would be sufficient to end human life on the planet, the “U.S. currently has 2000 intercontinental land-based hydrogen bombs, 3456 nuclear weapons on submarines…, and 1750 nuclear weapons on intercontinental planes….Of these 7206 weapoins, roughly 2500 remain on hair-trigger alert.  Russia has a similar number of strategic weapons, with approximately 2000 on hair-trigger alert.”

In June 2005 the New York Times reported the Bush administration planned to produce Uranium 238 for the first time since the Cold War at a cost of $1.5 billion.  U-238 is hundreds of times more radioactive than the Uranium used in nuclear weapons and is said to be so dangerous that inhaling even a speck can lead to lung cancer.

Where the US could at least point to overkill’s psychological ploy in deterring an ICBM launch by the USSR in 1970, today, when the potential threat could come from a terrorist carrying one of the approximately 100 suitcase-sized Russian nukes reported as missing or from a planned meltdown of a nuclear power plant, “deterrence” has lost all meaning.  Indeed, from a “defense” perspective, further development of the US nuclear arsenal is entirely irrational as it only serves to further endanger human survival, a point aptly demonstrated by Dr. Caldicott’s assertion that on 9/11, the US went to DEFCON 2, “the highest state of alert before the launch code is operable.”

Fortunately, as revealed by his book, with dubya off reading “My Pet Goat,” it was the able Richard Clarke running matters from inside the White House that day.  Clarke called Richard Armitage, noting:  Rich, DOD has gone to DEFCOM 3 and you know what that means?”

Armitage:  “It means I better go tell the Ruskies before they shit a brick.”

After Armitage contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense through the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, he reported to Clarke:  “Damn good thing I did that.  Guess who was about to start an exercise of all their strategic forces?”

Whether DEFCON 3 (which Clarke asserts had not happened since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war) or DEFCON 2, whether you accept 9/11 as solely the product of 19 men with box cutters, or the result of some conspiracy of a government within the government who failed to tell the DoD (e.g., right hand doesn’t know what the other is doing so it takes us to DEFCON 2 or 3), on 9/11 the mere presence of our nuclear arsenal brought the world the closest it had been to the brink of nuclear annihilation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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By hey, what about that new Jew Bomb?, December 9, 2007 at 2:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Opponents of the Islamic Bomb are forgetting that the opposition, Israel, has already developed a new, more deadly class of Jew Bomb. These new devices, large in size AND mass-produced, are deviously simple in design yet 100% lethal to adversaries. The containment area of each bomb is filled with antibiotic pills, gold coins, fresh-baked cookies and toys of sturdy design for the Islamic kids to wonder at. The Israelis will drop their new Jew Bomb in massive numbers over the entire territory of the target neighbor, say Iran.
Iranians in hundreds of towns and cities will carefully open each bomb door (labelled, “Please Open Here”) and on discovering the kind, generous contents, will keel-over instantly with a fucking heart attack.

#118905 by heaavyrunner…h,  great comments, esp re nationalism. flag-wavers of any nationality are living proof that Darwinism must contain some glaring error.

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By Verne Arnold, December 8, 2007 at 10:12 pm Link to this comment

#118662 by A Khokar on 12/07 at 8:51 am
(47 comments total)

Touché: It’s so sad; the rot comes from within.

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By heaavyrunner, December 8, 2007 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

Albert Einstein famously said that the Bomb has “changed everything except the way we think.”  I just finished the Armstrong/Trento book.

I was disappointed with the overall tone of the book.  Pakistani Bomb = bad, very bad.  U.S. Bomb = unmentioned.

The U.S. invented the Bomb, has the most, and is the only country which has dropped it on cities, setting a very unfortunate precedent.

Jonathan Schell makes the argument in his new book, “The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger,” and I agree, that the problem is the technology itself.  This horrific monster stalks all humanity and is closing in. 

It’s the nukes themselves are the threat.  It really does not matter who has them.  An accident or a madman could end it for all of us anytime as long as they exist, and, according to Schell, 26,000 of them do exist right now.  Next to the U.S., Russia has the most.

New thinking is required, or we will not live long.  Nationalism is an outdated concept.  As Schell puts it, we have to forget the fear driven idea that we have to maximize arsenals to prevent our women and children from being carried away.  Our safety in a nuclear world comes from the wisdom to destroy these arsenals, not maximize them.

The U.S. has led the way to the eve of destruction.  Books that look at Khan and his activities in a vacuum don’t help us get off that unfortunate path.

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By dolgoruky, December 8, 2007 at 2:56 am Link to this comment

The fact is confirmed yet again, in the last week, that our president, his staff, and many, many others has misled us. This continuing delusion has been encouraged in other ways, by many well-meaning people who pick and choose our information from the dense atmosphere of contradictory “facts” and “figures.” I apologize for singling out 1dree5, since he or she is merely the one who reminded me of the American people’s inability to think critically. 

1dree5, perhaps with all the best intentions, mentions that he or she “heard” about the casualty figures in the Iraq War. How many of us, on all sides of questions rely on what we have “heard”? It’s very difficult to see the truth when so much contradictory information passes before our eyes every minute of our lives. How can any of us try to reach the truth?

Can anyone help us get a firm idea, for example, of how many people have been victims of the Iraq? I suspect the answer to this question is that there are a number of different sources which give us reasonable estimates, but that these sources are all influenced by the procedures, prejudices and predispositions of those who have done research. Can someone help us at least to develop a crucially important scepticism about the truth?

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By Verne Arnold, December 7, 2007 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

#118673 by 1dree5 on 12/07 at 9:15 am
(41 comments total)

Those are not my words.  They are Andrew Cockburn’s words; however I would not argue with your figures.

My comments are the ones not in quotes.

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By prosefights, December 7, 2007 at 3:31 pm Link to this comment

I see all of the right names in this story.

So let’s add.

How the Iraq/Iran War Got Started

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A Khokar's avatar

By A Khokar, December 7, 2007 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

#118604 by Verne Arnold on 12/07 at 3:43 am

I remember; a journalist from Pakistan Mr Hamid Mir, ‘a renowned anchor of Geo TV, Capital Talk’, once asked Osama Bin Laden in his post eleven interview:

Q:  Hamid Mir: Don’t you think the chief beneficiary of your video tapes and audio message that you keep on issuing is George W Bush?

A: Osama Bin Laden answer was: I know but George W Bush is the only one who can destroy America.

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By Rob Wagner, December 7, 2007 at 5:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Clearly, the US has not learned from its mistakes. And clearly it pursues a course that appears to be the best thing at the moment without consideration of the consequences down the road. Did we learn lessons from our hunt for WMDs in Iraq? No. Perhaps the next administration will, but I’m skeptical that our leaders, present and future, have the wherewithal to make intelligence, reasoned choices.

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By Verne Arnold, December 7, 2007 at 3:43 am Link to this comment

By Andrew Cockburn

“It would be nice to think that the authors of the recently unveiled National Intelligence Estimate rebutting claims of an ongoing Iranian bomb program were inspired by ElBaradei’s observation that “everybody [should] have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons,” but bureaucratic self-interest seems a more likely stimulus.”

Wow, we have not been paying attention for 40 years.  Intellectually we have known there must be a keeper at the gate, but we have utterly failed to be diligent and here we are; an insane President (yes, insane/sick) taking us to the brink of our own destruction. 

All of this is coming from within our very own country…..not some invader, not some Bin Laden, not Al Queada, from our very own politicians….the ones I might add, whom we elected!

I wonder how many chances we get to miss before it’s too late.  It seems like we should have gotten this long ago……………..

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