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Fwd: Return of the Nuclear Threat
by Adam Starr
20 March 2002 19:49 UTC
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Note: forwarded message attached.

Adam T. Starr
Undergraduate of Political Science, UVic
3009 Quadra Street, Victoria, British Columbia
V8T 4G2 Canada
(011) (250) 472-1223
adam@hornbyisland.com or reunitedhornby@yahoo.com

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Wednesday, March 20, 2002
Susan V. Thompson, ed.

Read online or subscribe at:

1. Introduction: The Most Terrifying War of All
2. One Link: Seven Minutes to Doomsday
3. Nuclear Powers: Fears & Realities 
4. Nuclear Treaties and Testing
5. The Nuclear Posture Review
6. Reactions to the Nuclear Posture Review
7. Get Involved
8. About the Bulletin

Several weeks ago the conflict between India and Pakistan raised 
the dangerous possibility that the "war on terrorism" could have 
nuclear implications. Nuclear weapons have became an issue again 
last week, but this time, controversy is raging over the nuclear 
policies of the US itself. 

The center of the controversy is a Pentagon document titled the 
"Nuclear Policy Review" or NPR. The document was leaked to the LA 
Times, which published the first report on it. The NPR advocates 
building and testing smaller nuclear weapons and raises the 
possibility of treating nuclear weapons as part of the regular 
military arsenal of the US. This policy flies in the face of 
ongoing international attempts to prevent another arms race, and 
as a result many world leaders have reacted with shock and horror 
to the document -- even some of those who are part of the Bush 
administration's international coalition. Particularly worrisome 
is the fact that the NPR lists several non-nuclear countries as 
possible candidates for nuclear strikes; the traditional US 
commitment to using nuclear weapons only in retaliation for a 
nuclear attack appears to have been abandoned.

The US has the largest and most sophisticated arsenal of nuclear 
weapons in the world. The policies that it sets truly have global 
ramifications, and the NPR seems to be setting an extremely 
negative precedent. The NPR also has big implications for the 
current "war on terrorism", since Iraq is one of the countries 
listed as a possible nuclear target and it is also one of the 
most likely next targets of the current war.

The bad news is that despite President Bush's concern with the 
"axis of evil," it seems amply evident that the most dangerous 
nuclear rogue state at the moment may very well be America. The 
good news is that America's nuclear policy is not set in stone, 
and can still be revised. In this bulletin, we hope to explain 
the major nuclear issues that currently face the world -- not 
with the intent of causing fear and despair, but with the intent 
of giving you the information that you will need to speak out 
against the current threats. The best hope for our shared future 
lies with all of the citizens of the world who are willing to 
work for peace. And if the doomsday clock is at seven minutes to 
midnight, that means we still have time left to change things.

Next Week: Women and Peace

On February 27, 2002, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of 
the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand of the “Doomsday 
Clock,” which symbolically measures the likelihood of nuclear 
holocaust, from nine to seven minutes to midnight. This is the 
same setting at which the clock debuted 55 years ago. Read their 
thorough and important summary of the global nuclear threat to 
learn why they believe that the threat of destruction is so 
close, and what can be done about it. If you click on only one 
link this week, make it this one.

A briefing on the state of nuclear proliferation in 2001. This 
chart clearly shows which countries were acknowledged nuclear 
powers and which were unacknowledged nuclear powers, as well as 
which were under suspicion and by whom.

If you have the time to browse, take a look at this in-depth 
guide to nuclear forces. You can click on each country for 

Iran is one of the countries listed in President Bush's "axis of 
evil." However, according to several sources, Iran does not 
deserve this distinction.

According to the UN, Iran has no nuclear weapons, and is not 
sheltering al-Qaeda.

Intellectuals in Iran say that in the wake of the last election, 
the country is slowly becoming more liberal.

Even Iraq's arsenal may not be as threatening as the Bush 
administration insists.

"Saddam's Rusting Arsenal."

Meanwhile, Israel is one of America's closest allies, yet it may 
have a far more threatening nuclear arsenal than any of the 
countries in the "axis of evil." It is specifically stated in the 
Nuclear Posture Review that if Iraq attacked Israel, the US would 
consider attacking Iraq with nuclear weapons. 

Israel is extremely secretive about its weapons capabilities, and 
has never really admitted to having them. However: "Israel is 
believed to possess the largest and most sophisticated arsenal 
outside of the five declared nuclear powers." This page outlines 
Israel's nuclear weapons program (as of 1997) through several 
short documents and pictures.

This report from 2000 reveals that Israel may have 200+ nuclear 

The first-ever public debate about Israel's nuclear weapons (Feb 
2000) lasted less than an hour and only illustrated how reluctant 
everyone is to talk about them.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the most widely 
accepted arms control agreement. Only Cuba, Israel, India, and 
Pakistan are not members. This brief, cogent summary is a great 
introduction to the treaty, and includes links to other resources 
if you would like to find out more.

This chart summarizes nuclear testing from 1945 to 1998, showing 
which countries have tested nuclear weapons and how many tests 
have been run. The US tops the list.

In 1996, Greenpeace celebrated the signing of the Comprehensive 
Test Ban Treaty, after 25 years of campaigning to end nuclear 
weapons testing.

The CTBT "bans all explosive tests that lead to a nuclear chain 
reaction." 44 nations need to ratify the treaty for it to come 
into force; as of November 2001, 31 nations had ratified. 

Unfortunately, the testing that had already been done is still 
affecting the global environment today.

The nuclear test in Alaska (the one that Greenpeace was 
originally created to protest) may still be having effects on the 
surrounding environment. It was the largest nuclear blast in 
America, 400 times more powerful than the weapon that destroyed 
Hiroshima, and as it turns out, the blast was set off next to the 
Alaskan equivalent of the San Andreas fault. 

USA Today recently reported that an unpublished study by the 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that 
radioactive fallout from Cold War nuclear testing exposed 
virtually everyone in the United States, and has contributed to 
about 15,000 cancer deaths. The article includes charts, maps and 
other information on this important issue.

The testing fallout study has yet to be officially released, 
despite the fact that many are eager to see the results.

America is the country possessing the largest and most 
sophisticated nuclear arsenal in the world. Unfortunately, the US 
has been opting out of important international agreements that 
help regulate and govern the use of such weapons, especially 
under the current Bush administration. "When the parties to the 
NPT meet again this April, the US is sure to come under heavy 
criticism for its notice of withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic 
Missile Treaty, its failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban 
Treaty, its new strategy to make nuclear disarmament reversible, 
and its recent announcement that it is rescinding its security 
assurances to non-nuclear weapons states."

The three most controversial elements of the Nuclear Posture 
Review are:
1) it advocates building and testing smaller nuclear weapons 
2) it advocates the use of nuclear weapons such as these 
"mini-nukes" in a much broader range of situations (possibly 
including a first strike)
3) it lists China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia and 
Libya as possible targets, although only two of these countries 
are defined as nuclear powers.

"In short, the Pentagon wants to make nuclear war fighting more 
thinkable, dramatically lowering the bar. It wants to reclassify 
nuclear weapons as offensive tools, not defensive ones. It wants 
to build more weapons, when the U.S. and Russia seek cuts. And it 
is reneging on a 1978 pledge: That the U.S. won't launch nuclear 
strikes against non-nuclear foes, provided that they don't team 
up with a nuclear ally to attack the U.S." 

Read the rest of this Canadian article to get a succinct and 
easily understandable overview of the Nuclear Posture Review and 
what its implications are.

The Guardian examines how the leaked report demonstrates that 
many of Bush's advisors now advocate the use of nuclear weapons. 
"Bush's advisers argue that by advocating the possible use of 
nuclear weapons, and abandoning the cold war concept of mutual 
assured destruction (MAD) -- replacing it by the prospect of 
'unilateral assured destruction' -- they are simply offering a 
more effective deterrence." 

The Nuclear Posture Review proposes violating the Comprehensive 
Test Ban Treaty. The US has yet to ratify this treaty, and the 
likelihood that the US will begin testing nuclear weapons again 
now seems almost inevitable.

Threatening to use nuclear weapons will remove any reason for 
non-nuclear countries to stick to policies of non-proliferation. 

Robert W. Nelson, a theoretical physicist who is on the research 
staff of Princeton University, debunks the ideas of Bush's 
advisors. He reports that it is simply not possible for a kinetic 
energy weapon to penetrate deep enough to prevent widespread and 
intense local radioactive fallout from the nuclear explosion. 
Therefore the proposed bunker busters will increase rather than 
decrease civilian deaths. 

"This is a very dangerous policy," said Joseph Cirincione, a 
nuclear proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for 
International Peace. "The test is: How would we feel if other 
countries adopted the same policy? I'm not talking about rogue 
states. What if India developed nuclear weapons to go after 
terrorists in the Himalayas? Would we feel safer then?"

In response to the controversy, Colin Powell has said that the US 
will continue to follow its policy of using nuclear weapons only 
as a response to a nuclear attack initiated by another country. 
Powell has also attempted to address the strain that the NPR has 
put on relations between Russia and the US, and has stated that 
there are no missiles currently targeted at Russia (although he 
added that they could easily be redirected.)

Would the US really consider a first strike? The answers have 
ranged from "not likely" to "no comment."

This article basically provides a summary of the initial 
reactions to the report from around the world; China was "deeply 

In a fairly obvious spin attempt, the Washington Post asserted 
that the European allies of the states were "unperturbed" by the 
NPR: "Reports that the United States is reexamining where to 
target its nuclear arsenal drew a subdued response this weekend, 
with some European leaders dismissing the project as routine 
military planning." However, the article does point out that both 
Iran and Russia reacted very strongly to the NPR, accusing the US 
of intimidation tactics.

Various experts contend that the NPR undermines the 1970 
Non-Proliferation Treaty, and could very well lead to a new arms 

British Labour MP Alice Mahon has since said: "The lunatics have 
taken over the White House. This report must be ringing alarms 
throughout NATO." This article reports that the international 
reaction to the NPR has been one of "horror".

UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs expressed 
"alarm and consternation" at the report.

North Korea reacted strongly to the NPR, and has threatened that: 
"The DPRK will not remain a passive onlooker to the Bush 
administration's inclusion of the DPRK in the seven countries, 
targets of U.S. nuclear attack, but take a strong countermeasure 
against it." The article notes that North Korea's nuclear weapons 
program was "frozen" in 1994 in exchange for oil supplies and 
Western nuclear reactors.

North Korea has since more explicitly threatened to revive its 
nuclear program in response to the NPR.

China has accused the US of "nuclear blackmail."

Russia is listed in the Nuclear Posture Review as a potential 
target, a fact that is threatening talks between the two 

Canada's former ambassador for disarmament calls for Canada to 
oppose the State's nuclear plan immediately, stating, "friends 
don't let friends drive drunk."

Even conservative extraordinaire Pat Buchanan asks: "Is it for 
the United States to threaten atomic strikes against non-nuclear 
rogue states? Will that threat intimidate them –- or cause them 
to accelerate their efforts to acquire the bomb?" 

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