You’ve probably seen the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of Hiroshima. Talk about mass destruction. There were also a lot of civilians killed that day in 1945 — tens of thousands of them. All that death and destruction from one weapon, a nuke called Little Boy. So when you hear ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ you probably think of what Little Boy [a Uranium nuke] did to Hiroshima or the Fat Man [a Plutonium nuke] did to Nagasaki.
Speaking of bombing, we bombed Baghdad again last week. One hopes that this bombing was just a statement of resolve by the new Bush-Cheney Administration, a statement that we won’t be pushed around by a tin-pot dictator. Having made that statement now, perhaps Secretary of State Powell can find some way for us to get off the treadmill in Iraq. The bombing has been going on practically non-stop throughout the Clinton-Gore years. Rumor has it that the bombing originally had something to do with our not being sure that Iraq didn’t have any hidden ‘weapons of mass destruction’ left over from the Gulf War or any hidden facilities for making new ones.
Is there any truth to that? Don’t we know by now whether Saddam has any hidden ‘weapons of mass destruction’ or hidden WMD facilities? Well it all depends upon how you define ‘weapons of mass destruction.’
Coincidentally, Timothy McVeigh told the sentencing judge last week that he wants his execution to go ahead as scheduled. As you may remember, McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to die for the federal crime — which carries the possibility of the death penalty — of knowingly, intentionally, willfully and maliciously using “a weapon of mass destruction, namely an explosive bomb placed in a truck” to kill Federal employees in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2332a and 2(a)&(b).
McVeigh could probably have been charged and convicted in Oklahoma of mass murder and could have received the death penalty. However, the Clinton-Gore-Reno Justice Department wanted to convict McVeigh of a federal crime for which the penalty was death. So, presto-chango, they somehow got a federal judge to accept their claim that Congress intended a truckload of fertilizer soaked in fuel oil to be considered a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.
For Clinton, a word or phrase — for example, ‘weapons of mass destruction’ — means whatever he wants it to mean, whether in obtaining a federal death penalty for McVeigh or in bombing aspirin factories in the Sudan. Now, you may think — as Bill Clinton certainly does — that any means employed to get the desired outcome is justified by that outcome. Clinton has even been quoted by staff as saying — “Sometimes you have to do a little bad in order to do a lot of good.”
Well, Clinton and Tony Blair — who are reputedly bright enough to know the difference between a nuke and a truckload of fertilizer — have convinced you and the funny old Brits that WMD always means ‘nukes’ and that if they don’t bomb Iraq every two or three days, the Iraqis will rise up and nuke you in your jammies. How did they convince you of that?
Harken back to 1972 and the entering into force of the so-called Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT]. There are two categories of NPT signatories, the five have-nuke states [US, UK, France, Russia and PRC] and the hundred-plus have-not states [like Germany, Iraq, Mexico, etc]. All signatories agree to share technologies [such as power reactors] and materials [such as radioactive isotopes] to be used, peacefully, for the benefit of all mankind. Furthermore, the have-not states [like Iraq] agree to not develop or acquire nuke technologies and materials.
The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] of the United Nations, originally established in 1952 for the sharing of nuclear technologies and materials for peaceful purposes, was given in 1972 the additional job of ‘policing’ the have-not NPT states.
Now, the only really hard part about becoming a have-nuke state is acquiring the necessary amounts of weapons-grade ‘fissile’ materials, either highly enriched Uranium [HEU] or Plutonium. Furthermore, the technologies for producing HEU and weapons-grade Plutonium are essentially dual-use. That is, the gaseous diffusion or centrifuge plants that are used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors can also, with some modifications, produce HEU for nuke weapons use. Similarly, certain types of research reactors can, with some modifications, also produce weapons-grade Plutonium. Therefore, the most critical role of the IAEA under the NPT-IAEA regime is to ensure that NPT have-not signatories do not secretly and clandestinely modify the dual-use technologies so as to make nuke-useable fissile materials.
It is Iraq’s right as an NPT signatory to have these dual-use technologies and, at the time of the Gulf War, Iraq was subject to regular NPT-IAEA inspections. But, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, the IAEA discovered that Iraq had secretly made considerable progress towards producing the nuke-useable fissile materials needed for a few nukes. Having failed to detect what the Iraqis had been doing, the IAEA considerably strengthened and made more rigorous and intrusive its Safeguards and Physical Protection Regime.
Almost immediately, North Korea, also a NPT have-not signatory, announced it would withdraw from the NPT-IAEA rather than submit to the more rigorous and intrusive NPT-IAEA regime. Clinton, who was in the process of getting everyone in the world to sign on to an indefinitely extended NPT, had a cow. There was also talk in Congress of our bombing North Korea, just as we were bombing Iraq. But Clinton sent special envoys to North Korea to plead with the North Koreans not to withdraw. Eventually, after 16 months of negotiations, the North Koreans agreed in 1994 to accept a zillion dollar bribe — called The Agreed Framework — to stay subject to the NPT-IAEA regime.
So much for bribing North Korea. Now, what to do about Iraq?
Well, Clinton decided to take advantage of a UN Special Commission [UNSCOM]. By its Resolution 687 [3 April 1991], the Security Council established the terms and conditions for a formal cease-fire between Iraq and the coalition of member states cooperating with Kuwait. Section C of that resolution dealt with the elimination, under international supervision, of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres (km), together with related items and production facilities. It also calls for measures to ensure that the acquisition and production of prohibited items are not resumed. The Special Commission [UNSCOM] was set up to implement the non-nuclear provisions of the resolution and to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the nuclear areas.
So, there you have it. The NPT-IAEA regime is to ensure that, during the Gulf War cease fire, NPT signatory Iraq doesn’t acquire the technology or materials to make nukes, while UNSCOM is supposed to ensure the elimination of all that non-nuke WMD stuff. Like, for example, nerve gas, mustard gas and biological agent dual-use equipment like mini-breweries.
It appears that we are bombing Iraq because — nominally — the UNSCOM non-nuke crowd can’t be sure that Iraq doesn’t have any hidden non-nuke WMD left over from the Gulf War or any hidden facilities for making new ones.
And that’s the point of this whole harangue. It is possible for the IAEA to assure you that Iraq doesn’t have the facilities for producing the fissile materials necessary to make a nuke if we can get them back in there on the job. It is impossible for UNSCOM to assure you or any one else that Iraq doesn’t have the facilities for producing the materials necessary to make non-nuke WMD and Clinton and Blair know that. How could UNSCOM assure you if naturally occurring bacteria like anthrax, ampoules of smallpox, and the Clintonian truckload of fertilizer soaked with fuel oil are all defined to be WMD?
So, if Clinton and Blair knew that, why were we still bombing on the eve of the Bush-Cheney takeover? If what we’re really concerned about is Saddam having nukes, we need to forget about UNSCOM and get the IAEA back on the job in Iraq. The IAEA can — with it’s strengthened safeguards and physical security inspection regime — assure you that Saddam either has or hasn’t got the facilities necessary to make weapons-useable fissile materials.
If we’re really all that concerned about Saddam using non-nuke WMD against us — like the attacks on the USS Cole and the US Embassies — then bombing him in his homeland every week or so is certainly not going to force him to cease and desist. It will certainly not do serious and lasting damage to any capabilities he has to make chem-bio agents or fertilizer.
But if all we want to do is ‘remove’ Saddam, then we ought to get on with it. Maybe, like in the film The Dirty Dozen, we could get condemned WMD murderer McVeigh to finish out his Gulf War tour of duty — and perhaps partially redeem himself — by a one-way delivery of “a weapon of mass destruction, namely an explosive bomb placed in a truck” to Saddam’s palace in Baghdad.