You may suppose that last September the world saw the worst-ever act of terror. Wrong! The British – with our assistance – deliberately created a firestorm over Dresden, Germany, on the eve and early morning hours of St. Valentine’s Day, 1945. That was worse.
You may suppose the world first saw a mushroom-shaped cloud over Hiroshima. Wrong again. The mushroom-shaped cloud over Dresden could be seen for more than a hundred miles.
We deliberately turned the medieval city of Dresden into a blast furnace. The British bombers dropped almost a million small incendiary bomblets that night, starting hundreds of thousands of small fires. American bombers dropped thousands of tons of explosives the next day. The super-hot gases of combustion from all those fires rose, creating a columnar updraft to the upper atmosphere. The resultant low-pressure area at the columnar base caused air to be sucked in, surface winds exceeding several hundred miles per hour, feeding more oxygen to the furnace.
Why did the Brits do it? The war in Europe had already been won. Germany was in ruins. Dresden had thus far escaped bombing, but for good reason. Dresden was in no sense a military target. Hence, the sole purpose of the fire-raids on Dresden was to terrorize the millions of Germans who weren’t in Dresden. Hundreds of thousands who were there – many of them refugees, wounded German soldiers and British prisoners of war – were incinerated.
A few months later, we dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima – also not a military target – in order to terrorize millions of Japanese. Because Hiroshima was largely constructed of rice-paper and bamboo, the firestorms – and casualties – caused by one nuke were comparable to what it took almost a million incendiary bombs to accomplish at Dresden.
That’s what makes a nuke the terrorist’s weapon of choice. With something like Little Boy, he doesn’t need thousands of bombers and millions of incendiary bombs. Of course, your terrorist probably couldn’t create much of a firestorm over Manhattan if he detonated Little Boy at Ground Zero. Not much of Manhattan is constructed of rice-paper and bamboo. So, your terrorist probably couldn’t expect to kill as many people in Manhattan as were killed at Dresden or Hiroshima. But his mushroom-shaped cloud would certainly get the attention of folks in Connecticut and New Jersey.
Where would an Islamic terrorist get a Little Boy – an unsophisticated, easy-to-construct, highly-enriched uranium bomb? Well, not from Saddam Hussein. He doesn’t have nukes. Nor – contrary to what the warhawks have implied – does he have the HEU makings. But Gen. Musharraf has dozens of HEU nukes in Pakistan – many more sophisticated than Little Boy. And what is more important, he has the HEU makings for many more.
Now, nation-states having nukes – including Pakistan – probably know whether or not any of their nukes are missing. All you have to do is count. But some nation-states having the makings for nukes may not know whether any HEU is missing.
Establishing and operating an effective cradle-to-grave fissile Materials Protection, Control and Accounting system is no slam-dunk. The MPC&A system the Russians inherited from the Soviet Union was poor. Other successor states – such as Kazakhstan – inherited practically no MPC&A system at all.
That is why the MPC&A assistance provided to nation-states of the former Soviet Union by the various Nunn-Lugar-Domenici acts has been – and continues to be – so important. The recent $20 billion Bush-Putin agreement – announced at the G-8 Summit at Calgary – properly continues to focus on cooperative U.S.-Russian cradle-to-grave MPC&A of Soviet-era fissile materials, all of it subject to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty full-scope safeguards and physical-protection regime.
What about Pakistan? Pakistan is not an NPT signatory, and hence is not fully subject to the NPT regime. Sen. Lugar reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would authorize a U.S.-Russian effort to cooperatively assist the Pakistanis to establish an effective cradle-to-grave MPC&A system.
What about Iraq? Iraq is an NPT signatory and is fully subject to the NPT regime. As of January, the International Atomic Energy Agency could report that Saddam has never produced appreciable amounts of HEU on his own. Terrorists can’t get nukes from Saddam until Saddam first gets his hands on the HEU he needs to make them. So when you hear a warhawk say we’ve got to invade Iraq because of reports that Saddam has provided Islamic terrorists with “weapons of mass destruction,” you’ll know it’s most likely a crock of wheat smut.