Whose little nuke are you?

By Gordon Prather

This week President Bush finally got his Department of Homeland Security, and the U.N. Security Council finally got its inspectors – including the International Atomic Energy Action Team – back into Iraq.

Now, DHS will cost us billions every year, but don’t expect too much. No matter how well-organized and staffed, it won’t be able to prevent all acts of international or domestic terrorism in our homeland. In fact, the DHS will almost certainly fail in its mission if it even tries.

Ask yourself, how could Homeland Security have prevented the Sept. 11 horror?

DHS can probably prevent Islamic terrorists from ever again hijacking a domestic jetliner and crashing it into the World Trade Center. But what about a flight originating in Canada or Mexico?

And, what if a pair of Islamic terrorists armed with “Stingers” – shoulder-mounted heat-seeking missiles – briefly stop their rented minivan near the active runway of a major U.S. airport? Islamic terrorists did just that in Kenya this week, launching their missiles at an Israeli jetliner, on takeoff, just as it retracted its landing-gear. Both missiles missed, perhaps because they were launched too soon.

During the Soviet-Afghanistan war two decades ago, the mujahedin – using U.S.-supplied Stingers – brought down more than 500 low-flying Soviet military aircraft.

Soviet-, Chinese-, Pakistani- and Egyptian-made Stingers are cheap and universally available. They only weigh about 30 pounds and will fit into the trunk of a car.

DHS can spend billions and billions of dollars to frisk Girl Scouts, confiscate nail-clippers, X-ray luggage and arm airline pilots, but none of that can prevent a half-dozen well-trained Islamic terrorists from bringing down two or three U.S. jetliners on takeoff with a half-dozen of these missiles.

But what about terrorists acquiring a nuke, smuggling it into the country and nuking you in your jammies? Now, that’s a horrific act that can be prevented.

But not by Homeland Security.

Nuke acquisition has to be prevented at the source.

And where might that be?

Well, the warhawks want you to think it’s Iraq, but since 1998 it’s been Pakistan. True, at the time of the Gulf War, the Iraqis were “on the threshold” of producing nukes. They had a broad-based, well-funded clandestine nuke development program, but even with considerable outside technical assistance the Iraqis couldn’t seem to get anything to work properly.

Postwar, the U.N. Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Iraq that were to be lifted only when all Iraqi chem-bio weapons – as well as the entire nuke infrastructure, including some “dual-use” facilities – were destroyed.

In December 1998, with Iraq in substantial compliance, all U.N. inspectors were perversely withdrawn so that Bill Clinton could practice “regime change” from 20,000 feet.

The warhawks claim that in the intervening four years, Saddam has largely rebuilt his nuke program. But the imperative for Iraq to develop an “Islamic” nuke is not what it once was. In 1981, the Israelis had thrown down the gauntlet. They preemptively destroyed the Iraqi Osiraq nuclear reactor.

The Israelis had an Osiraq-like reactor and had made weapons-grade plutonium in it. Israel claimed that Iraq intended to do the same. Now, Israel was not a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory, but Iraq was. So the IAEA wouldn’t have allowed Osiraq to be operated that way. The message the Israeli preemptive strike sent was clear: contempt for the IAEA-NPT regime. Much akin to the contempt repeatedly expressed in recent weeks by the warhawks for Chairman Hans Blix.

So, after the Israeli challenge, the Iraqis began to exploit their NPT membership, buying any dual-use technology and equipment they could lay their hands on and not declaring it to the IAEA. In the aftermath of the Gulf War, everyone – including the Israelis – seemed surprised at how far that had gotten them.

But, as the Iraqi capability was being destroyed, Pakistan resumed developing its own cradle-to-grave nuke capability. Soon producing about a dozen sophisticated, deliverable “Islamic” nukes each year, Pakistan proceeded to “test” a half-dozen of them in early 1998.

Accusations are flying that the Pakistanis have since supplied nuke know-how to the North Koreans in return for intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Might the Pakistanis have supplied nuke know-how to Saddam since 1998? Contrary to what the Israelis and the warhawks would have you believe, that’s something the IAEA is perfectly capable of finding out.

But what if the Pakistanis just slipped Saddam a few nukes? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the warhawks invade.