Released February 24, 2004
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Mohsin Ali

The Nuclear Nightmare

by Mohsin Ali O.B.E.


These were the words from the Hindu scriptures the BHAGAVAD GITA that came to the mind of sanskrit scholar Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the American atomic bomb (code name, The Fat boy), as he watched the first nuclear weapon explode across the New Mexican desert in the summer of 1945.

And these frightening words nearly came true during the 1962 CUBAN missile crisis when the world, for the first time, came within minutes of being destroyed by Soviet-U.S. nuclear strikes.

In sharp contrast to Lord Krishna's ancient words, the Chinese leader Mao tse-tung in 1946 declared: "The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the United States reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible, but in fact it isn1t...all reactionaries are paper tigers."

He also famously said in 1938: "Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." And, "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." President Bush in a major speech on February 11 on the dangers of nuclear proliferation proposed strong measures to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and restrict the production of nuclear fuel to a few nations. He argued for the change by saying that the world's consensus against proliferation meant little unless it was translated into action. "Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

The President called for new international efforts to prevent terrorists and renegade countries from acquiring nuclear technology on the black market.

He proposed new restrictions that would limit the ability of countries to obtain reprocessing and enrichment technology for what they say are peaceful civilian uses, such as power plants.

The world's need to develop alternative nuclear and other energy sources will continue to grow as the demand for oil becomes greater.

Please note this startling projection. Within possibly the next 30 years the combined demand for oil of India and China, with a total population of over two billion, will amount to 120 million barrels daily. Currently, the whole world, including the U.S., consumes 60 to 70 million barrels of oil daily.

President Bush warned that chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide and transport.

Weapons of Mass Destruction -- atomic, biological, chemical -- along with global terrorism are the biggest danger in this new century. The worst nightmare would be terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons and material. So the President proposed expanding the U.S. program that helps pay to destroy badly guarded nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union and to retrain its scientists. This could also be expanded to offer scientists in such countries as Libya and Iraq jobs and other financial rewards so they do not look to sell their services elsewhere.

Even accidental releases of radio activity can be devastating across continents. Remember the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in the Ukraine.

Today, there are nine nuclear powers -- the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China (the ĪBig Five1 U N Security Council permanent members with veto powers) ; and late comers Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel has never admitted that it has nuclear weapons and will not allow U.N. experts to inspect its nuclear facilities.

Israel, India and Pakistan also refused to sign the key 1963 Nuclear Partial Test Ban Treaty, the protracted and complex negotiations of which I covered in Geneva as Reuters diplomatic correspondent.

The U.S. continues to shield Israel's nuclear activities and has not taken any action against it as it did when it imposed trade and other sanctions on India and Pakistan when they carried out nuclear tests during the Clinton presidency.

The U.S. acquired nuclear weapons in 1945 and now has an estimated 10,640 warheads. The Soviet Union acquired them in 1949 and Russia now has 8,600; Britain in 1952 and has 200; France in 1960 and has 350; China in 1964 and has 400; India in 1974 and has 30 to 35; Pakistan in 1998 and has 24 to 48; Israel has about 100 to 200 nuclear warheads; North Korea in 2,003 and has at least two. It is not publicly known when Israel got its first nuclear warhead.

President Bush in his policy speech, for the first time, made a sensational and detailed disclosure of how American intelligence operatives had traced a clandestine nuclear network of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, which had supplied nuclear material and know-how to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

Dr. Khan operated a shopping venture that sold the know- how, designs and equipment for making nuclear weapons and even arranged delivery. His audacious and lucrative enterprise, started in the late 1980s, began unraveling last October when Italian authorities seized illegal centrifuges from a ship which was on its way from Malaysia to Libya.

Drawings of a nuclear warhead that Libya recently surrendered as part of its decision to renounce banned weapons are of a 1960 Chinese design, but probably came from Pakistan, according to diplomats and arms control experts.

China is widely assumed to have been Pakistan's key supplier of much of the clandestine nuclear technology used to establish Islamabad as a nuclear power in 1998. Some of that technology was resold to what President Bush described as "rogue regimes" through a black market network headed by Dr. Khan.

The drawings appeared to be of a design never used by Pakistan, which later developed more modern nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the designs probably came from China as part of a decades long transfer of technology that Dr. Khan used to develop Pakistan's nuclear weapons soon after India's advent as a nuclear power.

Libya surrendered the drawings to the United Nations Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December after its President Muammar Gaddhafi volunteered to scrap all research into developing banned weapons.

Iran also recently announced it would not produce nuclear weapons. But it has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program capable of producing material for nuclear weapons.

North Korea continues to run a nuclear weapons program using plutonium. But U S officials believe it has a program based on enriched uranium, possibly using technology imported from Pakistan. North Korea has denied this allegation.

Dr. Khan became the focus of an international investigation on the basis of information Libya and Iran gave the IAEA, which administers the 1970 International Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), about where they covertly brought nuclear technology that could be used to make weapons.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were reported to have changed hands over the past 15 years in Dr. Khan's secret nuclear procurement chain which ran from Pakistan to Malaysia to Libya.

Dr. Khan has confessed to President Musharraf, asked for his pardon, and publicly claimed that he carried out his nuclear black market trade without the knowledge and permission of the Pakistan government.

The NPT has a fatal flaw. It allows nations to make uranium and plutonium for nuclear power plants, even though the materials can be reprocessed for bombs. So President Bush wants countries to openly purchase the fuel for power plants if they cannot already make it. The IAEA would regulate such sales under tough inspections.

Last May President Bush formed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a group of 11 countries that stop and search suspect cargo, such as the intercepted Libyan shipment. He now also wants the U N Security Council to pass a resolution criminalizing the spread of sensitive nuclear materials.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has budgeted $10.7 billion for the smaller "star wars" missile defense system, a project that risks China and other nations will build more nuclear weapons.

Several international and American experts on arms control have strongly criticized President Bush's speech. They claim that his call for changes in international rules on the sale of nuclear equipment would effectively revoke the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The other key nuclear agreement is the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which was negotiated between Washington and Moscow.

But Jesse Helms blocked its ratification by the Senate.

The NPT directs those states already possessing nuclear weapons to engage in good faith negotiations at reducing and eventually eliminating these weapons.

Governments of non-nuclear weapons countries claim that the U.S. -- with its overwhelming military advantage in the world, conventional and nuclear -- seems bent on continuing to create and threaten the use of nuclear weapons.

Such critics cite ongoing work on such weapons as a "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" as clear evidence of Washington's intentions to pursue nuclear weaponry and not work towards its elimination.

President Bush has said, "We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties, and then systemically break them."

Thus, his January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review calls for the development of low-yield or so-called "mini-nukes" and integrates nuclear weapons with conventional strike options.

It discusses the preemptive strike option which allows the possible first-use of nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear countries if Washington believes a country may use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. or its allies.

In the post-Iraq invasion period this makes many governments and peoples worldwide nervous.

Critics of President Bush's latest proposals say that Dr Oppenheimer and his colleagues from the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb, were correct in believing that the only real way of dealing with nuclear proliferation is to ban nuclear weapons altogether, everywhere.

Mohamed el Baradei, the head of the IAEA, recently wrote: "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them...and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use."

Coincidentally, in a dramatic development, India and Pakistan held critical talks in Islamabad in mid-February on a timetable to resolve decades of conflict.

It was the nuclear armed neighbors first peace talks in 2 1/2 years. The discussions are aimed at ending a half century of conflict since they became independent nations on August 15, 1947 following the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the end of British rule there.

"There is a realization in India and Pakistan that war is NOT an option; that you have to look at ways to find a peaceful resolution of the outstanding disputes between the two countries," a Pakistani spokesman said after a meeting between Foreign Ministry officials of the two countries.

3There's new momentum; this momentum must be maintained,2 he added.

This seems to prove right the often repeated statement of Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British Conservative Prime Minister, that the nuclear "deterrence does deter" and that is why NATO must retain its nuclear deterrent and the West must not give up its right of first use of nuclear weapons.

Under discussion between Delhi and Islamabad are eight key issues, including the explosive divided region of Kashmir, confidence building measures in the nuclear field, terrorism and drugs, and economic cooperation.

Kashmir has the been the cause of two of the countries1 three wars since independence. A ceasefire line has divided the former princely Kashmir state between India and Pakistan. Since 1989 more than 65,000 people have been killed in an insurgency in the Indian controlled parts of the north Himalayan Kashmir region.

In January Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to discuss Kashmir and President Musharraf then promised firmly to put an end to terrorism directed by Muslim insurgent groups against India from Pakistani territory.

India, which is a majority Hindu state, accuses Pakistan of training and arming Islamic guerrillas fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or for the Kashmir state's merger with Pakistan.

Just a few years ago India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear war. What continues to make the situation extremely grave is that both have nuclear weapons and, with only a few minutes warning time, a misunderstanding or miscalculation could trigger an atomic holocaust. Both India and Pakistan have short and medium range delivery missiles for delivery of their reported total of some 80 nuclear warheads.

Published American studies estimate that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would initially kill 2 million people, cause 100 million casualties and with radioactive fall out contaminate south and central Asia, as well as much of the globe.


This frightening nuclear nightmare will be with us for a long, long time.

Will our world end with a nuclear bang or, as T. S. Eliot said, "a whimper."

Isao Hashimoto, "The Explosions of Every Nuclear Bomb to Date"

John J. Lumpkin, "U.S. Missile Defense System Flunks Test," Associated Press, February 14, 2005

"Israeli businessman sentenced in nuke device plot," USA Today, August 5, 2005

[The ground-breaking deal now faces a major hurdle in the US, where it needs the approval of Congress, and in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, an international body that regulates the transfer of nuclear technology.--Jo Johnson, "US seals nuclear cooperation pact with India," Financial Times, March 2 2006]

[The FPC report says that Britain's independent deterrent is an illusion. The missiles are stored in the United States and have to be collected by a British submarine before it goes on patrol.

Aldermaston is run by a consortium headed by Lockheed Martin, a US company, and there are 92 Americans working there, including the managing director and four of his senior managers.

"The UK should cease to try to keep up appearances and adopt a policy based on the reality that it is not an independent nuclear power," the FPC report concludes.--Michael Smith, "Revealed: UK develops secret nuclear warhead," Sunday Times, March 12, 2006]

[He was the CIA's expert on Pakistan's nuclear secrets, but Rich Barlow was thrown out and disgraced when he blew the whistle on a US cover-up. Now he's to have his day in court.--Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, "The man who knew too much," Guardian, October 13, 2007] [Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, . . . says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.--Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria, "For sale: West's deadly nuclear secrets," Sunday Times, January 6, 2008]

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