by Robert Jensen
President Bush's call for changes in international rules on the sale of
nuclear equipment would effectively revoke the 1970 Non-Proliferation
Treaty's provision allowing countries to pursue atomic energy if they pledge
not to build nuclear weapons.
Bush argued for the change by saying that the world's consensus against
proliferation "means little unless it is translated into action. Every
civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of mass
But there is another important aspect of that international consensus, also
written into the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the United States signed:
"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good
faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race
at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and
complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."
That is, the treaty directs those states already possessing nuclear weapons
to engage in honest attempts at reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear
The old "arms race" between the former Soviet Union and the United States
may be over, but has the United States -- the nuclear giant of the world,
and hence the nation in the strongest position to take a leadership role --
acted in "good faith" to eliminate its own nuclear weapons and encourage
others to do the same? Do the actions of the United States since that treaty
went into effect in 1970 indicate any intention to honor its provisions?
Sadly, the answer is no. Instead, the United States -- with its overwhelming
military advantage in the world, conventional and nuclear -- seems bent on
continuing to create, and threaten the use of, nuclear weapons.
Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal
Foundation (a public-interest organization that monitors and analyzes U.S.
nuclear-weapons programs) sums it up this way: "The U.S. is spending more
money on nuclear-weapons research and development than ever before, giving
its nuclear arsenal new military capabilities and elevating the role of
nuclear weapons in its aggressive and unilateral 'national security'
policy." Cabasso cites ongoing work on such weapons as a "Robust Nuclear
Earth Penetrator" as clear evidence of U.S. intentions to pursue nuclear
weaponry, not work toward its elimination.
Perhaps more frightening, the Bush administration's January 2002 Nuclear
Posture Review laid out a nuclear policy that calls for the development of
low-yield or so-called "mini-nukes" and integrates nuclear weapons with
conventional strike options. The review discusses possible first-use of
nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear countries if the United States
believes a country may use chemical or biological weapons against the United
States or its allies. The review's language -- "U.S. nuclear forces will
continue to provide assurance to security partners, particularly in the
presence of known or suspected threats of nuclear, biological, or chemical
attacks or in the event of surprising military developments" -- not
surprisingly makes the world nervous.
Bush would do well to listen to his own words, such as this comment on "Meet
the Press" last weekend: "See, free societies are societies that don't
develop weapons of mass terror and don't blackmail the world."
On the heels of a U.S. invasion of Iraq that virtually the whole world
opposed and which had no legal authority, U.S. citizens should face the
unpleasant fact that we have the most extensive arsenal of weapons of mass
terror, and that much of the world is frightened of how they might be used.
Though U.S. citizens typically have a self-indulgent belief that their
country can be trusted with such weapons (despite the painful reality that
the United States is the only country to have ever dropped an atomic bomb),
the world's fears are not irrational. Again, Bush's own words, from his 2002
speech at West Point, make the point: "We cannot put our faith in the word
of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then
systemically break them."
Every "civilized nation" has a stake not only in preventing the spread of
weapons of mass destruction, but also pressuring the nuclear powers to honor
the Non-Proliferation Treaty and move toward a more secure world in which no
nation can threaten the ultimate horror. It is the task of U.S. citizens to
push our own government toward that civilized policy.
Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, and
author of "Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity."]
Inigo Gilmore, "Israel Reveals Secrets
of How It Gained Bomb," The Telegraph, December 23, 2001
[Few Americans know that the U.S. government committed to eliminate the
entire U.S. nuclear arsenal when the Nonproliferation Treaty came into
effect 32 years ago. "The Nonproliferation Treaty does not simply aim to
maintain the nuclear status quo," George Bunn, who served on the original
U.S. negotiating team, said last spring. Article VI "requires that the
original five nuclear weapon states pursue effective nuclear disarmament
measures."--Tad Daley, "America's nuclear
hypocrisy," International Herald Tribune, October 21, 2002]
Enver Masud, "U.S. Violating Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty," The Wisdom Fund, March 11, 2003
James Astill, "
Musharraf knew I was selling secrets, says nuclear scientist," The
Guardian (UK), February 4, 2004
William J. Broad, David E. Sanger, Raymond Bonner--"A
Tale of Nuclear Proliferation: How Pakistani Built His Network," New York
Times, February 12, 2004
[The administration is seeking $500 million over the next five years for
research on new nuclear weapons intended to break up underground bunkers.
The goal is to produce smaller-scale weapons easier for use in war, thereby
Another $10.7 billion for the Star Wars missile defense system, a project
that risks encouraging China and other nations to build more nuclear
A refusal to revive the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty signed by
President Clinton and rejected by the Senate.-- "A nuclear
credibility problem," FortWayne.com, February 13, 2004]
[Three types of unconventional arms are called WMD: nuclear, chemical and
Of those, the only true weapons of mass destruction are nuclear.
Israel is covertly helping build India's nuclear capabilities--Eric
Margolis, "WMD: A primer
Let's be clear on what is - and isn't - a weapon of mass destruction,"
Toronto Sun, February 15, 2004]
[Washington will now use the Khan scandal to demand integration of the CIA
and US military personnel in Pakistan's nuclear forces structure. The next
step: joint guarding of weapons and reactors and, finally, their total
control by US forces.--Eric Margolis, "Pakistan's nuclear mess," HiPakistan, February 18, 2004]
weapons: Who has what?," BBC, February 11, 2005
[ . . . centre will have to produce and stockpile the world's most lethal
bacteria and viruses, which is forbidden by the 1972 Biological and Toxin
Weapons Convention.--Julian Borger, "US begins
building treaty-breaching germ war defence centre," Guardian, July 31,
[Critics . . . argue that the end of the cold war rendered the scheme
obsolete, and the test was unrealistic because the military knew the size,
speed, and timing of the missile at which they were aiming.--Oliver
Burkeman, "$100bn later,
Star Wars hits its first missile," Guardian, September 2, 2006]
Glen Millner, "Bangor
an indicator of military intentions," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 19, 2007
Andrew Cockburn, "The Obama Adminstration is Helping to Upgrade Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons:
How the U.S. Has Secretly Backed Pakistan's Nuclear Program From Day One,"
counterpunch.org, June 24, 2009
[Pakistan, which like its neighbor India has a nuclear arsenal and is not a
signatory to the NPT, has long been rankled by India's deal, wanting one of
its own with the US.--Syed Fazl-e-Haider, "US dangles
Pakistan a carrot," Guardian, March 26, 2010]
Copyright © 2004 Robert Jensen - All Rights Reserved