by John Mueller
According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, every senior government leader
is kept awake at night by "the thought of a terrorist ending up with a
weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear." . . .
In contrast to such bold proclamations, the evidence about the degree to
which al-Qaeda - the only Islamic terrorist organization that targets the U.S.
homeland - has pursued, or even had much interest in, a nuclear-weapons
program is limited and often ambiguous. Still, the shards that exist have
been routinely parlayed and exaggerated by a parade of official and
For example, in 2004, the 9/11 Commission insisted that "al-Qaeda has tried
to acquire or make nuclear weapons for at least ten years." The only
substantial evidence it provided for this assertion comes from an episode
that supposedly took place around 1993 in Sudan, when Osama bin Laden's
aides were scammed as they tried to buy some uranium. Information about this
caper apparently came entirely from Jamal al-Fadl, who defected from
al-Qaeda in 1996 after he had been caught stealing $110,000 from the
organization. He tried selling his story around the Middle East, but only
the Americans were buying. . . .
John Mueller is professor of political science at Ohio State University. He
is the author of Atomic
Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al Qaeda.
[Robert S. McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961 until 1968, has
written: "I have never seen a piece of paper that outlined a plan for the
United States or NATO to initiate the use of nuclear weapons with any
benefit for the United States or NATO."--Robert S. McNamara, "Apocalypse Soon," Foreign Policy,
Gordon Prather, "The U.S. Is
Violating the NPT -- Not Iran," Antiwar.com, September 26, 2009
"Was Obama Nuke Summit Necessary or
Just 'Nuclear Alarmism' and What About Israel's Arsenal?,"
democracynow.org, April 14, 2010
[The Obama administration is warning that the danger of a terrorist attack
with nuclear weapons is increasing, but U.S. officials say the claim is not
based on new intelligence--Bill Gertz and Eli Lake, "Obama admin hyping terrorist nuclear risk,"
Washington Times, April 14, 2010]
[Despite the oft-mentioned threat of nuclear terrorism, a threat that has
grown in the imagination since the end of the Cold War, there has been not
one instance of fissile material being used in a terrorist attack. Planes,
bombs, yes - but enriched uranium? No. As the US and its Western allies bask
in the warm, righteous glow of moral responsibility, it is necessary to
remind ourselves that there is still only one nation that took it upon
itself to incinerate tens of thousands of people with an atomic weapon.
--Tim Black, "Welcome
to the era of anti-nuclear imperialism," spiked-online.com, April
Walter Pincus, "Nuclear weapons
just don’t make sense," washingtonpost.com, May 23, 2012