The Global Citizen: Nuclear Weapons
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke today on Iranian national television about the role of the United Nations in nuclear disarmament. Like with North Korea and India, the United States has attempted to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program and to open its plants to international inspection. But unlike these countries Iran remained indifferent to the entreaties. In exchange for Iran's cooperation in suspending its uranium enrichment program, the United States promised to ease economic and diplomatic sanctions it has imposed on Iran for the past decade.
Abdul Qadeer Khan (A.Q. Khan), Pakistani scientist and metallurgical engineer, originally admitted to working with Libya, Iran, and North Korea on nuclear proliferation; although he later retracted his participation in such activities. Following a confession in February 2004, A.Q. Khan was put on house arrest because of the fact that he had provided those countries with information and technology to develop nuclear weapons.
In today's Washington Post, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, in written answers to the U.S. Senate said the possibility of military action against Iran should be retained as a "last resort." But he said the United States "should make every effort to engage by use of the whole of government, developing further leverage rather than simply targeting discrete threats."
Yesterday, President Bush ordered a reduction of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, which would shrink to under 1/4th of its size at the end of the Cold War. This announcement supports a previous decision in 2004, which aimed to cut the stockpile by 50% of the 2001 level by 2012. Yesterday's order will speed up the process; reductions are scheduled to take place by the end of this year. In addition, President Bush wants to cut the remaining stockpile by another 15% by 2012.
Last Friday, World Public Opinion.org released a poll exploring American and Russian opinion on nuclear weapons policy. Results reveal that the public strongly favors steps towards the elimination of nuclear weapons; 73 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Russians support the elimination of nuclear weapons under the auspices of an effective international system.
The drumbeat for war with Iran has been banging for a few years now. Last week, beginning with President Bush's 'diplomatic' comments about "World War III," the rhetoric really seemed to heat up; and sadly so.
I do not find compelling the speculation, suggested by Larry Johnson and others, that the nuclear-armed Advanced Cruise Missiles that mistakenly ended up at Barksdale Air Force Base were being staged for an attack on Iran.
Pilots, crews and all those associated with handling nuclear weapons do make mistakes, as a casual reading of Scott Sagan's The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons will demonstrate. Indeed, the fact that the bombs sat on the tarmac for ten hours because no one quite believed that such an accident could happen will make excellent fodder for organizational theorists:
Sources in the Air Force say it took [ten hours] because the airmen who first discovered the bombs could not believe what they were seeing and had a hard time convincing superiors that the missiles on the bomber were, in fact, carrying nuclear weapons.
Phew! I never thought I'd be so happy to hear an accident involving mulitple nuclear warheads was just that...an accident.
Earlier today it was reported that five nuclear-armed ACMs were transported via USAF B-52H Bomber from North Dakota to Louisiana...by accident. That's right, by accident! ("Hey, did you remember to take those nuclear-armed ACMs off the wing before we left North Dakota?" Silence.)
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