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These are difficult times for peace. Since the Bush administration assumed power in the United States, there has been a steady beating on the drums of war accompanied by a systematic undermining of the foundations of international law. The September 11th terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon bolstered the Bush administration’s plans to secure US global military dominance through increased military budgets, deployment of missile defenses, development of more usable nuclear weapons and the weaponization of space. Congress has largely acquiesced in supporting these plans.
The United States has always held to a double standard with regard to nuclear weapons. This double standard was given legal form in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in which five countries were designated as nuclear weapons states (United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China), and the rest were designated as non-nuclear weapons states. The latter agreed in the treaty not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for a promise by the nuclear weapons states to pursue good faith negotiations to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Throughout the life of the NPT, the non-nuclear weapons states have called for more tangible signs of progress toward achieving the nuclear disarmament promise of the nuclear weapons states. They were successful in 2000 in getting the nuclear weapons states to commit unequivocally to undertake the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. However, the nuclear weapons states, and particularly the United States, have broken this promise as well as a string of other promises with regard to their NPT obligations.
Now the United States has gone even further. It has developed policies for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. In its secret 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, which was leaked to the media in March 2002, the United States outlined its intention to develop contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons against seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Russia and China). Five of these are non-nuclear weapons states, which at a minimum contradicts the spirit of the NPT as well as previous US security assurances to non-nuclear weapons states.
President Bush, flush with popularity from his war against Afghanistan, continues to threaten war against Iraq. The principal reason he gives for attacking Iraq is to replace its leader, Saddam Hussein, and to preemptively strike Iraq for its refusal to allow UN inspectors to assess whether or not it is developing weapons of mass destruction.
Prior to the Bush administration, the US had a policy of nuclear deterrence, far from a policy that provided the United States with security from nuclear attack. The Bush administration has criticized deterrence policy but yet maintained it, while at the same time promoting policies of preemption.
Preemption is the new catch-word of Bush’s nuclear policy. It is a means of assuring that a nuclear double standard continues to exist. It is a policy of nuclear apartheid in which select states are bestowed (or bestow upon themselves) nuclear privilege while others are attacked for seeking to enter the elite club of nuclear powers.
Ironically, Bush’s nuclear policy makes it more likely that terrorists will obtain nuclear weapons or materials. The fraudulent arms control agreement that was signed in May 2002 by Bush and Putin, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), allows thousands of nuclear warheads to be put in storage rather than destroying them. These stored nuclear warheads will be tempting targets for terrorists as will be the thousands of tons of nuclear materials available throughout the world that could be fashioned into nuclear or radiological weapons. The Bush administration is spending only approximately one-third of the three billion dollars per year called for by the US blue ribbon commission to prevent Russian nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and his advances toward deployment of missile defenses are compelling China to substantially strengthen its nuclear forces aimed at the United States, as China forewarned it would do in these circumstances. Under Bush’s leadership, US allies in Europe and Asia will be brought in as “partners” in a global missile defense system that will be hugely expensive, unlikely to be effective and provide no protection against terrorists who would initiate their attacks, nuclear and otherwise, without launching missiles.
Mr. Bush is squandering US leadership potential for global cooperation under international law, and instead pursuing policies that are based on military dominance, uncertain technology and nuclear apartheid. They are policies rooted in arrogance and certain to fail. They are, in fact, already failing by their allocation of resources to increasing the militarization of the planet rather than to meeting existing basic human needs that would help eradicate the fertile breeding grounds for continued terrorism and hatred of the United States.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the co-author with Daisaku Ikeda of Choose Hope: Your Role in Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age recently published by Middleway Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.