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October 23, 2004

So Much for Non-Proliferation


by Gordon Prather

John Kerry has essentially accused President Bush of making the use of a nuclear weapon against us more likely by failing to fully support the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Bush, in rebuttal, pointed with pride to his Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which he has made "central" to his "dealing with weapons of mass destruction and proliferation."

When Bush became president, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran were signatories to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and had made all their NPT proscribed materials, facilities, and activities subject to periodic "safeguards" inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

However, Bush claimed to have "intelligence" that all three were secretly pursuing nuke development programs.

Worse, Bush charged that the IAEA-NPT nuke proliferation prevention regime was incompetent to prevent or even uncover those illicit nuke development programs.

And, obviously, the NPT and other existing international arms control agreements had not prevented the 9/11 terrorists from acquiring box-cutters.

So, Bush announced his own National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction in late 2002, and developed from it the Proliferation Security Initiative of 2003, whose objective was to create a web of international "counter-proliferation partnerships" to prevent "proliferators" from "carrying out their trade in WMD and missile-related technology."

According to Undersecretary of State John Bolton, the PSI was necessary because "proliferators and those facilitating the procurement of deadly capabilities are circumventing existing laws, treaties, and controls against WMD proliferation." Unlike the IAEA-NPT Safeguards regime, "PSI is not diverted by disputes about candidacies for director general, agency budgets, agendas for meetings, and the like."

Bolton began implementing Bush's PSI almost nine months after Bush had unilaterally abrogated the IAEA-monitored Agreed Framework with North Korea and several months after Bush had defied the UN Security Council by unilaterally invading and occupying Iraq.

Now, whenever Bolton suspects anyone is buying, selling, or facilitating the transfer of "deadly capabilities" to or from countries like Iran or North Korea, he just orders one or more of the sixty cooperating states to "interdict" – on land, sea, or in the air – the suspect purchase, sale, or transfer.

Last year, Taiwanese government officials detained – at our request – the North Korean cargo vessel Be Gaehung, which had made port at Kaoshung, boarded it, and confiscated 158 barrels of phosphorus pentasulfide, which U.S. intelligence "suspected" could be used to make "rocket fuel."

Now PSI "interdiction" may sound a lot like piracy to you, a flagrant violation of all kinds of international law. It sounds that way to a lot of international legal experts, too.

But Bolton claims that Bush's PSI is now justified by the U.S.-sponsored Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004, which reaffirms UNSC President's Statement (S 23500) of Jan. 31, 1992, which says – among other things –

"The proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction constitutes a threat to international peace and security. The members of the Council commit themselves to working to prevent the spread of technology related to the research for or production of such weapons and to take appropriate action to that end.

"The members of the Council underline the need for all Member States to fulfill their obligations in relation to arms control and disarmament, to prevent the proliferation in all its aspects of all weapons of mass destruction; to avoid excessive and destabilizing accumulations and transfer of arms; and to resolve peacefully in accordance with the Charter any problems concerning these matters threatening or disrupting the maintenance of regional and global stability."

Now, Presidential Statements are the product of informal consultations between the Council's president and its members and do not enjoy the status of resolutions. However, having now been cited in UNSC 1540, the Statement carries considerable weight.

Does Bush's PSI constitute the kind of "working together" to "fulfill" their arms control and disarmament "obligations" that members of the Security Council had in mind back in 1992?

Probably not, since the Presidential Statement went on to say,

"On nuclear proliferation, they [Council Members] note the importance of the decision of many countries to adhere to the Nonproliferation Treaty and emphasize the integral role in the implementation of that Treaty of fully effective IAEA safeguards, as well as the importance of effective export controls. The members of the Council will take appropriate measures in the case of any violations notified to them by the IAEA."

Kerry's right. Bush has failed to support the IAEA-NPT regime in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere. Consequently, your chances of getting nuked in your jammies have gone way up.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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