Written by Chris Floyd
This story is appearing today at Truthout.org.
"The Bush Faction's remaining claim to political power â€“ that they are the "party of national security" â€“ is a gargantuan lie. Those who believe them, those who support them, those who vote for them are tying a noose around their own necks, and the necks of all their fellow Americans."
Last Friday, just hours after the New York Times revealed that the Bush Administration had posted advanced plans for building nuclear weapons on a public website for months, six Arab nations formally announced they were launching nuclear programs of their own. The potential for disaster posed by this development is almost immeasurable: everything from Chernobyl-style accidents to the theft or transfer of nuclear material to terrorists to the near-certainty of new atomic arsenals appearing in the powder-keg of the Middle East.
The announcement also signals the final and utter failure of the Bush Administration's demented "non-proliferation" strategy, which has been centered around a relentless, deliberate drive to gut existing nuclear arms treaties in order to free the United States to enhance its own arsenal. This open denigration of legal strictures on the development of the most dangerous technology on earth has been accompanied by a cynical inconsistency. Bush has heaped monetary and military rewards on India and Pakistan for their illegally developed nuclear arsenals, while threatening war on Iran for what has so far been a peaceful nuclear power program carried out in accordance with international treaties â€“ and doing nothing at all to head off North Korea's now apparently successful bid for atomic weapon capability.
It is a record of astonishing recklessness and incompetence, one that has plunged the world into a new abyss of instability, insecurity and the ever-increasing likelihood of mass death and horror on an unfathomable scale. And the criminal negligence of Bush and his Congressional rubberstamps in dumping plans from Iraq's almost-complete, pre-1991 nuclear weapons program on the Internet â€“ solely for partisan political advantage â€“ has exacerbated these dangers by several magnitudes.
On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that six nations had given notification of their intention to pursue nuclear programs, The Times (UK) reports: Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, which had revealed its nuclear ambitions last month, but had not given official notice to the IAEA. As the Times notes, arms experts view the announcement as "a stunning reversal of policy" in the Arab world, which has long called for a nuclear-free Middle East â€“ a stance aimed at dismantling Israel's large if nominally secret nuclear arsenal and preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weaponry.
But ill winds are blowing through the Middle East from all directions, and the six nations are seeking shelter from the storm â€“ a "security hedge," as proliferation analyst Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told the Times. One of the major factors behind the turnaround is certainly Bush's wanton destruction of Iraq, the Arab world's traditional bulwark against Persian Iran. Not only has the American blunderbuss cleared the way for unprecedented Iranian influence in the region â€“ not least in Baghdad itself â€“ it is also enflaming sectarian, political, ethnic and social tensions across the Arab lands.
And in the case of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there is also the desire to avoid becoming yet another target of "regime change" from the "full spectrum dominance" gang that is still, well, dominant in the White House under Dick Cheney. In Cairo and Riyadh they will not have forgotten how in 2002, top Pentagon adviser Richard Perle â€“ then chairman of the Defense Policy Board, now a rather fat rat leaving the sinking ship of Bushism â€“ sponsored a presentation calling for the American conquest of Saudi oil fields on the way to capturing the strategic "prize" of Egypt: one of the many presentations and papers of the Bush Faction and its neocon outriders in which the Arab world is regarded as so much raw meat to be processed and repackaged as the Beltway poobahs see fit.
But the radioactive core of these concerns is Israel's outlaw nuclear arsenal, hundreds of missiles strong, capable of wiping any and every country in the region "off the map," to quote the widespread misquote of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in one of his rabble-rousing fulminations. The Israeli arsenal serves as a veritable breeder reactor, generating the fear and strategic necessity that drive surrounding nations to follow suit. These anxieties have of course been elevated by the intensified bellicosity and reckless disregard for Arab lives displayed by the hardline Israeli government against Lebanon this summer â€“ and day after day in Gaza.
It's true that the six Arab nations told the IAEA they wanted nuclear capability solely for peaceful purposes: to run desalinization plants, for example, or to provide cheap, abundant energy for their economies. (Perhaps the supposedly oil-glutted Saudis, who trotted out the latter rationale, know something they're not telling us about "peak oil" and such.) But it's also true that this technology can always be weaponized â€“ as the Bush Administration never ceases to remind us when lambasting Iran for its nuclear program.
Of course, converting a peaceful, public energy program into a covert weapons development scheme is much easier if you have a "cookbook" showing you how to do it. And that's exactly how the Bush Administration's Iraqi data dump was described by European experts. With six new entrants in the nuclear sweepstakes â€“ just a fraction of the 30 nations that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei says "have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short time" â€“ the ramifications of the Administration's nuke blogging are far more serious than the near-total media and political silence that has followed the revelations would indicate. How could this have happened? And more importantly, why did it happen and what does it really mean? Here's how the deal went down.
(Continued after the jump.)