Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Libyan Nuclear Prize Smaller Than Initially Reported

The New York Times reported Sunday that the nuclear components turned over to the US by Libya were missing a key item, the centrifuge rotors for enriching uranium. This is like a car company saying we got a model of our competitor's car, and then finding out that the model they got has no motor. They got some worthwhile stuff, but they missed some of the most important stuff.

According to the article, we don't know what happened to some stuff. Thus, somebody in some Arab country could be sitting on the most valuable parts of the centrifuges.

Another disquieting fact in the article is the rivalry between the US and the IAEA, who should be cooperating.

Where Is Burma (Myanmar)?

Reports of damage wrought by the tsunami have not mentioned Burma (Myanmar), but if the tsunami hit Bangladesh (to the west) and Thailand (to the east), it must have hit Burma. Why has there been so much attention to the damage in Thailand, which was much less than in Sri Lanka and Indonesia? Because there were reporters there. You can almost hear the editors or producers saying, get that reporter who is Phuket for vacation!

There are almost no reporters in Burma, because it is an almost closed society. If a tsunami hits and there is no one to report it, does it actually happen? Similarly, there has been little reporting from Ache, because Ache is in rebellion against the central Indonesia government, and access to reporters there has been limited. It's interesting that two of the hardest hit areas, Sri Lanka and Ache are engaged in civil wars. That certainly makes relief efforts more difficult.

The Australian press has mentioned Burma, with deaths there now estimated at 90. I'm guessing that this number would be much higher if the government of Burma were more cooperative.

Monday, December 20, 2004

US Invites Iran into Iraq

The New York Times weighs in with an article pointing out a danger that has concerned me for some time: Our policy on elections in Iraq is likely to strengthen the Shiites there and their ties to Iran.

According to a National Geographic Desk Reference, the majority of Muslims are Sunnis. It says that 84 percent of Muslims are Sunni, but 90 percent of Iranians are Shiite, and 60 to 65 percent of Iraqis are Shiite. Since the bulk of the Shiites live in Iran and Iraq, it would seem only natural that if the Shiites do well in the Iraq elections, they will form a alliance of some kind with the Shiites in Iran. But because the Sunnis ruled Iraq under Saddam, and because they seem to form a major part of the current insurgency, we are throwing our lot in with the Shiites in Iraq, while we roundly condemn the Shiites who rule Iran. Our elections may have the perverse result of creating an Iraq that is even more opposed to US interests than it was under Saddam, and perhaps will be a greater danger. Don't forget that Iran may actually be developing nuclear weapons, whereas Iraq under Saddam was only pretending to be developing them in recent years.

Brazil Accused of Nuclear Weapons Ambitions

InfoBrazil has published an article raising questions about whether Brazil might be developing some sort of nuclear weapon, based on its refusal to let the IAEA look at the centrifuges used to enrich uranium in Brazil. This is a touchy issue, because it is Iran's centrifuge program that has created the most controversial problems for its nuclear program.

One important difference is that Brazil probably does not pose a nuclear threat to anyone, even if it develops nuclear weapons, unlike Iran, which poses a threat to Israel, Iraq, and perhaps a few other neighbors. In the old days, when I served in Brazil dealing with the nuclear issue in the American embassy there, Argentina was a nuclear rival with Brazil. Argentina took the lead in defusing this rivalry. Nevertheless, if Brazil developed a bomb, Argentina might feel pressed to develop one, too.

Another important difference is the way safeguards imposed by the IAEA are handled in Brazil and Iran. It appears that Brazil has been much more forthcoming with the IAEA, only imposing the restriction that IAEA inspectors cannot look at the centrifuges. The IAEA can monitor what goes into and comes out of the centrifuges, thus assuring that no uranium is being "highly" enriched. Iran, on the other hand, has been much less cooperative, and the IAEA has had to be much more insistent to find out where the centrifuges are, and then to find out what they are doing.

Letter to Editor in Denver Post

The Denver Post published a letter to the editor about the India non-proliferation issue.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

DU Prof Downplays Indian Proliferation

University of Denver Professor Ved Nanda said in the Denver Post that India was pleased with George Bush's re-election, in part because Bush "is not seen as ideologically stuck on a non-proliferation agenda and, hence, India's nuclear status is likely to gain acceptance without its formally signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty." Later he said, "India has found U.S. cooperation in high technology, nuclear energy, space exploration and missile defense to be very positive steps."

Although our ignoring the fact that India became a nuclear power, despite the U.S. best efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear proliferation, is good for bilateral U.S.-India relations, it is not good for the worldwide non-proliferation regime. Other countries, Iran and North Korea in particular, will see India's flouting of the non-proliferation regime as evidence that they can do it, too. Already people are saying that the lesson of Iraq (which failed) and India (which succeeded) is that you have to build your atomic bomb before you challenge the U.S., and that this is what North Korea and Iran may be doing.

There are efforts to strengthen and reform the NPT and the IAEA, in particular to get rid of IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei. But these efforts ignore the fact that the NPT and similar treaties require the offending country to join voluntarily. If these countries perceive that the NPT or its successor is entirely one-sided, that it only requires sacrifices by non-nuclear countries and none by nuclear countries, like the U.S., then they will not join. The NPT requires the nuclear countries to negotiate disarmament, but there have been no serious, binding disarmament talks among the nuclear powers for years.

By removing any international opprobrium for going nuclear, and by making nuclear weapons a sign of great power status, the Bush Administration, Ved Nanda and other pro-Indian writers may be clearing the way for Iran, North Korea, and some other countries (Brazil or South Korea, for starters) to become nuclear powers in the near or mid-term future.

A recent interview, reported by AFP, given in South Korea by Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, in which he urged North and South Korea not to follow India's example by becoming nuclear powers, illustrates how confusing this situation has become. "Natwar's N-speak baffles New Delhi," said a front page headline in Thursday's Indian Express. The Express said Singh "virtually expressed regret over India's current nuclear status" and contradicted the stand taken by former Congress premier Rajiv Gandhi who sanctioned in 1989 pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. The newspaper quoted a senior unnamed Indian foreign ministry official as saying Singh's remarks reflected "his personal view."

A clarification issued about a day later, and reported in NewKerala.com said that the Foreign Minister had said (or meant to say) that the two Koreas should not go nuclear because they had signed the NPT, unlike India. India has refused to sign the NPT because it considers it unfairly discriminatory between countries that had nuclear weapons when the NPT was negotiated, like the U.S., and those that did not, like India, which went nuclear too late to be exempted by the treaty.

FBI Steps Up Investigation of AIPAC

The Christian Science Monitor and the Middle East Times are both reporting that the FBI has stepped up its investigation of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), mentioned earlier here.

According to these reports, the FBI got mad when Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, who had been caught giving sensitive documents to AIPAC, stopped cooperating with the FBI, which has now initiated a grand jury investigation. On December 1, it raided AIPAC offices to search for incriminating information in the offices of several senior AIPAC officials: the FBI seized the hard drives and files of Steven Rosen, director of research, and Keith Weissman, deputy director of foreign policy issues; the FBI also served subpoenas on AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr, managing director Richard Fishman, communications director Renee Rothstein and research director Raphael Danziger.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Did Pakistan Test a North Korean Bomb?

The Asia Times says that Pakistan may have tested a North Korean bomb in 1998, rather than a Pakistani bomb.

This would raise questions about both programs. It the bomb was North Korean, does Pakistan have a bomb that works? A Muslim bomb?

If it was North Korean, does that mean that North Korea has actually put its plutonium from reprocessing into bombs?

According to the Carnegie Endowment's book Deadly Arsenals, Pakistan claims to have conducted five tests on May 28, 1998; however, they produced only one seismic signal, which tends to indicate only one explosion, with an indicated yield of 6-13 kilotons. Another test on May 30, 1998, produced a seismic indication of a bomb with a yield of 2-8 kilotons.

The Asia Times article says that the "only" bomb A.Q. Khan exploded in Pakistan was a North Korean bomb, which tends to undercut its theory, since the Carnegie Endowment (and other sources) say Pakistan tested at least two bombs, if not more.

In any case, the allegation strengthens the article's claim that Pakistan's refusal to allow the US (or the IAEA, or some neutral organization) to interrogate A.Q. Khan leaves this issue murky, and the US acceptance of Pakistani stonewalling is a major failure of US non-proliferation policy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Unfriendly Takeover

When Bush was elected President in 2000, we had a federal budget surplus of around $200 billion. Now, after the first four years of the Bush Administration we have an annual deficit estimated at about $445 billion. If Clinton had not left Bush a huge surplus, Bush would not have been able to run up the huge deficits that he has with his tax cuts and Iraq War. Interestingly, the "War on Terrorism" has cost almost nothing compared to the War on Iraq, which has been enormously expensive, since we haven't done things like protecting our seaports, chemical plants or food supply, which would have been much more important to protecting America from a future terrorist attack than invading Iraq.

We have, however, used the Clinton surplus to make a large transfer of wealth to the most wealthy Americans through the Bush tax cuts, and we have given millions to defense contractors, such as Halliburton, for the Iraq War. Unfortunately, the lesson is, don't do the right thing. If you don't spend the Federal Government's money on your constituency, e.g., Clinton on Democratic welfare programs, then the Republicans will take that saved money and spend it on their constituency, i.e., the obscenely wealthy.

It's not unlike a corporate raider taking over a company and then destroying it by selling off its assets for more than he paid for the company. Watch the movie "Pretty Woman" for an elementary lesson in how this works. In the movie, Richard Gere develops a conscience and does the right thing. There is no sign that George Bush has a conscience to develop. He stands only for greed all the way to the bank. Laura Bush, who seems like a decent woman, appears to have less influence over George Bush than Julia Roberts, who plays a whore, has over Richard Gere in the movie.

The fact that evil trumps good in American politics is a bad sign for our future, sort of a Gresham's law of politics. (Note the reference to Aristophanes' "The Frogs" in the Wikipedia link: "So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names. These we spurn for men of brass...." It is exactly the political reference intended here. Unfortunately, if Aristophanes saw it thousands of years ago, it's nothing new; just a bad aspect of human nature.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

A Cabinet of Midgets: Cheney and Rumsfeld Clean House

Naming high school dropout Bernard Kerik as Secretary of Homeland Security confirms that Bush is creating a cabinet of midgets, people with no personal political base and little management experience. Gov. Tom Ridge was a failure as Homeland Security Secretary, but that was partly because he didn't have the background to be a mini-Defense secretary; that wasn't his strong point. Kerik has even fewer credentials for the job.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was less of a failure than Ridge. As a man with some ideas who did not like being jerked around, he probably felt frustrated in his job because he couldn't get any political support for things he thought were important. A hint of that tension with the White House came out in his resignation remarks about the possibility of an attack on the American food supply. It was a strange remark, but it probably was something he had tried unsuccessfully to get the White House to focus on. It may have been a place-holder for Social Security reform, an HHS issue on which Thompson, as an intelligent man, probably disagreed with the White House, but was told not to mention it in public.

Keeping Rumsfeld, who is not a political midget, in the cabinet indicates that he will rule the roost, with no competition from people with stature, like Colin Powell. It may be a portent of the future that Treasury Secretary Snow is on the way out. Snow came in as a midget to replace the outspoken Paul O'Neill, who had served in previous administrations as well as being CEO of Alcoa. Snow was not up to the job. It's doubtful that the new midgets, including Condi Rice, who is afraid to stand up to Rumsfeld, will do much better than Snow.

Bush Copies Hitler

The following is a quotation from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which unfortunately has a bearing on the current debate in the United States about the UN. Currently Senator Norm Coleman is making vitriolic attacks on Kofi Annan in a Republican attempt to destroy the UN.

In his speech to the German Reichstag on April 28, 1939, Hitler said:

Mr. Roosevelt declares that it is clear to him that all international problems can be solved at the council table.

I would be very happy if these problems could really find their solution at the council table. My skepticism, however, is based on the fact that it was America herself who gave sharpest expression to her mistrust in the effectiveness of conferences. For the greatest conference of all time was League of Nations . . . representing all the peoples of the world, created in accordance with the will of an American President. The first State, however, that shrank from the endeavor was the United States . . . It was not until after years of purposeless participation that I resovled to follow the example of America. (Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 472-473.)

As Hitler noted, attacks by powerful countries on the weakness of international institutions, such as the League of Nations and the United Nations, are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Later in the book, Shirer quotes Hitler as saying:

I shall give a propagandist reason for starting the war -- never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked afterward whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war it is not right that matters, but victory. (Ibid, p. 32.)
Does that remind you of the Iraq War?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Trailer Park Trash and the Elite

Bill Clinton was trailer park trash from Arkansas who worked his way into the elite of the Democratic Party, and eventually into the elite of the world. Politically he appealed the better side of human nature. He was an accepted player on the world stage, despite his personal low standards involving relations with a number of women who lived (or should have lived) in or near trailer parks.

George Bush II was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the child of an elite New England family, but he chose to align himself politically with trailer park trash. He is a pariah on the world stage because he appeals to the worst in his supporters. Certainly one of the worst things is his use of torture and other inhumane methods employed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist colleagues. You can't fight terrorism with terrorism and maintain high standards.

I think the nadir may have been the blood-bath slaughter of Uday and Qusay Hussein. Why should anyone cry over the death of such terrible people? Because someone has stand up for the morals and decency. When you compare what happened in Iraq to how the US handled the capture and trial of the Nazis who committed atrocities in World War II, there is no comparison. Eisenhower was a decent man, who respected human beings; the Germans struggled to surrender to the Western powers rather than to the Soviets. In Iraq it's questionable whether the Iraqis prefer the US to the Iranians, whom they have fought for generations. How did we sink so low? Mr. Bush, you're no Eisenhower.

US Claims It Can Use Evidence Gained by Torture

According to an AP story, "Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government concedes.

"Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing Thursday."

America's embrace of torture is so disappointing, so horrendous, that it's difficult for me to deal with. As the bumper stickers say, "Shit happens," but we don't have to embrace it and approve it. Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle has earned a black place in history along side Hitler and the Third Reich. "The horror! The horror!" We are in the heart of darkness.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

White House States It Is at War with Russia

If we thought that Bush was still getting along with Putin -- despite the claim of a new strategic missile, despite cracking down on the Yukos oil company and other oligarchs, despite centralizing Russian power after terrorist attacks, and despite interfering in the Ukrainian elections -- it's now clear that the Bush-Putin love affair is over. When Venezuela said it might buy MiG jets, a White House official traveling with Bush in Canada said, "Let me put it this way: We shoot down MiGs." So, Russia is the enemy again. America is out to destroy Russian military aircraft, whenever and wherever found.

However, the White House later backed away from its bellicose remarks. According to reports, "A White House National Security Council spokesman later sought to clarify the official's remarks. 'It's clearly an issue that we would monitor,' Sean McCormack said. 'He didn't mean to imply anything more or less.'"

I wonder who "he" is.