Socialist Worker

Mini nuke, major threat

The US is planning to use new nuclear weapons in this conflict, writes Judy Cox

Issue No. 1840

THE PRO-WAR lobby claims that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and must be disarmed by military force. We do not know what weapons Iraq really has. The United Nations weapons inspectors have so far found nothing.

But there is one regime that we know for certain possesses weapons of mass destruction in huge numbers - the US.

THE US has the world's biggest nuclear arsenal. It is the only country to have used nuclear weapons. Last week it was revealed that the Bush government is plotting in secret to develop a new generation of deadly nuclear weapons - 'bunker busters', 'mini-nukes' and enhanced radiation or 'neutron' bombs.

These 'low yield' nuclear weapons will be easier to use on the battlefield than more powerful nukes. Their effect will be far more deadly than conventional weapons. A leaked document outlines plans for a meeting of top nuclear scientists in the US Strategic Command, Nebraska, to plan 'what nuclear weapons to build, how they might be tested, and to sell the ideas to the American public'.

Bush is tearing up non-proliferation treaties and agreements aimed at reducing the nuclear threat to the world. Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld has personally pioneered the development of new nuclear weapons.

George Bush let it be known last September that he is prepared to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. Secret plans have been drawn up to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, including Russia, China, Libya and Syria, as well as Iraq, North Korea and Iran.

The US is also prepared to use such weapons if Israel comes under any threat. Nuclear warheads will be carried on conventional cruise missiles and F-35 fighter jets will be adapted to carry them 'at an affordable price'. British defence secretary Geoff Hoon has reaffirmed that he would launch a nuclear strike against Iraq 'in the right circumstances'. Israel, the US's key ally in the Middle East, has nuclear weapons pointed at every Arab capital.

The US has more than a million munitions, mostly artillery shells, armed with 31,000 tons of chemical weapons including mustard gas, and stockpiled in eight states.

More potentially lethal chemical material has been identified or is believed to exist at 99 locations in 38 states, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

Claim: With sufficient black market uranium or plutonium Iraq could construct a nuclear weapon.

Fact: It would take until the second half of the decade at the very least before Iraq could develop a single nuclear bomb - and that's according to the CIA.

Claim: The Bush administration claims that Iraq has not verifiably accounted for substantial quantities of biological material that could be used for making biological weapons.

Fact: Much of the biological weapons potential that Iraq formerly possessed, and which Washington alleges it still possesses, was delivered to Iraq by the US itself.

In the 1980s US corporations with the approval of the US government sent over 70 shipments of germs and chemicals with potential biological and chemical warfare uses to Saddam's regime. This included various strains of anthrax.

Learn from history

'Saddam Hussein is not Hitler. He is not threatening to take over the world. His country does possess economic and strategic importance. The US is the driving force in the imminent invasion of Iraq and so the project is likely to succeed, at least in its immediate aims. Its wider consequences are wholly incalculable.'
Richard Evans, Professor

'Blair would be taking a huge gamble if he ignores public opinion and joins George Bush in an imperialist war to oust the Iraqi dictator. A war on Iraq today could go badly wrong, result in heavy casualties, fuel terrorism and end up by destabilising the entire region. Blair would do well to reflect on the lessons of Suez.'
Avi Shlaim, Historian

'There is no self evident threat from Iraq. There is no invasion of a sovereign territory to repulse. The tanks at Heathrow are not there to fend off an attack from Saddam. But we can't destroy the invisible source of that menace, which is likely to grow, not diminish - fostered by a war for which the reason is far from plain.'
Ian Kershaw, Professor

'In 2003 it is Iraq's primary enemy, the United States, that possesses the world's greatest stock of weapons of mass destruction. All I know is that I look at photographs of ordinary Iraqis caught between the rock of a foul ruler and the hard place of approaching armageddon, and it breaks my heart.'
Linda Colley, Professor

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Sat 1 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1840
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