Saturday, February 16, 2008

A nuclear arsenal run by drunks

All countries possessing nuclear weapons should be prepared to provide, at the very least, advice to others in that "club" on how to secure and prevent the unauthorized employment of nuclear warheads. This is particularly true where there is a threat that religious extremists stand a chance of coming into possession of a fully developed and deliverable nuclear arsenal.

So, one country has made the offer to assist a nuclear power in dealing with their lax nuclear security and questions the judgment of country which places the authority to deploy nuclear weapons in the hands of drunks.

Via FP, Pakistan offers this on the United States:
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, JANUARY 25--At a press conference in Islamabad today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S. protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have said they should at least de-alert their weapons."
Iqhman then offered to assist the United States with their nuclear handling protocols which received this response.
Pentagon officials said it is Washington's role to give, not receive, advice on nuclear weapons safety and surety issues.
Yes... we've noticed. In fact, we've noticed other events. So have the Pakistanis.
Iqhman pointed out that the August 29 event was not an isolated incident; there have been at least 24 accidents involving nuclear weapons on U.S. planes. He mentioned a 1966 incident in which four nuclear weapons fell to the ground when two planes collided over Spain, as well as a 1968 fire that caused a plane to crash in Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard. In 1980, a Titan II missile in Arkansas exploded during maintenance, sending a nuclear warhead flying 600 feet through the air. In a remark that visibly annoyed a U.S. official present at the briefing, Iqhman described the U.S. nuclear arsenal as "an accident waiting to happen."
Unfortunately, Iqhman, who was on a considerable role blew it part way through the press conference.
Jay Keuse of MSNBC News asked Iqhman if Pakistan was in any position to be lecturing other countries given Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's record of selling nuclear technology to other countries. "All nuclear weapons states profess to oppose proliferation while helping select allies acquire nuclear weapons technology," Iqhman replied. "The United States helped Britain and France obtain the bomb; France helped the Israelis; and Russia helped China. And China," he added coyly, "is said by Western media sources to have helped Pakistan. So why can't Pakistan behave like everyone else?"
Hold it right there. Iqhman has a remarkably good case going here and simply drops it. I can answer that last question. Because you clearly know it's wrong and you reduce the legitimacy of your position by trying to make two "wrongs" equal a "right". Having just successfully argued that the US does it wrong, and a good deal of the world would agree with that position, Iqhman justifies the behaviour of A.Q. Khan (and by extension, the Pakistani nuclear weapons program) by suggesting that if the US did it, others are excused in proceeding down the same path. Iqham cannot have it both ways.

Iqham, however, found that his deputy, Colonel Bom Zhalot, had something to add. Apparently Iqham was less than pleased with Zhalot when he went into a rant.
"We also worry that the U.S. commander-in-chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"

John G. Libb of the Washington Times asked if Americans were wrong to be concerned about Pakistan's nuclear stockpile given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Colonel Zhalot replied: "Millions of Americans believe that these are the last days and that they will be raptured to heaven at the end of the world. You have a president who describes Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and one of the last remaining candidates in your presidential primaries is a preacher who doesn't believe in evolution. Many Pakistanis worry that the United States is being taken over by religious extremists who believe that a nuclear holocaust will just put the true believers on a fast track to heaven. We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world to save it."

You worry about it?! You mean he hasn't already started the process?

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