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New Nuclear Warheads for Bush

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Ron Fullwood
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It was reported today that the Bush administration has decided to move forward with their plans to 'refurbish' the existing nuclear arsenal, designating the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California over the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for the project if it happens to get the funding from the, so-far, reluctant Congress. The warheads are said to be destined for the nation's 'sea-based' nuclear weapons as part of the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile system.

In September 2000, PNAC drafted a report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century." The conservative foundation- funded report was authored by Bill Kristol, John Bolton and others. The report called for: ". . . significant, separate allocation of forces and budgetary resources over the next two decades for missile defense," and claimed that, despite the "residue of investments first made in the mid- and late 1980s, over the past decade, the pace of innovation within the Pentagon had slowed measurably." Also that, "without the driving challenge of the Soviet military threat, efforts at innovation had lacked urgency."

The PNAC report asserted that "while long-range precision strikes will certainly play an increasingly large role in U.S. military operations, American forces must remain deployed abroad, in large numbers for decades and that U.S. forces will continue to operate many, if not most, of today's weapons systems for a decade or more." The PNAC document encouraged the military to "develop and deploy global missile defenses to defend the American homeland and American allies, and to provide a secure basis for U.S. power projection around the world."

The paper claimed that, "Potential rivals such as China were anxious to exploit these technologies broadly, while adversaries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea were rushing to develop ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons as a deterrent to American intervention in regions they sought to dominate. Also that, information and other new technologies - as well as widespread technological and weapons proliferation - were creating a 'dynamic' that might threaten America's ability to exercise its 'dominant' military power."

In reference to the nation's nuclear forces, the PNAC document asserted that, "In reconfiguring its nuclear force, the United States also must counteract the effects of the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction that may soon allow lesser states to deter U.S. military action by threatening U.S. allies and the American homeland itself."

"The (Clinton) administration's stewardship of the nation's deterrent capability has been described by Congress as "erosion by design," the group chided. The authors further warned that, "U.S. nuclear force planning and related arms control policies must take account of a larger set of variables than in the past, including the growing number of small nuclear arsenals -from North Korea to Pakistan to, perhaps soon, Iran and Iraq - and a modernized and expanded Chinese nuclear force."

In addition, they counseled, "there may be a need to develop a new family of nuclear weapons designed to address new sets of military requirements, such as would be required in targeting the very deep underground, hardened bunkers that are being built by many of our potential adversaries."

The 2002 PNAC document is a mirrored synopsis of the Bush administration's foreign policy today. President Bush is projecting a domineering image of the United States around the world which has provoked lesser equipped countries to desperate, unconventional defenses; or resigned them to a humiliating surrender to our rape of their lands, their resources and their communities.

Bush intends for there to be more conquest - like in Iraq - as the United States exercises its military force around the world; our mandate, our justification, presumably inherent in the mere possession of our instruments of destruction.
Our folly is evident in the rejection of our ambitions by even the closest of our allies, as we reject all entreaties to moderate our manufactured mandate to conquer. Isolation is enveloping our nation like the warming of the atmosphere and the creeping melt of our planet's ancient glaciers. We are unleashing a new, unnecessary fear between the nations of the world as we dissolve decades of firm understandings about an America power which was to be guileless in its unassailable defenses. The falseness of our diplomacy is revealed in our scramble for 'useable', tactical nuclear missiles, new weapons systems, and our new justifications for their use.

The PNAC 'Rebuilding America' report was used after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks to draft the 2002 document entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States," which for the first time in the nation's history advocated "preemptive" attacks to prevent the emergence of opponents the administration considered a threat to its political and economic interests. It states that ". . . we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country." And that, "To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively."

This military industry band of executives promoted the view, in and outside of the White House that, " must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. . . We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed."

Their strategy asserts that "The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction - and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack." So their plan is to attack whomever, whenever they feel our security is threatened, no matter if the nature and prevalence of the attack is uncertain. The biggest threat to the World community is the proliferation of WMDs here in the U.S., facilitated by a nest of former military-industrial executives (military-industrial warriors) and shareholders in the Defense department and throughout the Bush administration.

The Bush administration's nuclear program is a shell game with their ambitions hidden within Energy and Defense legislation, most under the guise of research. Reuters, in October 2003, reported that the Bush administration was proceeding with their plans to promote and push for the expansion of the nation's nuclear arsenal with the unveiling of an initiative produced by the 'Defense Science Board'. The supporting document, named the "Future Strategic Strike Force", outlines a reconfigured nuclear arsenal made up of smaller-scale missiles which could be targeted at smaller countries and other lower-scale targets. The report is a retreat from decades of understanding that these destructive weapons were to be used as a deterrent only; as a last resort.

Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had said as early as 2004 that U.S. development of new nuclear weapons could hamper efforts to reach agreement with other countries who might want to expand their nuclear programs; like Iran and Pakistan, for example.

In September the Senate went along anyway with a White House push to reduce the preparation time required for nuclear testing in Nevada; clearing the way for a resumption of nuclear test explosions which have been banned since 1992. It seeks to cut the time it would take to restart testing nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert from three years to two years. The Bush administration wants the period cut to 18 months.

Congress plans to build the first permanent U.S. nuclear waste repository in the desert northwest of Las Vegas, scheduled to open in 2010 and would hold up to 77,000 tons of radioactive waste. The failed Energy bill that last emerged from Congress in 2004 would have provided $580 million for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal project in 2004 - around $11 million less than Bush had requested but far above a $425 million limit earlier endorsed by the Senate.

The bill would have also provided $11 million for a new factory to make plutonium "pits" for the next generation of nuclear weapons. The last U.S. facility for manufacturing nuclear triggers closed in 1989. Democrats in Congress have been the slim thread which has held back funds for these pernicious nuclear initiatives.

President Bush signed into law a Defense bill for 2004 which included $9 billion in funding for research on the next generation of nuclear weaponry.

"It's an important signal we're sending," President Bush remarked at the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, "because, you see, the war on terror is different than any war America has ever fought."

"Our enemies seek to inflict mass casualties, without fielding mass armies," he cautioned. "They hide in the shadows, and they're often hard to strike. The terrorists are cunning and ruthless and dangerous, as the world saw on September the 11th, 2001. Yet these killers are now facing the United States of America, and a great coalition of responsible nations, and this threat to civilization will be defeated."

However, this is a posture usually reserved for nation-states who initiate or sponsor terrorists. The devastating neighboring effect of a potential nuclear engagement would contaminate innocent millions with the resulting radioactive fallout, and would not deter individuals with no known base of operations. Yet, this administration, for the first time in our nation's history, contemplates using nuclear weapons on countries which themselves have no nuclear capability, or pose no nuclear threat.

Gen. Lee Butler, of the Strategic Air Command, along with former Air Force Secretary Thomas Reed, and Col. Michael Wheeler, made a report in 1991 which recommended the targeting of our nuclear weaponry at "every reasonable adversary around the globe." The report warned of nuclear weapons states which are likely to emerge." They were aided in their pursuit by, John Deutch, President Clinton's choice for Defense Secretary; Fred Ikle', former Deputy Defense Secretary, associated with Jonathan Pollard; future CIA Director R. James Woolsey; and Condoleezza Rice, who was on the National Security Council Staff, 1989-1991.

The new nuke report recommended that U.S. nuclear weapons be re-targeted, where U.S. forces faced conventional "impending annihilation ... at remote places around the globe," according to William M. Arkin and Robert S. Norris, in their criticism of the report in the April 1992 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ("Tiny Nukes").

At the same time, two Los Alamos (Lockheed) nuclear weapons scientists, Thomas Dowler and Joseph Howard, published an article in 1991 in the Strategic Review, titled "Countering the Threat of the Well-Armed Tyrant: A Modest Proposal for Smaller Nuclear Weapons." They argued that, "The existing U.S. nuclear arsenal had no deterrent effect on Saddam and is unlikely to deter a future tyrant."

They argued for "the development of new nuclear weapons of very low yields, with destructive power proportional to the risks we will face in the new world environment," and they specifically called for the development and deployment of "micro-nukes" (with explosive yield of 10 tons), "mini-nukes" (100 tons), and "tiny-nukes" (1 kiloton). Their justification for the smaller nuclear weapons was their contention that no President would authorize the use of the nuclear weapons in our present arsenal against Third World nations. "It is precisely this doubt that leads us to argue for the development of sub-kiloton weapons," they wrote.

In a White House document created in April 2000, "The United States of America Meeting its Commitment to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," the administration stated that, "as the United States reduces the numbers of its nuclear weapons, it is also transforming the means to build them." Over the past decade, the United States has dramatically changed the role and mission of its nuclear-weapon complex from weapon research, development, testing, and production to weapon dismantlement, conversion for commercial use, and stockpile stewardship.

That was his father's nuclear program. Bush Jr. wants bombs.

"The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries, and to build new, smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations," according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times. The 'secret' report, which was provided to Congress on Jan. 8, 2004 says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya. It says the weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, in retaliation for attack with nuclear biological or chemical weapons, or in the event of 'surprising military developments.'

The new National Institute for Public Policy's report, January 2001 report on the "rationale and requirements" for U.S. nuclear forces, signed by then -Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, was being used by the U.S. Strategic Command in the preparation of a nuclear war plan. Three members of the study group that produced the NIPP report - National Security Council members Stephen Hadley (assistant to Condi Rice), Robert Joseph, and Stephen Cambone, a deputy undersecretary of defense for policy - were and, still are directly involved in implementing the Bush nuclear policy.

As reported by the World Policy Institute, the NIPP's report was used as the model for the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review, which advocated an expansion of the U.S. nuclear "hit list" and the development of a new generation of "usable," lower-yield nuclear weapons. Most observers do not believe, however, that the new weapons can be developed without abandoning the non-proliferation treaty and sparking a new and frightening worldwide nuclear arms race.

Stephen Hadley, presently Bush's National Security Assistant co-wrote a National institute for Public Policy paper portraying a nuclear bunker-buster bomb as an ideal weapon against the nuclear, chemical or biological weapons stockpiles of rouge nations such as Iraq. "Under certain circumstances," the report said, "very severe nuclear threats may be needed to deter any of these potential adversaries."

The Energy Department plans to assemble teams at three U.S. laboratories to begin constructing these new powerful "mini-nukes." Work on preliminary designs for the weapons known as "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators" would to begin first at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and finalized at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Today's report suggests that the Livermore laboratory will take on the bulk of the work if approved. Lawrence Livermore's scientists were slated to modify the existing B83, a hydrogen bomb designed for the B-1 bomber, while those at Los Alamos was to work on the B61, which already has been modified for earth-penetrating use.

Bechtel will benefit directly from efforts to expand testing and production of nuclear weapons. Bechtel is part of a partnership with Lockheed Martin that runs the Nevada Test Site for the U.S. Bechtel runs the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee, which makes critical components for nuclear warheads; and it is involved in the management of the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Amarillo, Texas. Bechtel's $1 billion-plus in annual contracts for "atomic energy defense activities" are likely to grow substantially under the Bush nuclear plan. In 2002 Bechtel earned $11.6 billion. The company has built more than 40% of the United States' nuclear capacity and 50% of nuclear power plants in the developing world. That's 150 nuclear power plants.

Bechtel is also in charge of managing and cleaning up the toxic nuclear waste at the 52 reactors at the Idaho nuclear test site from our '50's nuclear program, as well as two million cubic feet of transuranic waste buried on the site, such as plutonium-covered shoes, gloves and other tools used at the nuclear lab in Rocky Flats.

Under the administration's original refurbishment proposal the Lockheed Y-12 National Security Complex would refurbish the secondary nuclear weapons; the Savannah River Tritium Facility would supply the gas transfer systems; Sandia National Laboratory would produce the neutron generators and certify all non nuclear components; Pantex plant would serve as the central point for all assembly and disassembly operations in support of the refurbishment work; Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore would continue to certify nuclear warhead design.

The weapons will be shipped to the Pantex plant to remove the uranium and any parts which can be used in new weapons; then the remaining parts will be shipped back to the plant for further processing.

The National Policy Reviews's concept of a "New Triad" emphasizes the importance of a "robust, responsive research and development, and industrial base." The "old" triad is the combination of land, sea, and air-based nuclear delivery vehicles that were developed during the Cold War to offset a nuclear attack on America. The New Triad calls for a "modern nuclear weapons complex," including planning for a Modern Pit Facility, and new tritium production to respond to what the administration claims are "new, unexpected, or emerging threats" to U.S. national security.

The NPR also mandates the development of what they term a "credible, realistic plan" for a "safe, secure, and reliable" stockpile. Already, $40-50 million has been budgeted for the project. According to the National Nuclear Security Admin.'s deputy administrator for defense programs, Everet Beckner, the designers would work to modify the weapons "to make them more powerful."

Beckner is a former Vice President of Lockheed. He served as the chief executive of Lockheed Martin's division that helped run the UK's Atomic Weapons Establishment, and is now charged with oversight of the maintenance, development, and production of U.S. nuclear warheads. Beckner testified to a Senate committee that, "It is clear that if the nation continues to maintain a nuclear arsenal it will need to make new nuclear pits at some point."

Most modern nuclear weapons depend on a plutonium pit as the "primary" that begins the chain reaction resulting in a thermonuclear explosion. A pit is a critical component of a nuclear weapon and functions as a trigger to allow a modern nuclear weapon to operate properly. The Department of Energy announced its intent to begin an examination of several possible sites for a Modern Pit Facility to produce plutonium pits for new and refurbished nuclear weapons in September 2002.

The United States is the only nuclear power without the capability to manufacture a plutonium pit. About three-fourths of the U.S. surplus plutonium is relatively pure in the form of so-called pits, which have been removed (and deactivated) from existing warheads. The remaining fourth of the surplus was in the process pipeline, mostly as plutonium residues, when processing was suddenly discontinued. The Soviet government processed all of its material to completion, so now all of the Russian surplus is in the form of pits or its weapon-form equivalent.

The Foster Panel Report, also known as the FY2000 Report to Congress of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety, and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile, found that it could take 15 years from the point of developing a conceptual design for a pit facility until the final construction of the facility is completed. The report stated that, "If it is determined through the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program that one or more of our existing pit designs is no longer reliable, and therefore is not certifiable, our nuclear stockpile would, in effect, be unilaterally downsized below a level which could maintain a strong nuclear deterrence."

That is the hook which supporters of an expanded nuclear program will use to justify an abrogation of the treaty ban, and begin their new-generation arms race. If they don't get their way - to fiddle with and refurbish the existing nukes - they will argue that deterrence is at risk; a preposterous notion, as our existing arsenal is more than enough to blow us all to Pluto.

Meanwhile, the DOE requested $22 million for the MPF in its Fiscal Year 2004 budget request and Congress funded the request in the House and Senate versions of the Defense Authorization bill. But, the House cut over half of the funding for the MPF citing the Bush administration's failure to issue revised stockpile requirements following the ratification of the Moscow Treaty.

Citing "classified analyses" the DOE claims it needs to have a new pit facility capable of producing 125-500 pits per year. The DOE's Notice of Intent for the MPF also states that one of the functions for the facility will be to have the ability to produce new design pits for new types of nuclear weapons. If new money is released, the nuclear weapons laboratories are expected to refurbish the casings on the existing nuclear B-61 and B-83 warheads, according to Energy Department official Beckner, who testified before a Senate committee in March. Beckner claims that both weapons have yields "substantially higher than five kilotons," so he has determined that the study will not violate a 1994 U.S. law prohibiting research on "low-yield" nuclear weapons.

A version of the B-61, modified to strike hardened and deeply buried targets, was added to the U.S. stockpile without nuclear testing in 1997. There is a serious question about the effectiveness of such a weapon on underground bunkers, and there is a concern that the neighboring effect of the radiation cloud would be devastating. A nuclear strike on North Korea, for example, could generate deadly radioactive fallout, poisoning nearby countries such as Japan or Australia.

It is immoral and wrong for this administration to hide their nuclear ambitions and proceed as if they had won the debate over the acceptability of nuclear power, when in fact no such public debate has occurred. The nuclear hawks are stepping out from behind their Trojan Horses of nuclear space travel and 'safe', new nuclear fuels and are revealing a frightening ambition to yoke the nation to a new legacy of imperialism. President Bush has decided that America's image around the globe is to be one of an oppressive nuclear bully bent on world domination.

We should oppose any money for new research or construction which would serve to refurbish or expand our existing supply of nuclear weaponry. On the other hand, we should support provisions which intend to dismantle such weaponry if the intention and result is for the disposal of these harmful weapons and their radioactive waste in a safe and effective manner.

In respect to all of these issues, I feel that all of the nuclear ambitions of the Bush administration, both in defense and with respect to energy production, are a foot in the door for those who would expand our existing nuclear program and would draw our nation into a new nuclear arm's race; exacerbating the problems of proliferation; threatening the safety and the health of workers, the community and the environment. They should be strongly resisted.
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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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