Bush’s Backward Nuclear Policy

Hallelujah! In response to a specific question, John Kerry declared that if elected president his number one priority would be preventing nuke proliferation.

How do we know Kerry really means it? After all, President Bush told you that the reason he had to invade Iraq was to keep Saddam Hussein’s nukes out of the hands of terrorists.

Of course, Bush knew Saddam didn’t have nukes. Didn’t have the necessary fissile material to make nukes. Had made no attempt to reconstruct his Iraq-Iran War programs to produce nukes or the makings, thereof.

Mohammed ElBaradei – Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – had made authoritative reports to that effect to the UN Security Council. As a consequence of an exhaustive decade-long search and destroy mission by the IAEA, on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, if any country was certifiably nuke-free, it was Iraq.

But Bush didn’t refute the IAEA certification. He just totally ignored it. It was irrelevant whether Saddam had nukes or not. The real objective of the neo-crazies had always been to establish a puppet regime in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom might better be called Operation Bait & Switch.

So how do we know that keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists will really be Kerry’s number one priority as president?

Well, for one thing, Kerry proceeded to list the disastrous consequences of it not being Bush’s first priority.

In particular, Kerry noted that when Bush became president, North Korea (DPRK) was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and all nuclear facilities and nuclear materials were "frozen," subject to a bilateral U.S.-DPRK agreement and to continuous IAEA monitoring.

Under the so-called Agreed Framework, we had promised to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea, with an end to normalizing relations between the two countries. The U.S. has been at war with North Korea since 1950.

Kerry charged that – upon taking office – Bush made it clear to both Korean presidents that he had no intention of engaging in bilateral talks to "normalize" relations with North Korean.

In his first State of the Union Address – after specifically naming Iran, Iraq and North Korea – Bush had this to say:

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

"I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons."

Then, later that year, the Bush administration abrogated the Agreed Framework, charging that North Korea had been violating it by having a secret enriched-uranium nuke program, a charge that Bush made again in rebuttal to Kerry during the debate.

But the North Koreans have vigorously and consistently denied having such a program. Despite repeated requests for him to do so, Bush has never provided anyone – including the Chinese – any convincing evidence that North Korea has such a program.

No longer subject to the Agreed Framework, North Korea announced on the eve of Operation Bait & Switch it was withdrawing from the NPT, restarting its frozen plutonium-producing reactor and its plutonium-recovery facility. North Korea now – according to CIA estimates – probably has a half dozen nukes.

If terrorists get their hands on a North Korean nuke, there is absolutely no question whom should be held responsible. Bush refused to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea while they were still subject to the IAEA-NPT Safeguards regime. Then there was no peril. No longer subject to safeguards, Kerry believes the terrorist nuke peril is clear and present. And Bush’s rhetoric and actions – including his launching a preemptive attack on Iraq to confiscate the nukes Saddam didn’t have – are to blame.

Now, Bush denigrates Kerry, who says he would immediately engage the North Koreans in bilateral talks. There are other reasons – such as his endorsement of the Brit-French-German-Russian multilateralist approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear "crisis" – to believe Kerry’s number one priority is preventing nuke proliferation. But his commitment to do what Bush wouldn’t do – engage the North Koreans – is reason enough.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.