Bush’s DPRK Follies

Everyone now knows that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that Bush ordered prepared in the summer of 2002 to “justify” the preemptive invasion and occupation of Iraq was – to put it politely – a crock [pdf]. It relied heavily on disinformation – some of it provided by the neocrazies, themselves – and virtually ignored a decade of authoritative “null” reports on Iraqi nuclear programs by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Back in 1998 IAEA Director-General ElBaradei had told the Security Council [.pdf] that

There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through its indigenous processes.

“There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material.

“There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.”

Furthermore, ElBaradei had reported to the Security Council as recently as January of 2002, that IAEA inspectors had entered Iraq and had verified that there had been no attempts at reconstruction.

But not everyone knew, until Sy Hersh revealed it in a January 2003 New Yorker article, that a few months before producing the fatally flawed Iraq NIE, the intelligence community had also hurriedly produced for Bush a NIE on North Korea’s nuclear programs.


In 1992, a dispute had arisen between the Koreans and the IAEA, which was attempting to verify that the DPRK had accurately declared and made subject to a just negotiated Safeguards Agreement (required of DPRK by the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) all NPT proscribed materials.

The IAEA threatened to involve the UN Security Council in the dispute, whereupon the DPRK gave notice it was withdrawing from the NPT.

Eventually, after many carrot-stick negotiations, the DPRK agreed – under the so-called Agreed Framework [.pdf] – to remain a NPT signatory and to freeze all its nuclear programs, subject to IAEA verification. In return, an international consortium – led by South Korea – would construct in the DPRK two free conventional nuclear power plants.

So, as Bush entered office, according to the IAEA, there were no nuclear programs – peaceful or otherwise – underway in Iraq or North Korea.

Well, that would never do. Bush intended to invade Iraq and disarm Saddam Hussein. The IAEA had to be discredited.

Hence, the Bush NIE of 2002 for Iraq. And for North Korea.

According to Hersh, North Korea’s NIE “made the case” that they had violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by obtaining – unbeknownst to the IAEA – prototypes of high-speed gas centrifuges from Pakistan and that by 2001, DPRK engineers were producing – unbeknownst to the IAEA – enriched uranium in significant quantities.

To this day, DPRK officials have vigorously denied the enriched-uranium charge, even after withdrawing from the NPT on the eve of Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq, after expelling the IAEA monitors of the Agreed Framework, after restarting their plutonium-producing reactor and after recovering enough weapons-grade plutonium to make a dozen or so nuclear weapons.

And no one has provided any evidence to the contrary.

In 2004, Siegfried Hecker – former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory – was invited to come check out their “nuclear deterrent.” They proudly showed Sig all their plutonium stuff. But when Sig asked to see the alleged highly enriched-uranium program, Vice Minister Kim Gye Gwan immediately responded that the DPRK had no HEU program; nor any facilities, equipment or scientists dedicated to it.

So, why did Bush’s DPRK-NIE of 2002 make the HEU charge? To further discredit the IAEA so Bush could preemptively attack Iraq – which the IAEA had given a “clean bill of health” – in 2003? So Bush could preemptively attack Iran – which the IAEA has given a “clean bill of health” – in 2006?

But, wait a minute.

The Bush DPRK-NIE also alleged Pakistan helped North Korea conduct a series of “cold tests” – explosive tests, using non-fissile materials, necessary for determining whether an implosion device design functions properly.

Now, all of the devices that Pakistan claimed to have successfully tested in 1998 were implosion nukes, some reportedly utilizing almost-pure Plutonium-239.

There is no evidence that the DPRK ever had – or sought – weapons-grade enriched uranium. But at the time of the Bush DPRK-NIE, the DPRK was known to have enough weapons-grade plutonium to make several implosion-type nukes. All of it contained in spent fuel elements – “frozen” – under IAEA lock and seal.

Bottom line?

When Bush became President, Iran, Iraq and North Korea were all certified by the IAEA to be nuke free. Iran and Iraq still are. But, thanks to Bush, the North Koreans are threatening to actually test one of the nukes everyone – including the IAEA – agrees they probably now have.

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.