After The Retaliation

According to former Secretary of Defense (1994-97) William Perry – co-author of the op-ed “After the Bomb” for the New York Times – the probability of a nuclear weapon “going off” in an American city is greater today, than it was five years ago.

Going off?

Now, physicist Perry knows better than that. Nukes don’t just “go off.”

So, what Perry must mean is that the probability of a nuke being deliberately “set off” on the ground – not delivered by missile, like ours – in an American city is greater today than it was five years ago.

That is, no doubt, true.

Recall that in January, 2002, President Bush charged Iraq, Iran and North Korea constituted an “axis of evil,” their regimes secretly developing nuclear weapons, intending to provide them to the terrorists who had failed – in 1993 – to bring down the World Trade Center with conventional explosives.

Iraq, Iran and North Korea were signatories to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and as best the on-the-ground inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency could determine, there was no evidence, then – nor has any surfaced, since – that Iraq, Iran and North Korea did have secret nuke programs.

So, what resulted from Bush’s baseless accusations?

[1] Iraq acceded to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, allowing UN inspectors total unfettered – go anywhere, see anything, interview anyone – access.

(To no avail, since – as we now know – there is nothing Saddam could have done to forestall Bush’s war of aggression.)

[2] Iran voluntarily signed – and immediately began to comply, even though it has yet to be ratified – an Additional Protocol to their Safeguards Agreement, and voluntarily suspended most nuclear fuel-cycle activities, pending assurance by Bush that he wasn’t going to launch a war of aggression against Iran.

(To no avail, since – as it now appears – there is nothing the Mullahs can do to forestall a war of aggression being launched against them.)

But, after Bush unilaterally abrogated the Agreed Framework later that year,

[3] North Korea withdrew from the NPT, restarted its reactor, “frozen” under the Agreed Framework, and proceeded to produce – and recover – weapons-grade plutonium.

Perry had been SecDef while the Agreed Framework was being negotiated by the State Department and reportedly developed – at President Clinton’s direction – an alternative plan to “take-out” all of North Korea’s nuclear facilities with a first strike, using nukes “if necessary.”

Last year, as North Korea prepared to launch a long-range ballistic missile, which some “experts” estimated could deliver a “deadly payload” to the United States, Perry co-authored a paper entitled “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy: North Korea Cannot Be Allowed to Test This Missile.”

Which makes interesting reading, to say the least.

But, back to his latest screed – “After the Bomb.”

As Perry notes, North Korea has enough weapons-grade Plutonium to make at least a half-dozen nukes and, since semi-successfully launching that long-range ballistic missile, has semi-successfully tested a Pu-239 nuke.

Also, as Perry notes, General Pervez Musharraf’s control on Pakistan and its nuke stockpile gets shakier by the day.

Finally, Perry claims that “Russia’s arsenal remains incompletely secured.”

Now, that’s not true. Russia’s arsenal is secured. However, Russia’s stocks of fissile materials – which could be used to make a nuke – may not be completely secured. But, if so, that’s as much Perry’s fault as anyone’s.

In the fall of 1991, Soviet officials visited the United States to request financial and technical assistance in the dismantling of excess Soviet nukes and the peaceful disposition of fissile material recovered.

A few weeks later, the Soviet Union having disintegrated, then-President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act (usually referred to thereafter as the Nunn-Lugar Act) providing up to $400 million in U.S. aid to help the Russians securely and safely transport, store, dismantle, and peacefully dispose of the excess Soviet nukes.

Now the Soviet nuke program was organized somewhat like ours. The Soviet military would generate a “requirement” for a nuke with certain military specifications and a Soviet “civilian” agency, MinAtom, would develop such a nuke and, once produced, transfer custody to the military.

Hence, once the Russian military had “secured” all Soviet nukes and had transported those which were to be dismantled back to MinAtom, the remaining Nunn-Lugar activities were the responsibility of MinAtom.

However, the vast majority of the billions of Nunn-Lugar funds that have been appropriated during the past 15 years that should have been spent in Russia – by MinAtom, with technical assistance by our Department of Energy and its National Laboratories – have been spent by Pentagon contractors on things that had nothing whatever to do with reducing the nuke threat.

Like “defense conversion.”

Perversion of Congressional intent – especially via Perry’s Defense Conversion Program – got so bad that in the FY1998 Defense Appropriation bill, Congress decreed that

“None of the funds appropriated pursuant to this Act may be obligated or expended for the provision of assistance to Russia or any other state of the former Soviet Union to promote defense conversion.”

Now, back to “After the Bomb.”

Since Russia’s sophisticated nuke arsenal is secured, any nuke the terrorists ‘set off’ in America will almost certainly be — at most — a first-generation nuke, like the one we dropped on Hiroshima.

“For those within a two-mile-wide circle around a Hiroshima-sized detonation (in Washington, that diameter is the length of the Mall; in New York, three-fourths the length of Central Park; in most cities, the downtown area) or just downwind, little could be done. People in this zone who were not killed by the blast itself, perhaps hundreds of thousands of them, would get radiation sickness, and many would die.”

That’s terrible. Terrible! The Bush-Cheney White House lies within that circle.

Furthermore, those outside that circle might have their chances of eventually getting cancer increase from the present 20% to a post-attack 21%. (Maybe even 22%.)

So, what should you do if you live in Boise and you hear terrorists have destroyed the Bush-Cheney White House in retaliation for their unprovoked nuke attack on Iran?

Well, according to Perry, that depends upon whether by then all three branches of the Federal government have gotten together to develop a “contingency plan” and on what that emergency plan “allows” or “requires” you to do.

Of course, Perry recommends that “any emergency measures instituted on the day after [the Bomb] should be temporary, to be reviewed and curtailed as soon as the crisis ends.”


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.