Nukes bad in every hand, even if it’s the US

The International News - Internet Edition

16 February 2004


By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Mohammad ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has finally said something that needed to be said. This is what he said in a recent opinion article in the New York Times: "The world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others."

The criticism is clearly directed at the US but ElBaradei, for obvious reasons, didn’t name the world’s lone superpower. Doing so could have cost him his high-profile, handsomely paid job.

Elaborating his argument, he wrote in the same newspaper article: "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security — and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use."

It doesn’t require much imagination to conclude that it is the US that is seeking to refine its capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction and postulate plans for their use to enhance security. The US alone has plans to make mini-nukes. In fact, US planners toyed with the idea of using small nuclear bombs both in Afghanistan and Iraq against alleged terrorists. That shouldn’t surprise anyone because the US is the only country in the world’s history to have bombed another nation, in this case Japan, with an atomic bomb. Having done it once without facing any accountability, the US could use nuclear weapons again and justify it by blaming the victim as a rogue or terrorist state.

As ElBaradei pointed out, nuclear weapons are destructive and, therefore, unacceptable. Weapons of mass destruction are bad in every hand, whether American, Russian, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi or Israeli. The world should declare that possession of such weapons was immoral for every nation, including those claiming to be more civilized and democratic.

President George W Bush’s "axis of evil" nations including Iran, Iraq and North Korea were faulted for pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and then sanctioned and condemned. It was selective morality because the US president made no mention of Israel, which too has vigorously pursued weapons of mass destruction. If Iran or Iraq were trying to develop nuclear weapons it was for no other reason but to bolster their defence against a nuclearised Israel. Curbs against Israeli nuclear programme would have assured both Iran and Iraq and enabled the international community to prevail upon them to abandon their nuclear ambitions. Nothing was done to stop Israel from acquiring and producing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Israel was hailed for bombing Iraq’s nuclear assets. As a consequence, Iran and Iraq tried not only to outdo each other but also match Israel in their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

In our part of the world, Pakistan might not have launched its costly nuclear programme had India refrained from producing an atomic bomb. The nuclear arms race between the two hostile neighbours that started in the 1970s has continued to this day, taking its toll in terms of lopsided spending on defence at the cost of the neglected social sectors. Like Pakistan, other nations also began spending precious resources on nuclear programmes out of fear of their powerful nuclearised neighbours.

The perfect solution to the problem of the weapons of mass destruction would be to destroy every single weapon that has been manufactured in our unstable world. The world won’t become safer if Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction are found and destroyed. And the world would still be a dangerous place if Pakistan’s nuclear programme is rolled back, put under UN control or forced open to inspections by the IAEA experts.

The world would still have to contend with the five original members of the nuclear club and the few gatecrashers.

The US would never give up those weapons of mass destruction or allow other nations to overtake it by making better atomic bombs because that would threaten its global supremacy and challenge its superpower status. Other nuclear powers that have acquired weapons of mass destruction too would like to attain unchallenged power to bully smaller nations. In the process, the world would continue to suffer instability and, in the words of ElBaradei, face threats of nuclear destruction.