17 November 2007

Information on US nuclear weapons



While preaching "non-proliferation" of weapons of mass destruction to underdeveloped countries -- and using allegations of WMD development as a justification for invading Iraq and threatening to attack North Korea, Iran and Syria -- the United States is pushing ahead with the development of banned biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

n violation of the 1972 international Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC), the US Army was granted a patent on February 25 for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) that can deliver "biological agents".

While US federal laws, written to enforce the BTWC, make it a crime to "knowingly develop" a "delivery system for use as a weapon" that contains "biological agents", the US Army applied for and received a patent to produce an RPG that can release aerosols

"consisting of smoke, crowd-control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents, dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes".

That same month, US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld argued before the US House of Representatives' armed services committee that the US military should be permitted to use "non-lethal" chemical agents.

Under the rules of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which became international law in 1997 and to which the US is a signatory, "any chemical which through its ... action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacition or permanent harm to humans or animals" is forbidden as a method of warfare.

Rumsfeld referred to the CWC as a "straitjacket" limiting US options in war.

Last September, the Sunshine Project, a non-government organisation that monitors biological weapons programs, obtained documents from the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) revealing that the US military was operating a secret chemical weapons research program.

In violation of the CWC, this program is developing military delivery systems for chemical agents, including an 81-millimetre mortar round, with a range of 2.5 kilometres. The JNLWD documents stated that the chemical weapons are intended to be used against "terrorists" and "potentially hostile civilians".

The Pentagon claims its chemical and biological weapons programs are not in violation of the CWC and BTWC because the weapons under development are "non-lethal". Last October's three-day Moscow theatre siege was ended with the use of a "non-lethal" chemical agent fed into the building through the air conditioning system by Russian special forces troops. The knock-out gas killed 129 of the 800 hostages.

Deceptive language

Deceptive language is also being used to hide Washington's drive to develop new nuclear weapons. On May 20-21, both houses of the US Congress voted to ditch a 10-year congressional ban on researching "low-yield" nuclear devices with an explosive capacity of 5 kilotons of TNT or less.

Buried in the US$399.1 billion military budget for fiscal year 2004 -- consisting of $379.9 billion for the Pentagon and $19.3 billion for the nuclear weapons programs run by the Department of Energy -- is authorisation for the DoE to research and test small nuclear weapons and the "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator". The RNEF is a "bunker-buster" nuclear weapon said to be at least 10 times more destructive than the 15-kiloton nuclear bomb dropped by the US on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing 200,000 people. [This has been reported in the Russian press and the arabic press, but NOT the North American press, following the "testing" - read saber rattling of Russia -- of the vacuum bomb. Threats were MADE.]

Development of these new nuclear weapons will violate the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. To get around this, Washington is claiming thatit is not developing new nuclear weapons, just "modifying" existing ones.

The US arsenal already contains a nuclear "earth penetrator" -- known as the B61-11 -- but it can only penetrate dry earth to a depth of about 7 metres. The purpose of the RNEP is to penetrate concrete or rock. Its supposed targets would be underground "command centres". But it could also be used to obliterate civilians who may have taken refuge in a underground air-raid shelters or subway systems in a large city.

Such an atrocity was committed by Washington during its first war against Iraq in 1991, when two US missiles made direct hits on the underground Amiriya air-raid shelter in Baghdad, incinerating more than 1000 civilians. The Pentagon at first claimed it had targeted a "command post". Only after the international media showed crowds of grieving relatives and burned corpses being removed from the shelter did the Pentagon acknowledge the real nature of its target. If the shelter had been hit by an RNEF -- a full-scale hydrogen bomb -- their would have been no burned corpses to retrieve since the shelter and its occupants would have been vaporised.

Battlefield nuclear weapons

The development of these new nuclear weapons is integral to the Bush administration's plans to increase its arsenal of "tactical" battlefield nuclear weapons. These plans were made public in March last year, when some of the Pentagon's classified Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) documents -- delivered to Congress on January 8, 2002 -- were obtained by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

The NPR reaffirmed long-standing US policy of being prepared to use nuclear weapons in a military conflict with countries either not possessing nuclear weapons or not having used them -- a policy first implemented against Japan in 1945, and now publicly known to have been threatened on at least 16 occasions since then, including during the Korean War, at the end of the 1946-54 French colonial war in Vietnam, during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and during 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

According to the March 12, 2002, New York Times, the NPR "proposes lowering the overall number of nuclear weapons, but widening the circumstances thought to justify a possible nuclear response". The first half of this assessment was highly misleading.

According to the Washington-based Center for Defense Information (CDI), set up and run by retired military officers, the US had a total of 6480 operationally deployed "strategic" nuclear warheads in 2002 -- 1700 on 550 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 3120 on 432 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 1660 on 118 long-range bombers.

In addition, the US had a stockpile of 2166 "spare" and "inactive" warheads -- warheads that still have their fissionable plutonium detonators but do not have fusionable hydrogen gas installed.

The NPR set a goal of reducing the number of "operationally deployed" "strategic" US nuclear warheads to between 1700 and 2200 within 10 years. However, the NPR also set a goal of retaining a "responsive force" of warheads that can be redeployed "in weeks".

As a result, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty signed in Moscow by US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2002 -- which committed both countries to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by two-thirds by 2012 -- did not include a requirement, originally sought by the Russians, for the destruction of warheads removed from the "operationally deployed" category.

According to the CDI, the "responsive force" will include 1350 strategic warheads in operational condition. The operationally deployed arsenal will be reduced by 2012 to 2200 warheads, plus 240 in "overhaul". The "spare" and "inactive" stockpile will increase to 4180, giving the US a total "strategic" arsenal of 7970.

Furthermore, according to the National Resources Defense Council (the largest US environmental organisation), the US also maintains some 5000 stored plutonium "primary" and highly enriched uranium "secondary" components that could be reassembled into nuclear warheads. Thus by 2012, the US will retain the ability to deploy around 13,000 "strategic" nuclear warheads -- not much less than it now has!

Wider range of targets

In addition, the US currently has an arsenal of some 2000 "tactical" nuclear weapons, consisting of warheads mounted on sea-launched cruise missiles and free-fall bombs carried by US Air Force jet fighters and battlefield attack aircraft, which are not covered by any international arms treaties.

The NPR proposed a wider range of uses of nuclear weapons, including

"against targets able to withstand a non-nuclear attack" and "in the event of surprising military developments".
Hence the Pentagon's push to expand its "tactical" nuclear weapons arsenal through the development of the RNEP and "mini-nukes".

The NPR, noting that existing US nuclear weapons facilities are capable of refurbishing "roughly 350 weapons per year", called for the construction of

"a new modern production facility ... to deal with the large-scale replacement of components and new production".
Commenting on the decision of the US Senate's armed services committee to recommend the repealing of the 1993 congressional ban on the development of small nuclear weapons, Richard Butler, former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s, told the May 14 SBS television's Dateline program:
"The Bush administration wants to have nuclear weapons in the regular battlefield arsenal of its armed forces in order to use them in the same way that they'd use a conventional artillery shell piece, a conventional missile, an ordinary cannon...

"This administration in Washington is honestly asking other human beings to believe that American security is so precious that it can have in its possession whatever weapons of mass destruction it might want, but others can't."
This attitude, however, is not unique to the Bush administration. Since they used the first nuclear bombs in 1945, the US imperialist rulers have always sought to ensure that they maintain a relative monopoly of "usable"weapons of mass destruction in order to blackmail rebellious nations.

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