#. 14. Dec. 29, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
SPECIAL HOLIDAY NUCLEAR PARANOIA ISSUE!
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. New Regime Welcomes Foreign Troops; Local Warlords Wary
2. New Regime Pledges Kinder, Gentler Fundamentalism
3. Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss--Literally!
4. RAWA Protests New Regime
5. Pentagon Uses Afghans for Cannon Fodder
6. Smart Bombs Not So Smart
7. New Opium War in Making?
8. Did US Use the Nuke in Afghanistan?
9. Nuclear Flashpoint: Kashmir
NEW YORK CITY
1. City Braces for New Year's Eve Nuke Terror
2. Indian Point Nuke Plant Gives Locals Jitters
THE WAR AT HOME
1. Now: Barefoot at Newark
2. Ashcroft Disses Freedom-Nostalgists
3. Amnesty International Criticizes Terror Laws
4. FBI Unveils "Magic Lantern" Cyber-Snoop Tech
5. NYPD Gets More Firepower
6. Jerry Falwell: Mad Magazine's "Dumbest of the Year"
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Does Osama Have the Nuke?
2. Germans at it Again
3. Nuclear Flashpoint: Jerusalem
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. NEW REGIME WELCOMES FOREIGN TROOPS; LOCAL WARLORDS WARY
Struggling to consolidate control over the local militias which have carved up Afghanistan, US-picked interim prime minister Hamid Karzai named Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum--who had threatened to boycott the new government--as deputy defense minister. After hosting his first Cabinet meeting Dec. 23, Karzai said US and other foreign forces should stay in the country "for as long as it takes" to bring stability. (MSNBC, Dec. 24)
A Dec. 28 New York Times story, "Afghan Warlords and Bandits Are Back in Business," illustrated the degree to which Karzai's regime is a fiction--with real power on the ground held by the rival ethnic militias. The US has "doled out enough money to stanch the rivalries. But the money has apparently not trickled down." Local "police" are not getting paid by the central government, and are frequently indistinguishable from the outlaws they are ostensibly "policing." Bus drivers refuse to go on particularly dangerous roads. "The situation is worse than it was before the Taliban came to power," said a ticket collector for the Kandahar-Herat line. "Before they were taking cars and money. But now they are also killing people." Said one traveler at the Kandahar bus station searching for his father who had disappeared on the road: "We don't know what happened. There are so many checkpoints now, and people don't know if the men at the checkpoints will protect you or kill you." World Food Program trucks delivering aid to starving villages are being held up by militiamen demanding $100 per truck to pass near Kandahar.
A map that ran with the story shows the patchwork of control zones in Afghanistan: Tajik forces loyal to former President Burhanuddin Rabbani hold Kabul and the northeast. Dostum's Uzbek forces hold Mazar-i-Sharif and the northwest. Tajik warlord Ismail Khan holds the Herat district in the west. Pashtun warlord Gul Agha Shirzai holds Kandahar in the south. The Pashtun Eastern Shura militias control Jalalabad and the area southeast of Kabul, along the Pakistan border. Hazara warlord Karim Khalili holds Bamiyan in the Central Highlands.
Fighting between rival warlords for control of these districts seems to be settling down, but getting them to submit to central authority is another question. The Taliban came to power in 1996 by pledging to restore order after years of entropic warfare created a climate ripe for totalitarianism.
Karzai has managed to broker peace between Gul Agha and his rivals in Kandahar, giving effective control of the district to this former local "governor" and drug lord.WW3 REPORT #12, quoting the Dec. 10 Newsday, described Gul Agha as a "veteran dog racer," but the Nov. 30 Washington Post called him a "one-time organizer of lucrative dog fights," which is certainly more befitting of a warlord.
This is what the UK Guardian had to say about Agha on Dec. 6: "Police sources in Pakistan believe he is heavily involved in the lucrative opium trade. His followers are
drawn mainly from the poor and destitute of the refugee camps. When he governed in Kandahar the city was ruled by warlords who stripped it of everything of value. Rape and robbery were commonplace."
2. NEW REGIME PLEDGES KINDER, GENTLER FUNDAMENTALISM
Washington's new friends in Kabul are sounding more than a little like the recently departed enemies. On Dec. 27, Interim Justice Minister Abdul Rahim Karimi announced Afghanistan's new government will still impose sharia Islamic law--but less harshly. The Taliban's five-year rule was marked by public amputations for thieves as well as executions and corporal punishment for other crimes. "Our Islam is different," Karimi said. "How can you cut off the hand of a man who has nothing to eat? We must first feed the people and give them a livelihood." But Karimi said sharia law would remain in force. "People would not understand if we got rid of it."
Judge Ahamat Ullha Zarif of the interim government told AFP that public executions and amputations would continue, but with greater benevolence. "There will be some changes from the time of the Taliban," he said. "For example, the Taliban used to hang the victim's body in public for four days. We will only hang the body for a short time, say 15 minutes." Kabul's sports stadium, where the Taliban used to carry out public executions and amputations every Friday, would no longer be used. "The stadium is for sports. We will find a new place for public executions." Adulterers, both male and female, would still be stoned to death, Zarif said, "but we will use only small stones." (AFP, Dec. 27)
3. MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS--LITERALLY!
The tribal council of Paktia Province held a news conference to insist the US air-strike on a convoy going to Karzai's inauguration last week was a mistake. Asked by a reporter if any of the tribal leaders in the caravan were former Taliban, council spokesman Abdul Hakim Munib replied: "I myself was deputy minister for communications, border and transport under the Taliban regime. They were with Taliban. I was with Taliban. All the people you are seeing here were with Taliban." The council represents a local militia of the Eastern Shura, a key pillar of the new regime. (New York Times, Dec. 28)
4. RAWA PROTESTS NEW REGIME
The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan ( RAWA) staged a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 10, denouncing abuses by factions in their country's new regime, and predicting that the lot of women will be no better than under the Taliban. "The Northern Alliance were criminals to our mothers and young daughters," shouted the women marching in the Pakistani capital. Children in the march held pictures of Northern Alliance fighters killing war captives. A RAWA statement said factions in the Northern Alliance--whose troops took the capital after the Taliban fled, and still holds much of the country, as well as numerous cabinet posts in the interim government--were guilty of widespread rape of "girls and women from 7 to 70" when their leader Burhanuddin Rabbani held power in the early 1990s. "We don't believe that they will not repeat the crimes they committed from 1992 to 1996," RAWA spokeswoman Alia Nazeer told Reuters. The RAWA statement said the end of the Taliban's mandatory burqa policy was "in no way an indication of women's rights and liberties" in Afghanistan. "The world community must consider the fanatic nature of the Northern Alliance... Northern Alliance and Taliban are the same." Few women in Afghanistan have stopped wearing burqas or returned to work since the fall of the Taliban, apparently taking what Reuters described as "a wait-and-see attitude." (Reuters, Dec. 10)
None of the New York dailies covered the RAWA protest, but a Dec. 24 Newsday headline on the interim regime taking power read: "An Upbeat Day 1: Pro-government rallies as Afghans begin reconstruction." It noted that some 60 people marched in the streets of Kabul to support the new regime.
5. PENTAGON USES AFGHANS FOR CANNON FODDER
Last week, US troops were being prepared for the dangerous assignment of combing the Tora Bora cave complex, evacuated by al-Qaeda after several days of intense aerial bombardment. The troops could face booby-traps, cave-ins and attack by remnant al-Qaeda forces--and the White House could face the politically unpopular prospect of more body bags coming home. "Instead," the New York Times reported Dec. 27, "American officials are pressing Afghan commanders in the Jalalabad region to probe the rugged area. Washington is offering incentives like weapons, money and winter clothing, American officials said." One anonymous "senior military official in Washington" said: "It is a matter of finding the right mix of incentives to get them to play a more active role. If we are successful, they will do it." US Marines at the Kandahar airport now hold 37 al-Qaeda prisoners--far short of the hundreds they anticipated during the bombing of the Tora Bora caves.
6. SMART BOMBS NOT SO SMART
"Use of Pinpoint Air Power Comes of Age in New War," read the front-page New York Times headline on Dec. 24. "The swiftness and accuracy of the attack illustrated a new kind of American air power... Just as World War II opened the atomic age and the 1991 Persian Gulf war introduced stealth technology to combat, Afghanistan will be remembered as the smart-bomb war." Inside, a full page was dedicated to showing off the new computer-coordinated weaponry--although the report did admit the 15,000-pound Daisy Cutter bombs used on Tora Bora "wipe out everything for hundreds of yards."
But a smaller p. B-2 story on Dec. 26 headlined: "Even Precision Bombing Kills Some Civilians, Tour of City Shows" This story, filed by reporter Norimitsu Onishi in Kandahar, noted numerous buildings--and their residents--"with no evident connection to the Taliban or al-Qaeda," destroyed by US bombs.
7. NEW OPIUM WAR IN MAKING?
"International drug control authorities believe that opium poppy production in Afghanistan will increase dramatically next year, and are debating whether to pay or force growers to destroy their spring crops." reported the Washington Post Dec. 25.
Afghan officials say ending opium cultivation is one of new boss Hamid Karzai's top priorities, and a senior US official said it is a "major, front-burner" issue for the Bush administration. But officials agree it will be difficult, particularly in regions where the new regime has limited authority--such as Helmand province, the world's most productive poppy-growing region and a Taliban stronghold.
"Afghans leaving the country have reported that farmers are going back to poppy cultivation," said Mohammed Amirkhizi of the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention in Vienna. "Our expectation is that production will go back up to [the level of] previous years. The international community is extremely concerned."
Two years ago, Afghanistan produced more than 70% of the world's opium. But the Taliban banned cultivation last year--and this spring's crop dropped by more than 90%. Before 9-11, this was universally portrayed in the US media as a concession to the West. Now the Washington Post writes, "whether the goal was to halt the business in response to international pressure or to drive up prices remains unclear." Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers added that the Taliban did not ban opium farming "out of kindness, but because they wanted to regulate the market: They simply produced too much opium." (This was not the stance of US officials before 9-11--see WW3 REPORT #2.)
In any case, reads the report, "the expectation that poppy production will skyrocket has set off an international battle over how to respond. While some experts advocate a buyback of the spring crop, others want to rely primarily on law enforcement. The new regime is committed under the Bonn accords to eliminate opium--Afghanistan's largest cash crop, and virtually the only profitable one. Many farmers rely on loans from drug traffickers to pay for their fall planting and survive through the winter. Farmers have already taken the loans and will have no way to repay them if they don't harvest their poppies. Some Bush administration officials have proposed a one-time buyback of opium as an emergency measure.
In the late 1990s, Afghanistan produced over 2,000 tons of raw opium annually, according to UN estimates. After the Taliban ban, the figure dropped to about 185 tons this year. The UN reports that before the ban, about half of all Afghan opium came from the irrigated fields of Helmand province in the south--not a remote or hidden area, but some of the country's best and most accessible farmland. (The Post does not report that Helmand province is in the control zone of legendary Mujahedeen opium lord Gul Agha.) Much of the rest came from the provinces of Kandahar (Agha's seat), and from Nangahar (now under Eastern Shura warlords). Since the opium ban, "a small but increasing amount has been grown in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, under the control of the Northern Alliance."
International drug control officials worry that Helmand has once again become a center for poppy growing. The new government "does not have complete control of the area," and top Taliban officials are still reported to be hiding out there.
8. DID US USE THE NUKE IN AFGHANISTAN?
Activist and Black Panther veteran Lorenzo Komboa Ervin writes on Mediamonitors.net that "the US is actually using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan." The heavy "bunker-buster" bombs the Pentagon used on Tora Bora officially include both the so-called Daisy Cutter--officially Bomb Live Unit 82, or BLU-82--and the slightly smaller Deep Throat bomb--officially the Guided Bomb Unit 28, or GBU-28. These are the most powerful "conventional" weapons in the world. Ervin quotes a report from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS): "This...GBU 28 is a special weapon developed for penetrating hardened Iraqi command centers located deep underground. The bomb is a 5,000-pound laser-guided conventional munition that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead." But the latest version of this weapon is in fact a low-yield nuclear warhead, a so-called "battlefield nuke." Ervin is "convinced that the Pentagon is using the nuclear version (designated B-61-11)... This nuclear bomb, Pentagon planners believe, will succeed in reaching underground bunkers of Taliban leaders where the GBU-28 non-nuclear device has apparently failed. So they are very quietly 'going nuclear.'"
Ervin sees this as part of an intentional strategy of military ecocide. "If the Pentagon is deploying such a weapon, they really do intend to destroy Afghanistan and make parts of it uninhabitable. No crops could be planted and reaped in such soil, and no one could live in such areas.... This is clearly in line with President Bush's desire to partition the country... and also in line with the Bush/Cheney/Powell military doctrine of using tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional war in the third world." Ervin calls on the International Atomic Energy Agency to launch an investigation.
Press accounts vary on the readiness of nuclear "bunker-busters." A Dec. 19 AP report states the Afghanistan campaign has made the Pentagon reconsider the nuclear option: "Defense officials are considering the possibility of developing a low-yield nuclear device that would be able to destroy deeply buried stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. Such a move would require Congress to lift a 1994 ban on designing new nuclear warheads. In a report to Congress, the Defense Department argues that conventional weapons...would be unable to destroy the most deeply protected facilities... In the report sent to Congress in October, the Defense Department said a low-yield, less than five-kiloton nuclear warhead coupled with new technology that allows bombs to penetrate deep underground before exploding could prove effective in destroying biological and chemical agents..."
The report said scientists "have completed initial studies on how existing nuclear weapons can be modified" for use to destroy deeply buried targets. Submitted in response to a congressional directive, the report shows the Bush administration views a nuclear strike as "an intrinsic part" of strategy for deeply entombed targets, and is in "preparation" for a full-scale mini-nuke research and development program, said Martin Butcher of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
But Newsday reported 3 years ago that one such weapon was ready for deployment--and being considered for use. In Nov. 1997, President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Policy Directive 60, allowing use of nuclear "bunker-busters" against Iraq. Newsday said the Pentagon's two such weapons are the B-61-7, which explodes in the air like the Daisy Cutter, and the B-61-11 (then "not fully developed"), which penetrates the ground before detonating. (Newsday, Feb. 1, 1998)
Sources in the region also claim the US used nuclear weapons in Afghanistan. Writes the pro-jihad website Azzam.com: "Highly informed Islam News sources from Tora Bora have claimed that American warplanes have continued bombing Tora Bora and the Melwa mountains, and destruction which is occurring indicates that the Americans are using restricted amounts of Chemical and Nuclear weapons." (James Ridgeway, Village Voice, Dec. 25)
9. NUCLEAR FLASHPOINT: KASHMIR
India moved 150-mile range Prithvi missiles to the Pakistan border this week, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This is part of the largest military build-up since the two nations last went to war in 1971. (New York Times, Dec. 28) Both nations tested nuclear warheads in 1998 and are estimated to have between 25 and 100 warheads each. ( Security & Political Risk Analysis-SARPA, Nuclear Control Institute
Indian and Pakistani troops--just 100 yards apart in some places--traded fire over the 'Line of Control' dividing the disputed Kashmir region, as civilians on both sides of the border were evacuated. India says 20,000 residents are being moved from homes near the frontier. India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee insisted that "no means shall be spared" in putting a stop to "Pakistan-sponsored terrorism." (AP Dec. 29)
India refused Pakistan's offer of a joint investigation into the Dec. 13 shooting attack on India's parliament building, which left 12 dead on both sides. New Delhi is sticking to unconditional demands for the arrest of leaders from the two organizations accused in the raid: Lashkar-i-Taiba (Urdu for "Army of the Pious") Jaish-i-Muhammad ("Soldiers of Muhammad"). Both groups use Pakistan as a base of operations for armed activities in the Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir. (Newsday, Dec. 27)
Vajpayee is emulating Bush in his refusal to share his evidence with Pakistan's government (CNN.com Dec. 24). Bush's reply to Taliban offers to send Osama bin Laden to a third country to stand trial if the US showed its evidence was: "Turn him over... There is no need to negotiate... And there is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty. Turn him over." (New Hampshire Union Leader, Oct. 21, 2001)
But Pakistan is Bush's key ally in the region, and the White House is unhappy that Pakistani troops are being moved from the Afghan border, where they were intercepting al-Qaeda fugitives, to the Indian border (Newsday, Dec. 29). On Dec. 28, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf--doubtless under heavy US pressure--announced the arrest of 50 leaders from both groups. But India was silent on the move, likely waiting to see if the detainees include Lashkar founder Hafez Saeed. Bush, however, was not silent, telling the press: "I'm pleased to note that President Musharraf has announced the arrest of 50 extremists or terrorists. And I hope that India takes note of that, that the president is responding forcefully and actively to bring those who would harm others to justice." (New York Times, Dec. 29) Note the strategically slippery "extremists or terrorists" construction, allowing equivocation on whether these clients of a US ally fall into the latter category.
Pakistan was one of the world's top US aid recipients until Washington imposed sanctions on both Pakistan and India after the 1998 nuclear tests. Those sanctions were both lifted immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the US prepared for war in the region. (AP, Sept. 23)
NEW YORK CITY
1. CITY BRACES FOR NEW YEARS EVE NUKE TERROR
Cops patrolling Times Square on New Years Eve will be armed with high-tech radiation detectors on loan from the US Customs Service, the New York Post reported in a Dec. 27 front-page story ("HAPPY NUKE GEAR"). NYPD Insp. Christopher Rising declined to say how many members of the force would be provided the gadgets, which are triggered by gamma rays. But he said the move is "precautionary" and not based on an explicit threat One million revelers are expected to watch the ball drop in the puritanical porn-free, booze-free Times Square of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
A spokesman for Sensor Technology Engineering of Santa Barbara, CA, makers of the device, refused to give any info on the product, saying it was designed for "governments, countries, municipalities and security concerns. If you're not one of those, you have no purpose purchasing it." He refused to give his name.
US Energy Department undersecretary John A. Gordon told the Senate May 9 that a year earlier Uzbekistan customs officers using a similar device seized 10 containers of highly radioactive material suspected of being intended for use in a terrorist "radiation-dispersal bomb." Customs spokesman James Michie acknowledged that the service had trained officials from post-Soviet republics in use of the devices.
2. INDIAN POINT NUKE PLANT GIVES LOCALS JITTERS
Westchester Country legislators are still threatening to officially withdraw their support from emergency evacuation plans for the Indian Point nuclear plant near Peekskill, NY. At a Dec. 20 public hearing, the president of one of the bus companies whose drivers are supposed to pick up children in the evacuation zone called the plan "a fairy tale," saying the drivers would not go. Residents said the local roads--routinely jammed at rush hour--would be clogged with panicking families in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack or accident at the plant.
When Rockland County, just across the Hudson River, pulled out of the evacuation plan after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, state officials simply created a "substitute plan" for the county, which the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) accepted. The NRC soon thereafter adopted the "realism rule," under which the agency can approve emergency plans without county approval. But Indian Point opponents pledged to press the issue. "The NRC may be the only agency with final authority over the plant, but what it would do in a changed political climate is not clear," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who convened the Dec. 20 hearings.
The Indian Point 2 reactor was shut down Dec. 26 after an electrical connection to plant's turbine unexpectedly shut off. A similar accident in Aug. 1999 was more serious, as safety systems did not respond properly and some alarms in the control room stopped working. Feb. 2000 saw a radiation release from the plant when a tube ruptured, spewing steam from the reactor into the open air. Authorities predictably dismissed the release as "too small to be a threat to the public."
Claims by the pro-nuke Independent Power Producers of New York that shutting Indian Point would mean monthly rate hikes of $7 over the summer average of $100 are disputed by economist Ashok Gupta of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who says they fail to take into account conservation improvements and new generators coming on line.
But Indian Point opponents in suburban Westchester and Rockland face some skepticism from urban environmentalists down the river in Gotham. Communities in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are already fighting new gas-burning generators planned for their neighborhoods by the state Power Authority. Timothy Logan of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance says: "We believe that any closure must first deal with alternative generation of electricity that will be needed to make up for a shutdown, and until those concerns are dealt with in an equitable manner, we could not fully support a shutdown." (New York Times, Dec. 27)
THE WAR AT HOME
1. NOW: BAREFOOT AT NEWARK
Following last week's attempted bombing of a trans-Atlantic American Airlines flight by an inept would-be terrorist with explosives in his shoes, shoe removal has become the latest airport security measure. On Dec. 26, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman portrayed four choices in the dilemma (the last presumably being facetious): "Either we become less open as a society, or the world to which we are connected has to become more controlled...or we simply learn to live with much higher levels of risk than we've ever been used to before. Or we all fly naked."
Of course any society which is serious about freedom would choose the third option without equivocation. (Recommended reading: The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts)
2. ASHCROFT DISSES FREEDOM-NOSTALGISTS
Attorney General John Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee Dec. 6: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies..." (See Nat Hentoff in Motherjones.com, Dec. 12).
3. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CRITICIZES TERROR LAWS
Amnesty International accused governments of violating rights in the name of combating terrorism since the 9-11 attacks. "The United Nations member states, individually and collectively, have failed to uphold human rights," spokesman Colm O'Cuanachain said at a meeting of winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to the group in 1977. "In response to the horrific human rights abuses of Sept. 11, governments are moving to restrict civil liberties and human rights, ostensibly to promote security." (New York Times, Dec. 7)
4. FBI UNVEILS "MAGIC LANTERN" CYBER-SNOOP TECH
An FBI spokesman confirmed that the US government is working on a controversial Internet spying technology, code-named "Magic Lantern." The FBI has already acknowledged it uses keystroke-recording software to obtain passwords to access encrypted e-mail and documents. Magic Lantern would allow the agency to plant a "Trojan horse" keystroke logger on a target's PC by sending a virus over the Internet-without requiring physical access to the computer. Asked if the FBI would be required to obtain a court order to use Magic Lantern, Bureau spokesman Paul Bresson said: "Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process." The FBI recently set a precedent by asking Internet service providers to install "Carnivore" technology in their networks, allowing agents to secretly read e-mails. "In previous wars, including World War II, the government had the power to call on companies to help; to commandeer the technology," said Michael Erbschloe, author of Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber Attacks. "If we were at war the government would be able to require technology companies to cooperate, I believe, in a number of ways, including getting back door access to information and computer systems." (Reuters, Dec 12)
5. NYPD GETS MORE FIREPOWER
500 New York City police officers will receive new, high-powered weapons once reserved for elite units but now regarded as necessary for a department with a sharper focus on fighting terrorism, officials said. The officers will be equipped with assault rifles and submachine guns in addition to their standard-issue handguns, doubling the number of officers with high-powered weapons. Although the proposal was in the works before Sept. 11, it gained momentum in the weeks after the attacks. "To be effective, law enforcement agencies must provide their personnel with the tools they need to respond to all possible situations," Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said. "Equipping specific officers with these weapons will enhance the NYPD's ability to respond quickly and effectively to an even wider range of contingencies." Those include the department's daily duties staffing security checkpoints around the city. High-powered weapons have traditionally been the almost exclusive province of the department's 500-strong Emergency Service Units. Of the force's total 40,000 officers, as many as 8 in each of the 76 precincts will be issued the new weapons under the plan. The weapons include MP5 submachine guns, Mini-14 assault rifles and shotguns. (New York Times, Dec. 16)
6. JERRY FALWELL: MAD MAGAZINE'S "DUMBEST OF THE YEAR"
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
Mad Magazine has tapped the Rev. Jerry Falwell as "the dumbest person of 2001" for blaming the Sept. 11 terror attacks on "abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians." Said editor John Ficarra: "We thought Falwell had reached his personal pinnacle of dumbness a few years ago when he accused the Teletubbies of promoting homosexuality. Give the guy credit, we underestimated him." (New York Post, Dec. 27)
1. DOES OSAMA HAVE THE NUKE?
The US apparently takes seriously Osama bin Laden's boast to possess nuclear weapons. CIA Director George Tenet met with Pakistani officials this month to discuss the case of two of Pakistan's top nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudry Abdul Majeed, who were detained in October. Under interrogation, they admitted meeting with Taliban and al-Qaeda reps, but insisted the Afghan leaders didn't have "even the most basic knowledge of nuclear weapons and materials," according to the Dec. 9 New York Times. On Dec. 17, the Wall Street Journal reported the two scientists had been released. Both these reports also claimed neither had worked on weapons programs--in contradiction of press reports after their arrests portraying them as central to development of Pakistan's nuclear bomb. (see WW3 REPORT #5)
In a New York Times op-ed Nov. 28, "How Secure is Pakistan's Plutonium?", ex-CIA director James Woosley urged extending the "cooperative threat reduction program" the US has with Russia--in which the US funds and oversees security of ex-Soviet nuclear materials--to Pakistan. Woosley acknowledged that "moderate general" Khalid Kidwai was put in charge of Pakistan's nuclear forces following an Oct. 7 shake-up in the military. Nonetheless: "There is a real risk that Pakistan's fanatics might collaborate with al-Qaeda..."
Things don't look too good in Russia itself. A Nov. 12 New York Times story warned: "Lax Nuclear Security in Russia Is Cited as Way for bin Laden to Get Arms." It cited dozens of violations of "nuclear security rules" in Russia, as well as actual losses of fissile material. Russian nuclear security chief Col. Igor Volynkin, said his forces discovered terrorist stake-outs of a secret nuclear weapons storage facility twice this year. Russian Security Council official Raisa Vdovichenko said Taliban emissaries asked an employee at "an institution related to nuclear technologies to go to their country to work there in this field." Twice in 2000, police in Georgia seized small quantities of enriched uranium and plutonium. The worst cases were in 1993, when 3 kilograms of enriched uranium were seized in St. Petersburg, and 1994, when 360 grams of Russian plutonium were seized in Munich.
Osama bin Laden told Time magazine in 1999: "Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so. And if I seek to acquire these weapons, I am carrying out a duty. It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims." (Newsday, Nov. 7)
In a Nov. exclusive interview with Hamid Mir of Pakistan's Dawn newspaper at a secret location in Afghanistan, bin Laden reportedly said: "We have chemical and nuclear weapons as a deterrent and if the Americans used them against us, we reserve the right to use them." (New York Times, Nov. 10). He also said: "If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism then history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents." (UK Guardian, Nov. 12)
Responded President Bush to the boast: "I believe we need to take him seriously. We will do everything we can to make sure he does not acquire the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction. If he doesn't have them, we will work hard to make sure he doesn't; if he does, we'll make sure he doesn't deploy them." (Newsday, Nov. 7)
2. GERMANS AT IT AGAIN
Having overcome its post-Hitler squeamishness about foreign military missions, Germany is among the nations which has pledged troops for the Afghanistan peacekeeping force. (Newsday, Dec. 27) But some Germans apparently haven't outgrown a fondness for mass murder of Jews. A front-page New York Times story Nov. 8 reported claims by two defectors from Iraqi intelligence that they worked for years in a secret camp at Salman Pak that had trained international Islamic terrorists in six-month rotations since 1995. The defectors, one a lieutenant general and the other a top-ranking official of the Mukhabarat secret police, told of a highly guarded compound where Iraqi scientists, "led by a German," produced biological agents.
Israel is the obvious immediate target for any of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Hussein sent missiles to Israel during 1991's Operation Desert Storm, and would doubtless strike Israel again if the US attacks, as White House officials now threaten. (For more on Iraq bio-war capacity, seeWW3 REPORT #4)
3. NUCLEAR FLASHPOINT: JERUSALEM
Jews are not immune to the fetish for weapons of mass destruction either. Israel's nuclear arsenal--estimated at around 200 warheads--is an open secret. When Israeli physicist Mordechai Vanunu leaked to a British reporter details of the nuclear program at Dimona in the Negev desert, he was abducted by Israeli agents in Rome and sent back to Tel Aviv to stand trial on treason. Convicted in 1986, he spent the next 12 years in solitary confinement. (Newsday, Aug. 3, 1998)
Israel's nuclear program was briefly back in the news this week as California electronics manufacturer Richard Kelly Smyth pleaded guilty to selling hundreds of nuclear-weapons triggers to Israel. Smyth had spent 16 years on the lam from charges of illegally exporting $60,000 worth of the krytrons, which carries life imprisonment. (BBC World Service, Dec. 28)
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