We have become all too accustomed over these last years to absorbing insane and astonishing and absurd and awful revelations regarding this White House and this GOP-dominated congress. Some have come to call it "scandal fatigue," though I personally prefer to call it the "Gotta-put-this-in-a-mental-box-for-a-while-or-else-I-will-eat-my-own-face" self-preservation instinct.
I mean, come on now. No weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq, and Bush stars in a comedic video skit, aired during a banquet, in which he pretends to look for the stuff in the Oval Office. 2,826 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and 44,799 more have been wounded, not one of them having the luxury of looking for those weapons in the secure comforts of the White House.
Har de har har.
Less than a month after 9/11, Bush got in front of cameras to say, "We need to counter the shock wave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates." You have to wonder what kind of music this guy is hearing in his head. Hm ... here's a thought. Let's use the worst day of carnage on American soil since the Civil War to pimp for tax cuts that will pretty much only help the richest of the rich.
This list is seemingly endless. They used September 11 against us to push for an unnecessary war that has laid waste to Iraq and our international reputation. They outed a deep-cover CIA agent whose husband dared to criticize the cherry-picked "intelligence" used to justify the invasion. They have gotten into bed with some of the most reprehensible scumbags ever to disgrace the corridors of Congress - Mr. Abramoff, your table is ready - and then summoned the gall to declare a "National Character Counts Week."
You have to put this stuff into a mental box until you can wrap yourself around it, because otherwise you'll be battering down walls with your head and gnawing down trees like a beaver.
But this, now, is something else again.
The New York Times headline for Friday reads, "US Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer." Bad enough all by itself, true, but this headline does not entirely convey the insane and astonishing and absurd and awful realities behind this story.
"Last March," begins the article, "the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to 'leverage the Internet' to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein."
Translation: On the three-year anniversary of the catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq, Congressional Republicans, terrified that their comprehensive failures would come back to haunt them in the November midterms, cajoled the White House into publishing incredibly sensitive information in a rhetorically empty attempt to cover their backsides.
The Times article continues, "The site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb. The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs."
Translation: We have spent the last five years being terrorized by our own government - "We do not want the evidence to be a mushroom cloud" - and yet these nitwits somehow conclude that publishing detailed directions for the building of nuclear bombs is perfectly fine. You have to wonder if North Korea's sudden leaps forward in their own nuclear program came because they got a chance to read the user's manual for the nuclear club. Note well, by the way, that the data published is from before the first Gulf War, which means it has nothing to do with Iraq's WMD program in 2003, said program having been utterly decimated by sanctions and targeted bombing runs.
And then, the kicker.
"With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war," reads the Times story, "the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents - most of them in Arabic - would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence."
Translation: "Most of them in Arabic," it says. Directions for building nuclear weapons, written in Arabic, were published by the White House three years after the invasion, for no better reason than to do some CYA after the weapons of mass destruction failed to turn up in Iraq.
But wait, some will say. The hard part isn't getting directions for building a bomb; those have been out there for decades now in one form or another. The hard part is procuring or manufacturing the fissionable material needed. Right?
Wrong. Once upon a time, you see, we had something called the Cold War. The artist formerly known as the Soviet Union developed scores of nuclear weapons, and then went broke. Their financial collapse and eventual evaporation as a nation left scads of nuclear materials lying all over their vast territory, with no army available to guard the stuff. They couldn't even afford padlocks, and suddenly-unpaid nuclear scientists had the opportunity to sell the materials on the black market.
Consider this report from the Center for Defense Information: "The worldwide stockpiles of separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) are estimated to include some 450 tons of military and civilian separated plutonium and over 1,700 tons of HEU. A key problem in this arena is the large stocks of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium that are produced by power reactors. Russia now holds about 150 tons of plutonium and 1,000 tons of highly enriched uranium. A recently published report by the National Research Council found that 'theft or diversion of excess Russian HEU for terrorist use represents a significant near-term threat to the United States.'"
"A complete inventory of Russian materials is not available," continues the report, "so it is impossible to confirm that diversions of materials have not already occurred. Additionally, there have been more than a dozen seizures of special nuclear material from Russia and surrounding countries since the early 1990s. About 40 kilograms of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium have been stolen from poorly protected nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union during the last decade. While most of that material was retrieved, 2 kilograms of highly enriched uranium filched from a research reactor in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia are still missing."
Fear not, however, because the Bush administration is on top of things. "A program to blend HEU down into less dangerous civilian reactor fuel," reads a Christian Science Monitor article from 2001, "is moving slowly. Efforts to replace three Russian nuclear reactors that produce both desperately needed energy and plutonium have stalled in a swirl of politics. And the Bush administration, in its first crack at drawing up a national-security budget, has slashed the funding of much of the non-proliferation effort. Bush's budget took $100 million out of the Department of Energy's side of the effort, alone."
The budget allocations for the securing of this material have been annually shortchanged by the Bush administration. Indeed, little has changed since 9/11, despite all the howling about nuclear terrorism coming from the White House.
So, to recap: the administration and its Congressional allies published directions for the development of nuclear weapons, said directions including "charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums." They did this to try to manufacture some political cover, period. Much of the published material is in Arabic. All that is required to put these directions to practical use is the fissionable material, a great deal of which is sitting unsecured all across Russia ... and the administration has slashed the budgets aimed at nailing this stuff down.
Yes, I'm eating my own face.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.
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