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Updated 31 May 2007

This ultimate terror has already visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Harry Truman made that decision based on the loss of life on both sides that military alternatives would incur. He operated in the political darkness of what was to come.

Both the Japanese and Germans had waged direct and brutal wars against civilians. Early on Roosevelt demanded "Unconditional Surrender" in response, and this became the byword and slogan for the war.

With this backdrop, Truman's decision was not that much out of tune with events. Nevertheless, thoughtful people at the time suggested there was a better way after the fact, because all things nuclear until then, had proceeded under the tightest secrecy.

In 2001, Osama bin Laden claimed to have nuclear weapons, even though an explosive device is beyond his ability to create from scratch. His claim is a form of psychological terror. And he may indeed have found some amount of nuclear material on the "Khan market" in Pakistan. Accounting for the nuclear stocks over the entire world is not so accurate that we can know for sure bin Laden cannot have enough material for one or more bombs whether or not he can assemble them. He might even be able to buy a device, a nightmare of a thought.

In any event, the probability of bin Laden or other terrorists being given armed nuclear weapons over some extended period of time is too high to ignore, especially when you consider that unstable Third World countries are achieving nuclear ability with more to come. Pakistan is the prime example. North Korea and Kim Jung Il is another.

What was and is needed to counter terror is the tightest kind of coordinated intelligence gathering and police work on the part of all the world's nations with appropriate international laws dealing with terrorism. At the same time, society changes must also occur before peace can reign. Both of these will require mutual trust among the world's peoples.

We cannot know if the Bush administration even considered this view. We do know they did not act upon it; they went in the opposite direction. Invading Iraq alone saddled us with that responsibility essentially alone. By the time the dust settles, we and our children will see at least an additional trillion dollars in debt bleeding our economy.

The foremost danger facing humankind today is the confluence of extremism and nuclear weapons. It is a problem so massive that only the an international organization can deal with it; no one nation can permanently cope with it in any civilized way. The foremost motivation of terrorists is to bend the world to their ideology; they hope to use the leverage of nuclear power to advance that goal. The UN must be overhauled; it is not up to the task as now constituted.

Detonating one or a few nuclear terror bombs would certainly start a world effort to bring nuclear activities under a central control. Detonating a dozen could ignite a final fireball. The suicide Terrorist Mind is capable of just that. Complicating this issue is that individual terrorists blend in, are rarely self-evident or obvious.

A solution we advocate is to have All Things Nuclear, ATN, control and operate only under and by a strengthened and reformed UN capable of such duty. ATN includes uranium mining, metal extraction, metal refining, isotope separations, isotope purification, bomb material preparations, and the distribution and control of products for peaceful purposes such as power generation and medicine. ATN includes the design, building, operating, maintaining, repairing, refueling, and decommissioning of reactors. ATN extends to safely handling, processing and disposing of waste products. ATN would everywhere become sovereign for nuclear activities only. No square meter of earth's surface can be exempt from inspection for any reason whatsoever by the responsible agency in an international organization. Inspection intervals must be short enough to prevent cheating. ATN must have an accounting system with double and triple levels of accuracy checks in consistent units of measurement.

ATN must be managed in a transparent manner with multilevel checks and balances that are sure to work. ATN must freely involve the media and citizen experts in the inspection process. ATN must be as careful in selecting managing and operating personnel at all levels as it is with the material itself. Each worker, each manager, each leader involved must demonstrate emotional stability and commitment to this greater service for humankind. Indeed, each such person would individually and collectively be a guardian of all life on earth. Teams with rotating membership and term limits seem to be indicated.

ATN must be regarded as a potential threat to freedom and privacy. The rights of all world citizens must be guarded individually and collectively by appropriate checks and balances. The highest levels of technology must be deployed to prevent or minimize unnecessary intrusions into individual privacy as well as their societies.

ATN can only justify nuclear missiles in strategic locations for the purpose of diverting comets, bolides, or small asteroids from their collision paths with planet Earth.

Given the immense time still to come for life on earth, it is almost a given that nuclear weaponry will fall under the control of an extremist or extreme faction if it is not brought under positive control first. In fact it may have happened already, courtesy of Pakistan and North Korea.

Without some kind of redirection, the nuclear club will comprise nine or ten nations by 2010. This proliferation is the first-order threat to humanity. And this trend is on a collision course with extremism of the worst sort. Extremists that can motivate suicide bombings by individuals could just as easily motivate a nuclear armed nation to suicidal action.

Do all nations in the present nuclear club have governments stable enough to control nuclear weapons? Of course not; one of them even allows its president to amend the constitution at will. Another has no formal constitution as such.

The irony is that while only the US has used atomic weapons against others, only the US could effectively lead the effort it will take to bring about control of ATN for all time. Such an action will certainly take more statesmanship and decisiveness than the current administration has shown. A most significant barrier seems to be this administration's tendency to go it alone and put America's special interests above those of humankind.

This is not strength; it is weakness. And this is not the example we must set. Rather we must seize the moral high-ground and with the help of the UN reform itself and become capable of leading the way toward a resolution that will save humankind.

Of course,

  • each nation will give up a bit of sovereignty,
  • it will not be easy to get all nations to go along,
  • there are extremists who would torpedo the process,
  • reformations in national and international governance must occur and this will take time.
  • the unexpected will happen,
  • we can be creative in dialogue, and
  • the time has come.

What we have to gain is security of our persons and freedoms for ourselves and our descendants. What we have to lose is everything.

We hold that an international dialogue can address and resolve these issues. The door will then be open for a comity of nations where each respects the laws of others, each citizen gives other citizens courtesy, and celebrates ethnic differences. We hold that no nation should ever be above International Law.

Such a comity is necessarily part and parcel of a lasting peace. Control of ATN by an international organization can provide a salvation through reformation of governance. We hold that a democracy of and by all nations is not merely possible, but necessary.

Perhaps post-Bush administration will find this a feasible way out of the present political chaos. A Vietnam-like quagmire, and/or further radicalization of Islam will surely follow a mere Band-Aid in Iraq.

Einstein had it basically right (What else is new?) when he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly, Nov 1945:

    "The secret of the bomb should be committed to a world government.... Do I fear the tyranny of a world government? Of course I do. But I fear still more the coming of another war or wars. Any government is certain to be evil to some extent. But a world government is preferable to the far greater evil of wars."

    "...Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present it is a menace. Perhaps it is good that it is so. It may intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs, which, without the pressure of fear, it would not do."

Einstein was optimistic about the fear part. However, lust for power is often blind to rational fears. See Sociopath for reasons why. It may take a nuclear attack by terrorists to instill enough fear into the leaders of nations to yield the small amount of sovereignty needed. Are the neoconservatives up to it? Hardly.

None of us can be free of terror until all are free of terror, nuclear and other types. Otherwise we can only wait for the fireballs. A grassroots movement is needed worldwide.

A summary of practical nuclear issues follows:

1. Building a nuclear bomb requires a supply of uranium 235 or plutonium from nuclear reactors. These materials are kept under heavy guard and are extremely dangerous to handle. All can be detected from short distances even through metal unless the shielding is extremely heavy. Building a bomb from refined materials is easier to hide than mining, extracting, and refining the fissionable materials needed. Nuclear reactors are the most common source of fissionable material.

2 Nuclear weapon theft remains a serious threat, and there has been one such unconfirmed report. It is not known how well the Russian, Pakistani, and Indian weapons are secured. Most nuclear powers keep their weapons well-guarded and use special codes (kept secret) to arm them.

3 Nuclear weapon developments in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or Libya are not published. Nuclear material has been stolen several times and indeed has been found abandoned in the wild after Soviet military exercises.

4 Isotope dispersions use poisonous isotopes, there are many, and scatter them over cities and farms. These are dangerous to handle and require significant shielding. Acquisition of the large amounts needed is difficult.

5 Nuclear waste dispersions. Waste dumps are not well-guarded and so are easier to disperse through terrorist actions than refined materials would be. Handling waste is highly dangerous and requires great care. The most likely terror tactic here is to blow up an existing nuclear waste depot in a densely populated area, scattering radioactive material to the four winds.

6 Destruction of a land based nuclear reactor could be done in several ways. The breaching of the massive containment vessel would be a challenge even though the vessels were not designed with Kamikaze-type attacks in mind. The accidental Chernobyl power plant explosion is an example of what this could mean.

7 Sabotaging nuclear plants could be done by highly trained terrorists piercing their perimeters and planting explosives. Nuclear plants vary in their degrees of vulnerability. The chances of a terrorist takeover to create a reactor meltdown would be countered in the end by the containment structure, designed for that eventuality. Nuclear reactor operator training is not available on the open market, like pilot training.

8 Destruction of a nuclear-powered oceangoing vessel. In deep water, destroying such vessels would lead to little or no atmospheric dispersion of radioactive elements. The destroyer Cole is a case in point for what could happen in port. Seafaring nations are particularly vulnerable. Most nuclear vessels are military and are commonly more on the alert than commercial shipping would be.

For the latest on nuclear developments see:
Global Partnership Against Spread of Nuclear Weapons
International Atomic Energy Agency
Transparency in Nuclear Warheads and Materials

For a personal update on Chernobyl see: Ghost Town.


We may find comfort in the fact that conventional explosive, chemical, and biological weapons are much easier to deploy. We find comfort that no nuclear power is actively brandishing its sabers; this may be small comfort considering how poor our intelligence is.

We find comfort in the fact that we still have a voice in these matters. Or do we?

For more, see: Mis-Guided Fears.


Carol La Rock wrote before we moved:

"I do not know dot one about bombs. I would, however, like to respond in some measure to "Harry's" question about what makes a suicide bomber. You, sir, have also instructed one who answers to identify their source of info. My answer is only myself, from a life where I have had to face some choices, which at the time bore the significance of life and death. It does provide cause for some insights, though far from all.

First, one would probably accept that it is a pretty profound statement being made. It is a statement not only of intent, but also of some irretrievable belief about both the nature of life, and of death. Suicide bombings have occured often enough that there are not many misgivings that those who participate are doing so with the notion that they are going to survive the event. It is also possible that to survive, may to them, mean they have failed in their mission. Therefore, some part of the rationale must include, on some level, that the highest offering I, as a human being, have to offer, i.e. my own life, must be being raised to some higher level through my death, far and above what I may STATE by my life. So, if the highest harm I can committ against what I perceive to be the - hated one - is to take life, which the other holds dear, Have I not accomplished the most my life can offer(?). Then if, added to this scenario, the current, physical state of my life on earth is to be destitute, insignificant, aimless, and in all signigicant matters, unglorious, then at least my death will not be. The ""mechanics"" of Terrorism at that point are wholly irrelevant. They are only a means to what promises to be a Divine end.

Two great tragedies of this profile, unfortunately, are, one: those with intent cannot ask of those who have gone before if, in fact, that which they sacrificed their life for was indeed REAL; two, have those who have made this ultimate, self-inflicted sacrifice succeeded in communicating their otherwise unannouced STATEMENT(?), or are they otherwise satisfied that they have fulfilled a mission of hate(?). Truly, only those who submit themselves can answer those questions.

One other quick insight that has come to me is the distinction between those who are martyred for what they believe and those who deliberately put themselves in Death's pathway for what they believe. The first being an utlimate statement of surrender of one's being to or for what/ Whom they believe. The second is more a statement of what "I" am giving/doing to or for what/Whom I believe. Perhaps the difference is akin to the difference between salvation by grace through faith; and, salvation by works.

It can be said that what humans believe is of no great import. BUT what they DO BELIEVE determines what they will/and are willing, to DO.

Just some thoughts. Take very good care. Sincerely, Carol."

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, October 28, 2005 at 20:10:39

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