January - February 2005

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 35, Number 1, Jerry Strope, Editor

"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

                                                President George W. Bush, January 20, 2005

In This Issue:

All Tyrants Beware

President Bush’s address at his second inauguration, from which we have taken this issue’s "quotable quote," is likely to be remembered as one of the great ones. It seems at first glance to be an expansion of the Bush doctrine for the war on terror but perhaps it is an essential goal leading to the elimination of conditions that might generate terrorism. Meanwhile, it has shaken a few tyrants around the world.

One is Kim Jong Il of North Korea, who, you may recall, recently protested he was not a tyrant. According to News-week, Jong Il "is said to be desperately worried. He is said to move around a lot, traveling from palace to palace as Sad-dam Hussein once did. He disappears entirely from view for weeks. Kim even occasionally removes his pictures from buildings in Pyongyang, the capital city, in order to promote the idea that collective leadership is displacing his ‘Great Leader’ cult."

The North Korean response to Bush’s inauguration speech was a Foreign Ministry announcement that the North now had nuclear weapons "for self-defense" and that North Korea was withdrawing from the six-nation disarmament talks. The North’s statement accused Bush of plans to "topple our political system at any cost, threatening it with a nuclear stick."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played down the North Korean rhetoric, "Let’s see what the North Koreans decide to do down the road." She said the administration approach was to continue diplomacy: "The United States has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea." Not now, at least. The new Bush budget has an $18 million item for work on a "robust nuclear earth penetrator," or bunker buster.

With respect to the North Korean claim to possess nuclear weapons, it might be wise to listen to the South Koreans since they have both official and unofficial contacts in the North. Unification Minis-ter Chung Dong-young told the South Korean parliament that North Korea has said it has atomic weapons at least 10 times since 2003. Lacking a nuclear test, Chung said, "I believe it is early for us to call the North a nuclear state." South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, who met on February 14 with Condoleezza Rice, also said that the North Koreans may be bluffing.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been tightening the screws behind the scene while pushing for six-nation disarmament talks again. The screw-tightening has been going on for some time. It is based on the need to stop the North Koreans from counterfeiting US currency, trafficking in drugs, and selling missiles and fissile materials. The bankrupt North gets much-needed cash from these illicit activities.

The new screw-tightening uses techniques developed in the effort to deprive al-Qaeda of its financial support. Whether the renewed effort is intended to topple Kim Jung Il is being denied by administration sources who say North Korea has stepped up its illicit trafficking and counterfeiting. "We think they are desperate to put more money into the nuclear program and we’re trying to cut that off," said one US official.

On February 2, the New York Times broke the story that some of the materials turned over by Libya when Muammar Qadaffi terminated his secret effort to go nuclear originated in North Korea. Thousands of pounds of nuclear equipment and material have been transferred to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory since the Libyan agreement to disarm. Analysis of trace radioactivity on some canisters indicated the material had originated in Yongbyon, the North Korean nuclear facility. The assessment was based on matching the material with North Korean samples obtained by international inspectors before they were kicked out by Kim Jong Il. The information on the Libya-North Korea connection was presented to the governments of China, South Korea and Japan by Michael J. Green, National Security Council Asia affairs specialist, in an effort to convince them of the urgency of resuming negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program. The presentation must have been effective, as the Chinese announced they would send a top party official to Pyongyang to urge the North to return to the bargaining table. China urged patience with the North. "We are of the view that we should not resort to sanctions or pressure in international relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said. But South Korean officials said China could do more to convince the North. "I think China has a much bigger card to play than we expect. The question is whether it will play it," said Kim Ha-joong, South Korean ambassador to China. China supplies North Korea with about one-third of its food and one-quarter of its energy.

Iran Seeks Solidarity

Iran’s clerical tyranny also was shook up by President Bush’s inauguration address. Ten days later, the mullahs were shook up again when millions of Iraqis voted for a new government despite the threat of death at the hands of jihadists who had the support of Iran and Syria. It seemed inevitable that Iran would soon have democracies as neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan, to say nothing of Russia to the north.

The immediate Iranian response was a little mixed up. A day after the Iraqi election, Iran’s vice president Gholamreza Aghazedeh, who also serves as head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, urged Britain, France and Germany who are leading the negotiations with Iran to speed up the talks on Iran’s nuclear program. His comments indicated frustration at the lack of progress and reports that the negotiations were deadlocked. A week earlier, someone had leaked a summary of the talks showing no progress in getting Iran to scrap its uranium enrichment activities.

Iran is engaged in diplomacy with Britain, France and Germany aimed at ending a 2 ½-year crisis over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions that began when Iranian defectors exposed a large uranium enrichment facility in August 2002. The undeclared facility was a surprise to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors have since been investigating nuclear facilities in Iran. The US has not participated in these negotiations.

The US has made no secret of its belief that Iran is seeking to make nuclear weapons in violation of its treaty obligations and has been misleading the IAEA for years. The US is a member of the IAEA board of governors and as such has urged that Iranian violations be brought before the UN Security Council, a move that could result in harsh penalties. In some sense, the US has joined with the European powers in a "good cop-bad cop" routine since the Europeans have mainly "carrots" to give Iran for giving up its nuclear ambitions and very little "stick." But Britain, France and Germany have pressed the US to join in the negotiations. The Bush administration has balked at taking a direct role but the Europeans say a final deal is unlikely without the US.

On February 4, while in London on her first trip as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice met with Prime Minister Tony Blair and at a subsequent news conference with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, one of the principals in the negotiations with Iran, was asked whether there were any circumstances in which the US would take military action against Iran. She replied, "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point in time." She continued that no American president was ever asked to take options off the table but she noted "there were plenty of diplomatic means at our disposal to get the Iranians to finally live up to their international obligations." Carefully read, Rice’s comments come down to the answer "Maybe."

To put a little meat on such an answer somebody in the administration leaked to the Washington Post that the US had been flying surveillance drones over Iran from bases in Iraq for over a year. The drones were first spotted by Iranians last December, setting off a newspaper frenzy about UFOs. In mid-February Iran announced it had entered into a defensive alliance with Syria. Iran’s powerful former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji al-Otari, as-serted that it was important to strengthen relations among Iran, Syria, Iraq (!), Lebanon and other Islamic states in the Middle East. Next day, Iran urged Islamic states to ally in the face of "US and Israeli plots." Persian Iran and the Arabic states have had poor relations for decades.

Homeland Security’s New Face

Michael Chertoff has been easily confirmed by the Senate to replace Tom Ridge as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the Senators at his hearing were frankly amazed that he would leave a lifetime judgeship on the federal bench to head an organization one Senator called, "dis-functional." Another called it a "monster." The committee chairman called it a "troubled department." According to David Savage of the Los Angeles Times, most senators, rather than grill the nominee to see whether he was up to the job, used the hearing to say they were glad he was willing to give up a life-tenured post as a federal appeals judge to try to manage an unwieldy department that melded 22 agencies and 180,000 employees.

"I greatly appreciate your willingness to leave the circuit court to take on these truly awesome responsibilities," said Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT.) A top deputy to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Chertoff spent much of his time testifying about torture of prisoners at home and abroad. He had nothing to do with it, he said. Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-UT) brought the subject back to homeland defense by reminding the nominee that the nation’s critical infrastructure—including power and chemical plants—was "dependent on computers for their security and their safe operation," and that an attack on these sectors using the Internet "could produce tremendous devastation." Chertoff replied, "One thing I would like to do actually, in terms of my own staffing of my front office, is make sure I bring somebody on board who really understands computers and these issues." That is not enough for some legislators who want Mr. Chertoff to appoint an Assistant Secretary for Cyber-security.

Missile Threat Update

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times have recently summarized the latest report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center on ballistic and cruise missile threats. The report concludes that the missile threat is growing "in number and variety. The availability of weapons of mass destruction for use on ballistic missiles vastly increases the significance of this threat."

The report warns that work on North Korea’s ICBM, the Taepo-Dong 2, is continuing, and the missile "may be exported to other countries in the future." Iran’s missile program is described in the report as "ambitious" and includes the 800-mile-range Shahab-3 and plans for two longer-range missiles, the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5. "Iran could have an ICBM capable of reaching the US before 2015," the report said. China is building up its long-range missile forces with two new ICBMs, the 4,500-mile-range DF-31 and the 7,000-mile-range DF31A. "The number of warheads on Chinese ICBMs capable of threatening the US is expected to expand to 75 to 100 over the next 15 years."

And Now Strategic Defense

On February 14, a developmental test of the NBMD failed when fault-tolerance software prevented the interceptor from leaving its silo in the south Pacific. This is the second test failure of this kind. Dr. Sam Cohen, best known as inventor of the neutron bomb, is a critic of the whole approach. We reprint his essay from Art Robinson’s Access to Energy.

The Anti-Missile Program: Ineffective, Inexcusable, Immoral