Today’s Washington Post exposes the Bush administration’s failures on national security where it matters most: protecting Americans from nuclear terror. President Bush and Senator Kerry agree that the single greatest threat to the American people is a terrorist or rogue regime armed with a nuclear weapon. Yet the Post article, by Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, depicts an indecisive Administration with skewed priorities, plagued by fundamentally poor judgment from the Oval Office down.
Obsessed over Iraq at the expense of addressing imminent nuclear threats. The article depicts officials who were so concerned with the invasion of Iraq that they failed to focus on securing and destroying nuclear weapons in Russia (identified as the most probable source of nuclear weapons for terrorists), neglected North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, and ignored Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Allowed efforts to prevent the theft of weapons-grade nuclear materials by terrorists to lapse over a dispute with Russia about legal liability issues. “Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who asked to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 15, noted Bush’s emphasis on the “immense threat” of nuclear terrorism and said acidly, “I wonder if he has been advised that liability — that the liability issue is preventing destruction of enough plutonium for about 10,000 weapons?””
Proposed to cut FY 2005 funding for all Nunn-Lugar programs by nine percent. These critical programs help secure vulnerable weapons-grade fissile materials from theft. Fewer fissile materials were secured in the two year after 9/11 than in the two years before 9/11.
Doesn’t care whether North Korea has two or seven nuclear weapons. Undersecretary of State John Bolton—the administration’s leading nonproliferation official—described concerns over how many nuclear weapons North Korea has as “quibbling.”
Delayed shutting down Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan’s involvement in the global nuclear weapons blackmarket. The administration resisted advice from Britain to pounce on Khan immediately. Its decision to “wait and see…allowed the nuclear black market to fill significant purchase orders from North Korea,” precipitating the current nuclear stand-off with that country.
Could not devise an Iran policy due to cabinet divisions that Bush failed to resolve. “The stalemate left three secret overtures from Tehran unanswered and a presidential directive on Iran unsigned after 31 months of drafting attempts,” and the administration unable to meaningfully discuss the nuclear issue with Iran—despite secret talks with Tehran about Afghanistan and Iraq.
Neglected to formulate a realistic North Korea policy due to these same divisions. “Bush’s national security team could not agree on policies to induce or compel those governments to submit,” and Bush did nothing to break the impasse, allowing these crises to fester unchecked. The Bush administration’s thumb-twiddling on North Korea led a “frustrated participant” in that policy process to describe the resulting policy as “no carrot, no stick and no talk.”
The article can be accessed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62727-2004Oct25.html.