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Tue

03

Jun

2008

Uranium Enrichment: The Bushes, The Saudis and The Bomb
Tuesday, 03 June 2008 15:47
by Chris Floyd

Did you hear the alarming story about a country led by draconian Muslim religious extremists acquiring enriched uranium for their nuclear plants — plants which could be weaponized anytime in the future, putting weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Sharia law fanatics who repress women, chop off heads and throttle all dissent? What's more, they were given this weapons-grade material by a rogue nation led by a goonish tyrant who gained power only because he was the wastrel son of the former leader. Break out the regime change machinery right away; this evil must be stopped!

What's that? No, we're not talking about Iran getting souped-up nukestuff from North Korea. We're talking about George W. Bush's bestowal of enriched uranium on his pals and business partners, the Saudi royals, the most draconian religious tyrants in the world. Harvey Wasserman has the goods at Democracy Now:
You know, I'd like to know the insane asylum in which this policy was concocted. The idea of giving enriched uranium to the Saudis while threatening war with the Iranians for enriching uranium is astonishing. The idea that the Saudis are going to somehow lower the price of oil on the basis of possibly getting nuclear reactors in the future is just almost staggering to think about. It's something, I guess, we've come to expect with the Bush administration.
But the nuclear power industry is trying desperately to spread itself all over the world, and we have proliferation problems. As you may recall, the Clinton administration cut a deal with the North Koreans to build a reactor there, and of course now suddenly, when Bush comes in, they're a nuclear threat. We have to put this in perspective. We have to remember that when the Shah was in power in Iran so many years ago, he was in the process of buying thirty-six reactors, and had those reactors been completed before he fell to the Ayatollah, Iran would now have thirty-six reactors. So what the Bush administration is telling us is that this current Saudi government is always going to be in power and it's perfectly fine for them to have nuclear reactors. We know that India and Pakistan built—both built nuclear weapons from their commercial atomic power programs, as perhaps did South Africa. And it's just almost staggering to think about this prospect.
How strange: Bush and the many beaters of drums for war with Iran tell us over and over that Tehran's nuclear program must be aimed at building weapons, for why else would a country awash in oil want to pursue nuclear energy? Yet when Bush's smooching buddy King Fahd and his immensely corrupt court of baksheeshers — led, of course, by the billion-dollar bribe maven, Prince Bandar Ibn Sultan (or as he is known in America's own two-bit royal family, "Bandar Bush") — say they want to supplement their oil resources with nuclear power, why, that's perfectly logical. Enriched uranium? By all means, be our guest!

The truth is that the Saudis have been trying to get hold of nuclear weapons for decades, with the active help of their business partners, the Bush Family. As the New Yorker reported years ago, the Saudis paid Saddam Hussein at least $5 billion from 1985 to 1990 to support his nuclear weapons program, with the understanding that they would get some of the big bombs for themselves. What's more, this sinister transaction was carried out with the full knowledge and tacit approval of, among others, a certain president named George Bush:
What the defector did not know was that the Fahd-Saddam nuclear project was also a closely held secret in Washington. According to a former high-ranking American diplomat, the C.I.A. was fully apprised. "I knew about it," the diplomat says matter-of-factly, "and so did they." A senior White House official, asked about the Saudi government's involvement and American complicity, told us, "They did spend billions on the Iraqis. It was a different world. We were ready to overlook a lot of things the Saudis were doing for the Iraqis. It's consistent with all the other terrible things we did at the time" — to shore up Saddam.
Then Saddam did a bad thing: he messed around with another set of Bush Family business partners: the Kuwaiti royals. [See the postscript after the jump for more details.] That was the end of his Bush/Saudi-backed nuke program. (The Reagan-Bush administrations had also helpfully supplied Saddam with materials for chemical weapons too, then provided him with military intelligence to help him direct this CW at the Iranians). But it was not the end of Saudi Arabia's quest for an "Islamic bomb." They simply turned to Pakistan, which, wisely, has never upset a Bush Family business partner. As Greg Palast reports:
How did a berserker like North Korea's Kim Jong Il get the bomb in the first place? Answer: He bought it from the Dr. Strangelove of Pakistan [A.Q. Khan] in 2001 — while all our President's men ordered our intelligence agents to keep their eyes shut tight....

Why would Team Bush pull back our agents from nabbing North Korea's bomb connection? The answer in two words: Saudi Arabia.
The agent on the line said, "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis." Khan is Pakistani, not Saudi, but, nevertheless, the investigation led back to Saudi Arabia. There was no way that the Dr. Strangelove of Pakistan could have found the billions to cook up his nukes within the budget of his poor nation.

We eventually discovered that agents knew the Saudis, who had secretly funded Saddam's nuclear weapons ambitions in the eighties, apparently moved their bomb-for-Islam money from Iraq to Dr. Khan's lab in Pakistan after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But, said the insider, our agents had to let a hot trail grow cold because he and others "were told to back off the Saudis." If you can't follow the money, you can't investigate. The weapons hunt was spiked.
Whether the Saudis had the same arrangement with Khan as they did with Saddam — "Here's the loot, go make bombs, then give us some" — is not known. (Well, the Bushes probably know, but not us peons) The Saudis' current yen for enriched uranium would tend to indicate that there was some other pro quo for their layout of quid. But even if Dr. Khan has not already given the Saudis a couple of nukes to play with, someone else has provided them (and the rest of the world) with handy-dandy blueprints for building a bomb. And who might that be? Why, that nation-devouring scourge of WMD everywhere, of course: George W. Bush.

As we noted here in November 2006, the Bush Administration dumped thousands of captured Iraqi documents on the internet, including, as the New York Times put it, "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." Just hours after this story broke, six Arab nations formally announced they were launching nuclear programs of their own: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates — and Saudi Arabia. From the November 2006 post:
As the Times [London] notes, arms experts view the announcement as "a stunning reversal of policy" in the Arab world, which has long called for a nuclear-free Middle East – a stance aimed at dismantling Israel's large if nominally secret nuclear arsenal and preventing Iran from acquiring atomic weaponry....

It's true that the six Arab nations told the IAEA they wanted nuclear capability solely for peaceful purposes: to run desalinization plants, for example, or to provide cheap, abundant energy for their economies. (Perhaps the supposedly oil-glutted Saudis, who trotted out the latter rationale, know something they're not telling us about "peak oil" and such.) But it's also true that this technology can always be weaponized – as the Bush Administration never ceases to remind us when lambasting Iran for its nuclear program.

Of course, converting a peaceful, public energy program into a covert weapons development scheme is much easier if you have a "cookbook" showing you how to do it. And that's exactly how the Bush Administration's Iraqi data dump was described by European experts. With six new entrants in the nuclear sweepstakes – just a fraction of the 30 nations that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei says "have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a short time" – the ramifications of the Administration's nuke blogging are far more serious than the near-total media and political silence that has followed the revelations would indicate...

Last March, in a bid to generate media smoke from overheated right-wing bloggers flailing their way ignorantly through raw intelligence data, the Bush Faction dumped thousands upon thousands of captured Saddam-era Iraqi documents into a public web archive. There was absolutely zero intelligence value to be gained from the exercise, as the Administration's own intelligence experts repeatedly warned. Then again, history has shown us just how scantly the Bush Gang regards careful intelligence analysis; as in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, what they wanted was cherry-picked garbage that could be used for partisan propaganda.

And so the sewage pipe of the unsifted Iraqi intel was opened, in hopes of generating a few stories that might dominate a news cycle here and there with "revelations" that could provide even the most tenuous "justification" for the Administration's pre-war mendacities about Iraq's non-existent WMD threat and its equally spurious ties to 9/11 and al Qaeda. As we've seen in many other cases – such as the long-running spy fiction thriller, "Atta in Prague" – the barest micron of a hint of a whisper from some unnamed, uncorroborated source is enough for the warmongers and their sycophants to feast upon for years.

But this trove of dross has produced no propaganda gold, and with good reason: the archives cannot yield what is not there. There are no records documenting active WMD programs, or even dormant WMD programs, because there had been no such programs in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War – a fact that the western intelligence agencies, and the Clinton and Bush White Houses, knew very well, because they had been told of this in 1995 by the man in charge of the programs and their destruction: Saddam's own son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.

However, as the New York Times reports, there was a good deal of material in the archives on Iraq's pre-1991 WMD programs. These included, says the NYT, "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." They 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."

One of the most important aspects of the information is that it spells out many of the mistakes and wrong turns that Iraqi scientists encountered on their road to the bomb. The handy roadmap provided by Bush will allow new aspirants for atomic weaponry to avoid these pitfalls and accelerate their programs accordingly. Secret nuclear weapons programs once took decades to complete, as in Pakistan, India and North Korea, or else simply sputtered out from technical ignorance, as in Libya. Now much of this knowledge gap has been bridged by the Bush Administration, cutting years of trial and error out of the process.
As we further noted at the time, these nuclear bomb blueprints were dumped on a world where
long-effective non-proliferation structures are either collapsing or already dead. From the very beginning, the Bush Administration deliberately set out to overthrow the old "containment" treaties that had held the demon of nuclear war at bay for decades. The Administration was adamant that no shackles should hold back its expansion of the entirely ineffective but crony-enriching boondoggle known as "missile defense." Plans for "enhancing" the nation's nuclear arsenal with new, more "useable" tactical nukes and weaponizing the global commons of outer space were also stated goals of the militarists who dominate the Administration: the "Project for a New Century" crowd, led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who spelled out their disdain for arms treaties and their plans for an aggressive nuclear weapons revamp in speeches and publications well before the unelected Bush was shoehorned into the White House by the Supreme Court.

Once in office, Bush "unsigned" the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty and ashcanned the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty – the cornerstone of nuclear containment for a generation. In their place, Bush and his "unitary executive" counterpart in Russia, Vladimir Putin, signed the ludicrous "Moscow Treaty" in 2002. This worthless rag – which covers less than a single, typewritten page – is perhaps the most cynical sham in international diplomacy since the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The treaty sets a nominal limit on the number of nuclear warheads actually mounted on working missiles and bombers, as the National Resources Defense Council reports. But this limit is operative for one day only – December 31, 2012, the day the treaty expires. "Before and after that date, the number of deliverable nuclear warheads could exceed the treaty's maximum 'limit' of 2,200 'operational' warheads," the NRDC notes. "Both countries would be free to keep thousands of 'reserve' warheads in storage, which could be remounted on delivery systems within weeks or months."

There were no other limits placed on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, nor does the treaty require "the destruction of a single nuclear warhead, missile, silo, bomber or submarine," the NRDC reports. It places no restrictions at all on tactical nuclear weapons: the ones most likely to be used in battle — and the ones most likely to be pilfered by "non-state actors."

....Meanwhile, the Administration has made a mockery of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As noted, Bush has embraced the nuclear weapons programs of three renegade nations that remained outside the NPT – India, Pakistan and Israel – while attacking nations that have remained within the Treaty's allowances for carefully monitored peaceful nuclear energy programs. And Bush has of course continued the practice of all of his predecessors in arrogantly ignoring the obligations which the treaty placed on existing nuclear powers to liquidate their own stockpiles and work toward an international disarmament agreement....

Only a sociopathic idiot of the highest order would dump raw intelligence about weapons systems onto the Internet without even examining it first. What's more, the Bush Party knew for a certainty that there was very dangerous material lurking in the archive. As the NYT reports: "Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure."

Those particular documents were finally pulled – after finding their way into how many hard drives of Islamic extremists, homegrown white-power nuts, or freakish death cults like Aum Shinrikyo? – but the archive stayed wide open. Why? Because the Bush Party fanatics still hoped to squeeze some propaganda value out of it. And even after the IAEA complained about the nuclear data on the site late last month, the Administration took no action. Not until the New York Times story was about to appear did the Bushists finally take down the site, to lessen the political embarrassment....Had some intelligence agent or other government official posted such incendiary material on a website on the sly, they would rightly be condemned as criminals, even traitors.
So here are your "National Security" stalwarts in action. This is how much they really care about restraining nuclear proliferation and keeping nightmare weaponry out of the hands of tyrants, terrorists and extremists. In their endless, ruthless, relentless quest for blood money — for the power and privilege that war and fear and human suffering bring — our militarist elites are more than happy to put the whole world at risk.

Here's more on how the Bush Family used the U.S. military as its own private militia to help out their Kuwaiti business partners. From a piece written in 2005:

Iraqis Accuse Kuwait of Stealing Oil (AP):

"Iraqi legislators accused Kuwait of stealing their oil as well as chipping away at their national territory on the border - allegations similar to those used by Saddam Hussein to justify his invasion of Kuwait that began 15 years ago Tuesday..

'"There have been violations such as digging horizontal oil wells to pump Iraq oil," legislator Jawad al-Maliki, chairman of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told the National Assembly on Tuesday....

"In such horizontal wells, instead of drilling straight down, Kuwaitis would drill at an angle either going into subterranean Iraqi territory or sucking oil out of pools from Iraqi territory. He also said Kuwaitis have taken territories up to half a mile inside Iraq."
As the story notes, this is precisely the same thing that Saddam alleged before the first Gulf War — allegations that happened, by and large, to be true. There was also a huge financial conflict between the two countries: Kuwait had given Saddam some $10 billion during the Iran-Iraq war to help him keep the "Persian horde" (and revolutionary Shiite tide) from sweeping through the region. In those days, Saddam was seen as the bulwark of the Arabs against this threat to their regimes. After the war, the Kuwaiti royals decided that money had been a loan, and they wanted it back; Saddam insisted that it had been a straight-forward payment for services rendered.

All of this — the oil theft, border encroachments, the debt row — dovetailed with the long-standing (pre-Saddam) belief among Iraqis that Kuwait was actually part of their national territory, unfairly gouged out by the British colonial map-makers to give their court favorites, the al-Sabahs, a nice accessible oily playground. Of course, the whole region — including the creation of Iraq itself — was carved up in similar fashion by a few bureaucrats in London, setting the stage for what will obviously be centuries of rancour and conflict in the region. (The same way the arbitrary, unnatural borderlines throughout much of Africa have led to decades of chaos and war.)

But this is not the place to get into the merits, if any, of these various conflicts. The point is, they existed, and were the root causes of the first Gulf War — which was itself the spark not only for the second, current war but also for the "war on terror." For it was the installation of American troops on the "sacred" soil of Saudi Arabia that led Osama bin Laden to turn against his former allies and paymasters in the Reagan-Bush administrations, and declare "war" on the United States.

And here's an historical footnote you don't often see — or rather, you NEVER see it in the mainstream media: another reason for bin Laden's pique is that HE wanted to fight Saddam in Kuwait. Here's how it happened.

Negotiations brokered by the Arab League had come very close to resolving the immediate conflict between Saddam and Kuwait. The talks finally foundered on the Kuwaitis' insistence on getting their $10 billion loan/gift back from Saddam. When a desperate, last-ditch effort by the League was put on the table, with Saddam massing troops on the border, the Kuwaiti royals were unruffled: "We will call in the Americans." (This at a time when Bush officials were testifying under oath before Congress that the US had no obligations or agreement with Kuwait to defend it from attack. This was also the time when Bush's woman in Baghdad, April Glaspie, famously told Saddam that the US would not take sides in this dispute between Arab nations.)

Ah, but you see, there was one other very important connection in the tangled web that led to war: President George H.W. Bush had been a long-time business partner of the Kuwaiti royals, a connection going back 30 years, since the days that his CIA-connected company, Zapata Oil, had drilled Kuwait's first offshore wells. Despite the fact that there was no compelling American interest in jumping into this regional conflict, Bush had no compunction about shedding American blood to protect his partners and his investments.

But how to convince the American people to intervene in a falling out among thugs in the far-off desert? Hit them in the pocketbook, of course. The internal Arab struggle was pitched as a dire threat to the American economy. After the invasion of Kuwait, Cheney solemnly announced that Saddam had massed a huge military force on the Saudi border. In a matter of days, Cheney said, Saddam could seize the Saudi fields and cut off the main U.S. oil supply. Only war would save American jobs.

But it was all a lie. The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) obtained satellite imagery of the Kuwaiti-Saudi border: there were no troop concentrations there, just miles of empty desert. Military intelligence reports confirmed the absence. Yet this phantom border build-up was given as the main reason for ditching negotiations and moving to war. Cheney refused to explain the anomaly.

Then came the atrocity stories. A comely Kuwaiti lass testified before Congress that she had seen Saddam's evil minions ripping innocent babies from hospital incubators. Outraged Congressmen repeatedly cited this abomination in their calls for war. Bush I cried that Saddam was "worse than Hitler." (And given the fact that Bush's father did business with Hitler – even after Germany declared war on America – he perhaps had some unique insights in this regard.)

But the atrocity stories were also a lie, part of a $10 million PR campaign to "sell" the idea of war to the public. The comely lass was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington – where she had safely passed the invasion, having seen neither incubators, dead babies nor a single Iraqi marauder.

Where does Osama come in? After Saddam crossed the border into Kuwait, Osama went to his patrons, the Saudi royals, and offered the services of his CIA-trained army of holy warriors from the Afghan war. Let me fight Saddam and drive him from Kuwait, Osama said. But the Saudis and Kuwaitis refused. They preferred the services of a more powerful warlord: George Bush, who used U.S. forces as his own private militia to bail out his royal business partners. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now we see that — surprise, surprise! — the same old national interests and concerns and conflicts have re-emerged in the "new" government of Iraq. Doubtless in good time the new government of Iraq — of whatever political or religious stripe — will the feel the pressing need to acquire weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from outside threats and assert its importance in the region. And the whole ungodly bloody mess can start anew.

History doesn't just repeat itself: it comes back up again and again, like a bad case of botulism from gobbling raw meat.
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