The Bush administration is planning to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons designed for use against chemical and biological weapons, according to a Pentagon report leaked to The Guardian.
The new weapons program, which would employ “mini-nukes,” “bunker busters,” and “neutron bombs,” will be discussed by senior Pentagon officials and government scientists at a secret August meeting at the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, reports Julian Borger. The meeting, notes Borger, is the clearest indication yet that the Bush administration intends to employ nuclear weapons as part of its new “pre-emptive force” doctrine.
The move would violate several well-established nuclear weapons treaties, said Greg Mello, head of the Los Alamos Study Group, which obtained the documents. “It is impossible to overstate the challenge these plans pose to the comprehensive test ban treaty, the existing nuclear test moratorium, and U.S. compliance with article six of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty,” Mello explained.
Arson Franklin, head of governmental affairs for the National Nuclear Security Administration, confirmed that the documents obtained by Mello—minutes of a January 10 meeting of Pentagon officials—were authentic, but added that the Pentagon has requested no new nuclear weapons and that the agency had no plans to begin testing them. “The fact is that this paper is talking about what-if scenarios and very long-range planning,” Franklin said.
But Stephen Schwartz, publisher of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said the meeting demonstrates the willingness of the Bush administration to use nuclear weapons. “To me, it indicates there are plans proceeding and well under way . . . to resume the development, testing, and production of new nuclear wapons,” he said. “It’s very serious.”
And, he added, it points out the hypocrisy of the administration’s demands that other nations dismantle their weapons of mass destruction. “How can we possibly go to the international community or to these countries and say, ‘How dare you develop these weapons,’ when it’s exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
According to the documents, the move toward developing more “usable” nuclear weapons was sparked by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, whose nuclear posture paper identified Russian, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya as potential targets for the new U.S. nuclear arsenal. These “low-yield” (less than a kiloton) weapons, according to the Rumsfeld report, would be a more effective deterrent because of their more practical application as tactical weapons.