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Beyond Iraq — The Scourge of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Does the global community only need to worry about weapons of mass destruction in “evil” countries?

April 24, 2003

Does the global community only need to worry about weapons of mass destruction in "evil" countries?

The ousting of Saddam Hussein has all but eclipsed the fact that Iraq is far from the only country where weapons of mass destruction capability are of great concern to the global community. Yes, there are worries about places such as North Korea. But keeping WMD away from terrorists is also an issue in Russia and elsewhere. Our Read My Lips surveys the global landscape.

Why is the United States so concerned about weapons of mass destruction?

“In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered weapons of last resort. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction as weapons of choice.”

(U.S. National Security Council, September 2002)

Why is Britain so keen on the issue?

“Anyone who believes in today’s world that you can have these groups and these weapons proliferating and Britain not be involved is, I think, naïve — and misguided.”

(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, January 2003)

What makes non-proliferation politically tough in the Middle East?

“You can’t get rid of chemical or biological or nuclear programs in Arab countries — unless you address the elimination of Israel’s nuclear and chemical programs.”

(Joseph Cirincione, head of the non-proliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 2003)

Why is that?

“They have been developing chemical weapons as a force equalizer with the Israelis.”

(Former U.S. senior intelligence analyst, April 2003)

Why do people in the Middle East think the United States is hypocritical?

“The Americans say, in order to preserve the peace for my children, I should have nuclear weapons — and you shouldn’t have them.”

(Amir Mohebian, advisor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, March 2003)

Where else is there a pressing WMD threat?

“I’m concerned about North Korea developing nuclear weapons, not only for their own use, but perhaps they might choose to proliferate them, sell them. They may end up in the hands of dictators — people who are not afraid of using weapons of mass destruction.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, March 2003)

Why is North Korea much more problematic than the Middle East as far as WMD are concerned?

“They are the No. 1 proliferator of missiles — and also of conventional weapons. That is how they have kept their economy alive — and they are actively pursuing those interests around the world.”

(General Thomas A. Schwartz, former commander-in-chief of United Nations and U.S. forces in South Korea, February 2003)

Did this lead to changing views on WMD in Japan?

“The taboos have disappeared. In the past, anyone who mentioned the nuclear option faced harsh and emotional criticism. Now, it is still a minority view — but it is no longer taboo.”

(Hajime Izumi, professor at Shizuoka University, February 2003)

Should Russia's President be concerned about his own arsenal?

“It really boggles my mind that there could be 40,000 nuclear weapons, or maybe 80,000, in the former Soviet Union, poorly controlled and poorly stored, and that the world isn’t in a near state of hysteria about the danger.”

(Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, November 2001)

Which other country needs to be monitored closely?

“Terrorists are a hundred times more likely to obtain a weapon of mass destruction from Pakistan than Iraq.”

(Senior European official, January 2003)

Why do some of the former rogue states not aspire to develop WMD?

“They are of no use to us — and we don’t have enough money to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.”

(Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, January 2003)

Is the United States concerned about the nuclear arch enemies India and Pakistan?

“When two nations are armed with nuclear weapons and they start down the road toward war, this is the time for the international community to get involved.”

(U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, August 2002)

How do veterans of conventional warfare view WMD?

“No one who has seen people die in combat could even think about a scenario where nuclear weapons are used.”

(Pakistani Kashmir veteran, June 2002)

In what sense are biological weapons even more potent than nuclear or chemical ones?

“We keep hearing about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ — but this is not an accurate description of biological weapons. These weapons do not destroy physical infrastructure but kill people, spread fear — and interrupt the workings of society.”

(Vivienne Nathanson, head of the British Medical Association’s science and ethics section, March 2003)