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Scrapping Global Treaties

North Korea may be firing missiles, but when it comes to nuclear proliferation and eroding international controls, the biggest bully on the block right now is in Washington.
 
 
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News that North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan drove White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card into high dudgeon: "I think they're looking to kind of be bullies in the world," he told Fox News Sunday. It takes one to know one.

World leaders, scientists and citizens from around the globe were gathering for a month-long meeting at the United Nations as the North Korean news broke. Their project: to review world progress on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Specifically, the UN conferees are reviewing the status of the 35-year-old Non Proliferation Treaty on Nuclear Weapons.

North Korea's apparent test played right into White House hands, guaranteeing that as the NPT negotiations began, all fingers were pointing at Kim Jong Il and his Axis of Evil fellows in Tehran. But when it comes to nuclear proliferation and eroding international controls, the biggest bully on the block right now is in Washington.

In the world of Bush's bully-boys global treaties are just for girlie men. The North Korean test proves that the treaty system's limp -- that was the spin being put on the NPT conference even before anything fell into Sea of Japan, and it's exactly what W.'s candidate for UN representative, John "I'm here to stop the vote count" Bolton has been saying for years, ever since he first got the job of under secretary of state for arms control. His preference is for U.S. world control.

"Decades of stillborn plans, of wishful thinking, of irresponsible passivity." That's how Bolton once described the '70s and '80s -- the era of global arms treaties.

"States that sponsor terror and pursue WMD must stop," he told the Heritage Foundation back in 2002. "States that renounce terror and abandon WMD can become part of our effort. But those that do not can expect to become our targets."

I couldn't agree more. So, who's sponsoring terror? By the State Department's account, Sudan is. The Islamic regime that once welcomed Osama bin Laden and that Colin Powell accused of supporting genocide in Darfur remains on the most recent U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Yet according to a huge and under-appreciated story by Ken Silverstein in the Los Angeles Times the U.S. considers the government of Sudan an ally. Sudan has been providing access to terrorism suspects and sharing intelligence data with the United States, reports Silverstein. Maj. Gen. Yahia Hussein Babiker, a senior official in Sudan's government tells SIlverstein, "American intelligence considers us to be a friend." Sudan, he says, has achieved "a complete normalization of our relations with the CIA."

Then there's Washington's other new-found friend, the president of Uzbekistan who received a presidential welcome at the White House. During last week's televised news conference, President Bush defended sending unconvicted U.S. detainees abroad for interrogation. Some call it kidnapping, others "extraordinary rendition." "We operate within the law, and we send people to countries where they say they're not going to torture the people" Bush told the world. He lied.

According to an unnamed intelligence official speaking to The New York Times , the U.S. has sent "dozens" of detainees to torture chambers in Uzbekistan where, according to a February 2001 State Department report, Uzbek police routinely beat, asphyxiate and boil prisoners' body parts. What the Times calls Bush's "rough ally" (!) Uzbekistan has received half a billion dollars in U.S. aid for its security agencies.

Is a person who terrorizes another person only a terrorist if he's not wearing the uniform of an allied nation?

As for WMDs, if the UN discussions garner serious public attention this month, North Korea and Iran -- the Axis of Evil cheats -- are likely to come in for all the criticism. But who's doing more to proliferate nuclear weapons? The have-nots or the haves?

Back in 1973, the officially recognized nuclear powers -- America, Russia, China, Britain and France -- agreed to disarm. That was the bargain they drew up with the rest of the signatories. What's the U.S. done? George W. refused to support a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty. He scrapped the anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia. The members of his administration routinely cast doubt on the value of negotiating global treaties at all. At the very same time, this administration's been seeking more, fancier weapons and new ways to use the nukes already in our arsenal.

Since his first term, Bush has appropriated money for studying all sorts of WMDs like the "robust nuclear earth penetrator" intended to vaporise deeply buried targets such as stocks of chemical and biological weapons. And according to press reports this week, the United States is considering selling 100 so-called "bunker buster" bombs to Israel -- raising fears that Israel might use them in a first-strike attack on Iran. As one weapons analyst put it, "They're designed to destroy deeply buried high-value assets such as command centers or nuclear weapons facilities. Draw your own conclusions." A bunker bomb attack on a nuclear facility -- now that'd be pretty. No wonder Iran feels nervous.

So what's the problem, the NPT or the erosion of the NPT? Former President Carter wrote this week that the U.S. is the biggest culprit: "While claiming to be protecting the world -- and Americans from proliferation threats -- American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons including antiballistic missiles earth penetrating bunker busters an perhaps some new small bombs. They have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of nuclear weapons against non nuclear states. "

So what do you think -- do you agree with Bolton? "States that sponsor terror and pursue WMD must stop?" I think he's right.

Laura Flanders is host of "The Laura Flanders Show," heard weekends on Air America Radio and the author of Bushwomen.