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Pakistan Offers US Nuclear Advice

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    A Pakistani view of U.S. nuclear weapons By Hugh Gusterson 5 February 2008 http://www.thebulletin.org/columns/hugh-gusterson/20080205.html The [U.S.] Air
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2008
      A Pakistani view of U.S. nuclear weapons
      By Hugh Gusterson
      5 February 2008

      "The [U.S.] Air Force has made substantial changes in its handling of
      nuclear weapons in the wake of a B-52 flight last August during which
      the pilots and crew were unaware they were carrying six air-launched
      cruise missiles with nuclear warheads."

      -- "Air Force Alters Rules for Handling of Nuclear Arms,"
      *Washington Post* January 25, 2008.

      ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, JANUARY 25--At a press conference in Islamabad
      today, Pakistani Brig. Gen. Atta M. Iqhman expressed concern about
      U.S. procedures for handling nuclear weapons. Iqhman, who oversees the
      safety and security of the Pakistani nuclear force, said that U.S.
      protocols for storing and handling nuclear weapons are inadequate. "In
      Pakistan, we store nuclear warheads separately from their delivery
      systems, and a nuclear warhead can only be activated if three separate
      officers agree," Iqhman said. "In the United States, almost 20 years
      after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons still sit atop
      missiles, on hair-trigger alert, and it only takes two launch-control
      officers to activate a nuclear weapon. The U.S. government has
      persistently ignored arms control experts around the world who have
      said they should at least de-alert their weapons."

      Iqhman also questioned the adequacy of U.S. procedures for handling
      nuclear weapons. He expressed particular concern about the August 29,
      2007, incident in which six nuclear weapons were accidentally loaded
      under the wing of a B-52 by workers who did not observe routine
      inspection procedures and thought they were attaching conventional
      weapons to the B-52. The flight navigator should have caught their
      mistake, but he neglected to inspect the weapons as required. For
      several hours the nuclear weapons were in the air without anyone's
      knowledge. "The United States needs to develop new protocols for
      storing and loading nuclear weapons, and it needs to do a better job
      of recruiting and training the personnel who handle them," Iqhman said.

      Iqhman added the Pakistani government would be willing to offer
      technical advice and assistance to the United States on improving its
      nuclear weapons handling procedures. Speaking anonymously because of
      the issue's sensitivity, senior Pentagon officials said it is
      Washington's role to give, not receive, advice on nuclear weapons
      safety and surety issues.

      Iqhman pointed out that the August 29 event was not an isolated
      incident; there have been at least 24 accidents involving nuclear
      weapons on U.S. planes. He mentioned a 1966 incident in which four
      nuclear weapons fell to the ground when two planes collided over
      Spain, as well as a 1968 fire that caused a plane to crash in
      Greenland with four hydrogen bombs aboard. In 1980, a Titan II missile
      in Arkansas exploded during maintenance, sending a nuclear warhead
      flying 600 feet through the air. In a remark that visibly annoyed a
      U.S. official present at the briefing, Iqhman described the U.S.
      nuclear arsenal as "an accident waiting to happen."

      Jay Keuse of MSNBC News asked Iqhman if Pakistan was in any position
      to be lecturing other countries given Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan's
      record of selling nuclear technology to other countries. "All nuclear
      weapons states profess to oppose proliferation while helping select
      allies acquire nuclear weapons technology," Iqhman replied. "The
      United States helped Britain and France obtain the bomb; France helped
      the Israelis; and Russia helped China. And China," he added coyly, "is
      said by Western media sources to have helped Pakistan. So why can't
      Pakistan behave like everyone else?"

      Iqhman's deputy, Col. Bom Zhalot also expressed concern about the
      temperament of the U.S. public, asking whether they had the maturity
      and self-restraint to be trusted with the ultimate weapon. "Their
      leaders lecture us on the sanctity of life, and their president
      believes that every embryo is sacred, but they are the only country to
      have used these terrible weapons--not just once, but twice. Paul
      Tibbets, the pilot of the plane that bombed Hiroshima, said he never
      lost a night's sleep over killing 100,000 people, many of them women
      and children. That's scarcely human."

      While Iqhman glared reproachfully at Zhalot for this rhetorical
      outburst, Zhalot continued: "We also worry that the U.S.
      commander-in-chief has confessed to having been an alcoholic. Here in
      Pakistan, alcohol is 'haram,' so this isn't a problem for us. Studies
      have also found that one-fifth of U.S. military personnel are heavy
      drinkers. How many of those have responsibility for nuclear weapons?"

      John G. Libb of the Washington Times asked if Americans were wrong to
      be concerned about Pakistan's nuclear stockpile given the rise of
      Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Colonel Zhalot replied: "Millions
      of Americans believe that these are the last days and that they will
      be raptured to heaven at the end of the world. You have a president
      who describes Jesus as his favorite philosopher, and one of the last
      remaining candidates in your presidential primaries is a preacher who
      doesn't believe in evolution. Many Pakistanis worry that the United
      States is being taken over by religious extremists who believe that a
      nuclear holocaust will just put the true believers on a fast track to
      heaven. We worry about a nutcase U.S. president destroying the world
      to save it."

      U.S. diplomats in Pakistan declined comment.



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