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2002-12-16 2:56 PM
The Life of an Iraqi Nuclear Scientist
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Here's a harrowing New York Times account of what it's like to be an Iraqi scientist working on their clandestine nuclear weapons program, told from the perspective of Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist who defected from Iraq in 1994.
Hamza said that though he had reservations about building a nuclear bomb, he was enticed by the promise of extra money and stature as well as the possibility that the civilian program might benefit.
A round of recent public hangings in Baghdad, he said, underscored the dangers of refusing such a request.
Saddam tightened his grip over the growing nuclear program in 1974, Hamza said, secretly naming himself chairman of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission -- a fact that Iraq has denied to U.N. inspectors. He also began controlling every aspect of the scientists' lives, ordering them to divorce foreign wives and marry Iraqi women, while forcing them to report any contact with foreigners.
Scientists ignored such orders at their peril. In January 1980, Saddam had Iraq's most senior nuclear scientist, Jaafar D. Jaafar, jailed and tortured until he agreed to work on an enrichment program that would separate uranium particles and make bomb-grade fuel. "Jaafar was so badly beaten that he still jumps out of his chair at the slightest scare," Hamza said.
Hamza said he found it surprisingly easy to negotiate nuclear cooperation agreements with the former Soviet Union, India, Brazil, France and others to buy nuclear technology that could be used for bombs under peaceful cover. "If you go with the money and some brains, it's easy to acquire the stuff," he said.
Again, where the hell is the condemnation for these countries violating international law and nonproliferation treaties, much less the moral depravity of enabling a tyrant like Hussein in developing nuclear weaponry?
Hans Meyer, the spokesman for the IAEA, denied that the agency had ignored warning signs that Iraq was trying to build a bomb. "Our inspections were very tough," he said "but under the rules of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, we were only permitted to inspect the facilities that Iraq had declared."
Oh, well that makes sense. Let's assume that no one actually wants to hide a nuclear weapons program. Isn't it about time we had a real nonproliferation treaty?
More on "motivation" for Iraqi nuclear scientists:
But the enrichment program was still slow to pay off, and Kamel grew restless. The inevitable result was the onset of beatings and torture for the scientists.
"Hussein Kamel used to send scientists who displeased him to the torture center in Al Taji," Hamza recounted. "You couldn't survive more than two weeks there." A director general of one Iraqi nuclear program was beaten so badly that "he couldn't come to work for a week."
Shortly before the 1991 Gulf War, Kamel started a crash program to develop a bomb. "Kamel was crazy, but he managed to produce in a month things that would normally take a year," Hamza said. "Fear works well."
Oh hell, I've pasted about half the article here, but anyway, it's an important read, especially for those who wish to downplay the prospective nuclear capabilities of Iraq, or still have any shred of doubt about his motivations or methodology.
And this is the New York Times, not some rabid conservative blogger.
I would imagine one of two responses to Hamza's account from the anti-war crowd:
Either he's unreliable (though I have yet to hear anyone voice this opinion, much less back it up).
Or yes, he's credible, but of course Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons. It's their only defense from the imperialistic machinations of the United States, the only way to curb an invasion.
See, they want nukes, not because Hussein is a rabid megalomaniac bent on regional conquest. He's a poor, defenseless, put-upon victim, who needs nukes for defense.
Even if one were stupid enough to justify his breach of international law for such motivations, the question still remains: Should Iraq be allowed to develop such weapons. Motivations aside, even if you want to idiotically ascribe the most benign intentions to someone who wants to develop the most destructive weapons in the world, should not everything in the world's collective power be done to insure that it does not happen?
The time has come to draw a line in the sand, to say no more countries will be allowed, by any means for any motivation, to develop nuclear weapons. Only then can we begin working on eliminating existing arsenals among current nuclear powers. Otherwise, no existing nuclear power will be willing to eliminate its arsenal while the technology spreads like wildfire throughout the world.
It must be stopped. Now. I'm sick and disgusted with people making excuses for those who want to extend the scourge of nuclear weaponry.
Forget nationalistic sentimentality, if you don't feel the dire need to stem nuclear proliferation, do you even give a damn about the fate of humanity?
This isn't alarmist, chicken little bullshit. This is reality.
Wake up, folks.
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