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The U.S. arsenal of mass destruction

March 21, 2003 | Page 5

GEORGE W. BUSH claims that his war on Iraq is about getting rid of "weapons of mass destruction." But the U.S. government has a huge arsenal packed with the most destructive and lethal weapons in history. And the Bush gang is ready to use them on the people of Iraq.

Who are the real madmen? There's only one purpose for weapons like these: to terrorize the population of Iraq. But the Pentagon is actually looking forward to testing its new "toys."

"The only time you get realistic feedback on new capabilities is during wartime," Bob Martinage of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think-tank, told the Associated Press in February. "The military will take advantage of that time to test new systems."

Who knows how many innocent Iraqis will pay for these "tests" with their lives? NICOLE COLSON looks at the new weapons that the Pentagon has in store for Iraq.

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Massive Ordnance Air Blast
They call it the "Mother of All Bombs." Last week, the U.S. tested the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Dropped from a C-130 transport plane, the MOAB is a satellite-guided bomb weighing 21,500 pounds--the largest non-nuclear conventional weapon in existence. The blast from the test was so large that it created a mile-high mushroom cloud--and shook the ground for miles.

Pentagon hawks gloated all week about their newest "success." When one reporter asked if the U.S. military would really use this weapon on Iraq, despite the devastation it will cause, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had the nerve to laugh--before telling reporters that the bomb is designed to terrorize Iraqis.

"It's transformational," he quipped after his chuckle died down. "There is a psychological component to all aspects of warfare…The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition."

Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb
The Pentagon says that it wants to avoid damaging civilian infrastructure in Iraq. Yet one of the newest weapons reportedly at its disposal has the capability to indiscriminately shut down hospitals, power plants, communications and water treatment facilities.

The Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb (e-bomb for short) is designed to emit a burst of radio waves that would wipe out any unshielded electronic systems. "A properly constructed e-bomb can effectively 'fry' everything electric and electronic within several miles of the point of detonation," said one military analyst writing in the right-wing DefenseWatch newsletter. "The entire affected electrical and communications system will tear itself apart--self-destruct."

The Pentagon defends the e-bomb as humanitarian, because it isn't supposed to cause as many casualties. Except, that is, for anyone caught in the microwave beam--either directly or by a reflection off a metal surface.

Every battery, semiconductor, electrical line and power source will cease to function--possibly wiping out a century's worth of technology wherever the e-bomb strikes.

Conventional Weapons
The Pentagon has plenty of more "conventional" horrors to rain down on Iraq. Like munitions covered with armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU). Never mind the fact that exploded DU shells leave behind radioactive debris--and that the 320 tons used during the 1991 Gulf War is apparently responsible for a horrific spike in cancer rates in Iraq and is a contributing factor to the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome that affects tens of thousands of Gulf War veterans. DU gives the army an "edge," and "we don't want to give that up," said Col. James Naughton of the Army Materiel Command at a recent Pentagon briefing.

Then there are the cluster bombs that the U.S. dropped on Afghanistan. Brightly colored unexploded "bomblets" still litter the country--and continue to kill civilians in a hail of jagged shrapnel fragments to this day.

Or there was the "bunker buster" bombs that the Pentagon also used in Afghanistan. The 5,000-pound bombs burrow through as much as 20 feet of rock before exploding underground. Witnesses say that the blast is like an underground nuclear test.

Chemical weapons
"Saddam gassed his own people." That's been one of the Bush gang's favorite refrains to justify a war on Iraq. What they won't say, though, is that they themselves are getting ready to use illegal chemical weapons against Iraq.

In February--on the very day that Secretary of State Colin Powell was presenting the United Nations with "evidence" of Iraq's supposed "roving chemical weapons labs"--Donald Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. military might use chemical weapons against Iraqi forces. According to Rumsfeld, they could be used "where there are enemy troops in a cave, [and] you know there are women and children in there with them."

The gases under consideration include the "anti-riot" agents CS and pepper spray--even though their use in war is prohibited by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. "Calmative" gases, like the ones that killed 120 hostages in a Moscow theater siege last year, are also options.

The Federation of American Scientists concluded that using even the mildest of these to incapacitate people would kill 9 percent of them. "Chemical incapacitating weapons are as likely as bullets to cause death," said the Federation.

Will the Pentagon use nukes?

THE BUSH administration's infamous nuclear posture review leaked to the press a year ago declared that nuclear weapons should be considered for use against targets able to withstand conventional attack. What would trigger the use of nukes? Retaliation for a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons attack--or "in the event of surprising military developments."

Now the Pentagon is looking at its "nuclear options" in Iraq--including the possible use of "bunker buster" nuclear weapons against buried military targets.

This month, the Pentagon asked Congress to lift an eight-year-old restriction on the development of a low-yield nuclear warhead--one below five kilotons. The brass claim that such a device could be used against facilities holding chemical or biological weapons. In principle, the heat or radiation of a low-yield weapon would destroy the toxicity of the agents before they were spread by the force of the blast. The downside? A nuclear bunker buster could cause a huge release of radiation--and wide blast damage.

And if that weren't bad enough already, earlier this month, news reports revealed that the Pentagon also was taking steps to obtain a high-yield, earth-penetrating nuclear weapon--called a "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator."

"Already five times more powerful than the device detonated at Hiroshima, the bomb would have an even greater impact because a nuclear weapon's force is multiplied when its shock wave penetrates the rocky crust of the earth," the Washington Post reported.

The Pentagon claims that these bombs are "safe." But according to Dr. Robert Nelson at Princeton University, "No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even as small as 1 percent of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. "The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout."

But never mind all that. Asked about the possibility that the U.S. might use tactical nukes against Iraq, a White House spokesperson told the New York Times, "The United States reserves the right to defend itself and its allies by whatever means necessary."

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