The ‘Very’ Mushroom

May 5, 2009

All the worries about swine flu, the ecomony or even global warming could be put to rest with this little unsettling  problem:

General James Jones said Pakistan’s army had repeatedly told him the stockpile was “under control”, but “this is very much an ongoing topic”.

“If Pakistan doesn’t continue in the direction that it presently is and we’re not successful there then, obviously, the nuclear question comes into view.”

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taleban would be “the very very worst case scenario,” said Gen Jones.

(Illustration found here).

President Obama’s national security advisor Jones and all the big-military brass are getting a bit anxious about security for Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, even as the Taliban have advanced in recents days to within 60 miles of Islamabad, the capital.
The whole area in northwest Pakistan is in chaos.
Although the Pakistani army has supposedly been fighting militants tooth-and-nail, they are “just destroying stuff” without accomplishing much while the Taliban hide in the mountains.
Most military analysts believe the rag-tag-fierce Taliban are no match for the 620,000-man strong Pakistani army, but in the rub is the security of the infrastructure, even the nukes.

Pakistan has been working on nukes since 1972, and really got into high gear after India tested a a “nuclear device” two years later — Pakistan became part of the so-called nuclear community in May 1998.
Two days after Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan reportedly began relocating nuclear parts to six secret sites.
Hence the US is nervous about all those unshaved Taliban getting to a nuclear button.

Should we, therefore, have a certain right to all that anxiety?
From Wired’s Danger Room blog on Monday:

So, is it time to worry about the worst-case scenario?
For starters, it’s worth remembering that the United States has been keeping a watchful eye on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal for a while now, and the United States has provided money and equipment to improve Pakistan’s nuclear security.
As the New York Times first revealed in 2007, the Bush administration committed over $100 million to help secure Pakistan’s nuclear materials; that assistance included night vision equipment, helicopters and detection gear.
But it did not include Permissive Action Links, a sophisticated kind of tamper-proofing that’s considered the gold standard for preventing unauthorized nuclear detonations.
And the Times now says that “much of that [nuke-securing] effort has now petered out, and American officials have never been permitted to see how much of the money was spent, the facilities where the weapons are kept or even a tally of how many Pakistan has produced.”
The military, one hopes, is also thinking about the unthinkable.
When a reporter pressed Mullen (Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) about whether the United States could say with confidence where all of Pakistan’s nukes are, the admiral replied: “You’re starting to push on what is clearly a classified level of information … I wouldn’t say one way or the other.”

Condi Rice just might have her chance to witness that “mushroom cloud” she was blubbering about years ago, and she’d then really have trouble with them too-pesky fourth-graders.

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