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What, me worry about the Islamic Bomb?

Henry M. Seggerman
International Investment Advisers
By Henry M. Seggerman
President of International Investment Advisers


No one is going to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, not the U.S., not China, not South Korea. The big fuss will just fade away, just like it did with Pakistan eight years ago. It already is fading away – didn’t you notice we haven’t heard that draconian acronym “C.V.I.D.” (Complete, Verifiable, and Irrevocable Disarmament) in many months?


Sure, we’d all feel a lot safer if North Korea did not have any nuclear weapons. In fact, we’d all fee a lot safer if no nation had any nuclear weapons, or any deadly weapons, for that matter. However, the human animal is one that kills its own kind, so this is wishful thinking. No nation that has tested its own nuclear weapons has ever given them up. Disregard the endless posturing; Kim Jong-il went into Charlton Heston “You can have my weapons when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers” mode a long time ago.


Flashback to 1979. After Islamists overthrew our monarchy in Iran, the U.S. started worrying about the “Islamic Bomb.” If they could get rid of our Shah and get 24-hour hostage coverage on network television …maybe they could also build an atomic bomb. After all, bomb designs had been circulating in tech magazines for years.


Islamists felt that U.S. taxpayers had financed the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which killed 20,000 mostly civilians and resulted in genocidal Sabra and Shatila images plastered around the world. This is why Islamists attacked the U.S. Beirut peacekeeping force in 1983, killing 220. Fear of the Islamic Bomb in the American psyche only worsened.


The Intifada erupted in 1987, and Islamists continued to connect U.S. taxpayers with the occupation. In 1988, U.S. civilians became the target, and Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland. This was not the first U.S. jetliner targeted by Islamists, but it was certainly the most successful attack of this kind. American civilians were now in the cross-hairs of Islamists worldwide.


So when Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998, there was every reason for total panic on the part of the U.S. After all, an Islamic government now had nuclear weapons, a government no less hostile to Israel than any other Islamic government. Pakistan was not Turkey, but an unstable nation prone to coups, with a military dominated by radicals.


The Security Council passed a resolution “deploring” Pakistan’s test. The World Bank deferred consideration of a bit of development lending. But no ships were boarded, no embassies were closed, no serious effort was made to strangle Pakistan into disarmament. As time passed, Pakistan was just another card-carrying Nuclear Club member. By 2001, it was selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and even North Korea.


The Islamists’ attack on U.S. military and financial centers in 2001 was their most successful to date, and was the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil ever. Al Qaeda had plenty of friends right inside Pakistan’s military; surely, now was the time to take action, not only against the puny Taliban, but more importantly, against the Islamic Bomb one Stan over.


But no, instead of that, Bush made some kind of deal to obtain Musharraf’s “cooperation” in the Afghanistan war. This “cooperation” included no troops, nor did it include invasion staging bases such as we had in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan or in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War. Basically, all we got was flyover rights. One wonders how much money changed hands for that hugely-hyped little favor.


So, the default position became that our primary goal would now be to stop Pakistan from exporting its nuclear technology, which its ministers had been doing for years, in broad daylight, with advertising. The result of this new posture was the nuke-market ringleader, A.Q Khan, delivering a nicely-worded apology on Pakistan TV, and nothing else. What I don’t get is why Bush is waterboarding innocent East London teenagers, and not A.Q. Khan. That’s where there’s some life-saving information.


There is a microscopic chance North Korean nuclear missiles will be able to incinerate Honolulu or Seattle at some future date. But Kim, Jong-il is not going to do this because the U.S. knows where to retaliate. But if Al Qaeda incinerates New York City, whom do we hit back, with the Taliban out of the picture?


Moreover, there are 100,000 millionaires in the Arabian Peninsula and many of them share Bin Laden’s ideology; the Patriot Act is powerless to prevent soup-to-nuts funding of an Islamic Bomb. My point here is that the Islamic Bomb is much more of a real threat than North Korea’s, and just look how little the U.S. has done to stop it. With this pattern, I seriously doubt the U.S. will risk a million souls in Seoul to disarm North Korea.


We’d all feel a lot safer if the Israelis and the Palestinians settled their disagreements. We’d all feel a lot safer if Muslims around the world had the same indifference to the plight of the Palestinians as, say, Catholics in Argentina have about their co-religionists in Northern Ireland. We’d all feel a lot safer if democracy gave most of the world’s Muslims a direct voice in their governance, which might possibly calm more strident views. But these fanciful scenarios are far, far from reality. So, I don’t think I’ll stop worrying anytime soon.

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