While the U.S. media ignores the non-proliferation conference in New York, many outside the U.S. and some in are castigating the Bush administration for threatening world peace and stability with their intransigence and bungling.

On Tuesday, the second day of the four week nuclear non- proliferation treaty conference in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi spoke.  U.S. media uniformly headlined the speech as Iran announcing it would resume nuclear related activities it suspended while in talks with European nations, asserting it had an “inalienable right” to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Non-U.S. media, especially in the Third World, were more likely to report Kharrazi’s strong condemnation of Washington for maintaining a huge nuclear arsenal, and demanding that the U.S. assure Iran it would not launch a nuclear strike on that country.  
The New York Times did report this line from his speech, late in their story: “The continued existence of thousands of nuclear warheads in the nuclear weapon states’ stockpile, which can destroy the entire globe many times over, are the major sources of threat to peace and security.”

This is the stalemate that threatens to sink the conference before it starts.  On the first day it was North Korea asserting itself, on the second it was Iran.  Neither country was satisfied with what western countries offered in recent negotiations.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has pointedly criticized the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, while calling for a stronger non-proliferation treaty, that recognizes the rights of nations to pursue peaceful nuclear energy.   The U.S. demands concessions—in fact, total abstinence-from non-nuclear countries, but is offering and giving up nothing.

What’s behind the U.S. intransigence?  In the Los Angeles Times in April, Robert Scheer suggested the relationship to America’s ugly dependence on arms sales:

“Trying to follow the U.S. policy on the proliferation of nuclear weapons is like watching a three-card monte game on a city streetcorner. Except the stakes are higher.
The announcement last week that the United States is authorizing the sale to Pakistan of F-16 fighter jets capable of delivering nuclear warheads – and thereby escalating the region’s nuclear arms race – is the latest example of how the most important issue on the planet is being bungled by the Bush administration.”

Speaking of bungling, columnist Simon Tisdall went after none other than Dueling John Bolton, head of the rapidly dwindling Bolton gang, for his contribution to screwing things up with North Korea, and making the world a much less safer place.

“Many damaging accusations have been levelled at John Bolton, President George Bush’s controversial nominee as US ambassador to the UN.

But perhaps the most serious is that Mr Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security since 200, bungled efforts to dissuade North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.

Mr Bolton helped to scrap the Clinton administration’s 1994 “agreed framework” that froze North Korea’s weapons-related plutonium reprocessing programme. The framework was imperfect – but nothing remotely adequate replaced it.

In 2002, President Bush denounced North Korea as part of the “axis of evil”. In 2003, Pyongyang withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and traded insults with Mr Bolton. In February, it declared itself a nuclear weapons state.

And at the weekend, on the eve of the treaty review conference in New York, North Korea said stalled regional talks were effectively dead.

The Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency conceded last week that North Korea probably now has nuclear-armed missiles capable of hitting US soil. “


As awful as all that is, it is the actual work of the conference that is most endangered right now.  This dispatch courtesy of the Institute for Public Accuracy:

JOHN BURROUGHS, johnburroughs@lcnp.org, http://www.lcnp.org Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, is monitoring the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York. Burroughs presented the paper “Building a Nuclear Weapons-Free Future” at the January meeting on the NPT at the Carter Center. He said today: “As the four-week NPT Review Conference opened this week, the U.S. is showing no flexibility about arms control steps like negotiation of a verifiable treaty banning production of fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons. That is a treaty under which international inspectors would monitor U.S. facilities, a prospect not attractive to the Bush administration. In turn, non-nuclear countries are resisting non-proliferation measures like IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei’s proposal for multilateral controls on the spread of technology to produce fissile materials for use in nuclear reactors but also potentially in nuclear weapons.”

Translated, nobody is actually negotiating.  

And of course, no one is paying attention. The ultimate weapon has slipped from consciousness.  Its immense and long-lasting destructiveness, killing and maiming for generations, doesn’t seem to scare us anymore.  

Instead we are obsessed with whatever smaller matters of momentary attention get the adrenalin going.  Politics as usual is becoming the meth of public consciousness.  

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