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- From the Archives -

Monday June 8, 1998

Nuclear melt-down in South Asia
a cautionary nightmare facing U.S.

By Howard Hobbs, General Editor, Daily Republican Newspaper

WASHINGTON DESK - Members of Congress, government officials, diplomats, business leaders, and academicians are well into finger pointing and socio political implications of recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan, this week.

News reports in the Daily Republican Newspaper for the past month have presented analyses of the South Asian nuclear stand-off in the context of an arms race. There is a very real possibility that one side will launch a surprise attack to settle the Kashmir problem. But that may not be the biggest danger.

Pakistani and India's news papers are reporting the testing of no less than 11 nuclear devices in 17 days. India and Pakistan have demonstrated their willingness to deploy nuclear weapons and appear to have unleashed a nuclear arms race in South Asia that could reshape the region's security foundation and sink the Clinton administration's already shaky Nuclear Test Ban Treaty foreign policy init iatives.

The tests have damaged political and trade ties between the United States and the two countries. The World Bank has postponed distributing $865 million in loans to India while several countries, including the United States, Japan, and Canada have placed sanctions on India and Pakistan.

The biggest danger is the uncertainty over how safe and secure the Pakistani and Indian arsenals will be against accidental and unauthorized use.

Nuclear Accidents can happen because the design of the nuclear weapon itself is faulty or because the systems and procedures used to launch or drop the weapons lack safeguards. Unauthorized use can happen if those who are tasked with using the weapons under authorized conditions have the ability to use them regardless of whether they are given an authoritative order.

A Daily Republic Newspaper story on April 30, 1998 Accidental Nuclear War - A Post-Cold War Assessment presented a sobering view of what the consequences of a nuclear event might be like.

As a conservative estimate, an accidental intermediate-sized nuclear event triggered by a single Russian submarine along the East and West Coasts of the U.S. would result in the deaths of 6,838,000 persons from firestorms in eight U.S. cities.

Millions of other people would probably be exposed to potentially lethal radiation from fallout. An agreement to remove all nuclear missiles from high-level alert status and eliminate the capability of a rapid launch would put an end to this threat.

The risk of at least one nuclear event has increased in recent years, threatening a public health disaster of unprecedented scale. Physicians and medical organizations should work actively to help build support for the policy changes that would prevent such a disaster.

Recently, president William Jefferson Clinton told a national television audience '...there are no more Russian nuclear missiles aimed at America's children tonight.' But what Clinton concealed from the American people are two basic facts. One is that Communist Red Chinese Army ICBMs are programmed for nuclear strikes on major U.S. business, industrial, and military targets. Another, is the fact that it takes less than a single-second to retarget instructions to Russian ICBs in the normal launch protocol.

Worse yet, is what Clinton knew but also concealed from the American people - that if a Russian ICBM is launched without specific U.S. target programming, they are pre-programmed to automatically default to previously programmed military targets including major U.S. cities and transportation centers.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations told reporters Wednesday night that his government had reliable information about Indian intentions to launch air strikes against Pakistan's nuclear test facilities. But U.S. officials said they saw no evidence to support that fear.

Ahmad Kamal told reporters on the scene that if India strikes, Pakistan retaliation would be '...massive and dissuasive.'

The possibility of a nuclear confrontation in South Asia came a lot closer last week with news of Pakistani nuclear tests after its arch-rival, India, triggered five underground nuclear war heads earlier this month.

Adding to Clinton White House foreign policy confusion is the report just in from Pakistan's Dawn Newspaper with breaking news that U.S. companies have shipped sophisticated computer software to the Indian manufacturer of 'Prithvi' and 'Agni' missiles on the same day president Clinton announced sanctions against India for carrying out the five nuclear tests.

Gary Milhollin, an expert on nuclear proliferation and director of the Wisconsin project on nuclear arms control in Washington revealed Monday the U.S. Customs Service had opened an investigation last week into the sale of super computer upgrades to India by IBM, in violation of US export laws.

IBM had already been under investigation for selling a supercomputer to Russia's leading nuclear weapons lab under similar circumstances. According to reliable sources the sale of super software by IBM took place on May 13, when the sanctions were announced. On that date Viewlogic Systems Inc. of Marlborough, Mass. reportedly shipped computer software for designing printed circuit boards to the Indian missile manufacturer after Blinton's Commerce Department approved the sale, despite the fact that the buyer was Bharat Dynamics Ltd., a well known missile maker in India.

U.S. law requires an American company to obtain an export license before selling and shipping overseas any computer that performs more than 2 billion operations per second.

The computer that was sold operated at 1.4 billion operations per second when installed in 1994, and IBM upgraded it in March 1997 to perform 3.2 billion operations per second and again in June 1997 to 5.8 billion, making it possibly the most powerful computer in India.

The Clinton Commerce Department oddly granted a license for the sale of the sensitive computer, despite knowledge the buyer was a missile site.

The hitch is this, Commerce apparently licensed the original installation by IBM, but IBM went ahead to perform the upgrades without a specific license to perform the critical upgrades, in apparent violation of U.S. law.

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