Friday 13 February 2004

You too can go nuclear

by John O'Farrell

Every year there's a different craze; a new gadget on the market that everybody has simply got to have. First it was mobile phones, then it was digital cameras and now this year's big fashion is for nuclear warheads. Suddenly they've become so easy to buy that street traders have them piled up at the covered market on Saturday mornings.

"I don't want a nuclear weapon; I want an iPod," says the teenage boy doing his birthday shopping with Mum. "You can't have an iPod, they're too expensive; what's wrong with some enriched uranium and the technology to develop an atomic bomb? Kevin's got one - he got sent home from school, remember?"

Now George Bush has said that the illegal trade in nuclear technology has to be stopped. The turning point was the confession by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist that he had flogged nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran through the black market. "Oh, spiffing. Anything else?" asked Donald Rumsfeld. "Perhaps he'd like to get Bin Laden some nerve gas for his birthday."

"What's this guy's name?" asked the worried president.

"Abdul Qadeer Khan." Bush processed this information and somehow deduced that he must be one of the bad guys. Apparently, Dubya has some sort of secret code; when he hears a name like Abdul Qadeer Khan he just immediately knows which side of the fence to place him on. Indeed, his first rule for policing the spread of atomic weapons is "no nuclear technology for anyone with the letters Qa in their name".

It is amazing it has taken America this long to wake up to the rapid spread of enriched uranium to regimes less stable than a Russian reactor. A couple of years back Bush clearly stated: "We have to cessate the proliferisation of atomical capacibility" but his advisers just smiled and nodded at him.

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