October Surprise and the 'Axis of Evil'

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by Gordon Prather by Gordon Prather

To the dismay of the neo-crazies, the Iraqi puppet government has just reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency that 195 metric tons of HMX, 141 metric tons of RDX and 5.8 metric tons of PETN have gone missing.

Why report that to the IAEA? Because Iraq had imported or manufactured all three of these high-explosives for use in their illicit nuke program. Hence, the Iraqi stocks had been subject to the IAEA Safeguards and Physical Security regime ever since they were discovered at Al-Qaqaa in 1991.

How long have they been missing?

The IAEA last checked the integrity of their "seals" in March of 2003, just days before Bush attacked Iraq. Bush has not allowed IAEA back in Iraq since.

Mohammed al-Sharaa, who headed, then and now, Iraq’s safeguarded-site monitoring department, says, "It is impossible that these materials could have been taken from this site before the regime’s fall."

An IAEA spokeswoman says that after hearing of the looting at the principal safeguarded site at Tuwaitha in April 2003, the IAEA formally expressed concern "about the security of the [safeguarded] high explosives stored at Al-Qaqaa."

But not to worry. One of the Pentagon neo-crazies – John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security – has just told Gullible Gertz at the Washington Times that he "believes" Russian special forces, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" took custody of all those safeguarded high-explosives and smuggled them out of Iraq – to either Syria or Iran – just before Bush invaded.

Neither Shaw, Gertz nor even John Kerry seems to have grasped the import of Shaw’s accusations.

A Bush administration weenie has just formally accused the Russians of conspiring with the Iraqis, Iranians and perhaps the Syrians to subvert the IAEA Safeguards regime and to assist Iran or Syria acquire a nuke capability, in flagrant violation of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons!

Maybe it would help you to know what Shaw knows about HMX and RDX.

In a first-generation implosion-type nuke – like the Fat Man we dropped on Nagasaki – a spherical sub-critical mass of fissile uranium is surrounded by "shaped charges" of chemical high-explosives. When detonated, the high-explosives "shaped charges" create a spherically symmetric imploding shockwave, which compresses the 7-inch-diameter sub-critical sphere into a teeny-tiny highly super-critical sphere. A fission "chain reaction" is then initiated, which continues exponentially until enough fission energy is produced to blow the supercritical mass apart.

Since half the nuclear yield comes from the last "generation," the art of the nuke designer is to compress the fissile material as much and as quickly as possible and then to keep it supercritical for as long as possible.

To do that, the nuke designer needs a special kind of high-explosive that didn’t really exist in 1944. As a result, the Fat Man –which used conventional explosives – had a low yield but weighed about 10,000 pounds. So, to get the yield up and the weight down, U.S. nuke scientists began developing their own high-energy, but relatively insensitive, explosives.

By 1947, scientists at Los Alamos had created RDX, the first plastic-bonded explosive. Soon afterwards, scientists at Lawrence Livermore developed the even more energetic HMX. Most of the nukes in our stockpile today utilize RDX and HMX plastic-bonded explosives.

So, the HMX and RDX the IAEA found at Al-Qaqaa was for Iraqi nukes. They had built an RDX production plant at Al Qaqaa. It was destroyed in the Gulf War and never rebuilt.

However, the Iraqis were unable to produce significant quantities of fissile uranium, so the HMX and RDX stocks were never needed.

But RDX and HMX can be used for other purposes, such as mining or tunneling or demolition. Hence, the Iraqis were allowed to keep their stocks of HMX and RDX – safeguarded by the IAEA – until they could come up with plans for using their stocks peacefully.

Until now, the pre-election brouhaha has focused on the possible use in Iraq of those "missing" hundreds of tons of "conventional" high-explosives.

But in the extremely unlikely event that Shaw is not crazy, it might be a good idea for Kerry to bring up the nuke programs the neo-crazies allege Iran and North Korea have jump-started because Bush invaded Iraq.

Iraq had RDX and HMX for nukes, but no fissile material. But both Iran and North Korea have – or soon could have – fissile material for nukes, but no RDX or HMX.

So, who says you’re safer now than before Bush invaded Iraq?

Physicist James Gordon Prather [send him mail] has served as a policy-implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. – ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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