WMD expert: Bush or his policies must go | AspenTimes.com

WMD expert: Bush or his policies must go

After years of bungling, the Bush administration has finally set a policy on North Korea that could help the world avoid catastrophe, according to a nuclear proliferation expert who is preparing to speak in Aspen.But Joseph Cirincione, director of nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the United States is going to have to overhaul its broader strategy to avoid nuclear proliferation in other hot spots in the world.”We are in an extremely dangerous situation in the world right now,” said Cirincione, one of the featured speakers at next month’s State of the World Conference in Aspen.”I believe we’re at a nuclear tipping point,” he said. “The policy choices we make over the next few years will determine which way we go.”He considered North Korea’s possible development of nuclear weapons as the third most critical proliferation matter facing the world. It’s especially troublesome to try to imagine what would happen to North Korea’s nuclear materials and technology if the government of its oppressive ruler collapses, he said.As alarming as that prospect is, Cirincione has two issues that top his concerns about North Korea.”For my money [the top issue] is terrorists getting nuclear material,” he said, noting that up to 40 countries may have deposits of uranium and other materials that could be used for weapons.

“We’re going to have to race the terrorists to see who gets it first,” he said.His second biggest concern is Pakistan’s “hemorrhaging” of nuclear materials and technology to other countries and the prospect of what could happen to the country’s nuclear resources if the government collapses. Pakistan presents the greatest risk of getting nuclear weapons into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, according to Cirincione.Critical of Iraq policyThe Washington, D.C.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is dedicated to identifying global problems and issues posed by nuclear armaments and other weapons of mass destruction.The organization recently released a report called “Universal Compliance” which examines global nuclear security issues and lays out a blueprint for stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.The organization has also used its expertise to search for evidence that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as President Bush claimed as justification for the U.S. invasion of that country.The Carnegie Endowment concluded that the White House “systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq.”

In an interview yesterday, Cirincione leveled even harsher criticism on the president. He said it’s nearly impossible to find an expert outside of the administration who claims a tie between Iraq and weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion.”Administration officials are misleading the American public when they say there’s still an open book,” said Cirincione. “It’s frustrating to see this administration hide from the truth.”Change policy or presidentHe also criticized the president for his stance on North Korea for the first three years he was in office. Bush wouldn’t negotiate with the communist government. Instead he branded the country part of the “Axis of Evil” and maintained that America would settle for nothing short of a regime change.”The results of that policy have been disastrous,” Cirincione charged.North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il responded by refusing to work with international inspectors and is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.The United States softened its position considerably yesterday and is offering North Korea incentives like aid and security to phase out its nuclear program (see related story on page A17).

The change in strategy is overdue, according to Cirincione, and runs the risk of failing because it comes so close to the end of Bush’s term. The North Koreans may try to leverage a better deal.He claimed the global risks of proliferation are so pressing that America cannot afford to continue on the course Bush has set.”Either we change the policies or change the president,” said Cirincione.The fifth annual State of the World Conference, presented by the John McBride family’s Sopris Foundation, will be held July 9-11 in Aspen. The conference, entitled “Creative Minds Address a Broken World,” is designed to challenge experts in areas like energy, counterterrorism and environmental sciences to propose solutions to pressing problems.Speakers include Richard Clarke, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, who alleged the administration did too little to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who claimed the government trumped up charges to justify its invasion of Iraq.Registration for the conference and additional details can be found on the Web at http://www.soprisfoundation.org.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.

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