- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Ten Democratic senators have complained in a letter to President Bush that his administration's nuclear policy "threatens the very foundation" of international arms control and the 33-year-old nonproliferation regime.
The lawmakers, led by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressed "grave concern" about government documents on the use of nuclear weapons reported by The Washington Times and the Los Angeles Times.
"Recent public revelations … suggest that your administration considers nuclear weapons as a mere extension of the continuum of conventional weapons open to the United States, and that your administration may use nuclear weapons in the looming military conflict against Iraq," the letter said.
It cited The Washington Times' Jan. 31 article about a classified White House document signed by Mr. Bush that allows for the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological and chemical attacks. It also referred to a Jan. 26 Los Angeles Times report that the administration is considering such a response in a war with Iraq.
According to the classified document, known as National Security Presidential Directive 17 and seen by The Washington Times, "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force including potentially nuclear weapons to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
The Sept. 14, 2002, directive also states that "nuclear forces alone … cannot ensure deterrence against [weapons of mass destruction] and missiles."
"Complementing nuclear force with an appropriate mix of conventional response and defense capabilities, coupled with effective intelligence, surveillance, interdiction and domestic law-enforcement capabilities, reinforces our overall deterrent posture against [weapons of mass destruction] threats."
The senators sharply criticized the administration's approach.
"Such language suggests that the administration is prepared to use nuclear weapons first to respond to non-nuclear [weapons of mass destruction] threats, thereby increasing reliance on nuclear weapons," they said in the Feb. 21 letter.
They noted that although Iraq "has sought in the past and may continue to seek nuclear weapons," it is a signatory to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and "is not believed to possess a nuclear explosive device."
"Abandoning our pledge under the NPT would be to turn our backs on all nuclear non-proliferation efforts, since the treaty serves as the hub for the entire nuclear arms-control framework," the senators said.
They said that "such a shift in U.S. policy would deepen the danger of nuclear proliferation by effectively telling non-nuclear states that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter a potential U.S. attack, and by sending a green light to the world's nuclear states that it is permissible to use them."
Making clear they "cannot support a policy that explicitly contemplates the option of a nuclear response against a non-nuclear state," the lawmakers said the administration is "lowering the threshold for the first use of nuclear weapons."
That "reduces incentives for other nations to adhere to the international arms-control framework, thus increasing the dangers for nuclear warfare," they said.

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