Monday, September 12, 2005

Pre-emptive strike in US nuclear plan - The Age

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Pre-emptive strike in US nuclear plan
By David CloudWashingtonSeptember 12, 2005
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THE Pentagon is preparing guidelines on the use of nuclear weapons that foresee possible pre-emptive strikes against terrorist groups or nations planning attacks on the US.
The draft document, the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, updates procedures for using nuclear weapons that were last changed in 1995. The plan is undergoing final review by the Pentagon's staff and by Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, and it could be finished within several weeks, according to a Pentagon official.
Much of the document restates longstanding procedures for launching a nuclear strike, including declarations that such a decision requires explicit presidential approval.
A Pentagon official confirmed that a copy of the document posted on the national security website,, was authentic.
The Bush Administration said in 2002 that a pre-emption strategy was necessary to deal with emerging threats from terrorist groups seeking unconventional weapons and from the proliferation of nuclear capability in numerous countries.
Although the unclassified document reasserts the longstanding American position that it will not make definitive statements about when nuclear weapons will be used, it describes several scenarios for using them, including circumstances under which pre-emptive use might be necessary.
The scenarios for a possible attack include one in which an enemy is using "or intending to use" unconventional weapons against the US, its allies or civilian populations. Another scenario for a possible pre-emptive strike is in the event of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy".
The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for "attacks on adversary installations".
A copy of the draft document dated March 15 was posted on a Pentagon website for several months but was removed over the northern summer, according to the Pentagon official, who said he could not explain why it was taken down.
The draft says that to deter a potential adversary from using unconventional weapons, the US must make it "believe the United States has both the ability and will to pre-empt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective". It also says that American policy makers have "repeatedly rejected calls for adoption of a 'no first use' policy for nuclear weapons since this policy could undermine deterrence".
Californian Democrat representative Ellen Tauscher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said members "certainly don't want the Administration to move forward with a (nuclear) pre-emption policy" without hearings.
A spokesman for Republican senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said yesterday that the panel had not yet received a copy of the draft.


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