Seven steps to improving U.S. and global security


PressInfo # 131

 September 26, 2001 


By David Krieger
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

TFF Associate



The terrorist attacks against the United States have shocked the world and left Americans feeling vulnerable and fearful of future attacks. The US has made a major military deployment to the Middle East and seems intent on military action against Osama bin Laden and possibly Afghanistan and other states that may harbor terrorists or be linked to these attacks. But the military is a blunt instrument that could easily increase the cycle of violence by causing the deaths of more innocent civilians.

The US response to the attacks should adhere to three basic criteria: it should be legal, moral and thoughtful.

a) It should be legal under both domestic and international law, sanctioned by the United Nations, and multilateral in scope.

b) It should be moral in not taking more innocent lives.

c) And it should be thoughtful in asking why this has happened and what can be done to decrease the cycle of violence.

Taking these criteria into account, I would urge the US to implement the following seven policy actions in order to increase both domestic and global security.

1. Protect Americans by improving our intelligence gathering and analysis, and by taking far stronger preventative security measures. Particular emphasis must be placed on preventing weapons of mass destruction from being used by terrorists, and in considering how terrorists might turn other technologies, such as aircraft, into weapons of mass destruction as they did on September 11th. We must make an honest assessment of why our intelligence services failed to prevent the September 11th attacks. Why were known associates of Osama bin Laden, for example, not being effectively tracked by US intelligence services? As a specific example, why did the arrest of a known associate of bin Laden for suspicious behavior at a flight school weeks before the attacks not alert the FBI of the danger to Americans?

2. Work multilaterally to find the perpetrators of the crime and bring them to justice. This should be done under the auspices of the United Nations and the international treaties on terrorism and sabotage. Since the September 11th attack was an international crime against citizens of some 80 countries, the perpetrators should be brought before an International Tribunal established for this purpose.

3. Focus on preventing the use of biological or chemical weapons against population centers. There are indications that the terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks may have been planning chemical or biological attacks with crop dusting planes. Stopping such attacks should be a top priority.

4. Bring all nuclear weapons in the world under control and move rapidly toward banning them under international law. A critical part of this effort is to rapidly reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals to a controllable number, such as 100 weapons per nuclear weapon state in the short term, so that these weapons can be adequately safeguarded and will not fall into the hands of terrorists. An international inventory of all nuclear weapons, weapons-grade materials and nuclear scientists should also be established. The US should increase its financial and technological support for Cooperative Threat Reduction programs that strengthen non-proliferation efforts in the former Soviet Union while reductions are being made. Plans should be developed for taking control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal in the event that the government of Pakistan should fall to extremists.

5. Provide military protection to all nuclear power plants in the US and urge that these plants be phased out as rapidly as possible. Nuclear power reactors are dormant radiological weapons located in the proximity of major US cities. Flying an airplane into a nuclear reactor or waste storage site could result in a Chernobyl type release of radioactive materials causing panic and enormous potential for death in surrounding populations. Until shut down, all operating nuclear power plants should be protected by military forces, including anti-aircraft weapons. Radioactive waste sites, including those at nuclear power plants, should also be guarded by military forces, as should shipments of all radioactive materials that could be used for nuclear or radiological weapons.

6. Ask the question to ourselves: Why is the United States hated so much that terrorists are willing to commit heinous acts and give their own lives to attack the country? President Bush has expressed his belief that it is because these terrorists hate freedom and democracy. In fact, while the reasons may include an antipathy to American society on social, cultural and economic levels, there is also deep hostility to American policies, including our military presence in the Middle East, our support of a despotic Saudi regime, our conduct of the Gulf War, and our ongoing economic and military support for Israel. If we cannot at least neutralize the intense hatred of the United States by changes in our policies, then no amount of security may be able to protect Americans from future attacks.

7. Use our wealth and power to help make the world more just and equitable, and to uphold human dignity for all persons. In doing so, we will make America safer and the world a more decent place. Throughout the world, there are still some 35,000 children dying quietly each day from malnutrition and preventable diseases. America must assume the responsibility of leadership to uphold justice, human rights and sustainable development. We cannot escape the fact that we are one world and each country must contribute to the security of all. The job must be done globally by the United Nations, but America must not shirk its responsibility for leadership.

The world is at a turning point. By resorting to the old methods of military force, we are likely to intensify the hatred toward the US without substantially reducing the threat of terrorism against us. We should never lose sight of the fact that biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism could be thousands of times worse than what we have witnessed to date. Following the seven-step plan outlined above would provide a comprehensive way to make both the US and the world more secure in all respects.



David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For further perspectives on the terrorist attacks and ideas on waging peace, visit the Foundation's web site at

You may write to David Krieger at <>



 © TFF 2001



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