In March 2001, veteran, award-winning British independent film-maker/journalist Gwynne Roberts (reportedly the first Western Journalist to interview Usama bin Laden), published a BBC Correspondent's report, on "Saddam's Bomb" -- Yes, Virginia, BBC, March 2 - 3, 2001.
The report was based on an interview with an Iraqi nuclear engineer code named, "Leone" who "prove[d] his expertise" by "work[ing] throughout the night [and] drawing detailed diagrams of nuclear weapons in his hotel room."
(The just linked diagram shows an advanced, otherwise novel "interlocking cage" version of a "gun" type fission weapon design conceptually similar to the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The Hiroshima weapon's design was so patently reliable, that the Americans did not explode a test-device before using it on Japan. Instead, they only used a [dangerous -- it killed two scientists due to radiation accidents] technique -- colourfully named "tickling the dragon's tail" by the famous physicist Richard Feynmann -- to calculate and confirm its criticality, by inducing a controlled descent into a chain reaction then backing away. A hoaxer would have been far more likely to draw a "standard" gun device [easily found on the Web], which uses an artillery barrel to shoot a single, 4-inch or so slug of highly enriched uranium [HEU] into a hollow target, thus suddenly achieving critical mass and triggering an explosion. Indeed, there is a 1977 Novel, Gadget, about a kidnapped, brainwashed physicist who makes such a device for a shadowy terrorist group; giving some -- but, explicitly, not all --of the technical details. An extensive online discussion of nuclear weapons and their design is here.)
The 2001 BBC article begins:
"Leone" emerged from out of the shadows outside my hotel in Suleimaniya, northern Iraq, on a bleak, misty night in January 1998 - just as the crisis between the United States and Iraq over arms inspection was reaching fever pitch.
Local Kurdish officials identified him as a nuclear scientist and when we talked, he seemed well informed.
Leone described himself as an engineer who was a member of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission - and a senior official in the secret Iraqi nuclear programme.
To prove his expertise, Leone worked throughout the night drawing detailed diagrams of nuclear weapons in his hotel room.
He said it worked on the principle of the Hiroshima-type bomb, in which high explosives drive pieces of highly enriched uranium together at high velocity. This triggers a nuclear explosion.
Then Leone made another staggering claim - that Iraq had actually conducted a nuclear test before the Gulf War.
It was carried out at 1030 on 19 September 1989 at an underground site 150 kilometres south-west of Baghdad, he said.
"Saddam had threatened us with the death penalty if we told anybody about it."
The location was a militarised zone on the far shore of Lake Rezzaza, which used to be a tourist area. There is a natural tunnel there which leads to a large cavern under the lake.
"We went to a lot of trouble to conceal the test from the eyes of the outside world," said . "The Russians supplied us with a table listing US satellite movements. They were always helping us" . . .
The article goes on to report confirmation of the timing and location of the test by informed Iraqi sources. It cites an unnamed former South African intelligence officer, who claims that 50 kg -- about 110 lbs, more than enough for a gun-type bomb -- of highly enriched Uranium was purchased from South Africa [on approval of the US, then on friendly terms with Iraq and concerned to use Iraq as a counter-weight to Iran]. It reports, based on satellite imagery, that a disused military installation is at the site, and notes that evidence can be seen in the photos to support the existence of the tunnel that was reportedly used for the alleged underground test.
The first reaction to such a story is incredulity: Impossible! This would have been front-page news across the world for weeks and weeks if it was true! And, besides, underground tests can be easily detected through seismic sensor networks!
Unfortunately, first, this is not just an isolated BBC report. In the Times of London, Feb 25, 2001, a more detailed report of the interview appears. In that version, Leone claims:
"We had built a special platform for the bomb in the Tuwaitha workshop and this was sent to the test site. This allowed the device to be jacked up inside the cavern. Then we sealed off the cavern by blocking part of the tunnel inside with a 50-metre concrete plug and piling up sand and rocks behind that. All this was intended to muffle the explosion, and it's known as 'decoupling' . . . . "When the test happened, there was no dust or anything. The air just vibrated. I was in my car at the time and it just shook. It reached about 2.7 on the Richter scale, and wouldn't really have been noticed by seismic stations outside Iraq." . . . . "After the test, they destroyed the entrance to the tunnel. They also removed any evidence to indicate that a test had happened.
"They washed out the shaft with water to remove any radioactivity. They then filled it with cement, rocks and sand, and destroyed the entrance. They also created a long river channel near the shaft entrance to drain off contaminated ground water."
Leone showed me a letter signed by [Hussein Kamel al-Majid, Saddam's brother-in-law, who was claimed to be in charge of the alleged test] that seemed to confirm the test. Written in Arabic and dated September 19, 1989, it read: "With the help of God and the effort of the heroic freedom fighters in the military industrialisation institution and the atomic power organisation, we have successfully completed Test Number One of the Iraqi Atomic Bomb. Its strength was 10 kilotons and highly enriched uranium was used with a purity of 93% . . . With this experiment Iraq is considered the first country in the world to carry out this sort of experiment without the knowledge of the international monitoring authorities."
The reported seismic intensity and decoupling are critical points. For, it turns out that a sufficiently muffled, low yield nuclear explosion -- and Leone's techniques look about right for that -- is indeed hard to detect. Roberts' report in the Times observes on this point:
Officials at the International Seismic Centre near Newbury said detecting an event of this size - about 2.7 on the Richter scale - would be "extremely difficult" in this region, especially if it had been decoupled, as Leone claimed . . . . Records from 1989 [taken from "Sulaymaniyah's local seismic station"] showed no trace of an event on September 19, but a map of Iraq's main earthquake zones provided a potential clue. The Rezzaza region is virtually earthquake-free, but the map showed one exception - a tremor marked by a red circle on the southwestern shore of the lake, close to Leone's test site. Nobody at the seismic station knew when this tremor occurred, except that it was after 1985 and before 1991. [Please, read the whole story -- eye-opening!]
Of course, these reports are not nearly enough to "prove" one way or another beyond all dispute that Iraq did or did not build and test a nuclear device in 1989. But, it does show that circa 2001, the editorial staffs of major international news media houses -- including BBC -- found such an account sufficiently credible and well-sourced to feature it in their news reports.
Why, then, have we been subjected -- especially by BBC, but also in many other news media over the past several years -- to the constantly reiterated theme, that can be summed up: "Bush/Blair lied [about WMDs in Iraq] . . ." ever since 2003?
That brings us to the heart of an issue raised just before Christmas, in Report No 10 in this series on understanding our times:
. . . the real potency of the Islamist threat lies not in that threat itself, but in our persistent wishful thinking, self-doubt and attitude of denial in the face of mounting danger. In short, we have got to first resolutely face the truth about ourselves and the tidal wave of secularism, apostasy and amorality from the North (i.e. within the gates of Western Culture), before we can do something about the rising invasion from without. After all, an enemy who freely walks and talks among us in culturally nuanced accents as one of our own, is always far more dangerous than one not yet fully within the gates . . . .
[W]e must first of all state the obvious truths of the gospel that those who would impose an atheistic, amoral spirit on Caribbean and Western Culture are all too eager to suppress. For, we are not an atheistic civilisation; we are a Christian civilisation that -- through our own apostasy, lust and greed for riches through exploiting our brothers, and resulting failure to rise to deceitful challenges from within -- have been bewitched, lassoed and saddled by those riding on a tidal wave of secularism, apostasy and neo-paganism.
Then, we can rise to our own Blonie Fields moment . . . .
In short, the core challenge we face is not whether or not the consensus of the major intelligence services on Iraq's material and accelerating breach of armistice terms, circa 2002 - 3 was false, or that there is more than one side to the Iraq story, or even that the BBC is here -- again -- exposed as patently hypocritical and manipulative in their conduct over these past several years.
But rather, the core issue is that we are in the grip of agendas that do not care about truth or fairness, so long as they can saddle and contol us towards their secularist agenda. In that regard, it is to be noted that both Mr Bush and Mr Blair are Evangelical Christians, and would therefore be viewed as threats to that agenda. Indeed, Mr Blair once had to publicly defend himself from the accusation that he prayed with Mr Bush. Recently, as commented on in an earlier post, Mr Schroeder, immediate past Chancellor of Germany, accused Mr Bush of being a dangerously incompetent political leader, because he is God-fearing -- never mind the long, distinguished track record of God-fearing statesmen!
Worse, the hypocritical and deceptive media spin games we are seeing on the standard Iraq WMD storyline are another form of Feynman's dangerous "tickling the dragon" game.
For, many influential radical secularists and their fellow travellers (both in the Caribbean and int he wider world) are so consumed and obsessed with the notion that "fundamentalist," dangerously "theocracy"-minded Christians are the principal and inevitable threat to liberty (and indeed to civilisation) in the western world -- and are so taken up with rage-driven, unbalanced and unfair litanies of the historical and/or current [NB: I have just made a complaint to the Independent about this article,and will respond to it, DV, in a later post] real and imagined or alleged sins of the church in particular and the west in general -- that they have become blind to the historic and current threat posed by radical Islam, and by the major oil-financed militaristic dictatorships of the Middle East. As the sad history of Appeasement in Europe and in the League of Nations in the 1930's informs us, such blindness can be fatal.
But then, one of the key lessons of history is not only that those who fail to learn from it are doomed to repeat it, but also that by and large we refuse to learn from history. Thus, we can easily understand the sadly cyclical nature of so much that goes horribly wrong -- things that could so easily have been averted, if we would but listen to and heed sound but unpopular counsel.
That brings us back to the issue of understanding our times, to know what we should do as the people of God here in the Caribbean:
1] We must understand that our world is locked in an intense, three-way spiritual geostrategic contest: (a) the De-Christianisers in and from the North, (b) the Islamists from the Middlel East, and (c) the Southern Christian Reformation. Just possibly, this sets the stage for that spreading of the Gospel to al nations that is the true sign of the end, as is described in Matt 24: 14 -- "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
2] A small part of that struggle is the ongoing global conflict since about 1979 when Iran declared itself an Islamic Republic and set out on war by terrorism, that should properly be known as World War IV, counting the Cold War as no III. WW IV is plainly now at nuclear threshold, and that is a prospect that should give us pause, and should make us far more careful in how we interpret the news and views around us. [The discussion here on how Iraq pursued nuclear weapons through deception of the IAEA over the course of several decades, should also give us pause. For, it is plain that the proliferation-control regimes are dangerously flawed and are controlled by people who often seem to be in denial of unpleasant realities. That is the context in which the spreading of nuclear arms to some very dangerous regimes and terrorist organisations is now in my opinion, an inevitability. Sooner or later, unless God is merciful beyond all covenants, we will see another mushroom cloud looming over a city . . .]
3] In that global context, we the Christians of the Caribbean, because of our ethnic and cultural heritage and history, are a crucially strategic bridging people -- we can respond effectively and credibly to the people of the North and the people of the 10/40 window. That means we need to rethink the enduring mission of the church in the Caribbean, and from the Caribbean, so that we can fulfill our vast potential under God.
4] In that context, we need to think again about the implications of the Great Commission of Matt 28:18 - 20:
MT 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
5] For, that commission plainly calls us  to evangelism,  to discipleship and  to reformation of the nations through the social implications of the gospel. That is itself a rebuke and an indicator of our urgent need to repent, undergo renewal, seek revival through the seasons of refreshing from the Lord as he pours out his Spirit, and thus to flow over into reformation.
Thus, we can see the foundation-principles for how we should act in our times. Therefore, let us prayerfully ask ourselves, yet once more:
Why not now, why not here, why not us?