John Burroughs

I managed to get an op-ed about the Blix report published in the June 17 Chicago Sun-Times, “This time, let’s listen to Blix on WMD.” It shouldn’t be that hard to place informed and reasonably well-written op-eds on a topic of great, arguably supreme, importance (nuclear weapons), but it is, I can say from experience over the years. The op-ed traces the U.S. rejection of disarmament commitments, observing that:

“In the longer term, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons requires reversing proliferation where it began, in the United States. We led the world into the nuclear age during World War II; now we must lead it out. Unfortunately, since the treaty banning all nuclear test explosions was negotiated in 1996, the United States has abandoned the multilateralism necessary to the exercise of leadership. The Senate rejected ratification of the treaty in 1999. In the 2000s, the Bush administration has repudiated commitments the United States made under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] to work with other nations to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security postures and to pursue verified, irreversible reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals.”

There wasn’t space to refer to some of the unflinching statements of the Hans Blix-led Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction regarding the regressive U.S. role. Notably, the report says:

“Some of the current setbacks in treaty-based arms control and disarmament can be traced to a pattern in US policy that is sometimes called ’selective multilateralism’ - an increased US skepticism regarding the effectiveness of international institutions and instruments, coupled with a drive for freedom of action to maintain an absolute global superiority in weaponry and means of their delivery.” (p. 25)

The report also says:

“It is easy to see that the nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT have largely failed to implement this commitment [to nuclear disarmament] and failed to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ on nuclear disarmament as required of them under the NPT. Indeed, all states that have nuclear weapons are still seeking to modernize their nuclear capabilities.” (p. 94)

From one vantage point, that of the media-starved disarmament activist, coverage of the release of the report was pretty good. There was an excellent story in the New York Times, and Blix did interviews on Fresh Air and Meet the Press and an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune. From a more objective standpoint, it was fairly limited in extent (the Washington Post ran only a wire story, as Andrew Lichterman noted on this blog) and short in duration. There was certainly no pounding away at different aspects of the story day after day, week after week! What coverage there was seemed motivated partly by Blix’s status as a quasi-celebrity due to his role prior to the U.S. invasion as UNMOVIC chief inspector investigating alleged Iraqi programs involving biological and chemical weapons and missiles. It also tended to focus on what Blix had to say about the U.S./Iran situation.

For selected media coverage and other items regarding the report, including a summary and preliminary commentary and a list of key implications for U.S. policy, see, the website of the project of “civil society review” of the report initiated by the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, Western States Legal Foundation, and Reaching Critical Will.