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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

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Sunday, August 01, 2004

Weapons of mass destruction - a lesson from history

A Tale of Two Tyrants

This is a true story.

Once upon a time there was an evil demagogue who threatened the peace and security of the entire world. A Coalition of the Willing, led by the United States of America and Britain, and supported by many other nations both great and small including Australia, came together to stand up to the tyrant and his party of henchmen, defeat his evil schemes and bring down his regime of terror. So appalling were his crimes - brutal repression, persecution and forced exiling of minorities, the torture and execution of opponents real and imagined, the gassing of innocent men, women and children, the invasion of neighbouring countries, the sponsorship of international terrorism, and the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) - that drastic action had to be taken to prevent him from destroying any hope for democracy and civilsation as we knew it.

Many European countries quickly capitulated to him and found themselves under the thumb. Even in the Coalition countries many opposed going to war with the tyrant, they preferred to join peace rallies and movements that advocated appeasement with him; others argued it was "none of our business" and sought to bury their heads in the sand - surely diplomatic efforts under the auspices of an international organisation of nations could "resolve the issue"? But the terror merely grew and spread like a cancer - until all had to stand up and be counted, and having stood to take up arms against the "Axis of evil".

There had long been rumours that the demagogue was developing and testing weapons of mass destruction to unleash upon his enemies both at home and abroad. What was the Coalition to do? Strong evidence was passed on by the security services to the leaders that the tyrant was developing components in an isolated factory to be used in the making of a WMD for the fatherland. It was known in London and Washington that his atomic physicists were working on nuclear fission. Spies reported that a particular hydro-electric plant was producing, as a by-product of its generation of electricity, heavy water (dideuterium oxide 2H2O) a necessary ingedient in the making of an atomic reactor.

Chemically, heavy water is no different from "ordinary" water except that the hydrogen atoms are of the heavy isotope deuterium and contain a neutron as well as a proton in their nuceuii. In itself heavy water was harmless and could be used for beneficial purposes as well as detrimental ones. But it was assumed that heavy water had something to do with the tyrant's threat of a secret weapon of mass destruction - an atomic bomb.

The Coalition high command determined that the tyrant must be stopped from developing an atomic reactor and a nuclear bomb at any cost. The freedom and security of the whole world was at stake. They sent in a team of commandoes with local knowledge to blow up the plant. This successful action destroyed the facility and large quantities of heavy water. Despite this the plant was soon back in action producing more heavy water. Stronger methods were needed: thus 140 US bombers targetted the power station and electrolyser plant and obliterated it once and for all. The bombing resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians but the Allied command accepted that some "collateral damage" was inevitable in war, and that in this case, the end justifed the means.

But though the tyrant was down, he was not out. Intelligence was received that his forces had successfully hidden some stocks of the product deep within a mountain hideout and that it was going to be removed to a safe location in the fatherland. Once again a commando raid was mounted. The commandoes blew up a ferry containing the containers, killing both guards and innocent local citizens but successfully denying the tyrant's scientists the necessary ingredient to develop an atomic bomb. The commandoes, who were all local men, are heroes celebrated as patriots to this day - the heroes of Telemark.

The tyrant was Adolf Hitler, the country was Germany, the regime was that of the Nazis, and the events occurred during the Second World War. The Nazis did not develop nuclear weapons. The pre-emptive strikes by the Allies in occupied Norway that destroyed the hydro-electric power station in Telemark played a crucial role in denying Hitler's scientists the ability to produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Even after the war, when no nuclear weapons were found in Germany, no one in the Allied nations, whether "conservative" or "liberal" doubted that Hitler's scientists had been at work on a secret atomic bomb, nor doubted that Hitler would have used it to devatating effect when developed. No one wrote newspaper op-eds or books defending Hitler; no one produced documentaries exonerating the Nazis and blaming the Allies for the war. No one denied the horrors of his regime and of the extermination camps. There were no apologists. The fact that Germany did not produce an A-bomb is almost universally taken as proof that Hitler was prevented from using this WMD only by the direct intervention of the Allies. No one claimed that perhaps, just perhaps, he was only developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Jump ahead half a century: consider the case of Saddam Hussein. What is different about this tyrant? What is different about the Coalition's actions in Iraq against his regime. And then consider what is so different about the reaction and resolve of so many of today's liberals to this latter-day meglomaniac?

7:05:00 pm