Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Ten Democratic senators have complained in a letter to President Bush that his administration's nuclear policy "threatens the very foundation" of international arms control and the 33-year-old nonproliferation regime.
The lawmakers, led by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, expressed "grave concern" about government documents on the use of nuclear weapons reported by The Washington Times and the Los Angeles Times.
"Recent public revelations ... suggest that your administration considers nuclear weapons as a mere extension of the continuum of conventional weapons open to the United States, and that your administration may use nuclear weapons in the looming military conflict against Iraq," the letter said.
It cited The Washington Times' Jan. 31 article about a classified White House document signed by Mr. Bush that allows for the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological and chemical attacks. It also referred to a Jan. 26 Los Angeles Times report that the administration is considering such a response in a war with Iraq.
According to the classified document, known as National Security Presidential Directive 17 and seen by The Washington Times, "The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force - including potentially nuclear weapons to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] - against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
The Sept. 14, 2002, directive also states that "nuclear forces alone ... cannot ensure deterrence against [weapons of mass destruction] and missiles."
"Complementing nuclear force with an appropriate mix of conventional response and defense capabilities, coupled with effective intelligence, surveillance, interdiction and domestic law-enforcement capabilities, reinforces our overall deterrent posture against [weapons of mass destruction] threats. …