August 2, 2010 -- U.S. hypocrisy on nuclear weapons proliferation -- when Washington looked the other way as another nation pursued nukes
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, revealed on "Meet the Press" on August 1 that the United States has on the table a military strike plan for Iran and strongly indicated that the Obama administration is prepared to use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
However, the United States was not always so bellicose when a regime with which it had strategic and political links had secretly developed a nuclear weapons capacity.
After the fall of successive right-wing Argentine military regimes in 1983, the CIA revealed in a Secret report that Argentina stood on the brink of obtaining a nuclear weapon by the end of 1984. The Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations, which, respectively, backed a series of Argentine right-wing presidents and dictators, including Alejandro Lanusse, Juan Peron, Isabel Martinez de Peron, Jorge Videla, Roberto Viola, Leopoldo Galtieri, and Reynaldo Bignone, before Raul Alfonsin became the president of the center-left government in 1983, stood by idly as Argentina pursued nuclear weapons. The CIA's Secret report on Argentina's nuclear weapons capability was revealed by Jack Anderson in the Washington Post on December 12, 1983.
The CIA feigned surprise in 1983 when Admiral Carlos Castro Madero, the long-serving head of Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission, announced that Argentina possessed the technology to enrich uranium. Iran's similar capabilities have been used by the Bush and Obama administrations to suggest that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons. Yet, in 1983, there was hardly a peep about Argentina's nuclear weapons potential.
Henry Kissinger, the Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, was cooperating with Buenos Aires in Operation Condor, a covert Latin American intelligence sharing network aimed at tracking down and assassinating leftists and supporters of Chilean President Salvador Allende, who was killed in a CIA-inspired coup on September 11, 1973.
Rumors of Argentina's secret nuclear weapons program prompted Alfosin to state publcly during his 1983 election campaign to immediately dismantle a nuclear weapon if one was discovered to be in the possession of the Argentine military.
Unlike Iran, Argentina had not ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). In addition, it failed to ratify the Treaty of Tlateloco, which bans nuclear weapons in Latin America.
In 1983, the CIA "discovered" that Argentina likely had hidden weapons-grade plutonium, despite trade restrictions forbidding them from using imported nuclear fuel rods to reprocess them into plutonium. It was also believed that Argentina had secretly reprocessed or was on the verge of reprocessing fuel rods at the Ezeiza nuclear power plant.
In late 1983, a Reagan administration intelligence official denied Argentina had a nuclear weapons potential because it lacked a program to enrich uranium for weapons. Leading hawks in the Reagan administration, upset with President Jimmy Carter's commitment to human rights in Latin America, did not want to criticize Latin American dictatorships they saw as bulwarks against the Soviet Union and Cuba. Chief among Argentina's supporters was Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations, who even sided with Argentina against the United Kingdom during the 1982 Falklands War.
However, the National Security Agency's (NSA) intercepts of Argentina's military, intelligence, and diplomatic communications, on behalf of its British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) colleagues during the Falklands War yielded the intelligence on Argentina's nuclear weapons program. NSA's surveillance was conducted clandestinely from a NASA tracking station at Peldehue, just north of Santiago, the Chilean capital and from a classified listening post inside the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires.
Perhaps one main reason for the Argentine nuclear program not being viewed with hostility by Washington was the fact that the secret Argentine financing and procurement program was conducted through the aegis of the Italian right-wing network, the P-2 secret Masonic lodge and the Banco Ambrosiano,, for which the Vatican Bank was the major shareholder. Roberto Calvi, the chairman of Ambrosiano, was heavily involved in financing CIA covert operations in Latin America by supporting the Anastasio Somoza dictaorship in Nicaragua and, following its overthrow by the Sandinistas, the Nicaraguan contras. The covert network that provided military technology, including nuclear know-how, to Argentina also involved P-2's Worshipful Master, Licio Gelli, and his affiliated P-2 lodge in Buenos Aires.
Calvi was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London on June 8, 1982, in what many suspected was a ritualistic murder conducted by the Freemasons. His personal secretary, Graziella Corrocher, allegedly jumped from her fourth floor Milan office window to her death after penning a suicide note in which she denounced Calvi. Before the suspicious deaths of Calvi and Corrocher, Gerard Soisson, the manager of the Luxembourg-based Clearstream transaction clearinghouse, was found dead in Corsica. In April 1982, Ambrosiano's deputy chairman, Roberto Rosone, narrowly escaped death from an assassin's bullet in Milan. His would-be assassin was shot by police and later identified as a member of Rome's leading Mafia syndicate.
Clearstream would later be at the center of a scandal involving covert payments to Nicolas Sarkozy's political campaigns. Soisson was responsible for moving Ambrosiano money to the bank's branch in Lima, Peru, Banco Andino, which was actually a brass plate operation, alomg with another branch in Nassau, Bahamas, that conducted their business in Luxembourg and Switzerland. Argentine covert weapons procurement was also facilitated by Banco Ambrosiano de America del Sud, based in Buenos Aires.
After Ambrosiano's collapse, some $1.2 billion was found to be missing. In 1978, Pope John Paul I, who had been pontiff for only 33 days, was found dead in a sitting position in his bed in Vatican City. John Paul I had been trying to clean up Vatican finances and had stumbled upon the P-2 and Banco Ambrosiano covert operations. It is believed by many that John Paul I was murdered by P-2 operatives intent on keeping the lodge's and bank's operations secret. No autopsy was ever performed on John Paul I.
Loans for Argentina's covert weapons procurement program were funded from a $250 million loan from the Vatican's Instituto per di Religione (IOR), or the Institute of Religious Works, the Vatican Bank. In addition, Gelli was a close friend of Juan Peron and top Argentine military officials. The Vatican's financing of Argentina's weapons program was also facilitated by the Banco Central Riserva, the Central Reserve Bank, of Peru. Calvi was also, conveniently, a personal friend of Peru's Finance Minister, Silva Rueta.
The fallout from the P-2 and Banco Ambrosiano scandal may have been involved in the 1981 attempted assassination of John Paul's successor, John Paul II. The convicted attempted assassin, Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca, was affiliated with the Turkish Grey Wolves, which had close links with the CIA's stay-behind Gladio network in Turkey which, in turn, has morphed into the Ergenekon network. In 2005, Agca revealed that he had accomplices within the Vatican hierarchy and that one of them was Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank (IOR) president from Chicago who was deeply involved with P-2 and Banco Ambrosiano, and who was also implicated in the murder of Pope John Paul I. The CIA and P-2 ally Michael Ledeen, a notorious neo-conservative who supported Italian fascist causes while in Italy in the 1970s, attempted to link the attempted assassination of John Paul II to the KGB and Bulgarians.
CIA files contain an interesting WRC NBC-4 Washington news transcript dated February 6, 1983, as investigations of Banco Ambrosiano, the Vatican Bank, and their links to Latin America were well underway in Italy, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, the Bahamas, Luxembourg, and Peru. The covert U.S. support for the Nicaraguan contras and the "discovery" of the Vatican covert financial support for Argentina's nuclear program were also ongoing. The WRC report stated: "BARBARA HARRISON: NBC News reports tonight that Vice President George Bush's visit to Rome includes a secret mission regarding the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II." The report states that Bush had "other orders from the White House" and that he was pushing for an Italian investigation into the Pope's attempted assassination "even if the trial leads directly to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov." The NBC report also stated that the CIA was leaking information on the Italian investigation of the attempted assassination in order to "discourage" the probe, adding, "reports of leaks from CIA officials flooded U.S. newspapers during the past week."
The Kremlin connection to the assassination attempt was later found to have been a CIA propaganda ploy crafted by Ledeen; Claire Sterling, author of a CIA- inspired propaganda book titled "The Terror Network" that blamed the USSR for most of the world's terrorist attacks; and Arnaud de Borchgrave, who later became the editor of the right-wing and Sun Myung Moon-funded Washington Times, a leading proponent of military aid to the Nicaraguan contras and other guerrilla groups around the world.When nuclear proliferation benefited U.S.-backed dictatorships in Argentina and Pakistan, as well as Israel, the United States either turned a blind eye toward or aided and abetted in nuclear technology smuggling. With Argentina, the United States was implicated in a network run out of the Vatican that also supplied weapons to the contras. In Pakistan, the United States gave a "wink and a nod" to the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network so as to not jeopardize the CIA's arms pipeline to the Afghan mujaheddin during their war with the Soviets. Beginning with the Lyndon Johnson administration, the United States actively allowed Israel to smuggle nuclear weapons components to ensure Jewish votes and campaign contributions for incumbent administrations. In the case of Iran, the United States is willing to plunge the world into a major war in order to prevent a new member of the nuclear club.