Missile Envy


“Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.” –I.F. Stone

Two leads from February 12, 2003:

“International missile experts found that an Iraqi missile exceeded the maximum 93-mile range allowed under U.N. resolutions, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said Wednesday.” (Guardian Unlimited)

“North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States, top U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday.” (www.cnn.com)

All this missile envy (plus Colin Powell’s imaginary evidence) got me thinking about the first WMD myth: the purported life-and-death race with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi scientists he had working on an atomic program of their own. “Working at Los Alamos, New Mexico, under the direction of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” writes historian Kenneth C. Davis, “atomic scientists, many of them refugees from Hitler’s Europe, thought they were racing against Germans developing a ‘Nazi bomb.’”

Surely, if it were possible for the epitome of evil to produce such a weapon, it would be the responsibility of the good guys to beat der Führer to the plutonium punch. While such a desperate race makes for excellent melodrama, it bears more resemblance to the never-ending supply of arms “gaps” produced by Cold War propagandists than to reality.

In short, the German bomb effort fell far short of success.

Thanks to the declassification of key documents, we now have access to “unassailable proof that the race with the Nazis was a fiction,” says Stewart Udall, who cites the work of McGeorge Bundy and Thomas Powers before adding, “According to the official history of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), those agents maintained ‘contacts with scientists in neutral countries.’” These contacts, by mid-1943, provided enough evidence to convince the SIS that the German bomb program simply did not exist.

Despite such findings, U.S. General Leslie Groves, military commander of the Manhattan Project, got permission in the fall of 1943 to begin a secret espionage mission known as “Alsos” (a name chosen by Groves: Greek for “grove”). The mission saw Groves’ men following the Allies’ armies throughout Europe with the goal of capturing German scientists involved in the manufacture of atomic weapons.

While the data uncovered by “Alsos” only served to reinforce prior reports that the Third Reich was not pursuing a nuclear program, Groves (with the help of Secretary of War Henry Stimson) was able to maintain enough of a cover-up to keep his costly pet project alive. The criminal concealment of the truth about the Nazis and their lack of atomic research kept the momentum going in the New Mexico desert and, according to Udall, “swept it, following Germany’s defeat, onto a path that led to Hiroshima and to the creation of misinformation that has obscured essential truths concerning the Manhattan Project and the epoch it initiated.”

Where does our current path lead?




Mickey Z. is the author of Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of ³The Good War² (www.softskull.com ) on which this article is based. He can be reached at: [email protected] .

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