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From the Eastern Daily Press 1st February, 2003.

President hovers over the Iraq nuclear button

When I was a child I thought I was growing up in a dangerous world in which world war had given way to Cold War and the nerve-wracking stalemate of nuclear deterrence.

How pleased I would be now to swap that potentially cataclysmic tripwire for the far more frightening prospects facing today's children. Even amid the worst fighting in Korea and Vietnam or the nightmare of the Cuban missile crisis, it still seemed that common sense would prevail and pull the world back from the precipice of a nuclear Armageddon.

Now the common sense seems to have flown out of the White House window and has been replaced by a bellicose posturing in which the use of nukes becomes frighteningly possible. cartoon of BushPresident George W Bush has finally let the genie out of the bottle following his signing of a declaration that the US reserves the right to respond with "overwhelming force including potentially nuclear weapons" if Saddam Hussein uses chemical or biological arms.

His classified national security directive - revealed yesterday by the Washington Post - replaces the ' phrase "all of our options" used in public documents, with "nuclear weapons", to make the threat clear. Of course, the past half century has seen numerous examples of nuclear sabre rattling by a variety of countries, initially from Russia and China and, more recently, from India and Pakistan.

None, though, has appeared more likely to carry out the threat than the latest occupant of the White House, who seems determined to carry on with his Iraq attack regardless of the growing calls for peace and reason worldwide.

Three East Anglian bishops and many of their parishioners' voices joined those calls yesterday, as the president's drive to launch an attack on Saddam made it seem more of an inevitability rather than a probability.

No one is saying that Saddam is not an evil dictator who probably gives succour to terrorists and harbours a burning desire to destabilise the West.

But even the president's right-hand man, our own Prime Minister Tony Blair, was urging caution yesterday, at least in seeking a second UN resolution authorising military action "if necessary".

I can't help wondering what Mr Blair is thinking and saying privately even at the pair's White House summit yesterday - about the speed and scale of the president's military intentions.

I can't also help wondering about those children in Iraq who were unfortunate enough to have been born under the curse of Saddam, and who now face the probability of Bush's military - possibly nuclear holocaust.

©: Mark Nicholls and Eastern Daily Press, 2003.

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