New York — The Terror Trade: Buying the Bomb TBS/cable, Wednesday, 9:05-10:05 Pacific time; repeated Saturday, 10:05-11:05 Eastern time (check local listings). Producers: Claudia M. Milne and George C. Case in cooperation with Groupe de Bellerive and Channel Four TV for Better World Society. ``The Terror Trade'' is a terrifying hour of television.
A whole series of shocking facts about nuclear proliferation that may soon affect the survival of our civilization is presented in calm, matter-of-fact fashion, profusely sprinkled with talking heads saying utterly dismaying things.
International black-market arms dealer ``Eric'' divulges his personal experience with the thriving market for uranium, plutonium, completely usable in nuclear bombs. The customers? Libya, Iran, Iraq, South Africa, Argentina, Syria, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Israel.
In fact, they're just about every third-world nation with a few million dollars to spare for what appears to them to be a speedy way to world acceptance as a major power.
Such figures as former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. John Glenn, former CIA director Stansfield Turner, and former Pentagon official Richard Perle agree that unless new controls are put into effect, it is only a matter of time before either terrorist groups or terrorist nations decide to use nuclear power as a shortcut to victory. And with loose controls of commercially produced plutonium coming to market all over the world, they say the danger is immediate.
``The Terror Trade'' is brought to American television by the Better World Society, an organization founded in 1985 by Ted Turner, chairman of the Turner Broadcasting System. The goal of this not-for-profit organization is to attract worldwide audiences to innovative TV programs about issues that affect us all - to suggest alternative solutions to some of the world's seemingly unsolvable problems.
Well, in the midst of news reports that Iraq is using poison gas in its war with Iran, ``The Terror Trade'' seems especially timely. It should be apparent to all that something must be done to stop the selling of nuclear bombs, or soon they may be used promiscuously.
Jimmy Carter's solution: The US and the USSR must take stronger steps to reduce their own nuclear arsenals to demonstrate that they are doing their part. And then there must be reestablished worldwide public opinion in support of strengthened nonproliferation treaties, he says. Admiral Turner's solution: an American-Soviet agreement to take joint retaliatory military action - perhaps even nuclear - against anyone using nuclear weapons.
``The Terror Trade'' is not easy viewing. It is tough, truthful, and disturbing. It performs a major public service, because it forces viewers to think about alternatives to self-destruction.
Arthur Unger is the Monitor's television critic.