Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nuclear Posturing and Bad Decisions

It's hard to take recent "leaked" information about an imminent strike against Iran seriously. The most likely scenario is that the administration is simply posturing, as Israel did when leaking stories to Der Spiegel every other week about upcoming strikes. There is, however, a serious defect in Bush's posturing. The administration, in its game of brinkmanship, has continually threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iran. (For an example, take a look at today's Raw Story article on the nuclear option.) Are we, as Americans, happy to have our government talk about using nuclear weapons against another country? We are a democracy and the government speaks in our name. Does anyone honestly believe that threatening a nuclear first strike makes us, or the world we live in, safer? Does anyone doubt that Americans would become the world's pariahs if we used nuclear weapons in Iran? The nuclear bomb is the only true "weapon of mass destruction." The United States is the only nation ever to have employed it. To threaten its use again is abhorrent, not just to most Americans, but to the entire civilized world.

The Bush administration has been a bit too cavalier about nuclear weapons. It has advocated building nuclear "bunker buster" bombs for use on the battlefield. It has equated nukes with nonconventional biological and chemical weapons that kill very small numbers of people in restricted spaces. A nuclear weapon is not equivalent to an envelope of anthrax, or a thirty-year-old artillery shell with decomposed sarin. Worst of all, President George W. Bush permitted a nuclear proliferation network, the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan, to distribute nuclear technology for three years before shutting it down. Bush and a few key advisors were informed of Khan's activities early in 2001. They decided to monitor the network and try to discover who Khan's clients were. September 11, amazingly, did not prompt them to reconsider that decision. While Bush, Cheney, Rice, and countless other administration shills were talking rubbish about "mushroom clouds" and "aluminum tubes" and "yellow-cake uranium" in Iraq, they knew, with certainty, that A.Q. Khan was sending centrifuges and other nuclear technology to Iran and Libya. They took no steps to suspend that activity until late 2003, when Musharraf's government was finally notified.

Will Bush get a free pass from the Congress and the press this time to sucker Americans into another war? Perhaps. Our press corps is one of the worst in the world outside Cuba and North Korea, and has not improved since the Iraq debacle. The Congress has already published misleading findings about Iran's nuclear enrichment program, which the UN has already called "outrageous." Will someone at least stand up and ask Bush why he let the Khan network, which proliferated technology for the only true weapon of mass destruction, operate for three years? We can think of one explanation and it's not pretty. Did Bush allow the Khan network to operate so long in hopes of finally discovering evidence that Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear weapons?

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