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Book Review

The US’s dangerous commitment to nuclear militarism

Crescent International

The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex by Dr Helen Caldicott. Pub: The New Press, New York, 2004. Pp: 304. Pbk: US$17.95.

In his farewell speech in January 1961, President Eisenhower warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic process.” Dr Helen Caldicott’s New Nuclear Danger reveals the lethal danger of allowing the arms industry to dictate USforeign policy.

In her well-researched, duly documented book, Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, reveals just how close the world has come to nuclear disaster. The most recent incident took place on September 11, 2001, when the Bush administration raised the country’s nuclear alert codes from Defcon 6 to Defcon 2, the highest state of alert before the launch code is operable. Russia, with the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, most certainly responded in kind. Consequently, thousands of nuclear weapons stood poised on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched by the president of either country, with a decision time of only three minutes.

Another frightening incident, revealed by the author, took place on January 25, 1995, when military technicians at radar stations in northern Russia detected signals from an American missile that had just been launched off the coast of Norway. The Americans had notified the Russians of this launch, which carried a scientific probe. The message, however, never reached the upper echelons of the Russian military. As a result, Russian officials assumed that America had initiated a nuclear war. Aware that, if launched from a submarine, a missile containing eight hydrogen bombs could hit Moscow within fifteen minutes, the Russian computer containing nuclear launch codes was opened for the first time in history. President Boris Yeltsin sat at his computer as his military advisors instructed him how to launch a nuclear war. The process would only allow him three minutes to make a decision. At the last minute, the US missile veered off course, and President Yeltsin realized that Russia was not under attack.

In the past years, US behavior in Afghanistan and Iraq has veered frighteningly close to the deployment of nuclear weapons, with the defense department and members of Congress strongly advising their use. Bush advisors, including Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Cambone, and William Schneider, have also advocated the use of nuclear weapons. Samuel Cohen, the creator of the neutron bomb, suggested that his weapon might be appropriate for Afghanistan. Although nuclear bombs have not yet been used in Afghanistan or Iraq, some of the weapons they have dropped have been described as “near nuclear.”

At present, the Pentagon-controlled media machine, CIA psychological operations, and duplicitous diplomatic efforts are operating at full mode, manipulating the masses to believe that “Islamists” are “Fascists”; that democratic Iran is a dictatorship, that Muslims are “Nazis,” and that Islamic leaders are akin to Hitler. The American administration and its Pentagon-approved press are busy manufacturing consent for atomic action against Iran. Bruised from the beating his troops are receiving in Iraq, President Bush seeks to boost his support by means of an “easy victory”: a nuclear assault against nuclear facilities in Iran. Emboldened by their sole superpower status, the US believes it can act with impunity, confident that no nuclear power will retaliate. If the US administration is foolish enough to act, not only will they become bogged down in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, they may gradually draw other local powers into the conflict, including, but not limited to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, and Israel. In the best case scenario, the conflict would last decades, bankrupt the US, and bring an end to American hegemony. In the worst case scenario, the conflict could escalate from a regional war to a world war, jeopardizing the survival of the entire human species.

Clearly, despite the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation continues to loom menacingly over the horizon. Currently, the US has 7,206 atomic weapons, 2,500 of which remain on hair-trigger alert, including 2,000 intercontinental land-based hydrogen bombs, 3,456 nuclear weapons on submarines roaming the seas 15 minutes from their targets, and 1,750 nuclear weapons on intercontinental planes ready for delivery. Russia has a similar number of strategic weapons, with approximately 2,000 on hair-trigger alert.

To put this power into perspective, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, in the single greatest act of terrorism in modern history, was 13 kilotons. Current nuclear weapons are roughly one hundred times more powerful at 1,000 kilotons. A single Tomahawk cruise missile can carry the equivalent of 15 Hiroshima bombs, with each destroyer possessing the bombing power of 840 Hiroshimas. Each US Navy Trident submarine carries 192 thermonuclear warheads. The combined fleet threatens the equivalent of 80,000 Hiroshima-sized bomb blasts. At any given time, half of these subs are at sea, with their warheads continually on “alert” launch status. In total, there is enough explosive power in the nuclear arsenals of the world to “overkill” every person on earth 32 times.

The US currently has plans to fight and win a nuclear war, and is prepared to use nuclear weapons preemptively. The Pentagon’s official targeting plan, the single integrated operational plan (SIOP), includes 3,000 targets. Prior to the nineties, the US assured that it would only target countries with nuclear weapons. At present, however, even non-nuclear nations like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria,Sudan, North Korea, and Algeria, are also targeted with nuclear weapons for the first time. According to French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, it is ridiculous to believe that such states could threaten the world’s sole superpower.

Caldicott explains how Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, the Taliban, and Usama Bin Ladin were creations of the CIA; how the US supported the Iraqi military in its war of aggression against Iran; how it encouraged companies to export over 1.5 billion dollars in military goods to Iraq, including biological and chemical agents; how American companies like Bechtel constructed chemical weapon factories in Iraq; how the US operations in Kuwait were planned months prior to the Iraqi invasion, amounting to a veritable arms bazaar for US weapons manufacturers; how the 2000 elections were a Republican coup; how the Project for a New American Century wrote in 2000 that the US needed “a new Pearl Harbor” to jump-start the right-wing strategy for US military and world domination; and how the appearance of Usama Bin Ladin on the world stage on September 11, 2001, offered a convenient catalyst.

Caldicott exposes how American companies dominate the world’s weapons trade, arming both sides of any conflict as a basic business tactic, demonstrating a deep conflict of interest, both political and economic. To cite a single example of war profiteering, vice-president Cheney continues to be remunerated by Halliburton, a company he previously served as president, and which receives billions of dollars from US taxpayers in order to reconstruct Iraq. As the author points out, it is ironic that if a country previously armed by America--such as Iraq--becomes an “enemy,” US troops are killed by American weapons. US foreign strategy remains the same: play all hands, and control all outcomes.

The author uncovers the undemocratic influence of neoconservative think-tanks like the Project for a New American Century on the Pentagon. Founded in 1997 by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, the PNAC advocates US global domination by military force. As early as 1997, the PNAC called for the capture of Iraq to acquire its oil, to threaten regional leaders, and to establish a military staging area for the overthrow of several Middle Eastern regimes, including some US allies. In September 2000, the PNAC issued a report titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for the New Century” which called for a permanent US military presence in the Gulf “should Saddam pass from the scene” because “Iran may well prove as large a threat.” The PNAC, whose proposals have been largely embraced by the Bush administration, is uncompromisingly zionist and aggressively anti-Palestinian.

With the installation of the Republican regime in 2000, right-wing ideologues, many of them from the PNAC, migrated to positions of power, including Richard Perle, who profited greatly from the war in Iraq. Dubbed the “prince of darkness” in political circles, he served as the chair of the defense advisory committee, the civilian advisory board to the Pentagon, prior to acting as deputy secretary of defense under Donald Rumsfeld. Another major player on the defense advisory committee is James Woolsey, PNAC member and former director of the CIA. He labels the Cold War “World War III” and calls for a “World War IV,” in which the US and the UK join forces to attack Islamists, Iranian theocrats, Ba‘ath party “fascists” in Syria, Usama Bin Ladin of al-Qa‘ida, Hosni Mubarakin Egypt, and the royal family in Saudi Arabia.

As revealed in the Nuclear Posture Review of 2002, vice-president Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense, are proponents of pre-emptive nuclear strikes, and supporters of the Hitlerian US policy of “full-spectrum dominance.” Prior to leaving office, Rumsfeld was involved in creating the Preemptive Operations Group (the P2OG or “Pee-Twos”), an expansive group of secret Pentagon armies to be installed around the world, to deliberately incite violence, stimulating reactions from terrorists and states, and thus exposing them to quick-response attacks by US forces.

While the Bush administration insists that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program, Caldicott reveals that, in reality, it is the USwhich is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under the guise of the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, which is supposed to ensure the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile, the US is actively developing new nuclear weapons, including: the B61-11 earth-penetrating “bunker buster,” the BIOS, and a new war-head for Trident missiles. In October 2000, Congress passed an authorization bill for research and possible development of a 5-kiloton “user-friendly” mini-nuke with a blast radius of one mile. In 2003, Congress actually approved the use of “mini-nukes.” The Bush administration is also actively developing the Star Wars Program, which seeks to ensure American dominion over earth and space in blatant violation of the NPT.

While Caldicott is factual and academic, she makes several questionable claims. For example, she fears that members of the Pakistani military could rebel, gain control of the army and its 20 to 50 nuclear weapons, and pass these on to the Taliban in al-Qa‘ida in Afghanistan or their global networks. She claims that 100 small suitcase Russian nuclear weapons have been lost over some years, that al-Qa‘ida may now possess several of these, which could be smuggled into America on a small boat or overland, from Canada or Mexico, in a truck. She paints pictures of Nuclear Oklahoma Cities killing tens of thousands of people. She also expresses fear that a terrorist could infiltrate a nuclear power plant and engineer its meltdown.

While a Muslim movement might eventually overthrow the Pakistani dictatorship, even the most extreme elements in the army would not risk nuclear annihilation by US retaliation to support the remnants of the Taliban or some subterranean terror cell operating abroad. Political power seeks to perpetuate itself, not annihilate itself. In the event an extreme sector of the military assumed power in Karachi, its main concern would be maintaining the delicate peace between India and Pakistan, as well as attenuate the destabilizing effects caused by such a regime change.

As for the fear of suitcase-sized nuclear bombs, Caldicott seems to have succumbed to sensationalist news-stories and Pentagon propaganda which seeks to instill an atmosphere of fear to justify its perpetual world-wide war. After decades of anti-nuclear activism, the author should be well-aware that nuclear weapons are generally large. While some nuclear warheads could fit into the back of a truck, it is unlikely that any could fit into a briefcase. The so-called “suitcase” bombs made by the Russians are more the size of a large back-pack or locker. Such devices have the explosive force of 1 kiloton of TNT. They are thus capable of destroying a building, not a city. Sold or stolen, these low-impact nuclear weapons have a very short shelf-life. Without required maintenance they could only produce a minimal yield or no yield at all.

Generally perceptive when it comes to CIA support for Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, the Taliban, and Usama Bin Ladin,Caldicott has fallen for the foundational myth of war on terror. According to the author, “the international community should work cooperatively together, including all the intelligence organizations--MI5, MI6, Mossad, the FBI, CIA, NSA--to identify, locate, and capture these international terrorists and bring them to trail before an international court of justice, as were their predecessors, the Nazis.”

While Caldicott comprehends the machinations which led to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, she fails to see the same dark hand manipulating “Muslim” terrorism. The US arms industry simply cannot survive without an enemy: real or fictitious. Rather than demilitarizing upon the downfall of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon, along with the military-industrial complex, decided to create a new enemy. Thus was born the Islamist, who conveniently replaced the Communist.

According to Richard Labévière’s Dollars for Terror, which is endorsed by the government of France, “Islamic fundamentalism” has been fueled, funded, and supported as part of US foreign policy since its inception. The Islamist is an old friend of the US, used to combat communism, as well as destabilize and divide the Muslim world. There are those who hold that the US turned their backs on their bearded buddies after September 11. This would be nothing new for the CIA: Manuel Noriega of Panama was a CIA operative. After romancing Fidel Castro, he said that he had the Americans by the balls. They overthrew him and tossed him in prison for forty years. Saddam Hussein was a CIA choir-boy. He acted against US interests, and was soon discarded.

There are those, however, like Labévière, who believe that the CIA is still playing the Islamist card, engineering “Islamic” extremism and sectarianism to justify its imperial agenda. With the exception of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and bona fide Muslim movements worldwide, a vast array of “Islamic” terrorist groups are created, armed, and funded by the CIA, turning Berbers against Arabs, Arabs against Kurds, Persians against Arabs, and Sunni against Shi’ite, to neutralize Muslim nations. According to the intelligence community, the US and Saudi Arabia, by means of Prince Bandar “Bush,” continue to fund salafi extremist movements throughout the world, many of which are affiliated with al-Qa‘ida, in order to halt the spread of Shi‘ite influence. The criterion to determine the legitimacy of an Islamic movement is clear: it is inclusive, not divisive; it is pan-Islamic, not sectarian; it selects legitimate military targets, not civilians; and it never attacks Muslims. These are the criteria of Imam Khomeini, who insisted that those who divide Sunnis and Shi‘ites are the real enemies, regardless of from which community they claim to come.

As to Caldicott’s equating terrorists with Nazis, she is utterly in error, and perilously close to portraying the Islamic movement, and Muslims in general, as fascists. In this claim, she has, once again, allowed herself to be unduly influenced by anti-Islamite propaganda. Anyone familiar with history and political science knows that there are few similarities between al-Qaeda and fascism, and none whatsoever between the mainstream Muslim movement and Nazism. The philosophy of US neoconservatives, Christian fundamentalists, and right-wing Republicans, however, are perfectly parallel with the Fascist philosophy. For fascists to accuse Muslims of being Nazis is Orwellian double-speak.

Finally, although the book deals with the US as the main nuclear threat in the world, it should have included some reference toIsrael’s arsenal of 500 nuclear bombs, aimed menacingly at every major Muslim city in the Middle East. Israel and the US are the only nations in the world which have policies of pre-emptive strikes. According to the International Court of Justice, the threat or use of nuclear weapons is a violation of various articles of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A passionate plea for peace, Caldicott’s New Nuclear Danger is a timely warning against an impending apocalypse, exposing its agents, instigators, and cataclysmic consequences. Considering its use of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; its threat to nuke the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis; its refusal to ban biological weapons, land-mines, and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; its violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty; its development of a defense missile system; its illegal wars of imperial aggression; its invasions of sovereign nations; its use of depleted uranium weapons; its use of cluster bombs and chemical weapons; its practice of carpet bombing; its deliberate destruction of civilian populations; its policy of “regime change”; its creation of conflicts to fill the coffers of the arms industry; its long history of supporting fascist dictators, terrorists, and death squads in the developing world; its violations of international law and universal human rights; its rejection of the Geneva Convention; its suppression of civil liberties under the Patriot Act; its rejection of habeas corpus; its admission of hearsay and secret evidence in court; its illegal surveillance of its own citizens; its illegal detentions in the US and Cuba; its policy of extraordinary rendition; its authorization of torture; its plans to dominate both earth and space; its belief in unilateralism; its contempt for the United Nations and the world community; its policy of pre-emptive strikes against both friends and foes; and its perpetual threats to annihilate the planet in a nuclear holocaust; the US has clearly positioned itself as the real rogue nation in the world.

This book review was contributed by a Muslim academic in the US who prefers to remain anonymous

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 2

Rabi' al-Awwal 13, 14282007-04-01

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