The Real Nuclear Threat

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Most Americans, even many Iraq war doves, seem to agree that the US government should "do something" about Iran.

Those who don’t advocate bombings or ground invasions will still often defend harsh sanctions against Iran, but this too is a coercive measure, a war by other means. Blockades have long been regarded as acts of war.

Why can’t the United States just leave Iran alone?

Specifically, the fear is that Iran will have nuclear weapons, which just might be used by Islamist terrorists against Americans or US allies. Supposedly, Iran is one of the very worst regimes in human history. Its evil has risen to levels unparalleled since the Third Reich. It is a chief sponsor of terror, the command center from which our enemies conspire to strike. It is lying about its nuclear ambitions. It is thumbing its nose at the international community, and so on.

How can anyone fall for this nonsense? It’s the exact same propaganda we heard five years ago, except the last letter in the name of the enemy nation.

Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, and even if they did, it’s none of the US government’s business. Of course I don’t believe the Iranians should have nukes, but I don’t think anyone should have them. This touches on the real nuclear threat, which is not getting enough attention.

The US government has thousands of nuclear weapons. Americans worry about Iran getting one or two. But only one government has ever used them against civilians, and it happens to be the one that continues to maintain and modernize its enormous arsenal and claims the right to preemptively use them against other nations that it considers a threat. It also happens to have a tragically bad record at determining what constitutes a threat. Furthermore, it happens to be the government whose nuclear policy Americans have the most business being concerned about, as well as the most chance of changing peacefully. After all, these demonic weapons are financed with our tax money.

Why is there so little outrage about this? By what respectable moral standard can the US claim the right to own and brandish such unspeakably petrifying ordnance?

We don’t need too active an imagination to see the problem here. All it would take is a terrible accident to bring on nuclear devastation or even war. It has almost happened before. Atomic holocaust is only one truly mad president or a short series of cataclysmic human errors away.

The astounding number of nuclear weapons is as urgent an issue as any. Environmentalists worrying about carbon emissions, conservatives complaining about kids these days, libertarians riled up by a local zoning code — if any of these people are overlooking these thousands of armaments designed only for slaughter on a colossal scale, they need to get their priorities in order.

Conservatives and liberals will sometimes say to me, "Ahah! How can you oppose nuclear weapons but believe in the right to bear arms?" The liberal’s purpose is to show the logic of gun control. The conservative seeks to show the logic of owning enough explosives to blow up the earth.

Indeed, coercive, government-implemented WMD control is as problematic as gun control. Look at Iraq. We don’t want the state to be in the business of disarming others through force.

As for the objects themselves, a gun is qualitatively different from a nuke. A gun is more like a knife, or a slingshot, or even a pencil, when compared to a nuke. You can kill innocent people with guns, it’s true, but you can also use them in self-defense without inflicting any collateral damage. It happens all the time. A nuke can’t be pinpointed. It’s not designed to be. It was created for atrocity. Nukes are thus different from guns, grenades, tanks and anti-aircraft missiles — the ownership of which can easily be defended on libertarian grounds. Nuclear weapons fashioned for strategic bombing are inherently statist and threatening to innocent life.

The world is held hostage by the US arsenal. This has only encouraged rogue states to seek WMD. If a state doesn’t have any, it gets treated like Iraq. If it has some, it gets diplomacy. The US government has in the nuclear age only picked fights with countries that couldn’t effectively fight back, except through terrorism and fourth-generation warfare.

The debate on an American missile defense system has spanned decades, but what about a defense against American missiles? Bush and Putin recently met to discuss a Star Wars shield, supposedly to protect against the Iranians. But Moscow understandably might feel more threatened by the United States than by Iran. It’s the US that’s been intimidating Russia with its interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe and, reportedly, staging nuclear exercises.

In terms of deploying missiles and bombs, the US is obviously a bigger threat than Iran. Which state has bombed nearly as many people as the US government? Other regimes have killed more in concentration camps, by shootings and beatings, and by starvation. But when it comes to wholesale airborne homicide, the US government has nearly cornered the market for half a century.

The US government is responsible for nukes, this bane on mankind. Franklin Roosevelt introduced nuclear weapons technology to the world and then Harry Truman introduced nuclear warfare to humanity. For this alone, both these men deserve our eternal contempt.

These weapons couldn’t have been developed without forcibly extracting $2 billion from the American people, back when that was a lot of money. They are a product of socialism. The US has since proceeded to encourage their proliferation and now they’re everywhere.

Returning to the issue of Iran, the US government has been wielding its saber for a while now. It has broadcasted its desire for Iranian regime change, which, as in the case of Iraq, is the real reason the neocons want war, rather than a genuine fear of terrorist WMD. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter (who was famously right about Iraq) was asked by Antiwar.com’s Scott Horton if he believed that "nuclear disarmament is the excuse" for "the policy of regime change," to which Ritter answered: "That’s correct. The Bush administration has made it clear that when it comes to the Middle East, the policy is regional transformation." As for the weapons, Ritter says,

"Well, actually the government knows that Iran is not about to have an armful of nuclear weapons. When you hear someone say that Iran is ten years away from having a nuclear weapon, that means that they are at zero right now, because ten years is about how long it takes in this day and age — that’s what it takes to put in place the technology, develop the infrastructure, pump out the fissile material, etc."

The US has made preparations within Iran to use nukes against the country. It has disregarded Iran’s peace overtures, attempts at diplomacy, and offers to assist in battling al Qaeda. It has demonized the Iranian people, who came out in droves in candlelight vigils to show their solidarity with American victims shortly after 9/11, and who have been very forgiving of the United States despite its legacy of backing the totalitarian Shah, teaching his goons how to torture and terrorize, and then sponsoring Saddam’s invasion of their country.

Former CIA Officer Philip Giraldi, who reported back in August, 2005, "that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack," has recently told Scott Horton that he believes the plan is to use nuclear weapons both to destroy Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities and also to threaten massive retaliation against Iran should it decide not to take the punches lying down.

With the heroic and outspoken Ron Paul being the only Republican dissenter and Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich the only dissenting Democrats, all other major presidential candidates keep unprovoked nuclear war on the table. Iran is in no way threatening the United States, but the United States is threatening to unleash terrible destruction on Iran. This is the real nuclear threat right now. If we want to seriously talk about something we can do to make the world a safer place, disarming the American empire of its nuclear stockpile would be the most logical place to start. As a very first step, the American people need to demand that their politicians stop threatening Iranians or others with nuclear warfare, as if this could ever be moral or civilized.

Some will say America can’t lower its defenses so long as the world is a dangerous place. US nukes, however, don’t make us safer in the least. They have only emboldened our imperialist government to go pushing people around in all corners of the globe. They only incite suspicion, fear and hatred, and encourage violence, nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism. If we are attacked by terrorists or a foreign state, all these apocalyptic munitions can be used for is to murder foreigners by the thousands or millions. Really, what kind of a defense is that? Yes, MAD "worked," in that America, Russia and the rest of humanity are still here. But this kind of policy has also brought us to the brink of mutual destruction too often.

Unconditional, unilateral disarmament is the only answer. Ideally, no state should have such weapons, but war in the name of disarming foreign states is a recipe for wide international aggression. The US ought to begin rapidly disarming itself if it really has any interest in a more peaceful world. The rest of the countries are most likely to follow suit when they see that the one state ever to engage in nuclear terrorism is no longer such a threat.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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