Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bush Eyes Nucular Option

The other day, Jon Stewart's guest on The Daily Show was Marc Siegel, the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear. After Siegel had debunked a few common fears, Stewart asked the author what we should fear. "These leaders," was Siegel's quick reply, an easy applause line if there ever was one (for Stewart's audience, at least). Who knew he was right?

According to recent reports, the Bush administration has asked the Pentagon to revise their nuclear strike plan to include the use of nukes as both a deterrent and as a preemptive tool—against terrorists. Now, we all know the the president has a wee bit of difficulty pronouncing the word "nuclear," so it's easily within the realm of possibility that no one at the Pentagon or in his inner circle has bothered to tell him how the weapons work, either.

Nuclear weapons tend to make a very big bang, indeed. The idea that they would be useful against a terrorist group is patently absurd—unless the U.S. government has no qualms with vaporizing everyone else within a 50-mile radius of the target, that is. Last time I checked, we were still trying to be better than the terrorists. Sending lethal clouds of fallout over Pakistan and making all of Waziristan uninhabitable for next thousand or so years just to squash Osama would kind of put a damper on that angle. Insofar as the intention is to scare off states that might be interested in sponsoring terrorist attacks, this new strike plan has nothing new. It has always been the policy of the United States government to use its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against rogue states.

As this excerpt from the MSNBC article demonstrates, the revised nuclear strike plan exposes a dark irony in American anti-terrorism policy:
To deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, the Pentagon paper says preparations must be made to use nuclear weapons and show determination to use them "if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use." (emphasis added)
Joseph Heller would be proud. Threatening to use weapons of mass destruction as part of our fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction doesn't exactly help us keep the moral upper hand, to put it mildly.

The Bush administration's nuclear brinkmanship, coming at a time when the world's nuclear balance is precarious at best, is the height of irresponsibility. It shows just how stuck in the past this administration is. Under that slick, neo-con surface beats the heart of a true Cold Warrior.

Be afraid, be very afraid.
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