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What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis March 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine.
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Roger’s note: This article lays out in detail the overall geopolitical strategy of the most reactionary hawkish elements within the Obama government, including Hillary Clinton; and puts the Ukraine crisis in a broader perspective.  This situation is complex and has historical roots that get ignored in the main stream media which, for analysis, substitutes cheer leading  for U.S. interests, which have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, not to mention the best interests of the Ukrainian, Russian or American people.

 

 

President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.

The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a regionin southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.

 

President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)

Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.

Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.

If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.

The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.

U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.

The Rise of Obama

The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.

Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.

Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.

So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.

From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.

Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.

Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.

In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).

Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.

Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.

For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]

Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]

Unorthodox Foreign Policy

Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.

Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.

But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.

Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.

Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.

NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]

State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.

Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.

But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.

Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.

By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.

“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.

As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.

With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.

With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.

Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]

Separating Obama from Putin

The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.

It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.

But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”

The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.

Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”

The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.

But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.

By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.

“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”

The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.

Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.

The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.

Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.  … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.

As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.

That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.

Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’.

The Debacle December 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace.
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Roger’s note: This article may be overly optimistic with respect to the weakening of the Israeli government and AIPAC, but I think it paints a fairly accurate picture.

 

 Uri Avnery’s Column 
The Debacle

THE GREATEST danger to Israel is not the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. The greatest danger is the stupidity of our leaders.

This is not a uniquely Israeli phenomenon. A great many of the world’s leaders are plain stupid, and always have been. Enough to look at what happened in Europe in July 1914, when an incredible accumulation of stupid politicians and incompetent generals plunged humanity into World War I.

But lately, Binyamin Netanyahu and almost the entire Israeli political establishment have achieved a new record in foolishness.

LET US start from the end.

Iran is the great victor. It has been warmly welcomed back into the family of civilized nations. Its currency, the rial, is jumping. Its prestige and influence in the region has become paramount. Its enemies in the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, have been humiliated. Any military strike against it by anyone, including Israel, has become unthinkable.

The image of Iran as a nation of crazy ayatollahs, fostered by Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad, has disappeared. Iran now looks like a responsible country, led by sober and shrewd leaders.

Israel is the great loser. It has maneuvered itself into a position of total isolation. Its demands have been ignored, its traditional friends have distanced themselves. But above everything else, its relations with the US have been seriously damaged.

What Netanyahu and Co. are doing is almost unbelievable. Sitting on a very high branch, they are diligently sawing through it.

Much has been said about the total dependence of Israel on the US in almost all fields. But to grasp the immensity of the folly, one aspect in particular must be mentioned. Israel controls, in effect, the access to the US centers of power.

All nations, especially the smaller and poorer ones, know that to enter the halls of the American Sultan, in order to get aid and support, they have to bribe the doorkeeper. The bribe may be political (privileges from their ruler), economic (raw materials). diplomatic (votes in the UN), military (a base or intelligence “cooperation”), or whatever. If it is big enough, AIPAC will help to gain support from Congress.

This unparalleled asset rests solely on the perception of Israel’s unique position in the US. Netanyahu’s unmitigated defeat on US relations with Iran has badly damaged, if not destroyed, this perception. The loss is incalculable.

ISRAELI POLITICIANS, like most of their colleagues elsewhere, are not well versed in world history. They are party hacks who spend their lives in political intrigues. If they had studied history, they would not have built for themselves the trap into which they have now fallen.

I am tempted to boast that more than two years ago I wrote that any military attack on Iran, either by Israel or the US, is impossible But it was not prophesy, inspired by some unknown deity. It was not even very clever. It was just the result of a simple look at the map. The Strait of Hormuz.

Any military action against Iran was bound to lead to a major war, something in the category of Vietnam, in addition to the collapse of world oil supplies. Even if the US public had not been so war weary, in order to start such an adventure one would not only have to be a fool, but practically mad.

The military option is not “off the table” – it never was “on the table”. It was an empty pistol, and the Iranians knew this well.

The loaded weapon was the sanctions regime. It hurt the people. It convinced the supreme leader, Ali Husseini Khamenei, to completely change the regime and install a new and very different president.

The Americans realized this, and acted accordingly. Netanyahu, obsessed with the bomb, did not. Worse, he still does not.

If it is a symptom of madness to keep trying something that has failed again and again, we should start to worry about “King Bibi”.

TO SAVE itself from the image of utter failure, AIPAC has started to order its senators and congressmen to work out new sanctions to be instituted in some indefinite future.

The new leitmotif of the Israeli propaganda machine is that Iran is cheating. The Iranians just can’t do otherwise. Cheating is in their nature.

This might be effective, because it is based on deeply rooted racism. Bazaar is a Persian word, associated in the European mind with haggling and deception.

But the Israeli conviction that the Iranians are cheating is based on a more robust foundation: our own behavior. When Israel started in the 1950s to build up its own nuclear program, with the help of France, it had to deceive the whole world and did so with stunning effect.

By sheer coincidence – or perhaps not – Israel’s Channel 2 TV aired a very revealing story about this last Monday (just two days after the signing of the Geneva accord!) Its most prestigious program, “Fact”, interviewed the Israeli Hollywood producer, Arnon Milchan, a billionaire and Israeli patriot.

In the program, Milchan boasted of his work for Lakam, the Israeli intelligence agency which handled Jonathan Pollard. (Since then it has been dismantled). Lakam specialized in scientific espionage, and Milchan did invaluable service in procuring in secret and under false pretences the materials needed for the nuclear program which produced the Israeli bombs.

Milchan hinted at his admiration for the South African apartheid regime and at Israel’s nuclear cooperation with it. At the time, a possible nuclear explosion in the Indian Ocean near South Africa mystified American scientists, and there were theories (repeated only in whispers) about an Israeli-South African nuclear device.

A third party was the Shah of Iran, who also had nuclear ambitions. It is an irony of history that Israel helped Iran to take its first atomic steps.

Israeli leaders and scientists went to very great length to hide their nuclear activities. The Dimona reactor building was disguised as a textile factory. Foreigners brought to tour Dimona were deceived by false walls, hidden floors and such.

Therefore, when our leaders speak of deception, cheating and misleading, they know what they are talking about. They respect the Persian ability to do the same, and are quite convinced that this will happen. So are practically all Israelis, and especially the media commentators.

ONE OF the more bizarre aspects of the American-Israeli crisis is the Israeli complaint that the US has had a secret diplomatic channel with Iran “behind our back”.

If there were an international prize for chutzpah, this would be a strong contender.

The “world’s only superpower” had secret communications with an important country, and only belatedly informed Israel about it. What cheek! How dare they?!

The real agreement, so it seems, was not hammered out in the many hours of negotiation in Geneva, but in these secret contacts.

Our government, by the way, did not omit to boast that it knew about this all the time from its own intelligence sources. It hinted that these were Saudi. I would rather suspect that it came from one of our numerous informants inside the US administration.

Be that as it may, the assumption is that the US is obliged to inform Israel in advance about every step it takes in the Middle East. Interesting.

PRESIDENT OBAMA has obviously decided that sanctions and military threats can only go so far. I think he is right.

A proud nation does not submit to open threats. Faced with such a challenge, a nation tends to draw together in patriotic fervor and support its leaders, disliked as they may be. We Israelis would. So would any other nation.

Obama is banking on the Iranian regime-change that has already started. A new generation, which sees on the social media what is happening around the world, wants to take part in the good life. Revolutionary fervor and ideological orthodoxy fade with time, as we Israelis know only too well. It happened in our kibbutzim, it happened in the Soviet Union, it happens in China and Cuba. Now it is also happening in Iran.

SO WHAT should we do? My advice would simply be: if you can’t beat them, join them.

Stop the Netanyahu obsession. Embrace the Geneva deal (because it is good for Israel). Call off the AIPAC bloodhounds from Capitol Hill. Support Obama. Mend the relations with the US administration. And, most importantly, send out feelers to Iran to change, ever so slowly, our mutual relations.

History shows that yesterday’s friends may be today’s enemies, and today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s allies. It already happened once between Iran and us. Apart from ideology, there is no real clash of interests between the two nations.

We need a change of leadership, like the one Iran has begun to embark on. Unfortunately, all Israeli politicians, left and right, have joined the March of Fools. Not a single establishment voice has been raised against it. The new Labor Party leader, Yitzhak Herzog, is part of it as much as Ya’ir Lapid and Tzipi Livni.

As they say in Yiddish: The fools would have been amusing, if they had not been our fools.

Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), and is the founder of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc). Visit his Website.

 

Chomsky’s Right: The New York Times’ Latest Big Lie November 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Media.
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Salon.com / By Patrick Smith

 

More misleading half-truths from a paper too cowed by power and myth to tell the truth about U.S. foreign policy.

 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Northfoto

Never before have I written a column concerning nothing more than a pair of quotation marks. Then again, never until now have I seen the power of punctuation so perniciously deployed.

It is not a new trick. Very popular in hackdom during the Cold War decades. Enclose something in quotation marks and all between them is instantly de-legitimized; no argument or explanation need be made. Here, try it:

“… the Cuban ‘doctors’ sent to Angola…”

Or: “… Soviet-made ‘farm equipment’ in Portugal since its 1974 revolution…”

Well, they were doctors and it was farm equipment. In the latter category I sat in a Soviet tractor out in the Portuguese vineyards, and damn it if the camponês did not find it useful.

In the end, this kind of thing is simply passive aggression, my least favorite neurosis. No one actively lies such that one can confront and reveal. It is lying by misleading and by implication, so sending us off full of groundless conviction and prejudice.

In this case, we have the irresponsible use of inverted commas, as the Brits say, to shape national opinion on a question of vital importance. The question is Iran. And now to the supine, corrupted and corrupting organ.

You have taken a wild guess, and you are right. We have our familiar problem with our friends on Eighth Avenue, the New York Times, faithful servants of the sanctioned orthodoxy. I give these folks an “A” for clever disguise this time, and I flunk them in the professional ethics class. Simply shameful, this round of reckless chicanery.

Here is the situation.

As all know, a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is the biggest game going these days — an historic opportunity, as previously asserted in this space. Fumble this, and the Obama administration will go down as hopelessly moronic on the foreign-relations side.

You may know, too, that a round of talks between six world powers and the Iranians just hit a pothole. It is essential to understand why.

The paradox is apparent, not real. Knowing why reveals what a nation with imperial ambitions looks like when it is nearing exhaustion and would rather decline than shape up, re-imagine itself, and take a new and constructive place in the global community. Not knowing why encourages Americans to preserve their righteous self-image even as the moths of history chew holes in it.

Best, in Washington’s view, that we do not know why talks in Geneva last weekend failed.

Complex story, but we can take care of it simply. Iran wants a nuclear program, and this includes the capacity to enrich uranium. This is Iran’s right under international law. Washington and the major European powers do not want Iran to have such a program because they worry Iran will eventually build a nuclear weapon. The talks in Geneva went sour because the U.S. and the Europeans demanded that Iran surrender its right.

O.K. Here is the lead in the Times report from the City of Diplomacy:

      The Iranian government’s insistence on formal recognition

      of its “right” to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle,

      diplomats said Sunday.

Two big problems. Nothing emerged as an obstacle in Geneva other than Secretary of State Kerry’s duplicity, given that his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, now charges him with misleading Iran as to demands to be made on the enrichment question. Iran has been quite clear all along: Enrichment under law will never get on the table. Zarif would have skipped the trip had he known Kerry’s plans; Kerry knew this.

Then the quotation marks. With them, the Times proposes to deprive Iran of its statutory rights so that Washington can lie to us as well as to the Iranians.

You are all set now for the corker. You search through the piece to understand the quotation marks, and you come to this, edited down so as to get to the point:

       Iran has asserted repeatedly that it has the right to enrich uranium….

       The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to enrich

      uranium to the low level of 3.5 percent…. But the administration

       is not prepared to acknowledge at this point that Iran has a “right”

       to enrich….

This is how the consciousness of empire is dribbled into us and sustained, one touch at a time. Iran asserts only the validity of international law. What the administration is prepared to allow or acknowledge has nothing to do with what Iran can and cannot do as a sovereign nation.

This is also why these talks are very likely to fail. If they do, it will be the fault of Washington and its allies and the complicit media. It is this kind of language that enables Congress to begin debates on new sanctions against Iran. Concessions and demands are different: Iran may choose to concede this or that; the U.S. cannot demand those things by pretending international law does not (somehow) apply.

In my view, we are amid a pandemic of misinformation as to our global behavior. The dishonesty with which we are given the world — an essentially fantastic version of it — is becoming abject to the point of danger. And it is frighteningly willful. Here is the paradox: We cannot bear to see things as they are because things as they are constitute a refutation of our dearest mythologies, but we must see things as they are if we are to make sense of ourselves in the 21st century.

The Iran case has just become urgent in this regard. As I have asserted previously, it will be profoundly detrimental if the U.S. and the Europeans do not pursue what is a patently serious effort on Iran’s part to claim its rights and ease the world’s worries as to its nuclear program.

If the honorable editor will permit the unconventional, two things belong in caps so that a modest few Americans might stop wandering in the dark purposely created by the Times and all the other media too weak-minded to make judgments without reference to the Times:

ONE: IRAN HAS AN UNAMBIGUOUS RIGHT UNDER LAW TO A NUCLEAR PROGRAM, INCLUDING ENRICHMENT, EVEN IF THIS MAKES IT (AS IT WILL) NEARLY CAPABLE OF WEAPONIZING. READ YOUR DAILY NEWS DOSAGE WITH THIS IN MIND.

TWO. THERE IS ZERO EVIDENCE THAT IRAN DESIRES A NUCLEAR WEAPON, AND DECADES OF POLICY TO INDICATE IT PREFERS A NUCLEAR-FREE MIDDLE EAST. THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON IRAN WOULD CHANGE ITS MIND: ISRAEL’S NEVER-MENTIONED ARSENAL OF NUKES. THE MOTIVE WOULD BE DETERRENCE, AND MOST OF US WORSHIPPED AT THE ALTAR OF DETERRENCE WELL ENOUGH DURING THE COLD WAR. IRAN HAS SIGNED THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY; ISRAEL DECLINES TO DO SO.

The adage among properly cynical diplomats used to be that they were sent abroad to lie for their country. During the Cold War, as Washington’s sponsored atrocities grew evident, the thought took a turn: Diplomats were sent abroad to lie to their country.

Consider it a template and apply it to our press folk.

Correspondents used to be sent abroad to keep the country informed (in theory, at least). Now correspondents go forth to send home a simulacrum of truth, a semblance, while keeping their country misinformed.

It is no good positing some golden age of spotless integrity, some yesteryear when newspapers, the wires and broadcasters glistened with high principle. There never was such a time. A good press is ever a work in progress, requiring the calloused hands of each generation to make it however good it can, always and by definition short of any ideal.

Too far short when one considers this columnist’s cohort.

Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications.

Why France Is Playing “Stupid” On Iran November 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: It is no secret that the Middle East is a time bomb and that the State of Israel with its ultra-right racist government is responsible for provoking the creation of new generation of terrorists.  Iran, a small country virtually insignificant in terms of geopolitical relevance wants to develop nuclear energy (something I personally oppose, but that is beside the point here).  Given its size and isolation, the likelihood of Iran developing nuclear weapons is virtually impossible, especially if it opens itself to international inspection.  Nevertheless, the ruling elites of the State of Israel, themselves armed to the teeth with both conventional and nuclear weapons, are doing everything they can to derail the diplomatic enterprise in progress that would eliminate perhaps the greatest source of tension in the Middle East.  They have their reasons, which I will not go into here.  I post the following article to demonstrate how the American government and a large part of the powerful AIPAC Israel lobby allow themselves to become complicit in this disastrous strategy.  The recent return to power in Israel of the crypto-fascist Avigdor Lieberman  as foreign minister for the racist Netanyahu government also is a cause for deep concern to all peace loving people.

 

By (about the author)
opednews.com
source: Asia Times


Foreign minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio yesterday that Paris would not accept a “fools’ game.” Photograph: Pool/REUTERS

PARIS – US Secretary of State John Kerry has famously stated the US “is not blind” or “stupid” in its push to clinch a historic deal over the Iranian nuclear program.[1] So now that the world has been informed, he must, cryptically, have been talking about France.

 

The failed Geneva negotiations this past weekend over a temporary nuclear deal at least carried the merit of revealing who is really blocking it: the axis of fear and loathing composed by the Likudniks in Israel, the House of Saud, and the Francois Hollande administration in France.

Torrents of bytes have already detailed how Israel routinely hijacks US foreign policy. Here’s yet one more graphic demonstration of how Wag the Dog works. Last Friday evening, President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu asking him not to derail Geneva. Bibi then duly picked up the phone and called, in succession, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande and asked them … to derail Geneva.

Hollande was the only one who followed Bibi’s marching orders. And all this after Kerry himself had been lectured by Bibi at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Friday morning.

Flash forward to the coda, early Sunday morning. Not by accident, Wendy Sherman, the lead US negotiator on the Iranian nuclear dossier, a certified Israeli-firster and borderline racist,[2] flew from Geneva straight to Israel to duly “reassure” her true leader, Bibi, that no deal would be clinched.

It’s no secret that Bibi and the Likudniks also run a great deal of Capitol Hill. Apart from bombing Geneva, Bibi may also rack up another temporary victory, with the US Congress about to add even more sanctions on Iran by attaching them to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Meet Bandar Fabius

As far as French behavior is concerned, it is conditioned as much by the formidable Israeli lobby in Paris as hard cash from Gulf petro-monarchies.

It certainly helped that, according to The Times of Israel, French parliament member Meyer Habib — also a holder of an Israeli passport, a former official Likud spokesperson in France, and a close pal of Bibi’s — called French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to tell him Israel would attack Iranian nuclear installations if the current deal on the table was clinched.[3]

Call it the AIPAC effect. Habib is the vice-president of the Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France, or CRIF — the French equivalent to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The ghostwriter of President Hollande’s speeches also happens to be a member of CRIF.

Fabius, grandiloquent and as slippery as runny Roquefort, invoked — what else — “security concerns of Israel” to derail Geneva. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javed Zarif were always extremely worried about being sabotaged by their own internal opposition, the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. So their number one directive was that no details of the deal should be leaked during the negotiations.

That’s exactly what Fabius did. Even before Kerry landed in Geneva, Fabius was telling a French radio station that Paris would not accept a jeu des dupes (“fools’ game”).

The role of Fabius was pricelessly summed up by the proverbial unnamed Western diplomat telling Reuters, “The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations.”[4]

Terabytes of spin have been asserting that Washington and Paris are playing good cop-bad cop on the Iranian dossier. Not exactly; it’s more like the Gallic rooster once again showing off.

Hollande was gung-ho on bombing Damascus when Obama backed off at the 11th minute from the Pentagon’s “limited” attack; Hollande was left staring at a stale bottle of Moet. On both Syria and Lebanon, Paris is unabashedly playing a mix of neocolonial hugs and kisses while sharing the bed with Israel and the House of Saud.

But why, once again, shoot itself in the foot? Paris has lost a lot of money — not to mention French jobs, via automaker Peugeot — because of the Iran sanctions dementia.

Ah, but there is always the seduction of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, and the Gulf petro-monarchies. In a nutshell; Bandar Fabius was nothing but playing paperboy for the House of Saud. The prize: huge military contracts — aircraft, warships, missile systems — and possible construction of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, a deal similar to the one energy giant French Areva clinched last year with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ghost of Montaigne must be squirming; France does not do irony anymore. Iran has no right to have its own nuclear plants, but France builds them and operates them for its Wahhabi clients.

UN Stamps Out Measure to Reign In Nuclear Israel September 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Roger’s note: the hypocrisy is blatant, but you won’t read about it in the New York Times.

Critic: ‘Israel has once again become the exception to international norms to reduce the potential of nuclear war and reduce nuclear weapons.’

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Occupied Bil’in, Palestine (Photo: Flicker Creative Commons / Edo Medicks)

The UN nuclear agency crushed an effort of Arab states to reign in nuclear Israel, rejecting a non-binding resolution on Friday that would have compelled Israel to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and place its arsenal under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision.

“Israel has once again become the exception to international norms to reduce the potential of nuclear war and reduce nuclear weapons,” Deborah Agre from the Middle East Children’s Alliance told Common Dreams.

The “Israeli Nuclear Capabilities” measure, backed by Iran, was brought by a coalition of Arab states frustrated over the postponement of an international conference on creating a nuclear-free Middle East. The measure, which was vigorously opposed by the U.S., was voted down at the IAEA meeting, with 51 countries voting against and 43 in favor.

The defeat of the resolution was broadly reported in the media as a triumph of the West over efforts to “single out” Israel. The backers of the resolution were publicly shamed by several Western powers, including the U.S. and Israel, for even bringing such a measure to the table.

Israel is broadly known to be the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons and has been widely criticized for obstructing efforts to demilitarize the region.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and ‘Bomb Iran’ August 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Iran, Japan, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Roger’s note: this posting contains two somewhat related articles.  The second article, presents the view that the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was for geopolitical and not military reasons.  I first read this interpretation back in the 1960s in a book by the so-called revisionist historian, Gar Alperovitz, “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam.”  Also, according to Wikipedia,
‘Alperovitz is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and was named “Distinguished Finalist” for the Lionel Gelber Prize for The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, (Knopf, 1995).’  I am no historian, but I find the “revisionist” argument to be quite persuasive.

 

 

Last week marked the 68th anniversary of the WWII destruction of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9) — the first and only deployment of nuclear weapons in human history. Within moments of the nuclear explosions that destroyed these cities, at

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

least 200,000 people lost their lives. Tens of thousands subsequently died from radiation poisoning within the next two weeks. The effects linger to this day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that this would the be fate of Israel if Iran was allowed to obtain nuclear weapon-making capabilities, including the ability to enrich high-grade uranium. To prevent this from happening, the economy of Iran must be crippled by sanctions and the fourth largest oil reserves in the world must be barred from global markets, as the oil fields in which they are situated deteriorate. Israel — the only state in the region that actually possesses nuclear weapons and has blocked all efforts to create a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone – should thus be armed with cutting-edge American weaponry. Finally, the US must not only stand behind its sole reliable Middle East ally, which could strike Iran at will, it should ideally also lead — not merely condone — a military assault against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Netanyahu invariably frames the threat posed by Iranian nuclear capability (a term that blurs distinctions between civilian and potential military applications of nuclear technology) as “Auschwitz” rather than “Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, even though the latter might be a more apt analogy. The potential for another Auschwitz is predicated on the image of an Israel that is unable — or unwilling to — defend itself, resulting in six million Jews going “like sheep to the slaughter.” But if Israel and/or the US were to attack Iran instead of the other way around, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” would be the analogy to apply to Iran.

A country dropping bombs on any country that has not attacked first is an act of war, as the US was quick to point out when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor — and this includes so-called “surgical strikes”. In a July 19 letter about US options in Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee that “…the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war” [emphasis added].

If the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime remains morally and militarily questionable, one might think that there would be even less justification for a military strike on Iran, with whom neither Israel nor the US is at war. Of course, there are those who disagree: the US is engaged in a war on terror, Iran has been designated by the US as the chief state sponsor of terrorism since 1984 and so on. Therefore, the US  is, or should be, at war with Iran.

“All options are on the table” is the operative mantra with regard to the US halting Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But if bombs start dropping on Iran, what kind will they be? In fact, the 30,000 lb. Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) that could be employed against Iranian nuclear facilities are nuclear weapons, since they derive their capability of penetrating 200 feet of concrete in the earth from depleted uranium. Furthermore, some Israelis have darkly hinted that, were Israel to confront Iran alone, it would be more likely to reach into its unacknowledged nuclear armoury if that meant the difference between victory and defeat.

Given all this, comparing the damage that would be done by bombing Iran with the destruction of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not farfetched. It also reveals some troubling parallels. In the years prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to what the US regarded as Japanese expansionism, imposed economic sanctions on Japan in 1937. Just before the US entered the war, an embargo was placed on US exports of oil to Japan, upon which Japan was utterly dependent.

In 1945, it was already clear that Japan was preparing to surrender and that the outstanding issue at hand was the status of its emperor. There was neither a military nor political need to use atomic weapons to bring an end to the war. Numerous justifications for dropping atomic bombs on Japan were invoked, but nearly all of them were challenged or discredited within a few years after the war ended. Three are particularly noteworthy today, as we continue to face the prospect of war with Iran.

Saving lives: US Secretary of War Henry Stimson justified the decision to use atomic weapons as “the least abhorrent choice” since it would not only would save the lives of up to a million American soldiers who might perish in a ground assault on Japan, it would also spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians who were being killed in fire bombings. President Harry Truman also claimed that “thousands of lives would be saved” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities.” But as Andrew Dilks points out, “None of these statements were based on any evidence.”

Speaking in Warsaw, Poland on June 12 — two days before the Iranian election that he declared would “change nothing” with regard to Iran’s alleged quest to develop nuclear weaponry — Netanyahu used the opening of an Auschwitz memorial to make his case. “This is a regime that is building nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose to annihilate Israel’s six million Jews,” he said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will never allow another Holocaust.” About the Iranians who would perish after an Israeli attack, Netanyahu said nothing.

Justifying expenditures: The total estimated cost of the Manhattan Project, which developed the bombs dropped on Japan, was nearly $2 billion in 1945, the equivalent of slightly more than $30 billion today. Secretary of State James Byrnes pointed out to President Harry Truman, who was up for re-election in 1948, that he could expect to be berated by Republicans for spending such a large amount on weapons that were never used, according to MIT’s John Dower.

A recent report by the Congressional Research Service shows that Israel is the single largest recipient of US aid, receiving a cumulative $118 billion, most of it military aid. The Bush administration and the Israeli government had agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package in 2007, which assured Israel of funding through 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Barack Obama, who had been criticized by the US pro-Israel lobby for being less concerned than previous American presidents about Israel’s well being and survival, pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress. Not to be outdone, the otherwise tightfisted Congress not only approved the added assistance Obama had promised, it also increased it. An Iran that is not depicted as dangerous would jeopardize the generous military assistance Israel receives. What better way to demonstrate how badly needed those US taxpayer dollars are than to show them in action?

Technological research and development: One of the most puzzling questions about the decision to use nuclear weaponry against Japan is why, three days after the utter devastation wreaked on Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was unnecessary from a militarily perspective. Perhaps the answer exists in the fact that the Manhattan Project had produced different types of atomic bombs: the destructive power of the “Little Boy”, which fell on Hiroshima, came from uranium; the power of “Fat Man”, which exploded over Nagasaki, came from plutonium. What better way to “scientifically” compare their effectiveness at annihilation than by using both?

The award winning Israeli documentary, The Lab, which opens in the US this month, reveals that Israel has used Lebanon and Gaza as a testing ground for advances in weaponry. Jonathan Cook writes, “Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year’s Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry.” Israeli military leaders have strongly hinted that in conducting air strikes against Syria, the Israeli Air Force is rehearsing for an attack on Iran, including the use of bunker-buster bombs.

The Pentagon, which reportedly has invested $500 million in developing and revamping  MOP “bunker busters”, recently spent millions building a replica of Iran’s Fordow nuclear research facility in order to demonstrate to the Israelis that Iranian nuclear facilities can be destroyed when the time is right.

Gen. Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday to meet with Israel’s Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel’s political leaders. Members of Congress from both political parties are also visiting — Democrats last week, Republicans this week — on an AIPAC-sponsored “fact-finding” mission. No doubt they will hear yet again from Israeli leaders that the world cannot allow another Auschwitz.

The world cannot allow another Hiroshima and Nagasaki either.

Marsha Cohen

Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel. Her articles have been published by PBS/Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. IPS, Alternet, Payvand and Global Dialogue. She earned her PhD in International Relations from Florida International University, and her BA in Political Philosophy from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

 

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Big Historical Lie

 

Via orwellwasright:

It is perceived wisdom throughout the Western world – particularly America – that the dropping of two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was “necessary” to end the war with Japan. Printed throughout textbooks in the post-war world, the understanding is that, had these targets not been struck, the war would have waged on indefinitely, with potentially untold American soldier and Japanese civilian deaths.

As the world commemorates the 68th anniversary of the attacks, however, it is important to take a step back and view the catastrophic event not through the prism of propaganda and mythologizing, but instead through the lens of historical scrutiny. For, as if often the case, the disparity between “Official History” and reality is characterized by lies and deceptions bolstered by patriotism and American exceptionalism.

We are told repeatedly that, without the use of weapons which current Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui refers to as the “ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil”, Japan would never have surrendered. We are told that President Truman was troubled by the mounting Allied casualties, and that the Joint Chiefs had told him to expect 1,000,000 dead Americans in the pending attack on the Japanese home islands. Yet this figure is a complete fabrication, invented by Secretary of War Stimson. No such claim was made by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Truman himself, in different statements, asserted “thousands of lives would be saved,” and “a quarter of a million of the flower of our young manhood was worth a couple of Japanese cities,” and also “I thought 200,000 of our young men would be saved by making that decision.” None of these statements were based on any evidence.

The alleged indefatigably of the Japanese military and their unwillingness to surrender is also a proven myth. By the summer of 1945 their position was hopeless and numerous attempts to surrender had already been made. Brigadier Gen. Carter W. Clarke stated: “We brought them down to an abject surrender through the accelerated sinking of their merchant marine and hunger alone, and when we didn’t need to do it, and we knew we didn’t need to do it, and they knew that we knew we didn’t need to do it, we used them as an experiment for two atomic bombs.”

Truman knew weeks before the Potsdam Conference, which began in July, 1945, that the Japanese were making overtures to surrender, the only condition being the retention of the Emperor. But Truman was determined to test the new bombs. In the words of General Douglas McArthur: ”The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.” In the event, the US agreed to the terms of the Japanese surrender anyway – but not until they had tested their new weapons and caused the deaths of 100,000s of innocent civilians.

In reality, most of the military top brass were disgusted at the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and understood completely that it served no military purpose whatsoever. Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s Chief of Staff said, “The use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.” This view was reiterated by Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who said, “The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace… The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan.”

So what is the truth about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why, when intelligence agencies knew months in advance that contingency plans for a large-scale invasion were completely unnecessary and that Japan desperately sought peace, did they, as Admiral Leahy put it, adopt “an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages”?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, the Russians had entered the Japanese war and were making striking advances through Manchuria, decimating the already weakened Japanese army. Indeed, their role was pivotal – as Air Force General Claire Chennault stated: “Russia’s entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped.” The last thing the American leadership wanted was for Russia to receive equal spoils of war and emerge from the war as a superpower equal to the US.

In this sense, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are more accurately perceived as the opening salvos of the Cold War, rather than the final shots fired in the Second World War – the Cold War was, after all, defined essentially as a balance of nuclear powers; realpolitik and the primacy of power where the arms race and military insanity took supremacy over diplomacy.

The other, far more sinister reason, was one of scientific curiosity. After making such a huge investment in the Manhattan Project (2 billion in 1940) and with three bombs completed, there was little to no desire to shelve the weapons. The fissionable material in the Hiroshima bomb was uranium, while the Nagasaki bomb was plutonium, and subsequently there was intense scientific curiosity as to the different effects these bombs would produce. As the US Army director of the project, General Leslie Groves pondered: “what would happen if an entire city was leveled by a single uranium bomb?” “What about a plutonium bomb?” For the science experiment to go ahead, surrender was not an option.

Perhaps Stanley Kubrick in his movie Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb expressed his understanding more than most of the mentality of those who pushed for the use of atomic weapons on the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki – it was a decision based on a kind of hell-bent fanatical militarism combined with the worst kind of scientific endeavor devoid of any sense of humanity. Small wonder that this history books and the propaganda machine went into overdrive in the following years, endlessly justifying the use of what President Eisenhower described as “that awful thing”.

Andrew Dilks is the author of Goliath.

Is Netanyahu Planning Nuclear Attack on Iran? November 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Published on Sunday, November 11, 2012 by Common Dreams

- Common Dreams staff

The Sunday Times of London is reporting that ‘Rivals fear Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu is plotting nuclear strike on Iran.’

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz unveiling his party’s campaign slogan at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday. His campaign poster says “Bibi will endanger Israel” over the image of a mushroom cloud. (Photo/Yaron Brenner)

Netanyahu thinks ballistic missiles carrying tactical nuclear warheads will be necessary to take out Iran’s Fordow uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. The site is buried deep beneath a mountain.

Western sources say Israel firing a Jericho-3 missile carrying a tactical nuclear warhead would be “sufficient to ‘bury’ the plant.” The United States is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons thus far.

From The Sunday Times:

Well aware of the hostile international response to even the suggestion of a nuclear attack, the option is not being debated publicly. But last week it was referred to indirectly by Shaul Mofaz, head of the Kadima party and leader of the opposition.

For some time Mr Mofaz, 64, a former defense minister and one of the few Israeli politicians privy to the country’s nuclear secrets, has believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is playing a dangerous game.

Mr Mofaz shocked many Israelis last week when during a press conference he unveiled a poster showing a red mushroom cloud with the slogan: “Bibi will endanger Israel.”

Most Israelis assumed the poster referred to the Iranian threat. But its message may have been more subtle, hinting at an argument that Mr Mofaz cannot articulate in public: that he believes Mr Netanyahu could be considering a nuclear option.

Mr Netanyahu signaled in a television interview last week that he was prepared to strike Iran without the support of the US. “When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” he asked.

Burman: What has prompted Canada’s move against Iran? September 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Published on Friday September 07, 2012

            FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS                    People wait at the door of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa on Friday to collect passports following Canada’s decision to expel all remaining Iranian diplomats in Ottawa.       
Tony Burman

By Tony BurmanSpecial to the Star
Although his swearing-in at Rideau Hall must have happened in the dead of night, Canada appears to have a new foreign minister. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. His day job may be prime minister of Israel, but Canada’s abrupt actions against Iran seem to confirm that the Harper government’s outsourcing of Canada’s Middle East policy to Jerusalem is now complete.

There is little else to conclude from Canada’s unwise decision to move unilaterally on Iran at this moment. All sorts of crucial issues are in play with Iran. They involve the future of its nuclear program, the impatience of Israel’s leadership to attack Iran, the shape of a new Middle East as the heinous Syrian regime implodes and several delicate life-and-death issues involving Canadians on death row in Iran. Surprisingly, Western nations have held together on how to approach these key challenges — except, now, for Canada.

So why would Canada indulge in a meaningless poke in the eye that will only be dismissed by Tehran and serve to push the Canadian government even further to the extremes of diplomatic irrelevance?

For a clue, let’s flash back two weeks ago to Israel, where the debate over Iran has been at a fever pitch among politicians and in the media for months.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met privately with the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Netanyahu “lost his temper,” according to U.S. officials, and was described as nervous, agitated and frustrated at American reluctance to move on Iran. Several days later, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, further upset him by warning that an Israeli strike, with all its risks, would only “delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”

Now, enter the Canadian government. In recent years, with its passionate pro-Israeli stance, it has gained the reputation throughout the Middle East of being a passionate warrior on behalf of Israel’s foreign ministry. I was in Israel in July — coincidentally at the same time as Mitt Romney — and there were references in the Israeli media about Canada’s unwavering support of the Israeli government.

It was obviously appreciated, but one sensed it was also seen by some Israelis as somewhat mystifying. After decades of being one of the world’s most respected “honest brokers” on Middle East issues, what in God’s name has slipped into the water supply in Canada to explain such a change?

Contrary to the Canadian government’s statement on Friday, it is unimaginable that its actions against Iran will affect that country’s policy regarding Syria or its nuclear program. Instead, its priority seems to be on the Israeli issues. It is not surprising that Canada’s actions were warmly welcomed by Netanyahu.

But it is difficult to understand Canada’s timing. It will have precious little impact on Iran’s behavior and seems at variance with the current state-of-play on the nuclear issue. In fact, it actually comes at a time when the mood in Israel’s top leadership seems to have turned against the idea of an imminent strike against Iran.

On Thursday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak — who has sided with Netanyahu in arguing that a nuclear-armed Iran is an ”existential” threat to Israel — seemed subtly to temper his rhetoric. He emphasized a desire to work with the Americans on this issue, even if this meant a delay in potential military action: “One should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts.”

Barak’s remarks may have reflected several important realities that are gaining attention. One, it is clear that U.S. president Barack Obama is as determined as the Israelis to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Two, there is still no evidence that Iran actually wants nuclear weapons. And three, most of the Israeli public, military and political class find the idea of a strike against Iran as unnecessarily dangerous. Last Sunday, a former Supreme Court Justice Eliyahu Winograd— whose committee criticized Israel’s role in its 2006 war with Lebanon — warned that an Israeli strike on Iran “may endanger the future of the country”.

And then, there is that other crucial issue: If Israel attacks Iran, with or without U.S. help, what will be the repercussions? Will the region be engulfed in war? Will the Iranian government, so loathed by many of its people, be emboldened and strengthened by this attack? Will such an action actually ensure that Iran eventually develops a nuclear bomb?

Canadians have every right to ask its government how it believes such a conflict will evolve. However, reflecting on its recent actions, we may have to wait until our government checks with its new foreign minister in Jerusalem before we get some answers.

Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English and CBC News, teaches journalism at Ryerson University. tony.burman@gmail.com

In Hiroshima’s Shadow August 2, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, History, Latin America, Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Thursday, 02 August 2012, By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | News Analysis

Hiroshima Bombing.(Photo: Wikimedia)

August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

This year‚ Aug. 6 memorials have special significance. They take place shortly before the 50th anniversary of, “the most dangerous moment in human history,” in the words of the historian and John F. Kennedy adviser Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., referring to the Cuban missile crisis.

Graham Allison writes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that Kennedy, “ordered actions that he knew would increase the risk not only of conventional war but also nuclear war,” with a likelihood of perhaps 50 percent, he believed, an estimate that Allison regards as realistic.

Kennedy declared a high-level nuclear alert that authorized, “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … (or others) … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb.”

None were more shocked by the discovery of missiles in Cuba than the men in charge of the similar missiles that the U.S. had secretly deployed in Okinawa six months earlier, surely aimed at China, at a moment of elevated regional tensions.

Kennedy took Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, “right to the brink of nuclear war and he looked over the edge and had no stomach for it,” according to Gen. David Burchinal, then a high-ranking official in the Pentagon planning staff. One can hardly count on such sanity forever.

Khrushchev accepted a formula that Kennedy devised, ending the crisis just short of war. The formula‚ boldest element, Allison writes, was, “a secret sweetener that promised the withdrawal of U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months after the crisis was resolved.” These were obsolete missiles that were being replaced by far more lethal, and invulnerable, Polaris submarines.

In brief, even at high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, it was felt necessary to reinforce the principle that U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, some aimed at China or at the borders of Russia, which had previously placed no missiles outside the USSR. Justifications of course have been offered, but I do not think they withstand analysis.

An accompanying principle is that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion. The plans for Kennedy‚ terrorist programs, Operation Mongoose, called for, “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime,” in October 1962, the month of the missile crisis, recognizing that, “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention.”

The terrorist operations against Cuba are commonly dismissed by U.S. commentators as insignificant CIA shenanigans. The victims, not surprisingly, see matters rather differently. We can at last hear their voices in Keith Bolender‚, “Voices from the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba.”

The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy‚ finest hour. Allison offers them as, “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.” In particular, today‚ conflicts with Iran and China.

Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on Aug. 6.

Allison joins many others in regarding Iran‚ nuclear programs as the most severe current crisis, “an even more complex challenge for American policymakers than the Cuban missile crisis,” because of the threat of Israeli bombing.

The war against Iran is already well underway, including assassination of scientists and economic pressures that have reached the level of, “undeclared war,” in the judgment of the Iran specialist Gary Sick.

Great pride is taken in the sophisticated cyberwar directed against Iran. The Pentagon regards cyberwar as, “an act of war,” that authorizes the target, “to respond using traditional military force,” The Wall Street Journal reports. With the usual exception: not when the U.S. or an ally is the perpetrator.

The Iran threat has recently been outlined by Gen. Giora Eiland, one of Israel‚ top military planners, described as, “one of the most ingenious and prolific thinkers the (Israeli military) has ever produced.”

Of the threats he outlines, the most credible is that, “any confrontation on our borders will take place under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.” Israel might therefore be constrained in resorting to force. Eiland agrees with the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence, which also regard deterrence as the major threat that Iran poses.

The current escalation of the, “undeclared war,” against Iran increases the threat of accidental large-scale war. Some of the dangers were illustrated last month when a U.S. naval vessel, part of the huge deployment in the Gulf, fired on a small fishing boat, killing one Indian crew member and wounding at least three others. It would not take much to set off a major war.

One sensible way to avoid such dread consequences is to pursue, “the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons,” the wording of Security Council resolution 687 of April 1991, which the U.S. and U.K. invoked in their effort to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of Iraq 12 years later.

The goal has been an Arab-Iranian objective since 1974, regularly re-endorsed, and by now it has near-unanimous global support, at least formally. An international conference to consider ways to implement such a treaty may take place in December.

Progress is unlikely unless there is mass public support in the West. Failure to grasp the opportunity will, once again, lengthen the grim shadow that has darkened the world since that fateful Aug. 6.

© 2011 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

 

How a world-ending weapon disappeared from our lives, but not our world July 9, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, War.
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Roger’s note: when I was a small child I was afraid of the dark, and the only way I could peacefully fall asleep was to pull my blanket over my head.  Somehow, irrationally, it made me feel safe from whatever out there I was afraid of.  As you will read in the article posted below, “out there” are 20,000 nuclear warheads in the hands of the governments of nine nations, some less stable than others.  Enough nuclear power to blow our planet to bits a number of time.  Why am I calling this to your attention?  Actually, I am not sure.  It just seems to me that a strategy more practical than pulling a blanket of our collective heads is called for.  And good luck in getting to sleep tonight.

 By , TomDispatch 

Don't forget nuclear weaponsThe Ringhals atomic power station near Varberg, Sweden(Credit: AP/Bjorn Larsson Rosvall)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

There was a time when nuclear weapons were a significant part of our national conversation. Addressing the issue of potential atomic annihilation was once described by nuclear theorist Herman Kahn as “thinking about the unthinkable,” but that didn’t keep us from thinking, talking, fantasizing, and worrying about it, or putting images of possible nuclear nightmares (often transmuted to invading aliens or outer space) endlessly on screen.

Now, on a planet still overstocked with city-busting, world-ending weaponry, in which almost 67 years have passed since a nuclear weapon was last used, the only nuke that Americans regularly hear about is one that doesn’t exist: Iran’s. The nearly 20,000 nuclear weapons on missiles, planes, and submarines possessed by Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are barely mentioned in what passes for press coverage of the nuclear issue.

Today, nuclear destruction finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties about our planet and its fate. For some reason, we trust ourselves, our allies, and even our former enemies with nuclear arms — evidently so deeply that we don’t seem to think the staggering arsenals filled with weaponry that could put the devastation of Hiroshima to shame are worth covering or dealing with. Even the disaster at Fukushima last year didn’t revive an interest in the weaponry that goes with the “peaceful” atom in our world.

Attending to the Bomb in a MAD World

Our views of the nuclear issue haven’t always been so shortsighted. In the 1950s, editor and essayist Norman Cousins was typical in frequently tackling nuclear weapons issues for the widely read magazine Saturday Review. In the late 1950s and beyond, the Ban the Bomb movement forced the nuclear weapons issue onto the global agenda, gaining international attention when it was revealed that Strontium-90, a byproduct of nuclear testing, was making its way into mothers’ breast milk. In those years, the nuclear issue became personal as well as political.

In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy responded to public pressure by signing a treaty with Russia that banned atmospheric nuclear testing (and so further Strontium-90 fallout). He also gave a dramatic speech to the United Nations in which he spoke of the nuclear arms race as a “sword of Damocles” hanging over the human race, poised to destroy us at any moment.

Popular films like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove captured both the dangers and the absurdity of the superpower arms race. And when, on the night of October 22, 1962, Kennedy took to the airwaves to warn the American people that a Cuban missile crisis was underway, that it was nuclear in nature, and that a Soviet nuclear attack and a “full retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union” were possibilities — arguably the closest we have come to a global nuclear war — it certainly got everyone’s attention.

All things nuclear receded from public consciousness as the Vietnam War escalated and became the focus of antiwar activism and debate, but the nuclear issue came back with a vengeance in the Reagan years of the early 1980s when superpower confrontations once again were in the headlines. A growing anti-nuclear movement first focused on a near-disaster at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania (the Fukushima of its moment) and then on the superpower nuclear stand-off that went by the name of “mutually assured destruction” or, appropriately enough, the acronym MAD.

The Nuclear Freeze Campaign generated scores of anti-nuclear resolutions in cities and towns around the country, and in June 1982, a record-breaking million people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for nuclear disarmament. If anyone managed to miss this historic outpouring of anti-nuclear sentiment, ABC news aired a prime-time, made-for-TV movie, The Day After, that offered a remarkably graphic depiction of the missiles leaving their silos and the devastating consequences of a nuclear war. It riveted a nation.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of that planetary superpower rivalry less than a decade later took nuclear weapons out of the news. After all, with the Cold War over and no other rivals to the United States, who needed such weaponry or a MAD world, either? The only problem was that the global nuclear landscape was left more or less intact, mission-less but largely untouched (with the proliferation of the weapons to other countries ongoing). Unacknowledged as it may be, in some sense MAD still exists, even if we prefer to pretend that it doesn’t.

A MAD World That No One Cares to Notice

More than 20 years later, the only nuclear issue considered worth the bother is stopping the spread of the bomb to a couple of admittedly scary and problematic regimes: Iran and North Korea. Their nuclear efforts regularly make the news and garner attention (to the point of obsession) in media and government circles. But remind me: When was the last time you read about what should be the ultimate (and obvious) goal — getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether?

This has been our reality, despite President Obama’s pledge in Prague back in 2009 to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and the passage of a modest but important New START arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia in 2010. It remains our reality, despite a dawning realization in budget-anxious Washington that we may no longer be able to afford to throw money (as presently planned) at nuclear projects ranging from new ballistic-missile submarines to new facilities for building nuclear warhead components — all of which are slated to keep the secret global nuclear arms race alive and well decades into the future.

If Iran is worth talking about — and it is, given the implications of an Iranian bomb for further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East — what about the arsenals of the actual nuclear states? What about Pakistan, a destabilizing country which has at least 110 nuclear warheads and counting, and which continues to view India as its primary adversary despite U.S. efforts to get it to focus on al Qaida and the Taliban? What about India’s roughly 100 nuclear warheads, meant to send a message not just to Pakistan but to neighboring China as well? And will China hold pat at 240 or so nuclear weapons in the face of U.S. nuclear modernization efforts and plans to surround it with missile defense systems that could, in theory if not practice, blunt China’s nuclear deterrent force?

Will Israel continue to get a free pass on its officially unacknowledged possession of up to 200 nuclear warheads and its refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Who are France and the United Kingdom targeting with their forces of 300 and 225 nuclear warheads, respectively? How long will it take North Korea to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs and deploy them on workable, long-range missiles? And is New START the beginning or the end of mutual U.S. and Russian arms reductions?

Many of these questions are far more important than whether Iran gets the bomb, but they get, at best, only a tiny fraction of the attention that Tehran’s nuclear program is receiving. Concern about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and a fear of loose nukes in a destabilizing country is certainly part of the subtext of U.S. policy towards Islamabad. Little effort has been made of late, however, to encourage Pakistan and India to engage in talks aimed at reconciling their differences and opening the way for discussions on reducing their nuclear arsenals.

The last serious effort – centered on the contentious issue of Kashmir — reached its high point in 2007 under the regime of Pakistani autocrat Pervez Musharraf, and it went awry in the wake of political changes within his country and Pakistani-backed terrorist attacks on India. If anything, the tensions now being generated by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands and other affronts, intended or not, to Pakistan’s sovereignty have undermined any possibility of Washington brokering a rapprochement between Pakistan and India.

In addition, starting in the Bush years, the U.S. has been selling India nuclear fuel and equipment. This has been part of a controversial agreement that violates prior U.S. commitments to forgo nuclear trade with any nation that has refused to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a pact India has not signed). Although U.S. assistance is nominally directed towards India’s civilian nuclear program, it helps free up resources that India can use to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal.

The “tilt” towards India that began during the Bush administration has continued under Obama. Only recently, for instance, a State Department official bragged about U.S. progress in selling advanced weaponry to New Delhi. Meanwhile, F-16s that Washington supplied to the Pakistani military back in the heyday of the U.S.-Pakistan alliance may have already been adapted to serve as nuclear delivery vehicles in the event of a nuclear confrontation with India.

China has long adhered to a de facto policy of minimum deterrence — keeping just enough nuclear weapons to dissuade another nation from attacking it with nuclear arms. But this posture has not prevented Beijing from seeking to improve the quality of its long-range ballistic missiles. And if China feels threatened by continued targeting by the United States or by sea-based American interceptors deployed to the region, it could easily increase its arsenal to ensure the “safety” of its deterrent. Beijing will also be keeping a watchful eye on India as its nuclear stockpile continues to grow.

Ever since Ronald Reagan — egged on by mad scientists like Edward Teller and right-wing zealots like Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham – pledged to build a perfect anti-nuclear shield that would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” missile defense has had a powerful domestic constituency in the United States. This has been the case despite the huge cost and high-profile failures of various iterations of the missile defense concept.

The only concrete achievement of three decades of missile defense research and development so far has been to make Russia suspicious of U.S. intentions. Even now, rightly or not, Russia is extremely concerned about the planned installation of U.S. missile defenses in Europe that Washington insists will be focused on future Iranian nuclear weapons. Moscow feels that they could just as easily be turned on Russia. If President Obama wins a second term, he will undoubtedly hope to finesse this issue and open the door to further joint reductions in nuclear forces, or possibly even consider reducing this country’s nuclear arsenal significantly, whether or not Russia initially goes along.

Recent bellicose rhetoric from Moscow underscores its sensitivity to the missile defense issue, which may yet scuttle any plans for serious nuclear negotiations. Given that the U.S. and Russia together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, an impasse between the two nuclear superpowers (even if they are not “super” in other respects) will undercut any leverage they might have to encourage other nations to embark on a path leading to global nuclear reductions.

In his 1960s ode to nuclear proliferation, “Who’s Next?” Tom Lehrer included the line “Israel’s getting tense, wants one in self-defense.” In fact, Israel was the first — and for now the only — Middle Eastern nation to get the bomb, with reports that it can deliver a nuclear warhead not only from land-based missiles but also via cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines. Whatever it may say about Israel’s technical capabilities in the military field, Israel’s nuclear arsenal may also be undermining its defense, particularly if it helps spur Iran to build its own nukes. And irresponsible talk by some Israeli officials about attacking Iran only increases the chance that Tehran will decide to go nuclear.

It is hard to handicap the grim, “unthinkable,” but hardly inconceivable prospect that August 9, 1945, will not prove to be the last time that nuclear weapons are used on this planet. Perhaps some of the loose nuclear materials or inadequately guarded nuclear weapons littering the globe — particularly, but not solely, in the states of the former Soviet Union — might fall into the hands of a terrorist group. Perhaps an Islamic fundamentalist government will seize power in Pakistan and go a step too far in nuclear brinkmanship with India over Kashmir. Maybe the Israeli leadership will strike out at Iran with nuclear weapons in an effort to keep Tehran from going nuclear. Maybe there will be a miscommunication or false alarm that will result in the United States or Russia launching one of their nuclear weapons that are still in Cold War-style, hair-trigger mode.

Although none of these scenarios, including a terrorist nuclear attack, may be as likely as nuclear alarmists sometimes suggest, as long as the world remains massively stocked with nuclear weapons, one of them — or some other scenario yet to be imagined — is always possible. The notion that Iran can’t be trusted with such a weapon obscures a larger point: Given their power to destroy life on a monumental scale, no individual and no government can ultimately be trusted with the bomb.

The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them — not just the Iranian one that doesn’t yet exist, but all of them. It’s a daunting task. It’s also a subject that’s out of the news and off anyone’s agenda at the moment, but if it is ever to be achieved, we at least need to start talking about it. Soon.

William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Hartung discusses the upside-down world of global nuclear politics, click here or download it to your iPod here.)

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