November 1, 2006
Iraqi Sunburst, by Joshua Carreon
“We will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge. We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors ... This story goes on, and an Angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.”
President George W. Bush, 2001 Inauguration Speech
Let us take stock. Our country is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our President is “the leader of the free world.” Our Congress worships “the rule of law,” and our Courts dispense “equal justice.” Our military is “second to none.” Our enemies are “terrorists.” Our economy is “the envy of the world,” and the dollar is “the world’s reserve currency.” We produce a new millionaire every few minutes, and the minimum wage is so generous that it hasn’t been raised in nine years. Truly we are “the luckiest people in the world.”
Why is it, then, that we don’t feel so lucky? Why do we feel bound to our fates like serfs, serving corporate masters? Why does the economic good news ring so loudly at the top of the pyramid, and decay to an inaudible grumble by the time it reaches the bottom? Why does the pride of our cocky leader not fill us with confidence? Why do the cries of innocent people, cursing the name of America as they die, reach our ears above the roar of American Idol? Why does the word “Armageddon” have such a ring to it?
“I Am Become Death”
Let us turn for answers to the genesis of our present world. Most historians would pinpoint that date as the detonation of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, at White Sands, New Mexico, an event that prompted J. Robert Oppenheimer to say:
We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
When the U.S. military detonated the atomic bomb by driving a bolus of radioactive uranium in upon itself with a spherical charge of conventional dynamite, even the physicists who created the bomb could not foresee the limits of its destructive capacity. Some thought the entire atmosphere would ignite and consume the world in an all-engulfing holocaust. Nor was it necessary to incinerate vast numbers of humans to show that the bomb had destructive power not only previously unimagined, but unimaginable. As military historian Louis Morton wrote in “The Decision to Use The Atomic Bomb”:
The military situation on 1 June 1945, when the Interim Committee submitted its recommendations on the use of the atomic bomb, was distinctly favorable to the Allied cause. Germany had surrendered in May and troops from Europe would soon be available for redeployment in the Pacific. Manila had fallen in February; Iwo Jima was in American hands; and the success of the Okinawa invasion was assured. Air and submarine attacks had all but cut off Japan from the resources of the Indies, and B-29’s from the Marianas were pulverizing Japan’s cities and factories. The Pacific Fleet had virtually driven the Imperial Navy from the ocean, and planes of the fast carrier forces were striking Japanese naval bases in the Inland Sea. Clearly, Japan was a defeated nation.
The decision to drop the new weapon on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 was made by the secret Interim Committee, led by Secretary of State Henry Stimson, who wrote of the decision: “I felt that to extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisers, they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the empire.” In other words, by demonizing the Japanese as an irrational warrior tribe that could be disciplined only with a surprise attack sure to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, the United States justified its use of nuclear weapons, leaving the rest of the world in doubt and uncertainty about when we would do it again. As a result, the world has spent the last sixty years under the looming shadow of the mushroom cloud.
Don’t Worry – We’ll Build Enough Nukes To Kill Everybody!
By 1968, four countries besides the US had acquired the bomb – England, France, China and the USSR. These heavyweights then came up with something called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (“NPT”), that separates the world into “nuclear nations” and “non-nuclear nations.” The nuclear nations promised not to export nuclear weapons technology, and the non-nuclear nations promised not to ever try and get nuclear weapons. With the world’s safety thus assured, the USSR and the US embarked on a bomb-building binge that continued for forty years, until the USSR collapsed in 1989. The rationale for building huge, computer-guided rockets, topping each one with a nuclear cherry, and burying them in holes in the ground, was called “mutually assured destruction,” as comforting a phrase as has ever been spoken by a munitions manufacturer. As a practical matter, these so-called Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles were of unknown accuracy, and if launched, might well have exploded everywhere but their intended target locations. This was not, of course, a huge government boondoggle. It was a sane, well-thought-out policy developed by the compassionate, budget-conscious people at the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA, with loads of help from Martin-Marietta, Lockheed, Honeywell, and General Electric.
Pakistan – One Hell of An Ally
Although 185 non-nuclear nations have signed the NPT, including Iran and Iraq, three of our country’s staunchest “allies in the war on terror” never did – Israel, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons, and regularly threaten to nuke each other back to the stone age. Pakistan has exported nuclear technology as energetically as it distributes heroin, and Dr. A.Q. Khan, the man responsible for selling nuclear secrets to Libya, North Korea, and Iran, is a national hero. Our alliance with Pakistan in the war on terror is really important though, so President Bush never mentioned to his good friend President-for-life Perverz Musharaff that pardoning Dr. Khan and shielding him from questioning by international arms inspectors, might send the wrong message to someone like, say -- Kim Jong Il? But that just shows how much you know about diplomacy. You would probably expect U.S. security officials to ask the Saudis to help catch the people who backed the 911 hijackers, not realizing how Arabs feel about that kind of talk, and then we’ll be talkin’ high gas prices! No, the world’s a complex place, and besides which, U.S. intelligence officers and agents of the International Atomic Energy Agency (“IAEA”) knew the nuclear horse was escaping from the Pakistani barn long before 2003, when Iraq confessed that it had been buying nuclear technology from Pakistan for fifteen years. What would be the point of shutting the door now?
“The Samson Option”
Israel is another story altogether. Officially, this newest of nations has announced that it will “not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.” Domestically, however, the pluses and minuses of having nukes have been debated widely, and most Israelis are said to favor having them. Internationally, the CIA and the Pentagon have repeatedly identified Israel, along with India and Pakistan, as “de facto” nuclear states. As Avner Cohen wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
Israel’s nuclear project was … a sacred matter of national survival, the only way to grant Israel the deterrence it needed -- Israel must be in a position to inflict a holocaust to prevent another holocaust.
According to Cohen, the “holocaust trauma” suffered by Eastern European Jews in prison camps run by Germans, Poles, Czechs, Rumanians, Bulgarians, and Yugoslavians, provides a “moral justification” for the current government of Israel to maintain a secret nuclear arsenal. Since Israel’s nukes aren’t trained on Germany or Eastern Europe, but rather on Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, the “moral justification” may be somewhat strained, but let’s not quibble about whether one mass murder deserves another. There can be little doubt that hyper-motivated holocaust refugees developed the mechanisms that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Albert Einstein was a German Jew who fled to the United States during the war, visited Israel freely thereafter, and declined an offer to become President of Israel in 1952. Enrico Fermi and his Jewish wife Laura fled from Mussolini’s Italy to the warms arms of the Manhattan Project. J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American Jew, as was Edward Teller, the “father of the H-bomb.” Author Seymour Hersch titled his book on Israel’s nuclear strategy, “The Samson Option,” alluding to how the biblical hero destroyed many of the enemies of Juda, and himself, in a single act of sectarian vengeance. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction can be colored with heroic highlights, but it remains a suicidal gambit.
The U.S. and other NPT signatory nations made no effort to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology to Israel, and indeed, Israel’s steady progress toward developing nuclear weapons was studiously ignored by the United States. After sourcing extractable uranium in the phosphorus deposits of the Negev desert, France violated the NPT by building a 24 Megawatt reactor for Israel at Dimona, near the uranium deposits. The U.S. spy apparatus knew Israel was making a beeline toward its nuclear goal, but according to the Federation of American Scientists:
Although the United States government did not encourage or approve of the Israeli nuclear program, it also did nothing to stop it. Walworth Barbour, US ambassador to Israel from 1961-73, the bomb program’s crucial years, primarily saw his job as being to insulate the President from facts which might compel him to act on the nuclear issue, allegedly saying at one point that “The President did not send me there to give him problems. He does not want to be told any bad news.”
Mordechai Vanunu -- Israel’s Prisoner of Conscience
The reactor at Dimona, and the weapons manufacturing conducted there, was made public when Mordechai Vanunu, who worked there for years, turned whistleblower in 1986 and provided the London Sunday Times with photographs and extensive descriptions of the reactor and the nine buildings where nuclear weapons are created for deployment via bombers, missiles, artillery shells, and from submarines. Shortly before the article was to run, Vanunu was lured to Rome and kidnapped by the Israeli Mossad (secret police), charged with “treason,” for speaking the truth, and imprisoned for seventeen years. Released from prison in April 2004, Vanunu refused to keep silence, and in March 2005, he said through a representative: “I want to work for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want the human race to survive.” Vanunu is still restricted from speaking to the foreign press, has no passport, and is forbidden even attempting to leave Israel. He lives in East Jerusalem among Palestinians, hoping for an end to his ordeal, but unwilling to compromise with Israel’s nuclear cabal.
State Secrets, Private Suffering
The most zealous opponent of Vanunu’s freedom is Yehiyel Horev, identified by the British press as “the head of Israel’s most powerful intelligence service, dealing with nuclear and military secrets.” Horev “operates with no law, no real scrutiny and no monitoring by the Israeli parliament,” according to Yediot Ahronoth, a security correspondent for one of Israel’s leading newspapers. It is easy to see why. Like the CIA’s secret prisons were until very recently, Israel’s nuclear weapons program isn’t officially acknowledged to exist, and therefore can be managed without any oversight. Nonexistent though it may be, Dimona was the subject of an Israeli documentary in 2002. The old reactor has been online for forty years, and workers interviewed for the film said explosions, fires and toxic leaks were routine, and had to be cleaned up without protection, because their bosses denied they were working with radioactive materials. Since then, many have fallen ill with cancer and other diseases, but the government of Israel refuses to acknowledge their claims, and has blocked legal efforts to obtain compensation in the name of secrecy. One of the workers, filmed without his knowledge, apologized that he could not speak freely: “I wanted to talk to you but I have been silenced. They came from intelligence and told me not to talk. They said I would be like Vanunu.”
Never Again, or Forever War?
Perhaps it is not so difficult to understand why Israel has adopted this terribly clever posture with respect to its nuclear arsenal. This tiny nation, born in travail, founded by the survivors of centuries of persecution, was threatened with extinction from its earliest days. The slogan of its founders, scorched by the heat of the death camp ovens, was “Never Again!” These sentiments need no explanation, and with all the moral justification they will ever need for the next millennium, the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”) have become the most fearsome fighting force in the world, utilizing the absolute cutting edge of modern weaponry against some of the worst-trained, under-weaponed adversaries to be found anywhere on the planet. At present, the IDF has unleashed weapons designed by genius-level intelligences against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, the most densely populated area on the planet, and a place where over ninety percent of the children have been traumatized by observing the death or dismemberment of other human beings.
The IDF’s favorite tactic, honed to perfection over the last fifty years, is the blitzkrieg, German for “lightning war,” used by Nazi forces to overwhelm Poland, France, and other European nations in the opening months of World War II. In a blitzkrieg, tanks, mechanized infantry, and close air support overrun the enemy’s forward positions, knock out power and transportation facilities, and occupy the seats of civil authority, striking terror into the civilian populations, who flood the roads in an effort to flee the attack, thus immobilizing the defenders, who find themselves gridlocked in a sea of terrified citizens. Precisely those tactics are on display now in Lebanon – perhaps the most violent manhunt ever staged in the effort to recover a kidnap victim since the Greeks set sail for Troy.
In fact, Israel’s military leaders are about the same business as the Greeks, who used the abduction of Helen as a pretext for all-out war against the Trojans. The Lebanese people didn’t kidnap anyone, and do not deserve to be run from their homes, least of all by a hail of rockets and artillery. The presence of Hezbollah weapons emplacements in Lebanon is a problem, and if Iranian rockets are indeed killing people in Israel, the international community should apply diplomatic pressure to bring a halt to those attacks. If necessary, the UN should deploy a peacekeeping force to disarm them, and thus assure Israel of safety within its borders. But the wholesale pillaging of Lebanon, treating it like a free-fire zone where its citizens may live or die as their fate befalls them, is barbaric, animalistic, and cannot be justified by raising the spectre of holocausts past. This is holocaust now, and empowering the victims of the European holocaust to run the world’s most sophisticated murder machine is not justice, but a horrific exploitation of their ongoing agony.
The Last Generation?
The United States’ Janus-faced policy toward nuclear proliferation has armed Israel with nuclear weapons sufficient to start, if not to finish, a worldwide nuclear war. Not only that, the stated policy of Israel, through the mouths of its apologists, is to hold the entire world in thrall to that threat of annihilation, if necessary, to protect its nationals from injury. The invasion of Lebanon, that killed nearly a thousand Lebanese civilians, injured unnumbered others, and destroyed the civil infrastructure of recently-reconstructed cities and villages, was prompted by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. Calling this a “disproportionate response,” as most national governments around the world did, is a gross understatement. Calling it an expression of “Israel’s right to defend itself,” as Bush did, is merely cloaking brutality with the language of national security, and I’m sure his “base” of evangelical Armageddon freaks are thrilled by the certainty that they are “the last generation.” Nor is their enthusiastic celebration of the impending “endtime” unjustified. For there is no doubt that, regardless of their overt political affiliation, Israel’s leadership would rather see a world without humans than a world without a Jewish state. Because of their preposterous religious beliefs, many evangelicals will candidly admit that such an “end of history” would suit them to perfection. Whether the citizens of the United States, including the evangelical planetary death-cultists, are well served by having a President in office who shares such deranged beliefs in another question.