March 11, 2002
If ever there was any doubt about the moral depravity of our leaders, then the news that the Bush administration has ordered the US military to "prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries" should put the question to rest permanently. I tremble as I write this, whether in anger or fear is hard to tell. What we are dealing with, here, is a psychopathic clique of demented killers who pose the greatest threat to human survival since the Black Plague. As long as they remain in power, we are all of us in mortal danger. Think I'm exaggerating for effect? Not this time .
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME
A GREEN LIGHT FOR SHARON
Aside from Russia and China, the traditional targets of the cold war era, the list of countries that might one day glow in the dark includes the "axis of evil" Iraq, Iran, North Korea and also, incredibly, Syria and Libya. The key to understanding the inclusion of these last two is the revelation, in the leaked document, that the US military has been told to prepare the nuke option in case of an all-out Arab-Israeli war. Here is the second circumstance in which we will wield the nuclear stick: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be allowed to conduct a pogrom in Palestine and create a Greater Israel under the protection of a US nuclear umbrella. The portions cited in the Los Angeles Times refer to the nuclear option as an American response to an Iraqi assault on Israel. By including Syria, however, the message the administration is sending and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they leaked this report themselves is all too clear: Israel must be given a free hand, or else .
Of course, it is entirely unnecessary to make such a threat, since everybody knows that Israel has nukes of its own and is much more likely to use them than we are. I find it hard to believe, even now, that George W. Bush would give the order to nuke the entire Middle East, but Sharon would nuke it all and beyond if he believed Israels survival was at stake. What the US is really saying, with this second criterion, is that they dont mind if Sharon takes the initiative and spares them the trouble.
A LEAK SPRUNG FROM THE TOP?
Thirdly, this manifesto of nuclear madness rendered by an anonymous team of Dr. Strangeloves essentially states that we will use nuclear weapons just as we damn well please, no longer as a last resort when our national survival is at stake, but to put down regional revolts on the farthest frontiers of our global empire. In short, as a response to "surprising military developments," nukes will now be used as weapons of conquest. Let's say we invade Iraq, and the war starts to go badly, perhaps because other Arab countries enter the fray and US troops are caught in a general conflagration, a replay of what happened at that Marine barracks in Beirut only on a much larger scale. According to the new policy, in that case we can always nuke 'em into submission. Indeed, the mere threat is enough to at least temper the thought of resistance, which is another reason I tend to think this "leak" was sprung from the top.
OSAMA AND THE SPACE ALIENS
I just dont buy the explanation for this new Doomsday Doctrine trotted out by anonymous "analysts" cited in the Times news story, which sees it as a possible response to the development of some new super-weapon by a "rogue state":
"Analysts said the report's reference to 'surprising military developments' referred to the Pentagon's fears that a rogue regime or terrorist group might suddenly unleash a wholly unknown weapon that was difficult to counter with the conventional U.S. arsenal."
Is Iraq busy developing space-based particle beams so that Saddam can pulverize American cities with the touch of a button? Does Al Qaeda have the help of space aliens, whom they have converted to Islam? What planet are these people living on? Hello! Earth calling self-appointed experts: the terrorists have already unleashed a weapon difficult to counter with the conventional US arsenal and there's a big empty hole in downtown Manhattan because of it.
WACKED TO THE MAX
The piece by William M. Arkin the apparent recipient of this sensational leak in the Sunday Los Angeles Times makes the point that the new doctrine is a measure of how much this administration has been "shaken" by 9/11. Traumatized is more like it, and the result as often occurs is a state of insanity.
THE FIRST TIME AS TRAGEDY, THE SECOND AS PURE HORROR
Arkin goes on to make the point that "officials are looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role in the kinds of challenges the United States faces with Al Qaeda." By this is meant "bunker-busters" that could collapse the deep caves where bin Laden's troops are holding out, and the development of technology that would, somehow, make "surgical" nuclear strikes possible. We are told that "everything's changed" post-9/11, and that this isn't Vietnam, but I recall a little phrase an echo of a bitter reproach from a bygone era about destroying the village in order to save it. If we amend that to nuking the Middle East in order to save Israel, then it seems we are indeed fated to live through the same horror again only, this time, it's going to be a lot worse.
But this line of argument that the Doomsday Doctrine is seriously meant to combat Al Qaeda and its allies worldwide so misconstrues the nature of the terrorist challenge that it seems downright suspicious. Might this "leak" have been the first major project of the supposedly aborted "Office of Strategic Influence"? Certainly the public exposure of America's first-strike scenario achieves one of the goals of the "war on terrorism" to instill fear and trembling in our enemies. That it also instills the same degree of fear in our friends is a consequence the ideologues who run our foreign policy are likely to embrace in the name of a proud "unilateralism."
PUSHING THE PANIC BUTTON
Yet, beneath this imperial demeanor, and the self-conscious arrogance of American policymakers, is an equally self-conscious sense of vulnerability, an undercurrent of weakness. For all of our triumphalist cries of "Victory! Victory!" in taking the war to the enemy in Afghanistan, the US is still very much on the defensive. If we take seriously the number of urgent alerts issued by various government agencies, warning of imminent terrorist attacks in the very heart of the Imperial metropolis, then it could well be this sudden disclosure is a measure of the administration's desperation a disturbing indication that panic has set in.
THE REAL WAR
In terms of its propaganda value, the "nuke 'em" doctrine would be aimed at an international audience: putting the Arab world, and Europe, on notice that we'll poison the region for generations unless they submit. (Think, for a moment, how close Libya is to France.) On the other hand, that we'll retaliate with nukes is cold comfort to most Americans or, at least, to those of us who are still sane. As we queue up at airports, and take in the news that terrorist alerts will now be color-coded, the reality of this war is all too clear: the nature of the battlefield rules out nukes altogether. In fighting the real war against Al Qaeda sealing our borders and rooting out the terrorists in our midst, and internationally nuclear weapons are laughably useless.
THE PARABLE OF THE RING
Remember, also, that, as in the case of the airliners that hit the WTC and the Pentagon, these, too, could conceivably be turned on their makers.
ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them,
In the land of Mordor, where the Shadows lie."
Someone has written a book claiming that J. R. R. Tolkien is "the author of the century," and as I contemplate the developing crisis the poetic leitmotif of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings plays in my head, background music to the unfolding tragedy. Remember that, in Tolkien's epic, the mere possession of the Ring the ultimate weapon is the wearer's undoing. For that kind of power induces madness: not anything so mild as mere megalomania, but a really unique form of hubris one that makes for a unique vulnerability.
In Tolkien's famous fantasy trilogy, the Fellowship of the Ring a multicultural team representing all the races of earth: human, half-human, and half-divine arises to challenge the Dark Lord of Mordor. As orcs and other half-men swarm over the Shire and ravage Rivendell, home of the Elves, the Fellowship goes on the offensive and takes the battle to Mordor, overcoming the most horrendous obstacles on the way. Finally cornering the Dark Lord in his den, a brave hobbit faces down the Evil One with the courage not to use the One Ring but to destroy it once and for all and with it the evil dream of absolute Power that possessed Sauron.
IN SEARCH OF GANDALF
I'm afraid, however, that there is no Fellowship, no Frodo, no Sam Baggins, and, sadly, no Gandalf. We could use a wizard right about now. For nothing else, other than divine intervention of the most direct kind, can possibly avert the disaster that is coming. In Tolkien's story, a couple of simple hobbits brought the Dark Lord down, and Mordor was defeated. In the real world, however, we are faced with quite a different plot-line, at least so far. The Dark Lord is triumphant, and now he is so confident of victory that he is showing his true face in all its brutal ugliness. As our jet-fighters rip through the Afghan sky, screeching like the Nazgul, and our leaders threaten to nuke the cradle of human civilization, it is clear what country is Mordor and who is Sauron in the real world.
DISSIDENTS OR DISINFO?
The leaking of this Doomsday Document is significant in two possible ways, one, as I have said, it was done deliberately a scenario I can't quite bring myself to believe or, more likely, the deed was done by a group of dissidents within the government, who are taking the long-brewing factional war within the administration to the world public. If the latter, then the decision to do so must have been taken under extreme circumstances that we can only imagine: for the consequences, internationally, are grave indeed.
THE NEW 'ISOLATIONISM'
This stunning news radically isolates the US from all of its allies, not just among the Arabs who are no doubt unsurprised by further proof of this administration's infinite capacity for treachery but the French, the British, the Germans, the Italians, the Turks, indeed any and all nations geographically close to the announced potential targets of our nuclear wrath.
PERIL IN THE PACIFIC
The Japanese, who each year commemorate the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with growing resentment, have every right to hate us for even suggesting a repeat performance next door in Korea. Another explicit threat contained in the Doomsday Document that the US would use nuclear weapons in defense of Taiwan against China doesn't help, either.
With Koizumi poised to make painful reforms in Japan's teetering economy, at America's behest, the idea that the Americans would willingly sacrifice the whole region in a nuclear conflagration in order to face down a challenge to their unquestioned hegemony undermines American interests in the region. The rise of anti-American sentiment could bring down the reformists in which case the fall of the Japanese economy would be so precipitous as to take the Americans down with it.
But it is in Europe where the exposure of this Doomsday Doctrine will give a huge impetus to growing anti-Americanism. The rather prosaic left-wing variety, which is all too familiar in its aristocratic disdain for vulgar American capitalists, is too boring to capture the imagination of the masses. But on the European Right, the idea that the Americans would send a cloud of radioactive debris falling, like rain, from Tuscany to Wales, in order to save Israel is sure to induce a paroxysm of pure rage. This startling news is bound to throw the conservatives who vote for the mainstream right-wing parties, in France, the Low Countries, Italy, Austria, and Spain, into a panic. The nice middle class people who voted for, say, Berlusconi, who are usually pro-American, are not going to be all that pleased by the prospect of the nuking of Libya, whose shoreline practically kisses the tip of the Italian boot. In Britain, dissent in the Labor Party over Blair's support for a war on Iraq is already noisy: indeed, this kind of unilateralism basically renders NATO and Atlanticism irrelevant. That could lay the basis for a Tory nationalist reaction based on the sudden realization, by at least some in the Conservative leadership, that 'those damn Yanks don't really care about us, do they?'
MORAL BANKRUPTS RULE US
The moral bankruptcy of our rulers has never been made plainer. Americans would do well to contemplate the implications. If they'll do this to achieve their foreign policy goals, if they'll unleash the nuclear genie and bid it build an empire, perhaps killing tens of thousands even millions in the process, then what won't they do? Steal an election? Cancel an election? Circumscribe the Constitution? Frame up and jail their political enemies? Shut down the free media and establish a dictatorship? If they are now willing to consider nuking the entire Middle East, then God is dead and all is permitted.
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