Moments after hearing about North Korea's nuclear
test, I thought of Albert Einstein's statement that "there is no secret
and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the
aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world."
During the six decades since Einstein spoke, experience has shown
that such understanding and insistence cannot be filtered through the
grid of hypocrisy. Nuclear weapons can't be controlled by saying, in
effect, "Do as we say, not as we do." By developing their own nuclear
weaponry, one nation after another has replied to the nuclear-armed
states: Whatever you say, we'll do as you've done.
In early summer, with some fanfare, officials in Washington
announced the dismantling of the last W56 nuclear warhead a 1.2
megaton model from the 1960s. Self-congratulation was in the air, as a
statement hailed "our firm commitment to reducing the size of the
nation's nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest levels necessary for
national security needs." That's the kind of soothing PR that we've
been getting ever since the nuclear age began.
Right now, the U.S. government has upwards of 10,000 nuclear bombs and warheads
in its arsenal. And as the Washington Post uncritically reported
the same week as the announcement about the end of the W56 warhead Congress
and the White House are resolutely moving ahead with plans for "a new generation
of U.S. nuclear weapons" under the rubric of the Reliable Replacement Warhead
program: "The nation's two nuclear weapons design centers, the Los Alamos
and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, are competing to design the first
A second RRW design competition may provide an opportunity to the
For more than 50 years, Washington has preached the global virtues
of "peaceful" nuclear power reactors while denying their huge
inherent dangers and their crucial role in proliferating nuclear
weaponry. The denial meant that people and the environment would suffer
all along the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to nuclear waste;
and that the 1979 disaster at Three Mile Island would be followed by
the continuing horrors of Chernobyl.
In recent decades, the denial has also spread nuclear weapons across the planet.
Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea can thank the apostles of the nuclear-power
gospel and the companion profiteers of nuclear exports for the
technological pipeline that has funneled the capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
President Dwight Eisenhower's delusional and deluding speech to the UN General
Assembly on Dec. 8, 1953, now has a macabre echo: "The United States pledges
before you and therefore before the world its determination to
help solve the fearful atomic dilemma to devote its entire heart and
mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not
be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life."
Running parallel to the mendacious career of the "peaceful atom,"
U.S. foreign policy has hit new lows during the last several years. The invasion
of Iraq, on the pretext of nonexistent WMD, sent a powerful message. If the
U.S. government was inclined to launch an attack before a country had the capability
to generate a mushroom cloud, then the country would be protected from such
attack by developing nuclear weapons as soon as possible.
Coupled with the contempt for genuine diplomacy that the Bush
administration has repeatedly shown, Washington's eagerness to use
military might has fueled the dangers of a nuclear-weapons standoff
with North Korea. Two of the sacred axioms of the Bush regime
secrecy and violence cannot solve this problem and in fact can only
make it worse. Einstein was correct; with nuclear weapons, "there is no
secret and there is no defense."
As for "the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of
the world" that will need to come from us. Starting now.
Rest assured that while President Bush was at a podium in the
White House on Monday denouncing the North Korean nuclear test as a
"provocative act," Karl Rove was hard at work to fine-tune plans for
rhetorical onslaught linking this crisis to the "war on terror." Bush
was already laying the groundwork for such an effort as he spoke
warning of "a grave threat to the United States" if North Korea gives
nuclear-related technology to "any state or non-state actor."
For the next four weeks, the Bush administration will do its best
to exploit the North Korean nuclear test to stave off a loss of the
Republican majority in Congress. We should not allow those efforts to
obscure how Bush's reckless record has heightened the nuclear dangers