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UQ Wire: Bill Grigsby - The Nuclear Option

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The Nuclear Option


By Bill Grigsby

I was sitting around recently, trying to imagine just how the BushCo Administration would attempt to frame the TV news this year on September 11. Of course there would be lots of flags. Backdrops, lapel pins, special commemorative 9/11 messages from corporate sponsors. A speech mentioning the Iraq War, just in case people were beginning to doubt whether there was a connection between the NeoCons’ war and 9/11. In front of a rabidly pro-war audience . . . hmmmm . . . not many of those left. Rush Limbaugh could invite some of his millions of faithful listeners . . . . naaah, that would be a scarier crowd than the protestors being videotaped miles away in the ‘free speech zone.’ A new product rollout. Something that respectfully recognizes the sacrifice and tragedy suffered by Americans and others on 9/11. Something about the ‘culture of life’ that helps promote the GOP brand. Something that makes you take note and say, ‘boy, that White House Communications Team really outdid itself this time!’ After an official response to Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath that showed without a doubt that our government could be as insensitive and incompetent as some of the worst dictatorships we’ve propped up over the years, Americans were in need of a glimmer of light.

And then came the announcement that the Pentagon was adopting a nuclear strike doctrine that would allow the president to order a nucular weapon strike to thwart a terrorist threat—you know, like the one Iraq posed way back in 2002. What a perfect way to commemorate 9/11!

And some glimmer of light! What makes it especially tasteful is the U.S. government’s new slogan for the ‘war on terror’—it’s now a ‘war against violent extremism.’ And what better way to wage war against violent extremism than with pre-emptive nuclear attacks? Think how less complicated Iraq would be now if we had just levelled it in 2003. Firefight in Falluja? Shutting down the presses in Sadr City? Just flatten them, and call in Halliburton, your favorite multinational reconstruction contractor. Any contractor will tell you that building from the ground up is easier than remodelling.

This is especially comforting on the heels of the government’s performance in Louisiana and Mississippi—where the Homeland Security Director was relying on a BushCo Campaign donor for up-to-the-minute information on their disaster response. FEMA Director Michael Brown apparently thought the Air Force One Flyover would buy them 24-36 hours, long enough to bring in some of the big guns who helped him organize the Annual American Horse Awards and help him get some White House-approved photos on the White House-approved nightly news. Yes, the president who steadfastly played golf after Katrina hit, who resolutely said his man Brown was doing a heckuva job, who could have used a thesaurus after his fourth description of the hurricane’s aftermath as ‘unimaginably indescribable,’ now wants Congress to give him the power to order nuclear strikes in the possibly endless war against violent extremism. These would be “precision” nuclear strikes, of course, based on the best available intelligence. So not to worry about a club of psychopathic, trigger-happy kooks and a figurehead president who’d rather re-read the book of Revelation than slog through the daily news. Or read a story about pet goats than respond to a second plane crashed into a second tower. Have complete confidence! Give the president the keys to the nuclear warchest, let’s build some new generation bunker busters (or is it budget busters?), and exorcise this violent extremism from civilized society! Terror be gone! Cuz we knows they hates our freedoms, even if we’re not s’posed to say it any more!

You may be thinking, ‘if the national debt in is the trillions, and we can’t even restore order or sieze the oil fields of a third rate military power, and we’re trying to pressure Iran and North Korea to destroy nuclear stockpiles or weapons factories, why would we want to spend billions on a new nuclear weapons program?’ Well that would just show that you don’t understand politics. It’s sophisticated stuff, best left to the experts, like Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld. And a small, “precision” nuclear weapon, one that, like the other smart bombs in the American arsenal, only kills the bad guys (hmmm . . . this could explain the ‘undisclosed, secure location, couldn’t it?), would not only serve as a deterrent to widely dispersed terrorist groups planning large public conventions to discuss killing Americans, but it could be used for instance to “speed up” multilateral discussions on free trade issues with countries accused of supporting terrorist activities. Sort of put them on the ‘fast track.’ The nuclear track.

The problem, of course, is the word ‘nuclear.’ First of all, the president has been advised to mispronounce it on account of the pollsters say it makes him seem like a regular guy. Other world leaders cringe, however. And former TV reporter Karen Hughes has been hired to run international interference and let the rest of the world know that the president will stick by his mispronunciation because that’s what leaders do. It’s all part of her new job as global PR Troubleshooter. The second problem with the word ‘nuclear’ is that it conjures images of horrendous destruction and genocide. And the U.S. is the only government to ever actually use nuclear bombs to kill civilian populations. This begs the question, ‘will the rest of the world be comforted by the U.S.’ declaration that it reserves the right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes to thwart a threat to its interests?’ The third problem is how to spin ‘nuclear’ to unload all of the semantic baggage likely to impede the development of nuclear bunker busters.

Well, the president never says ‘nuclear power’ any more without ‘safe and clean’ in front of it. Why not ‘safe and clean’ nuclear weapons? It’s equally plausible. And anyway, it’s like the ‘mediocrity’ poster sez, ‘it takes a lot less time, and most people won’t notice the difference until it’s too late.’ The U.S. Government has already pulled out of the ICC, and could clog up the courts for years with conflicting definitions of ‘safe’ and ‘clean.’ Anything’s possible in a country where the press dutifully accepts that the enemy state’s weapons wreak mass destruction and ours are ‘precision munitions.’ As you read this, someone in the government is being paid well to think up acceptable household names for weapons that can kill thousands of people. Names not unlike

  • ‘high energy munitions’ (HEMs)

  • ‘energy efficient warfare’

  • ‘anti-terror strike capacitors’

  • ‘Hydrogen-enhanced penetrating devices’ (HEPDs)

  • ‘subatomic disassembling armed mechanism’ (Sadam)
  • Whatever the name, it would be hard to beat the unilateral ‘Doctrine of Joint Nuclear Operations’ in terms of sheer Orwellian contradiction. Making nuclear devices seem like your friend is a uniquely American marketing challenge. But rolling out a ‘nuclear first-strike doctrine’ on 9/11 is an overreach that makes the Social Security Scare Tour seem like, well, a slam dunk?

    *************

    ©2005 Bill Grigsby
    Eastern Oregon University

    ********************

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