Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Chomsky: Act Now to Prevent Another Hiroshima

Published on Saturday, August 6, 2005 by the lndependent
We Must Act Now to Prevent Another Hiroshima - or Worse

The explosions in London are a reminder of how the cycle of attack
and response could escalate by Noam Chomsky

This month's anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
prompts only the most somber reflection and most fervent hope that
the horror may never be repeated.

In the subsequent 60 years, those bombings have haunted the world's
imagination but not so much as to curb the development and spread of
infinitely more lethal weapons of mass destruction.

A related concern, discussed in technical literature well before 11
September 2001, is that nuclear weapons may sooner or later fall
into the hands of terrorist groups.

The recent explosions and casualties in London are yet another
reminder of how the cycle of attack and response could escalate,
unpredictably, even to a point horrifically worse than Hiroshima or

The world's reigning power accords itself the right to wage war at
will, under a doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" that covers
any contingency it chooses. The means of destruction are to be

US military expenditures approximate those of the rest of the world
combined, while arms sales by 38 North American companies (one in
Canada) account for more than 60 per cent of the world total (which
has risen 25 per cent since 2002).

There have been efforts to strengthen the thin thread on which
survival hangs. The most important is the nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. The regular five-year
review conference of the NPT took place at the United Nations in May.
The NPT has been facing collapse, primarily because of the failure
of the nuclear states to live up to their obligation under Article
VI to pursue "good faith" efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. The
United States has led the way in refusal to abide by the Article VI
obligations. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, emphasizes that "reluctance by one party to fulfill
its obligations breeds reluctance in others".

President Jimmy Carter blasted the United States as "the major
culprit in this erosion of the NPT. While claiming to be protecting
the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North
Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty
restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new
weapons, including Anti-Ballistic missiles, the earth- penetrating 'bunker buster' and perhaps some new 'small' bombs. They also have abandoned past pledges and now threaten first use of
nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states".

The thread has almost snapped in the years since Hiroshima,
repeatedly. The best known case was the Cuban missile crisis of
October 1962, "the most dangerous moment in human history", as
Arthur Schlesinger, historian and former adviser to President John F
Kennedy, observed in October 2002 at a retrospective conference in

The world "came within a hair's breadth of nuclear disaster",
recalls Robert McNamara, Kennedy's defense secretary, who also
attended the retrospective. In the May-June issue of the magazine
Foreign Policy, he accompanies this reminder with a renewed warning
of "apocalypse soon".

McNamara regards "current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral,
illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous",
creating "unacceptable risks to other nations and to our own", both
the risk of "accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch", which
is "unacceptably high", and of nuclear attack by terrorists.
McNamara endorses the judgment of William Perry, President Bill
Clinton's defense secretary, that "there is a greater than 50 per
cent probability of a nuclear strike on US targets within a decade".
Similar judgments are commonly expressed by prominent strategic
analysts. In his book Nuclear Terrorism, the Harvard international
relations specialist Graham Allison reports the "consensus in the
national security community" (of which he has been a part) that
a "dirty bomb" attack is "inevitable", and an attack with a nuclear
weapon highly likely, if fissionable materials - the essential
ingredient - are not retrieved and secured.

Allison reviews the partial success of efforts to do so since the
early 1990s, under the initiatives of Senator Sam Nunn and Senator
Richard Lugar, and the setback to these programs from the first days
of the Bush administration, paralyzed by what Senator Joseph Biden
called "ideological idiocy".

The Washington leadership has put aside non-proliferation programs
and devoted its energies and resources to driving the country to war
by extraordinary deceit, then trying to manage the catastrophe it
created in Iraq.

The threat and use of violence is stimulating nuclear proliferation
along with jihadi terrorism.

A high-level review of the "war on terror" two years after the
invasion "focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation
of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple of years",
Susan B Glasser reported in The Washington Post.
"Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention
to anticipate what one called 'the bleed out' of hundreds or
thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries
throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. 'It's a new piece of
a new equation,' a former senior Bush administration official
said. 'If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to
locate them in Istanbul or London?'"

Peter Bergen, a US terrorism specialist, says in The Boston Globe
that "the President is right that Iraq is a main front in the war on
terrorism, but this is a front we created".

Shortly after the London bombing, Chatham House, Britain's premier
foreign affairs institution, released a study drawing the obvious
conclusion - denied with outrage by the Government - that "the UK is
at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United
States, has deployed armed forces in the military campaigns to
topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and in Iraq ... [and is] a
pillion passenger" of American policy, sitting behind the driver of
the motorcycle.

The probability of apocalypse soon cannot be realistically
estimated, but it is surely too high for any sane person to
contemplate with equanimity. While speculation is pointless,
reaction to the threat of another Hiroshima is definitely not.
On the contrary, it is urgent, particularly in the United States,
because of Washington's primary role in accelerating the race to
destruction by extending its historically unique military dominance,
and in the UK, which goes along with it as its closest ally.

The author is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony
or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance
© Copyright 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.


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