Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nuclear Weapons and the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

A sign of poor judgment in recent years are the number of conservatives who think nuclear weapons ought to be used in war. Not only have Cheney and others talked about using nuclear weapons in such places as Iran (to strike its nonexistant nuclear program) but they appear at times to have also encouraged Israel to act as a proxy. The Bush Administration even tried to start a nuclear bunker buster program and although it was reportedly taken off the table, we have no real proof that some sort of nuclear bunker buster program did not go forward. Given the secrecy of the Bush Administration, this is an issue that has never been satisfactorily resolved.

The real issue is that the Bush Administration has been trying to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons. To lower the threshold may require removing certain civilian controls. We don't know if that's what has happened, but last year the air force transported what they thought were unarmed missles to Louisiana (see Washington Post story). Today, we learn fuses for nuclear weapons were sent to Taiwan; here's an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:
Pentagon officials said the material sent to Taiwan consisted of four electrical fuses for the ICBM nose cones. The fuses, used to trigger nuclear weapons, do not contain nuclear material.

But experts on nuclear security said the mistaken transfer showed a serious deterioration in the safeguards and controls that the U.S. military has over its nuclear warheads.

"This is really unbelievable," said Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which advocates reducing the number of nuclear weapons. "If the Russians had shipped triggers to Tehran, we would be going nuts right now."

The gang that can't shoot straight still occupies the White House. We know that former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, eased rules on special missions using conventional missiles to take out terrorists. One or two of those missions have succeeded. Several, on the other hand, have rained death and terror on wedding ceremonies or family gatherings in Iraq, Afghanistan and the border area of Pakistan in cases of mistaken intelligence. America's 'good guy' image has been severely damaged by such incidents which have involved the killing of women, children and other innocent civilians.

Nuclear weapons, of course, are in an entirely different league and need to be tightly controlled but it is clear that rules regarding nuclear safeguards have broken down. What is not clear is why.

Americans need to think about these issues. Presidential candidate John McCain has talked about staying in Iraq for a hundred years. He has also talked about expanding America's wars (though it's unclear how he's going to pay for them or what advantage these wars offer the American people). McCain also gets confused about al Qaida and Iran. A president following in the footsteps of George W. Bush is not what our country needs.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

The predictable outcome of this latest bungle is that nuclear missile-building nations will in short order be able to order knockoff fuses at never-before-seen low prices.

Seriously, the apparent relaxation of what for a very long time was scrupulous security and safe-handling procedures is really worrisome.

I tend to think both incidents were internal to the Air Force, not the result of policy changes from on high. I expect one or more working-level airmen/women is/are in deep doo-doo, along with their trainers and supervisors.

My understanding about the bunker busters is that the nuclear option had been set aside, but DOD ordered production of incredibly potent non-nuclear bunker busters, ASAP.

I do not want to see those used on Iran by our warmongers in charge, on the basis of what is known now. And I don't trust anything the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight says about anything, most certainly not about Iran, going forward.

I heard John Conyers being interviewed on Air America last weekend. He came out and said that if Bush attacks or invades Iran without a declaration of war from Congress, he'll initiate impeachment proceedings immediately. There was no equivocating, either. Conyers sounded like he meant business.

I think Conyers also said he had put Bush & Co. on notice that he would do that.

BTW, Conyers also talked more candidly than I've ever heard him do before about why he hasn't dropped the hammer on Bush already, and why he won't unless some additional outrage leaves him no other choice.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does this sound for the ticket: Obama-Pelosi?

Check out Hitchens in Slate today.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous BT said...

Apropos nothing in general and everything in particular, could I, under John Yoo's doctrine of arguing that unnecessary roughness on the part of a gommint interrogator towards a 'terrorist' incarceree would fall under executive authorization of necessary force to protect the nation from terror, myself (whew) argue that, in order to protect the nation from the effects of the understandable and angry backlash his policies provoke abroad, I'd be protected by invoking the same executive protection for my behavior were I to sock Mr. Yoo a good 'un right in the kisser - to prevent him saying anything more so disgusting?

10:49 AM  

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