When good countries have bad weapons, or is it vice-versa?

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Ira Chernus, in a piece off the CommonDreams website, makes the essential point. During the Cold War, we had decades of “arms control” talks, largely between the two superpowers — with the emphasis upon superpower control and regulation of the arms race, not disarmament itself. Of course, in our minds, we always were the good country with the good weapons of mass destruction (wmd). Unfortunately, in a world of proliferating weapons of mass destruction of every sort, this has now become the Bush principle for global armament and disarmament.

The are-you-with-us-or-against-us question — for this administration — is: are you a good guy with good wmd, or a bad guy with bad wmd. We’re ready to take the bad guys out by force and support the good guys in their proliferating efforts as long as they remain on the good side of our imperial urges. So, as Chernus says, John Bolton, recently in Israel sorting out the next set of countries we plan to de-proliferate, has become the Undersecretary of State for (Bad) Arms Control.

But that’s a dicey thought, even by this administration’s standards. After all, these days you increasingly need a scorecard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times columnist, makes the point simply and cleverly enough in “A Tip on Iraq From Those Who Walked That Road,” commenting, “The alliances on ‘Survivor’ have more stability and logic than those currently held by the United States. We need a weekly two-hour special to keep us in the know.”

Right now, the administration’s deproliferation policies have mainly panicked smaller powers like North Korea into rushing to create nuclear holsters and atomic six-guns for that prospective shoot out on Main Street — and, of course, they in turn are panicking good guys and bad guys alike: Japan, Taiwan, Iran and so on. But, as James Carroll makes clear in his latest Boston Globe column, we’ve taken our eyes off the two other great nuclear powers — Russia and China (though its arsenal is still modest indeed) — who, it seems, are beginning to follow us down the path that leads to what Chernus calls a “world of duct tape and plastic sheeting.”

Yet more centrally, as an article in the Guardian based on leaked Pentagon documents indicates, this administration is unbelievably hot to trot in a nuclear world. Next August there is to be a secret meeting to prepare the way for whole new generations of nuclear weapons to be securely fastened in proliferating American holsters and readied for use in a widening range of circumstances.

The madness of all this can hardly be grasped, especially since any move toward, or dream of, total dominance based on such weapons just manages to drop ever more information into the world about how to make such weapons ever more cheaply and efficiently. And, as many proliferation wars as we care to fight, we can’t deproliferate brains, which is where the real knowledge that could turn this world into rubble remains alive and well. Tom

Watching the war with both eyes
By James Carroll
The Boston Globe
February 25, 2003

February 25, 2003

Because the circle of chaos was closing in on the realm, the hero went to the troll and, forcibly subduing him, demanded to know the secret of drawing order out of chaos. The troll replied, ”Give me your left eye and I’ll tell you.” Because the hero loved his threatened people so much, he did not hesitate. He gouged out his own left eye and gave it to the troll, who then said, ”The secret of order over chaos is: Watch with both eyes.”

This story, from the late novelist John Gardner, perfectly illustrates the American problem. We are embarking on war with only one eye watching. That eye sees Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the threat of terrorism, a break with ”old Europe,” the frightening foreground of the post 9/11 world. What we are not seeing is the larger background where far more deadly dangers lurk.

To read more Carroll click here

US plan for new nuclear arsenal
Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties
By Julian Borger
The Guardian
February 19, 2003

The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including “mini-nukes”, “bunker-busters” and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.

The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.

The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new “Bush doctrine” of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.

To read more of this Guardian piece click here

US Arms Control Hypocrisy is the Real Threat to Security
By Ira Chernus
February 24, 2003

John Bolton was in Israel last week doing his job, fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Bolton is the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control. But the way he was doing his job is enough to make you laugh — and cry.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Bolton that after the U.S. demolishes Iraq, it had better to move on to Iran. Not to worry, Bolton replied. Iran is high on the Bush administration’s to-do list. So is Syria. When it comes to the danger of WMD in the Middle East, the U.S. and Israeli governments are on the same page
The joke, of course, is that only one nation in the Middle East has a massive arsenal of WMD: Israel itself. Secretary Bolton was polite enough not to mention that embarrassing fact. It would have been so rude to his hosts.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. [email protected]

To read more Chernus click here