Monday, April 17, 2006

Thinking the Unthinkable: Nuking Iran

This is the tricycle that Shinichi Tetsutanti was riding
when the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima.
The 3-year-old died from severe burns.

Perhaps it's a generational thing. Perhaps it's the lousy quality of what passes for political discourse these days. But I'm beside myself and then some over the blasé manner in which the use of tactical nuclear weapons is being discussed as an option for bringing the renegade Irani regime to heel over its burgeoning nuclear program.

We're talking about nuclear weapons!

We're not talking about cruise missiles, Delta Force commandoes or some other conventional means.

We're talking about nuclear weapons!

According to the results of a simulated attack on the Esfahan nuclear facility in Iran using a tactical nuke in the form of a bunker busting Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP):
Some 3 million people would be killed by radiation within two weeks of the attack and 35 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would be exposed to increased levels of cancer-causing radiation.
Never mind that funding for RNEPs was cut from the Pentagon budget last year, although the program may be continuing under another name. (*)

Never mind that the prevailing view is that the Bush administration's on again, off again bellicosity on Iran doesn't square with it's ability to deliver a knockout punch to the Irani program in any form, let alone start a second Mideast war and then have to deal with the, uh . . . diplomatic fallout.

We're talking about nuclear weapons!

Richard Cranium (I think) has this to say at The All Spin Zone:
[E]ven the consideration of using nuclear weapons in a preemptive manner is madness. Moreover, it telegraphs an inherent weakness in U.S. military strategy: the Bush administration's misguided adventure in Iraq has so weakened the U.S.'s ability to respond to a percieved Iranian threat, that conventional military options are limited.
There is one response that does need to be given every opportunity to work -- diplomacy -- but the Bush administration has proven to be even lousier at that than at making war, so we keep sliding down the slippery slope of armed intervention and that blasé mention of tactical nukes.

Has the nuclear brinksmanship of a Cold War that ended barely 20 years ago and the appalling carnage from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki some 60 years ago been forgotten? Apparently so.

* * * * *

I visited Hiroshima at the height of cherry blossom season in 1970 and was moved by its beauty and the friendliness of the people whom I met. I also ate the best oysters that I have ever tasted anywhere. They were being harvested from Hiroshima Bay and were safe to consume for the first time since the oyster beds had been contaminated as a result of the fallout from the 1945 conflagration.

My stops included the Hiroshima Peace Museum at ground zero, where I saw Shinichi Tetsutani's trike, among many other sobering artifacts from the bombing, and interviews with doctors at a sprawling hospital run by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission on the outskirts of town. The U.S.-funded commission was studying the long-term effects of the bombings, which 25 years later were still manifesting themself in the form of new cancers and birth defects.

I still believe that the Truman administration's decision to twice use atomic weapons was correct because it hastened the end of World War II and saved many more lives than it took. This rationalization and crude calculus notwithstanding, I came came away from my visit to Hiroshima convinced of two things:
All world leaders should be required to visit the Peace Museum before they take their oath of office.

What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated, and fulfilling that requirement might help asssure that.
We're talking about nuclear weapons!

(*) See this Union of Concerned Scientists essay for more about RNEPs. Note also that tactical weapons are not covered under nuclear nonproliferation treaties.


eRobin said...

I said pretty much the same thing here.. We're cheapening the idea of nuclear war and that can't be good.

But, since I wrote that, I remembered that the reason they're talking about using nukes is because they need them to get to the Iranian nuclear labs (or whatever they are) that are supposedely located so far underground. It's not because we couldn't handle bombing Iran and Iraq at the same time with conventional weapons. We certainly could.

At least that's how I understand the madness to go at this moment.

I like your blog.

Tom Marshall said...

I read John Hersey's Hiroshima when I was about 9 or 10. (that would have been about '59 or '60). I would have to say that started me on the path to the left that I've been on since.

We ARE "talking about nuclear weapons". And we are talking about one of the most obscene things I've ever heard. This casual acceptance of nuking another people. To even consider it must mark a person as seriously mentally ill.