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What "All Options are on the Table" Really Means


Conscious or not conscious of your own bad intentions, you suspect theirs to be still worse. Their notion of your intentions is the same. Measures of mere self-defense are naturally taken for acts of aggression. The same causes produce, on both sides, the same effects; each makes haste to begin for fear of being forestalled. In this state of things, if on either side there happen to be a Minister [of War], or a would-be Minister, who has a fancy for war, the stroke is struck, and the tinder catches fire.

Jeremy Bentham, 1789, “Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace.”

For more than a year, the USA has been openly threatening to bomb Iran. Some scenarios see the use of nuclear bombs. “All options are on the table” says Bush, Cheney, Rice, and most of the candidates in the 2008 Presidential race.

The reason? They say they feel threatened by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear power technology, although they formally granted Iran that right when they ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. The IAEA has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. They say they feel threatened by Iran’s support of the Shia militia, especially those in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran has traditionally played the role of defending Shia communities, even in the Ottoman era. They say they feel threatened by Iran’s opposition to Israel’s expansion and Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, which is against international law and many UN resolutions. The say they feel threatened by Iran’s energy exports and its ability to influence world prices. In general, they feel threatened by an independent nation in an oil-rich region they wish to dominate. Therefore, they threaten to bomb Iran. “All options are on the table.”

The UN Charter, Article 2, section 4 states that

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

America is a founding member of the UN and has thus made that provision a part of its own national law. According to the US Constitution, treaties constitute the highest law of the land. It is thus illegal under US law to threaten to bomb Iran. Nevertheless, they threaten war. They move excessive numbers of warships into seas surrounding Iran. They cultivate client states, build bases and deploy troops on all sides of Iran.

One consequence of these threats is that Iran must prepare to defend itself. On Oct. 20, a top Iranian military commander announced that Iran is ready to retaliate with 11,000 missiles in the first few minutes after an American surprise attack. The missiles are aimed at the military bases, ships at sea, and economic assets of the threatening nations. To launch that many missiles AFTER a shock-and-awe surprise attack means that Iran must have distributed the ability to launch missiles. There is not one launch button and one commanding finger on the button.

There are many buttons and many different fingers on them. War is now on a hair trigger, and the risk of accidental war is now very, very, very high. War might be started by an Iranian religious fundamentalist eager to go to heaven, or patriot eager to defend Iran, or a traitor eager to destroy Iran, or someone depressed or bored or simply misreading a radar screen and thinking a flock of birds are an incoming attack.

The USA has over 300,000 military and support personnel in the region around Iran, all of them now the target of 11,000 missiles on hair-trigger. That is what repeated threats of war have achieved.

The epilogue by Jeremy Bentham, written more than 200 years ago, aptly describes what is happening now. War seems inevitable. With war will come thousands of deaths, maybe millions, and whole economies will collapse, the first being that of the USA since it is most dependent on imported oil.

The epilogue quote comes from Bentham’s book, “Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace.” He coined the concept of “international law” and first conceived of the idea of a united nations. In the 18th century, those were merely ideas. Now, in the 21st century, they are reality. We have international law and a United Nations. But the USA and other belligerent nations have decided to act contrary to international law and in violation of the United Nations, with the consequence that their military forces and economies are now in jeopardy.

Among all of the options on the table, the most likely are self-destruction and national suicide.

FLOYD RUDMIN is Professor of Social & Community Psychology at the University of Tromsø. He can be reached at


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