FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Nightmare Waiting at the Back Door

The Bush and Blair administrations are right about one thing: Terrorism threatens our world as never before. Terrorism is the great game of pain that is now playing out as power politics in many parts of the world.. The “winners” are the ones who can cause the most harm and horror, yet can harden themselves to be unfeeling and unmoved by that harm and horror. The “losers” are the rest of us.

Humans are naturally sympathetic beings: We learn by imitation. We perceive ourselves in others. We can imagine emotions and empathize. We can love. We can grieve. Terrorism is inhuman. It requires unusual mental states of mind. To choose to be inhuman requires extreme confidence and some form of moral immunity. Terrorists need words and rhetoric and ways to say they themselves personally did not choose to do it. For example,

* by seeing themselves as actors in historical drama;

* by saying their actions are caused by those they hurt;

* by self-righteously doing the will of God.

War is formalized terrorism by a state, and a war on terrorism is sure a cycle of escalating horror.

The Bush and Blair administrations are right about a second thing: 9-11 changed everything. What changed was the scale of non-state terrorism. Previously in history, such terrorism was limited, for example, to killing people by assassination, hijacking an air plane, bombing a market, blowing a hole in a ship, or using a car bomb to tear the facade off a building. Such terrorist actions were most often in remote areas with least security. In contrast, the 9-11 terrorists completely destroyed two of the greatest buildings in America, in the very heart of America’s greatest city, and then hit the headquarters of American military command in the national capital. The political and economic consequences of 9-11 are still beyond measure.

What could plausibly be an escalation beyond that?

The Bush and Blair administrations are right about a third thing: It is technology that gives non-state terrorists ways to match the terror of the nation states’ war machines. On one hand, our globally interlocked, technological economy is more vulnerable than its size suggests. Hurt it any where and it hurts every where. On the other hand, modest knowledge and modest equipment can create germs for warfare and poison gas. But biological and poison gas terrorism, while deadly and horrible, would still be localized, contained, and the consequences containable.

But the Bush and Blair administrations are wrong to now mount a war on Iraq in order to find biological and chemical weapons. Iraq may or may not have such weapons, and if so, might or might not have distributed them to terrorists. More importantly, this war is proof that our governments did not learn the lesson of 9-11. The terrorists that attacked America did not build or buy the airliners they used, and did not smuggle them into America from Iraq. They simply weaponized the large scale technology that was already in America waiting to be used. What other technology is now waiting to be weaponized and would be an escalation beyond 9-11?

While the world is watching the war in Iraq, there is a nightmare waiting at the back door. No one seems to be paying attention to the likelihood of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power station. The horror and economic consequences of breaching a nuclear power reactor would certainly exceed 9-11. It would be the escalation that matches the American war machine now in action in Iraq and elsewhere.

Even best-case nuclear security seems to be a sham. The UK is a militarized nation long experienced with terrorism. The UK has sided with the USA knowing that this might make it the target of more terrorism. Therefore, the UK’s nuclear reactors are very well protected, right? Wrong. Just to demonstrate this, Greenpeace on October 14, 2002, had 150 activists breach security at the UK’s Sizewell reactor. Then things tightened up, right? Wrong. On January 13, 2003, 30 Greenpeace activists again penetrated security at the very same reactor site and climbed onto the dome. The British government’s security response was to simply deny these events, but has recently admitted them. Fortunately for us, Greenpeace carries banners, not bombs.

Is nuclear plant security any better in America? The US is the world’s most militarized nation knowing that its current actions make it the target of terrorism. What is their priority on nuclear plant security? The International Nuclear Safety Center, headquartered at the US government’s National Argonne Laboratories, publicly posts handy maps showing even the most amateur terrorists where the world’s nuclear reactors are all located.

As best case examples of nuclear security, the US and UK are not a cause of confidence. Nuclear security is worse in the rest of the world. Less militarized nations, who know they have no enemies, probably cannot imagine someone shooting their nuclear plant with a military missile, or crashing a commercial plane into it, or placing a bomb in the underwater cooling pipes, or sabotaging it from the inside. Once state and non-state terrorists bring out their rhetoric that they are all doing the will of God, then some private person with a wrong bent of mind might believe the rhetoric and independently act on it. .

To severely damage the US or the UK, or France or Russia, it is not necessary to breach the nation’s own reactor. A neighbor’s reactor would do. To “win” a war of escalating horror, any reactor anywhere in the world would do. Worrisome are the reactors in the do-gooder nations who naively think their self-image protects them, including here Canada. Sweden, and Finland. However, most worrisome are the reactors in the former communist countries of Lithuania, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, and Russia. Many of these reactors lack concrete containment domes and suffer from lax management and poor financing. Chechnyan terrorists or Al-Qaida, or anyone wishing to seem to be these terrorists, may seek revenge by breaching a reactor. Anyone, anywhere, could do it, and the consequences would not be contained or containable.

Proponents and opponents of the Iraq war would be wise to both agree that we need better security at nuclear power plants every where in the world.

FLOYD RUDMIN is professor of social and community psychology at the University of Tromsø in Norway, where he also teaches in the Master’s Program in Peace and Conflict Transformation. He is a board member of Science for Peace and vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research & Education Association. He can be contacted at frudmin@psyk.uit.no

 

 

More articles by:
July 08, 2020
Laura Carlsen
Lopez Obrador’s Visit to Trump is a Betrayal of the U.S. and Mexican People
Melvin Goodman
Afghanistan: What is to be Done?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
The End of the American Newspaper
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Merits of Medicare for All Have Been Proven by This Pandemic
David Rosen
It’s Now Ghislaine Maxwell’s Turn
Nicolas J S Davies
Key U.S. Ally Indicted for Organ Trade Murder Scheme
Bob Lord
Welcome to Hectobillionaire Land
Laura Flanders
The Great American Lie
John Kendall Hawkins
Van Gogh’s Literary Influences
Marc Norton
Reopening vs. Lockdown is a False Dichotomy
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
Parth M.N.
Back to School in Rural India: Digital Divide to Digital Partition
Ed Sanders
The Burning of Newgate Prison: a Glyph
July 06, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Foreign Election Interference: Who is to Blame?
JoAnn Wypijewski
On Disposability and Rebellion: Insights From a Rank-and-File Insurgency
Marshall Auerback – Jan Frel
There’s a Hidden Economic Trendline That is Shattering the Global Trade System
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Just and Talented Government for Our Hazardous Age
Manuel García, Jr.
Biosphere Warming in Numbers
Ron Jacobs
Kidnapping Kids: As American as the Fourth of July
Tasha Jones
Pyramids. Plantations. Projects. Penitentiaries
Binoy Kampmark
Criminalising Journalism: Australia’s National Security Craze
Eve Ottenberg
Re-Organizing Labor
Mike Garrity
How We Stopped Trump From Trashing a Critical Montana Roadless Area in Grizzly Habitat
Nino Pagliccia
The Meaning of the 1811 Independence for Today’s Venezuela
Michael Galant
We Need a Global Green New Deal
Jill Richardson
Learning Not to Look Away
Marshall Sahlins
Donald Trump at 130,000 and Rising
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail