The Bush Administration, U.S. Nuclear War-Fighting Policy & the War On Iraq


“The most ambitious (damage limiting) strategy dictates a first strike capability against an enemy’s strategic offensive forces which seeks to destroy as much of his megatonnage as possible before it can be brought into play. An enemy’s residual retaliation, assumed to be directed against urban-industrial targets, would be blunted still further by a combination of active & passive defenses, including ASW (anti-sub), ABMs, anti-bomber defenses, civil defense, stockpiles of food & other essentials, and even the dispersal & hardening of essential industry.”

-Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from 1978 Nuclear Posture Reviewi

“Not since the dawn of the nuclear age at the end of World War II has the danger of nuclear war been greater.”ii

– Richard Falk

“As the Bush administration relentlessly injects its self into conflicts around the world in the name of eradicating terror, rather than bringing peace, it only fans the flames of hatred. If this is allowed to continue, it may carry us to nuclear war, and to the annihilation of humankind.”iii

– Haruko Moritaki, Hiroshima

Since the controversial election that resulted in the judicial installation of President George W. Bush, and his extremist foreign policy team of nuclear hard-liners, the world has careened toward a nuclear precipice. Continuing and accelerating existing nuclear war-fighting policies, Bush has radically lowered the threshold to the actual use of nuclear weapons. The current risk as measured by the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reads seven minutes to midnight, the closest since 1990.iv Given the present confluence of international developments including 9-11, impending total war against Iraq, the Bush Nuclear Posture Review, political instability in the Middle East and South Asia, and the abrogation of the antiballistic Missile Treaty, the first military use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki may be imminent.

The purpose of nuclear weapons never has been principally about deterrence or mutually assured destruction (MAD), but rather to serve as a coercive foreign policy instrument designed and intended for actual war fighting. In the words of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rebuttal to Jimmy Carter’s 1976 proposal to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal to 200 warheads, “U.S. nuclear strategy maintains military strength sufficient… to provide a war-fighting capability to respond to a wide range of conflict in order to control escalation and terminate the war on terms acceptable to the U.S..”v First strike nuclear weapons, designed to back up military intervention and enforce geopolitical dictates, are seen by Pentagon war planners as the backbone of war-fighting strategy, and in this capacity have been used at least 27 times between 1945 and Daniel Ellsberg, former RAND Corporation nuclear war planner, wrote; “Again and again, generally in secret from the American public, nuclear weapons have been used: …in the precise way that a gun is used when you point it at someone’s head in a direct confrontation, whether or not the trigger is pulled.”vii Dominating the most powerful economic system in world history, the U.S. will use any military force necessary, including the use of nuclear weapons, to expand, consolidate and maintain its control.

Unfortunately, this ‘deadly connection’ between intervention and nuclear weapons is poorly understood. “…Few disarmament and arms-control activists or leaders have understood the relationship between the nuclear arms race and the global ambitions of the U.S.. Similarly, efforts to halt and restrain U.S. intervention in the third world have too often proceeded in ignorance of the nuclear ramifications of ‘conventional’ conflicts in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, or Africa.”viii According to William Arkin, “One year after President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea the ‘axis of evil,’ the United States is thinking about the unthinkable: It is preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iraq.”ixAs Bush prepares public opinion for the invasion of Iraq, the overthrow and/or assassination of Saddam Hussein, and the possible use of nuclear weapons, General Pervez Musharaf is rattling the nuclear saber against a nationalistic nuclear-armed India. Once again, the rational fear and anger of a mobilized public may be the only truly effective force against the mass-murder psychopathology of nuclear weapons. In his memoirs, Nixon claimed that the only reason he refrained from using nuclear weapons in autumn 1969 to “end” the Viet Nam war was the October 15 Mobilization which brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital: “On October 14, I knew for sure that my (nuclear) ultimatum failed.”x

The Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

According to Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes, which violated virtually every treaty of that era. “…The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were egregiously illegal under the relevant rules of international law that were fully subscribed to by the U.S. government as of 1945.”xi The targeting criteria used by the Interim Committee, including giving no warning, and the selection of “a vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by worker’s houses,” were in direct contravention of numerous treaties.xii The deliberate mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, overwhelmingly women, children, elders, and Korean war slaves, was celebrated by Harry Truman on August 9 in a profane radio message to the American people: “We thank god that (the atomic bomb) came to us instead of to our enemies, and we pray that god may guide us to use it in his ways and for his purposes.”xiii

P.M.S. Blackett, a renowned British physicist and Nobel Prize winner argued that there was no doubt that the atomic bombings were “not so much the last military act of the Second World War, as the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia.”xiv Arjun Makhijani wrote, “If only implicitly, the decision to… explode the atomic bombs over Japan was partly in the hope that it would induce a quick surrender thereby providing a better postwar position for the U.S..” He pointed out that had saving lives been the “main criteria” for the bombings, no harm would have come from waiting until mid-August when the Soviet Union was scheduled to enter the war against Japan.xv Of course, had the Soviets participated in the invasion and occupation of Japan, their geopolitical position in Asia would have been greatly enhanced, an outcome totally unacceptable to U.S. post war imperial designs. In 1945, the U.S. launched a first strike with atomic weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki to consolidate and advance its unprecedented position of economic, political and military power. In 2002, the U.S. remains resolutely prepared to do precisely the same! Its strategy has been and continues to be to threaten use of nuclear weapons to advance U.S. interests and, if necessary, to launch a first strike.


In an unusual moment of candor, George Kennan, the principal architect of the strategy of ‘containment’ (see Paul Nitze’s definition below) wrote in a top secret memo in 1948, “We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population …we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreamings….We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. …we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”xvi This admission, ever more relevant as the U.S. becomes increasingly dependent on imports of nonrenewable resources, encapsulates the real purpose of military interventions and the nuclear arsenal; “The exercise of U.S. power is intended to preserve not only the international capitalist system but U.S. hegemony of that system.”xvii

Issued by Harry Truman in 1950, NSC-68, written by Paul Nitze, openly discussed a first strike against the Soviet Union, and articulated the war-fighting basis of the nuclear arsenal. The following extended excerpts illuminate the gist of U.S. nuclear policy at the dawn of the nuclear age, policies which are still largely operative to this day. “… Without superior aggregate military strength, in being and readily mobilizable, a policy of “containment”–which is in effect a policy of calculated and gradual coercion–is no more than a policy of bluff.”…“Our overall policy at the present time may be described as one designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish.”… “A large measure of sacrifice and discipline will be demanded of the American people. They will be asked to give up some of the benefits which they have come to associate with their freedoms.”… “The execution of such a (military) buildup, however, requires that the United States have an affirmative program beyond the solely defensive one of countering the threat posed by the Soviet Union.” …“In the event we use atomic weapons either in retaliation for their prior use by the USSR or because there is no alternative method by which we can attain our objectives, it is imperative that the strategic and tactical targets against which they are used be appropriate and the manner in which they are used be consistent with those objectives.”…. “The United States now has an atomic capability, including both numbers and deliverability, estimated to be adequate, if effectively utilized, to deliver a serious blow against the war-making capacity of the USSR.”xviii NSC-68 laid the foundation of modern U.S. ‘flexible response’, ‘counter-force’ and ‘escalation dominance’ nuclear war-fighting strategy.

Counterforce & Escalation Dominance

The U.S. exercised a quarter century of nuclear superiority, but by the late 1960s the Soviet Union had reached a rough nuclear parity, seriously eroding the Pentagon’s ability to wield a credible nuclear threat. In response, Henry Kissinger and others elaborated on Nitze’s policy of “calculated and gradual (nuclear) coercion” to develop a policy of “escalation dominance.” In essence, escalation dominance is the ability to control every level of conflict from conventional, to battlefield nuclear, to strategic. Despite popular rhetoric about Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) the official U.S. policy continued rely on nuclear weapons. The principal theoretical problem with escalation dominance was the inability to control the final rung of the ‘escalation ladder’- strategic nuclear war with the Soviets would result in the U.S. own destruction. According to nuclear dogma, such control is essential at each escalation level, including all out nuclear war, otherwise the nuclear threat lacks credibility.

In 1976,‘moderate Democrat’ Jimmy Carter ran on a successful presidential campaign of deep cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal but was soon compelled by a bipartisan claque of nuclear cold-warriors, The Committee On the Present Danger founded by Paul Nitze, to launch a massive new attempt to regain absolute nuclear superiority.xix Carter ordered development and production of the MX missile, Trident 2 submarine launched missile, and Pershing 2 missile, all three super accurate counter force weapons designed to destroy hardened Soviet targets like missile silos and command and control facilities. In 1980, Carter implemented Presidential Directive 59, which specifically targeted Soviet missile silos; a threatening escalation of formal U.S. policy that implied a first strike- a meaningless retaliation would destroy already empty silos. Ronald Reagan continued and greatly accelerated the policies of Jimmy Carter, and embarked on his ‘Star Wars’ anti-ballistic missile program that was, and is, an integral part of a first strike capability. The result of Reagan’s extremist nuclear policies and outrageous political provocations was massive global anti-nuclear protests, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Faced with strong public opposition, Reagan was forced to negotiate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which removed medium range U.S. and Soviet missiles from Europe, leaving the British & French arsenals still threatening the Soviet Union. Reagan also negotiated the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which significantly reduced the nuclear arsenals by enabling the elimination of obsolete weapons while continuing to produce and deploy counterforce weapons; in essence, pruning the deadly nuclear tree to the U.S. advantage.

Following the end of the ‘Cold War’, the sophistication and accuracy of the U.S. nuclear arsenal continued to improve while the Soviet arsenal, already substantially inferior to that of the U.S., began to deteriorate at every level. At a great disadvantage because of geographical ‘choke points’ and stunning advances in U.S. anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the aging Russian nuclear submarine fleet, containing only a small fraction of its nuclear warheads, became increasingly vulnerable to a preemptive strike. Russian strategic bombers became easy targets for advanced U.S. technology like AWACS, sophisticated guidance systems and cruise missile. Russian land-based missiles fell under the bulls eye of super accurate missiles like Trident 2, MX and Minuteman 3 with a circular error probable (CEP) of 400 feet, close enough to destroy them with a high degree of certainty.xx Star Wars, intended to ‘mop up’ surviving Soviet retaliatory missiles, was the only missing part of a renewed credible first strike strategy.

“The end of the Cold War marked a return to historical patterns repressed or obscured by the U.S.-Soviet confrontation.”xxi Echoing imperialist propaganda from a century earlier, the new strategic emphasis became access to resources and cynical concern about human rights. With the U.S. determined to expand and consolidate control worldwide, the specter of nuclear war was increasingly threatened against non-nuclear nations like Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea. When Clinton issued PDD-60 in 1997, the Washington Post reported, “”general planning for potential nuclear strikes against other nations that have… ‘prospective access’ to nuclear weapons and that are now or may eventually become hostile to the United States. A separate official described these countries as ‘rogue States,’ specifically listed in the directive as possible targets in the event of regional conflicts or crises.”xxii Nuclear weapons were seen by war-planners as an increasingly important, indeed essential, component of the war machine. Enter George W. Bush.

Dubya’s Excellent Nuclear Adventure

Rather than a radical departure from established U.S. (nuclear) policy, as widely reported in the mainstream media, the Bush Administration’s nuclear strategy is actually a continuity of policies developed during the Gulf War by his father and further advanced by Clinton.xxiii The Bush Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)xxiv exposed by investigative journalist William Arkin in the Los Angeles Times, “…myopically ignores the political, moral and military implications- short-term and long -of crossing the nuclear threshold,” and indicates that Bush officials “are looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role in the kinds of challenges the U.S. faces with Al Quaeda.”xxv The NPR calls for contingency plans to nuke Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Libya, and proposes the development of new nuclear weapons to destroy buried bunkers and reduce collateral damage. The Nuclear Posture Review “is understood to identify three circumstances in which nuclear weapons could be used: against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack; in retaliation for the use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; and ‘in the event of surprising military developments’.”xxvi The plan further blurs the already fuzzy distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons by calling for integration of “new non nuclear strategic capabilities” into nuclear-war plans, and for “incorporation of ‘nuclear capability’ into many conventional systems under development.”xxvii Although a continuation and elaboration of Clinton’s nuclear policies, the Bush NPR represents a dangerous lowering of the threshold for the actual use of nuclear weapons.

Prior to 9-11 it was widely understood that National Missile Defense (NMD), was dead on arrival in the Democratically controlled Senate. However in the wake of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon, Bush, by arguing “national security” and the fraudulent concept of ‘rogue nuclear states’,xxviii was able to ram through a massive increase in the “Defense” budget, including billions for an antiballistic missile system. (The current Pentagon budget now exceeds total expenditures of the next 28 largest militaries combined.xxix) Although the workability of a NMD system is highly questionable, the point is not whether such a system will work, but, rather, the perception that it might work.

Russia, and especially China have both vehemently opposed NMD, and the Chinese threaten to modernize their archaic and feeble ICBM arsenal in order to maintain deterrence. Japans largest circulation daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that China tested a multiple warhead missile in December, undoubtedly a response to “Joint Vision 2020, ‘a key defense guidance document’, envisions Asia instead of Europe as the prime focus of US military in the coming decades, identifies China as a “peer competitor,” and sees even closer military coordination between the US and Japan.”xxxi

The compelling destabilizing logic of antiballistic missile defense- no conceivable ABM system can stop a massive first strike, thus the only rational purpose for such a system is for “mopping up” after your own first strike- led Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger to negotiate the first ABM treaty in 1972.xxxii Admiral Eugene Carroll with the Center for Defense Information said, “Missile defense sends a signal to the rest of the world, ‘we will hide behind our nuclear weapon shield and you can’t do anything about it. We will use nuclear weapons when and if we choose.’ We’ve even said publicly that we will use them against non-nuclear states. Then we build what we say is a National Missile Defense System to make certain that we don’t suffer the consequences of our policies and actions.”xxxiii The stakes are enormous, not only because NMD will further destabilize the nuclear standoff making nuclear war more likely, but also Rumsfeld’s plans include the weaponization and domination of space. Only an informed and mobilized public can stop this costlyxxxiv first strike weapon.

Rumsfeld Doctrine

Of all the Bush foreign policy team, Donald Rumsfeld is perhaps the most dangerous. Tellingly, Henry Kissinger called him ‘The most ruthless man he has ever known.’xxxv While Gerald Ford’s Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld championed larger military budgets and advocated a return to U.S. nuclear superiority. He was responsible for initiating the B-1 Strategic Stealth Bomber, the Trident Submarine and the MX Missile, all first strike weapons.xxxvi While Kissinger was in Moscow negotiating the SALT 2 treaty, Rumsfeld went behind Kissinger’s back and persuaded the Joint Chiefs of Staff to kill the treaty.

After leaving Government for the corporate boardroom, Rumsfeld continued to maintain a high profile as a nuclear hawk, especially his advocacy of missile defense. (In 1998 he received the ‘Keeper of the Flame Award’ from the Center for Security Policy, the ‘nerve center of the Star Wars lobby.’xxxvii The 1998 Congressionally mandated Rumsfeld Commission predictably found that the U.S. faced a ballistic missile threat from “rogue states” within five years; a finding radically at odds with the CIA’s own estimates. In 2001, shortly before he became Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld chaired another commission on U.S. control of space. “Last month’s report by the Rumsfeld “Space Commission” calls for U.S. “power projection in, from and through space.” It seeks U.S. “superior space capabilities.” It says the U.S. president should “have the option to deploy weapons in space.” It emphasizes that it is “possible to project power through and from space in response to events anywhere in the world. Unlike weapons from aircraft, land forces or ships, space missions initiated from earth or space could be carried out with little transit, information or weather delay. Having this capability would give the U.S. a much stronger deterrent and, in a conflict, an extraordinary military advantage.”xxxviii

In a little reported but crucially important January 31, 2002 speech to the National Defense University, Rumsfeld introduced a new doctrine of “strategic dominance,” dubbed the “Rumsfeld Doctrine.”xxxix “According to this concept, the US must always be able to assess its adversaries’ military capabilities and to reduce their ability to react through the planned destruction of its enemy’s industrial, military, and political infrastructures.”xl Rumsfeld called for fighting four major wars simultaneously in addition to eradicating ‘terrorism’.xli Preemptive military strikes were explicitly called for; “Defending against terrorism and other emerging 21st century threats could well require that we take the war to the enemy.” He said the 2003 Pentagon budget should include money to protect satellites (weapons in space, a long time favorite of his) and buy a new generation of earth-penetrating (nuclear) bombs that ”could make obsolete the deep underground facilities where terrorists hide and terrorist states conceal their weapons of mass destruction capabilities.”xlii

Bill Berkowitz writing in Working for Change spelled out the basic principles of the Rumsfeld Doctrine. “First, wars must be fought on multiple fronts — including economic, diplomatic, financial, intelligence-related and law-enforcement-related. Second, the U.S. military must operate as one seamless entity. Third, international coalitions, sometimes secretive, will be created and dissolved as the situation dictates. Fourth, these coalitions must not be allowed to bog down the mission — committees cannot fight wars. Fifth, preemptive action cannot be ruled out, and indeed, may be required. Sixth, no military option can be ruled out; wars will be fought by any means and with any weapon at our disposal. Seventh, highly skilled Special Forces should be used early and liberally.”xliii Coupled with the emphasis on nuclear war fighting and new nuclear weapons development, the ‘Rumsfeld Doctrine’ is a recipe for certain disaster.

Conforming to the Rumsfeld Doctrine, the New York Times reports that the Pentagon is proposing a new nuclear command structure which would “harness in one entity the nation’s missile warning network and the new national missile-defense system now breaking ground, as well as the country’s ability to plan and launch offensive strikes with nuclear and conventional weapons.” “ The command would fit neatly into the Bush administration’s new doctrine of preemptive action against states and terrorist groups that are trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, officials said.”xliv The new organization would merge the U.S. Space Command (“Not only does the US plan to wage war in space but it plans to “hold at-risk”, “high-value Earth targets” with “near instantaneous force application”. In English, that means the ability to target cities, and to kill millions of people, from space.”)xlv, Star Wars, and the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). Rumsfeld has already briefed Bush about the plan and his “top aides” say it is certain to be approved.xlvi

According to Bill Arkin, “On Dec. 11, (2002) the Defense secretary sent Bush a memorandum asking for authority to place Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., the STRATCOM commander, in charge of the full range of “strategic” warfare options to combat terrorist states and organizations. The memo, obtained by the (Los Angeles) Times, recommended assigning all responsibilities for dealing with foreign weapons of mass destruction, including ‘global strike; integrated missile defense; [and] information operations’ to STRATCOM.”xlvii This chilling newest development in the history of U.S. nuclear war-fighting strategy is the logical conclusion of over a half century of first strike planning, and unambiguously exposes the real purpose of ‘National Missile Defense’- the ability to threaten to dominate all rungs of the ‘escalation ladder’, including a strategic first strike.

Pathways to Nuclear War

Although nuclear weapons have not been used against human targets since August 9, 1945, it is increasingly clear that U.S. nuclear policy has shifted in favor of the proximate battlefield use of nuclear weapons. According to Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee, “…the U.S. is again threatening nuclear war against Iraq, this time with powerful forces in both the Republican Party and in the White House anxious to shatter the taboos against nuclear war-fighting.xlviii A principal reason for this radical policy shift is the perception that the threat value of nuclear weapons has deteriorated, and that only the actual battlefield use of nuclear weapons can refurbish it. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Pentagon’s unchallenged military power have given U.S. policy makers an insane sense of confidence that they can once again unsheathe the nuclear sword without consequence.

Any actual use of nuclear weapons will almost certainly follow a carefully scripted propaganda campaign, followed by one of a litany of rationalizations- ‘saving American lives’, ‘destroying a nuclear/chemical/biological weapons bunker’, ‘protecting Israel’, ‘responding to use of weapons of mass destruction (real or fabricated)’, etc.. The current highly visible nuclear threats, in conjunction with the calculated demonization of Iraq and the so called “rogue states,” can be seen as part of a strategy by Bush to reshape public opinion in support of using nuclear weapons. With the American public (and worldwide) strongly favoring nuclear disarmament, this would seem at first glance a difficult if not impossible task.xlix However, a Gallup Poll done during the Gulf War in 1991 showing 45% public support for the use of nuclear weapons to “save American lives” should give pause to those who believe that public opinion would never support U.S. use of nuclear weapons.l The U.S. political leadership, especially under a reactionary, quasi-caretaker government like Bush, will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons against Iraq or any other opponent if they calculate that the end justifies the means.

In the likely event that the Pentagon is ordered to wage total war against Iraq, leading to the overthrow and assumed assassination of Saddam Hussein and “war crimes” trials for the senior Iraqi leadership, several factors may come into play, any one of which could lead to nuclear war. A desperate, beleaguered Iraqi leadership could order attacks with biological or chemical weapons (whatever limited ability they may have) against U.S. forces, Israel, or the Gulf States, leading to retaliation with nuclear weapons. The Pentagon might use nuclear weapons against Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ real or fabricated (all “evidence” would be conveniently vaporized). A significant number of U.S. ground troops might become besieged, as in Khe-Sanh, Vietnam with resulting nuclear weapons use. (Modern battlefield nukes make this scenario even more likely Iraqi leadership might take shelter in a highly fortified and defended bunker and nuclear weapons used against it. The oppressed peoples of the Gulf region might rise up in rebellion against their tormentors in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, threatening U.S. control of the oil fields. These scenarios encompass by no means the only potential contingencies described in the recent NPR.

The chaos and confusion sown by unilateral U.S. action against Iraq, and continuation of the mindless and ineffectual “war on terrorism” may have unintended consequences. Israel could attempt to take advantage of a U.S. attack to intensify its near genocidal oppression of the Palestinians, risking a military confrontation with the neighboring Arab states a war that could easily become nuclear.lii (Those who doubt Israel’s willingness to use its substantial nuclear weapons arsenal should consider that in 1998 80% of Israelis supported the use of nuclear weapons.)liii Complicating the situation further, Israel has been openly weighing air strikes against a Russian built Iranian nuclear power reactor, a strategy similar to the destruction of the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981. Under Secretary of State John Bolton’s recent statements to Israeli officials that “he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards,”liv will undoubtedly further fan the flames of war. Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, in Orwellian fashion typical of the Bush regime, is a long-standing and vehement opponent of arms control.

Noam Chomsky, among others, has accused of broad sections of the peace movement of providing “ideological support” for Israel by ignoring or downplaying Israeli aggression and possession of nuclear weapons. “The unwillingness of major segments of the peace movement to face this issue- and more generally, to confront the question of how a nuclear war is likely to break out as a result of tensions and conflicts in the third world to which the U.S. makes a significant contribution- deserves some thought. It is a stance that reflects a curious arrangement of priorities on the part of people who are committed to reducing the likelihood of nuclear war.”lv

Pakistan and India on the Brink

The present U.S. “military footprint” in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan will inflame Arab, Islamic and Hindu nationalism, threatening the stability of several states in the region, especially Pakistan, which possesses an arsenal of several dozen atomic bombs.lvi Toppling of the Musharraf dictatorship, reportedly under attack by rogue elements in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Agency, could easily intensify the already near war situation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, leading to nuclear conflict. Reversing years of India’s opposition to nuclear weapons, “the Hindu fundamentalist, right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),”lvii has strongly embraced nuclear weapons. Additionally, there are credible reports that the U.S., working in coordination with Israel, is contemplating raids to capture Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, a harebrained scheme that if true is likely to backfire with potentially catastrophic results. “Joseph R Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has confirmed that President George W Bush is consulting senior leaders on plans to neutralize Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities if the Musharraf regime collapses. He told a Council on Foreign Relations meeting in New York “those discussions are under way with members of Congress.”lviii The U.S. State Department has denied the story.lix

India and Pakistan have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Most press accounts describe the deadly standoff in terms of a dispute over Kashmir, but the roots of the crisis are firmly interwoven with U.S. policy. Since the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979, Pakistan has been a client state of the U.S. and the cornerstone of the CIA’s anti-Soviet terror campaign in Afghanistan. It was in the context of massive U.S. support that Pakistan, with help from China, developed its nuclear arsenal, a project that would have been seriously complicated without U.S. financial and diplomatic support. Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) has been coordinating the terror war in Kashmir, largely fought by veterans of the CIA’s Afghan campaign. “In late 1997, India’s… RAW (CIA equivalent) estimated that some 800 to 1,000 foreign guerrillas, many veterans of the Afghan jihad of the 1980s… were unleashed in the Kashmir battle.”lx In September 1997 India reported killing 302 guerrillas, including 118 Afghans and 106 Pakistanis.lxi This CIA initiated terror campaign is currently being replicated around the world from Chechnya to the Philippines to Macedonia.

India too has been the object of U.S. policies. During the Cold War, the U.S. tried, with only limited success, to drive a wedge between India and the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, India has become a potential strategic asset in the campaign to surround and isolate China and Russia. Since 9-11 the U.S. has resumed weapons sales to India and announced renewed military cooperation. In return, India has voiced support for Bush’s Ballistic Missile Defense program. Meanwhile, the U.S. has also resumed direct military sales to Pakistan. Each side now sees itself as the favored U.S. client state. “The new relations of India and Pakistan with the U.S. A. have also promoted the prospects of a nuclear war between the two South Asian neighbors. “Each is interpreting statements and signals from the endless stream of U.S. and Western emissaries to the region over the recent period in terms that encourage them and exacerbate the tensions.”lxii

In a strategy reminiscent of the Iran-Iraq war and numerous other regional conflicts, the U.S. is arming and abetting both sides in the nuclear standoff. “Advise both sides on the conduct of war. Arm both sides in the conflict, fueling America’s military-industrial complex. Develop joint military and intelligence cooperation with both countries, enabling the U.S. to oversee the theatre of an eventual war. Fracture and impoverish both countries. Restore the Empire.”lxiii The purpose of the orchestrated escalation in South Asia is not just to extend the U.S. sphere of influence in Central and South Asia, but to complete the encirclement and isolation of Russia and China as part of a strategy to maintain hegemony and secure relatively untapped resources and markets.


The use of nuclear weapons in war, whatever the rationale, risks global annihilation. If nuclear weapons are used in Iraq, it is almost certain that both the U.S. and Russia (and all other nuclear weapons states) will implement a heightened nuclear alert status. Currently the U.S. has about 7,600 deployed strategic nuclear weaponslxiv and Russia has about 5,600lxv, but the numbers alone do not tell the entire story. Russia’s nuclear arsenal is undependable and deteriorating, while the U.S. arsenal is robust. The bulk of Russia’s warheads (over 3,000) are deployed on land-based ICBMs, vulnerable to the Pentagon’s first strike weapons, while most of the U.S. warheads (again, over 3,000) are deployed on utterly impregnable Trident submarines. With both sides adopting a ‘launch on warning’ policy, this strategic asymmetry greatly destabilizes the ‘balance of terror’ and lowers the threshold to nuclear war. In the case of Russia, if the Kremlin believes that a U.S. first strike is imminent, the pressure to launch their weapons before they are destroyed would be overwhelming.

There are still nearly 25,000 nuclear weapons in existence worldwide, with over 5,000 strategic weapons on hair trigger “launch on warning” alert; more than enough to precipitate “nuclear winter” and potentially destroy life on earth.lxvi The recent much ballyhooed nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia is a PR sham designed only for public consumption. The treaty calls for unspecified reductions in nuclear warheads to a total of between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. The lower limit of 1,700 warheads is entirely voluntary and the treaty does nothing to restrain the proliferation of tactical nukes, a key element in Bush’s nuclear plans. The real purpose is “to create a diplomatic illusion of nuclear arms restraint to accelerate Russia’s integration into the U.S. led free market system, ensuring Russia’s role as a natural resource supplier.”lxvii This treaty allows the U.S. to increase its arsenal at any time, so long as the numbers are at 2,200 in 2012, at which point the treaty expires and the limits would balloon to the 6,000 mandated under START 1. (Theoretically, the U.S. could comply with the treaty by removing warheads from missiles for one day in 2012 and reinstalling them a day later!) Each side is required to give only 90 days notice of intent to withdraw. “‘What we have now agreed to do under the treaty is what we wanted to do anyway,’ a senior administration official said today. ‘That’s our kind of treaty.’”lxviii

According to Senator Edward Kennedy (D. MA), “Initiating the use of nuclear weapons would make a conflict with Iraq potentially catastrophic… the administration’s radical consideration of the possible use of our nuclear arsenal against Iraq is itself a grave danger to our national interests, our nation and all that America stands for.”lxix Bill Arkin warns, “The danger is that nuclear weapons — locked away in a Pandora’s box for more than half a century — are being taken out of that lockbox and put on the shelf with everything else. While Pentagon leaders insist that does not mean they take nuclear weapons lightly, critics fear that removing the firewall and adding nuclear weapons to the normal option ladder makes their use more likely — especially under a policy of preemption that says Washington alone will decide when to strike. To make such a doctrine encompass nuclear weapons is to embrace a view that, sooner or later, will spread beyond the moral capitals of Washington and London to New Delhi and Islamabad, to Pyongyang and Baghdad, Beijing, Tel Aviv and to every nuclear nation of the future.”lxx

The real key to preventing the use of nuclear weapons, an act which will inevitably have calamitous consequences for the entire world, lies in the ability of the anti-nuclear, anti-intervention, social justice and anti globalization movements to understand that their issues are inextricably linked. The task is not an easy one. For example, In the teeth of unprecedented nuclear saber rattling by Bush, the April, 2002 mobilization which brought 100,000 to Washington featured only two speakers on the nuclear threat (Helen Caldicott and Phil Berrigan), while the June 12, 1982 anti-nuclear protest in Central Park, during the height of the Israeli annihilation of Beirut, failed to address Israeli aggression or the intervention issue at all. Our daunting task is complicated even further by the present jingoistic atmosphere and Constitutional lawlessness that have undoubtedly intimidated millions from speaking out.

In The Dialectics of War, Martin Shaw writes, “By the time nuclear war is even likely, war-resistance may be largely beside the point. The resistance to nuclear war has to be successful in the period of general war-preparation. The key question is the relationship between militarism and antimilitarism, and the wider social struggles of the society in which nuclear war is prepared.”lxxi He argues, “If the values which sustain all the social movements for change suffer when nuclear militarism is in the ascendancy …the relationship between nuclear militarism and society implies a general strategic relationship between peace movements and wider movements for social change.”lxxii The best strategy for abolishing nuclear weapons is to broaden and strengthen the people’s movement to challenge all aspects of the corporate imperial state.


i Robert Aldridge, The Counterforce Syndrome: A Guide to U.S. Nuclear Weapons and Strategic Doctrine, (Washington, Transnational Institute, 1978) p. 9

ii Richard Falk & David Kreiger, “Taming the Nuclear Monster”, (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, April 11, 2002),

iii Haruko Moritaki, Message to the American People, (Hiroshima, Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, 2002) Contact Steve Leeper at <>

iv Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists


v Michio Kaku and Daniel Axelrod, “To Win A Nuclear War: the Pentagon’s Secret War Plans,”(Boston,South End Press, 1987) p.184

vi Arjun Makhijani, “A Chronology of Nuclear Threats,” (Takoma Park, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, 1998) <>

vii Daniel Ellsberg, “A Call to Mutiny,” Protest and Survive, Eds. E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith, (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1981) p. 1

viii Joseph Gerson, “What is a Deadly Connection?,” The Deadly Connection: Nuclear War and U.S. Intervention, ed. Joseph Gerson, (Philadelphia, New Society Publishers, 1986) p.9

ix William Arkin, The Nuclear Option in Iraq: The U.S. has lowered the bar for using the ultimate weapon, (Los Angeles Times, 26 January , 2003)

x Kaku and Axelrod, pp 166-168

xi Francis A. Boyle, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence: Could the U.S. War On Terrorism Go Nuclear?, (Atlanta, Clarity Press, Inc., 2002) p. 57

xii ibid, pp. 67-68

xiii Louise Franklin-Ramirez and Howard Morland, Atomic Power and the Arms Race, Twin Evils of the Split Atom, (Washington, Visual Information Project, 1980, slide 26

xiv P.M.S.. Blackett, Fear War and the Bomb: Military & Political Consequences of Atomic Energy, (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1949) p. 139

xv Arjun Makhijani and John Kelly, Target Japan: The Decision to Bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (Washington, Unpublished Manuscript, 1985) P.32. (Published in Japan as Why Japan?)Contact Arjun Makhijani at <>

xvi George Kennan, Policy Planning Study 23, (U.S. State Department, 1948) <>

xvii Michael Parenti, Against Empire, (San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1995) P.36

xviii [Kaku & Axelrod, pp. 62 – 66]

xix Kaku & Axelrod, pp. 184 – 192

xx Center for Defense Information, The World’s Nuclear Arsenals, (Center for Defense Information, 2002) <>

xxi Joseph Gerson, With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination, (Philadelphia, New Society Publishers, 1995) pp. 2-4

xxii R. Jeffrey Smith, Clinton Directive Changes Strategy On Nuclear Arms, (Washington Post, 7 December 1997), p. A1.

xxiii Daniel Sneider, Bush Policy On Nuclear Weapons Traced to Cheney after Gulf War, (San Jose Mercury News, March 15, 2002) P. 2

xxiv periodically, the pentagon conducts a ‘nuclear posture review’(NPR) for the purpose of updating and refining nuclear weapons strategy.

xxv William M. Arkin, Secret Plan Outlines the Unthinkable, (Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002) <>

xxvi David Wastell, US plans for first-strike nuclear attacks against seven countries

(Sunday Telegraph, 10 Mar. 2002, p. 1)

xxvii Arkin, op. cit.

xxviii Joseph Gerson, Continuity and Change in the Aftermath of September 11 , (Speech to Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives, May 8-9, 2002) <>

xxix Joseph Gerson, ibid

xxx Hiroyuki Sugiyama, Beijing Tests Missile With Multiple Warheads, (Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 8)

xxxi Walden Bello, Towards a Just, Comprehensive, and Sustainable Peace in the Asia-Pacific Region (Focus On the Global South, Speech at the opening session of the Okinawa International Forum on People’s Security, Okinawa, June 29-July 2, 2000) <(>

xxxii Robert M. Bowman, Star Wars: Defense or Death Star? , (Institute for Space and Security Studies, 1985) pp.58 – 63

xxxiii Eugene J. Carroll, Nuclear Wars Past and Future, (C-SPAN, April 29, 2002)

xxxiv Nuclear Disarmament Partnership(NDP), Cost Implications of National Missile Defense, (NDP, June 2001) <> (The NDF estimates that NMD will cost at least $241 billion and probably much more)

xxxv Helen Caldicott, The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military Industrial Complex, (New York, The New Press, 2002) pp. 165-166

xxxvi U.S. Department of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, 13th Defense Secretary, <>

xxxvii Caldicott, p. 27

xxxviii Karl Grossman, U.S. Military moves to “control space”& be “enforcement arm for the global economy”, (Presentation at Technology and Globalization Teach-In New York City February 24, 2001) <>

xxxix Paolo Pontoniere, New U.S. Military Doctrine Vexes Europeans , New California Media(copyright Pacific News Service, May 1, 2002) <>


Pontoniere, ibid

xli Ann Scott Tyson, Bush lays groundwork for striking first at nations with weapons of mass destruction. (Christian Science Monitor, February 7, 2002) <>

xlii Thom Shanker, Rumsfeld Asserts Forces Must Take Risks & Think Creatively to Prepare for New Challenges, (New York Times, February 1, 2002, National Desk]

xliii Bill Berkowitz, Let them eat guns: Rumsfeld’s Rambo rumblings for a permanent ‘war on terrorism’. (Working for Change, February 8, 2002) <>

xliv Eric Schmitt, New Command Would Meld Missile Defense and Offense, (New York Times, National Desk, June 25, 2002)

xlv Helen Caldicott, On Star Wars, Space War & Death Merchants, (STAR Foundation, July 11, 2001) <>

xlvi Schmitt, Ibid

xlvii William Arkin, “The Nuclear Option in Iraq: The U.S. has lowered the bar for using the ultimate weapon” , (Los Angeles Times, 26 January , 2003)

xlviii Joseph Gerson, “in this fateful hour US, Iraq, Korea, and nuclear weapons”, (Z-Net, February 28, 2003) <>

xlix Abolition 2000, Recent Public Opinion Polls Indicate Overwhelming Support for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, (Abolition 2000, 2001) <>

l William Arkin and Stan Norris, Nuclear Notebook, (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1991)

li Kaku and Axelrod, P. 159

lii John Steinbach, Israel’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, (Covert Action Quarterly, April-June, 2001), p. 22

liii Asher Arian, Israeli Public Opinion on National security, 1998, (Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 1998) <>

liv Aluf Benn and Sharon Sadeh, U.S. to Israel: We’ll deal with Syria, Iran after Iraq War (Haartez, February 17, 2003)

lv Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, The U.S., Israel and the Palestinians, (South End Press, 1999) pp. 451 – 452)

lvi Robert Burns, U.S. considers future military relations with former Soviet states, (Sacramento Bee, April 30,2002)

< hour/special_reports/terrorism/story/386005p-3072835c.html>

lvii Praful Bidwai, India Politics: Right-wing Party Hardens Nuclear Stance, (Interpress Service World News, April 5, 2002) <>

lviii Praful Bidwai , Nuclear worries mount by the day, (Asia Times On-Line, November3, 2001) <>

lix Tahir Mirza, US refutes report about plan to take out Pakistan’s N-arms, (DAWN Internet Edition, October 30,2001 <>

lx John A. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, (London, Pluto Press,2000) pp. 233-234

lxi Cooley, p.234

lxii J. Sri Raman, South Asia: Waiting for the U.S.A., (Global Network Against Weapons and Power In Space, June 1, 2002)

lxiii Michael Chossudovsky, Washington is pushing India and Pakistan to the brink of war, (Centre for Research on Globalisation, 23 May, 2002) <>

lxiv William M. Arkin & Stan Norris, U.S. Nuclear Forces 2002, (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2002) pp.70 – 75

lxv William M. Arkin & Stan Norris, Russian Nuclear Forces 2001, (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2001), pp. 78 – 79

lxvi John Pike, Status of Nuclear Powers and Their Nuclear Capabilities, (Federation of American Scientists, January, 1999) <>

lxvii Natural Resources Defense Council, The Bush-Putin Treaty: An Orwellian Approach to Nuclear Arms Control, (NRDC, May, 2002 <www.nrdc,org/nuclear /atreaty02.asp>

lxviii Michael R. Gordon, Treaty Offers Pentagon New Flexibility for New Set of Nuclear Priorities, New York Times Foreign Desk, May 14, 2002

lxix Senator Edward Kennedy, Our Nuclear Talk Gravely Imperils Us, (Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2003)

lxx William Arkin, The Nuclear Option in Iraq: The U.S. has lowered the bar for using the ultimate weapon, (Los Angeles Times, 26 January , 2003)

lxxi Martin Shaw, The Dialectics of War: An essay in the social theory of total war and peace, (London, Pluto Press, 1988) p. 102

lxxii Martin Shaw, p. 111

John Steinbach, an educator and author, has written extensively on environmental, economics, energy, social justice and nuclear energy issues.