Welcome to the Nuclear Club

During the six decades since Einstein spoke, experience has shown that such understanding and insistence cannot be filtered through the grid of hypocrisy. Nuclear weapons can’t be controlled by saying, in effect, “Do as we say, not as we do.” By developing their own nuclear weaponry, one nation after another has replied to the nuclear-armed states:

In early summer, with some fanfare, officials in Washington announced the dismantling of the last W56 nuclear warhead — a 1.2 megaton model from the 1960s. Self-congratulation was in the air, as a statement hailed “our firm commitment to reducing the size of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest levels necessary for national security needs.” That’s the kind of soothing PR that we’ve been getting ever since the nuclear age began.

For more than 50 years, Washington has preached the global virtues of “peaceful” nuclear power reactors — while denying their huge inherent dangers and their crucial role in proliferating nuclear weaponry. The denial meant that people and the environment would suffer all along the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to nuclear waste; and that the 1979 disaster at Three Mile Island would be followed by the continuing horrors of Chernobyl.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s delusional and deluding speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Dec. 8, 1953, now has a macabre echo: “The United States pledges before you — and therefore before the world — its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma — to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.”

Coupled with the contempt for genuine diplomacy that the Bush administration has repeatedly shown, Washington’s eagerness to use military might has fueled the dangers of a nuclear-weapons standoff with North Korea. Two of the sacred axioms of the Bush regime — secrecy and violence — cannot solve this problem and in fact can only make it worse.

Rest assured that while President Bush was at a podium in the White House on Oct. 9 denouncing the North Korean nuclear test as a “provocative act,” Karl Rove was hard at work to fine-tune plans for a rhetorical onslaught linking this crisis to the “war on terror.” Bush was already laying the groundwork for such an effort as he spoke — warning of “a grave threat to the United States” if North Korea gives nuclear-related technology to “any state or non-state actor.”


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