Bush’s Nuclear Gamble:

Robert Parry: “The U.S. debate over invading Iraq has so far focused on only one part of the nuclear danger. George W. Bush has pushed an emotional hot button by alleging Saddam Hussein is close to having a nuclear bomb and is ready to share it with terrorists…

But what has not been examined in any detail is whether invading Iraq might actually hasten the day when nuclear weapons fall into the hands of anti-American terrorists. Indeed, that nightmare scenario might be as likely or even more likely if Bush gets his way on an invasion.”

At this juncture, inexorably tumbling toward war without much effective opposition, the antiwar Left resorts to more and more dramatic warnings of consequences governed by the laws of unintended outcomes (or is it ‘outcomes governed by the law of unintended consequences’?) and paradoxical intent. A credible antiwar argument has to be plausible and coherent and not seem to be grasping at straws to justify emotionally- or sentimentally-based opposition, if it is to influence any thoughtful listener who is not an absolute pacifist. Criticizing Bush for “alarmist rhetoric” in citing the Iraqi threat, its supposed linkage with al Qaeda, etc., can look like the pot calling the kettle black to some.

There may be a tendency to dismiss as particularly alarmist and manipulative warnings that Bush’s war plans may incinerate us all. As I’ve written in FmH over and over, we are lulled into complacency about nuclear threats by several factors. The first is what one of my mentors, antiwar psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, has called “nuclear numbing”, the difficulty thinking the unthinkable. Moreover, we have recently been further lulled, even if we broke through our denial to be able to contemplate nuclear annihilation in all its gruesome awe-ful detail, into thinking that the doomsday clock has been turned back by the end of the Cold War and that the nuclear threat is a thing of the past.

So it may be a struggle, but shouldn’t we consider with eyes wide open a scenario in which the US invasion inflames Muslim sentiment, Musharraf’s government falls to fundamentalist rioting, and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons fall into the hands of his extremist successors? Or one in which such a radicalized Pakistan inflames India into a nuclear exchange over the festering sore of Kashmir? Or that the US, under its recently revised nuclear posture, will use tactical battlefield nuclear armaments if the going gets rough on the road to Baghdad, or that Israel will be attacked during the war and use nuclear retaliation? And finally,

Another risk from a U.S. invasion would be the possibility of “copycat” interventions by other nuclear powers against their own “terrorists.” The Russians already are eyeing an invasion of Georgia to wipe out Chechen rebels hiding in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. Farther east, the Indians want to wipe out Pakistani-backed Islamic extremists fighting in Kashmir. Communist China sees challenges from nationalist groups on the mainland and in Taiwan.

By throwing away international rules against invading other countries, the Bush administration might find it difficult to enforce the same rules when other countries are caught in their own wars against “terrorism.” The Consortium