Nuclear Hypocrisy

by Laurence M. Vance,
Feb. 23, 2012

Republican presidential candidates and officials in the U.S. government from the president on down have turned up the rhetoric against Iran.

In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama stated, “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that “it is the policy of this administration that Iran cannot be permitted to have a nuclear weapon and no option has ever been taken off the table.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner maintains that the Obama administration “is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.”

During a recent campaign stop in Cleveland, Newt Gingrich warned about the dangers to Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and New York from an Iranian nuclear strike. Said Gingrich, “Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it’s 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction. That’s why I think it’s important that we have the strongest possible national security.”

Meanwhile, while campaigning in Missouri, Rick Santorum warned Missourians about Iran: “Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri. These are folks who have been and are at war with us since 1979. This is a country that has killed more troops in Afghanistan and Iraq than the Iraqis and Afghans.” (Funny that the Reagan administration facilitated the sale of arms to Iran in 1985 and 1986 — when we were supposedly at war. And funny that Santorum said 1979 instead of 1953 — the year that the United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran and installed an authoritarian puppet in the shah.)

Mitt Romney has said that if you elect him, “Iran will not have a nuclear weapon” because “a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world.” If sanctions fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “there’s nothing else we could do besides take military action.”

The charge has been made that Tehran’s UN-inspected nuclear power program is a front for the development of nuclear weapons to target Israel and the United States.

There are several things that negate that charge that the Republican presidential candidates seem to have missed.

U.S. intelligence reports in 2007 and 2010 came up with no evidence that Iran is currently attempting to build or acquire nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency and UN inspectors have confirmed it. The chief of Israel’s Mossad, Tamir Pardo, “doesn’t think a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel.” James Clapper, the U.S. director of National Intelligence, recently told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” According to Pentagon spokesman George Little, “We have no indication that the Iranians have made a decision to develop a nuclear weapon.”

But whether or not Iran is developing nuclear weapons, and whether or not Iran develops nuclear weapons in the future, there are seven ways in which the U.S. government is guilty of nuclear hypocrisy.

First, it is the United States that helped Iran to start its nuclear program. In 1967, under Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, the United States sold the government of Iran a 5-megawatt, light-water-type research reactor. In 1978, Jimmy Carter made a deal with the shah of Iran to send up to eight U.S.-made light-water reactors to Iran, but the deal fell through after the Iranian revolution of 1979. A recently declassified 1974 Defense Department memorandum notes that should the shah fall from power, “domestic dissidents or foreign terrorists might easily be able to seize any special nuclear materials stored in Iran for use in bombs.” The memo concludes that “an aggressive successor to the Shah might consider nuclear weapons the final item needed to establish Iran’s complete military dominance of the region.”

Second, by a vote of 4 to 1, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently approved licenses to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia at an existing nuclear site. The applications were submitted seven years ago. That was the first time in more than 30 years that the U.S. government has approved the construction of new nuclear reactors. The reactors that began operation in the last decades received their initial licenses before 1978. With all the talk about clean energy, green energy, climate change, and the pollution from coal-fired power plants, it is strange that the U.S. government has stifled the construction of new nuclear reactors for peaceful use.

Third, besides the United States, the countries of Russia, China, France, Israel, and Great Britain, and, to a lesser extent, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, have nuclear weapons. Why are these countries not considered to be more of a threat to the United States than Iran? Especially Pakistan, which is very unstable, seeing that it borders on Afghanistan. And what about Russia and China? Director of National Intelligence James Clapper just stated in his Worldwide Threat Assessment that “Russia and China are aggressive and successful purveyors of economic espionage against the United States.” The controversy regarding Iran is less about nuclear weapons and more about the “sea of oil” that Iran sits on and the struggle for hegemony in the Middle East.

Fourth, of the 195 countries in the world, 189 of them — including Iran — are signers of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea signed and then withdrew; India, Pakistan, and Israel never signed; and the new countries of Kosovo (2008) and South Sudan (2011) have not signed yet. Non-nuclear signatories of the treaty agree “not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Article IV of the treaty allows countries to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” Why doesn’t the United States pressure India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea to sign and abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty instead of condemning Iran — a signer that hasn’t manufactured, acquired, or received any nuclear weapons?

Fifth, Iran is surrounded by U.S. military bases. There is a new U.S. special operations team known as Joint Special Operations Task Force–Gulf Cooperation Council at work near Iran, and the U.S. military has aircraft carrier battle groups near Iran’s shores. Yet the United States and Iran signed the Algiers Accords in 1981 to end the hostage crisis. The first point, “Non-Intervention in Iranian Affairs,” reads, “The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.” If words have any meaning, that would have to preclude investigating Iran’s nuclear program.

Sixth, who is the United States to say that a country should or shouldn’t have nuclear weapons? When did all the other countries of the world appoint the United States to be the world’s policeman, inspector, and guardian? As much as officials in the U.S. government may not like it, even if Iran had nuclear weapons that would still not give the United States the right to do anything about it beyond diplomacy. The United States has more than 5,000 nuclear warheads that are a threat to the entire planet. Every country in the world — not just Iran — would be justified in obtaining nuclear weapons to protect itself against the country that was the first to develop nuclear weapons, the country that has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in battle — the United States.

That brings us to my last point. There is only one country in the world that had a secret program — the Manhattan Project — to develop nuclear weapons for offensive purposes and then used them. On August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, “Fat Man” was dropped on Nagasaki. Perhaps 200,000 people died, most of them Japanese civilians, some of them Korean conscripts, and a few of them Allied POWs. But wasn’t dropping atomic bombs on Japan necessary to end World War II? First of all, World War II was an unnecessary war. Second, World War II needs to be rethought. Third, thanks to the recently published book by the former president Herbert Hoover titled Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s History of the Second World War, it has now once again been confirmed that Franklin Roosevelt lied about keeping America out of war even as he took one deliberate step after another to take it into war. And fourth, no it wasn’t, at least according to then-General Dwight Eisenhower, who said, “The Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

Is Iran “guilty” of secretly developing a nuclear weapon? Perhaps. But one thing is certain — the United States is guilty of nuclear hypocrisy and there is nothing secret about it.
Laurence M. Vance is a policy advisor for the Future of Freedom Foundation. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State and The Revolution that Wasn't. His newest book is Rethinking the Good War. Visit his website: Send him email.

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