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Clinton and Obama: Wed to Nuclear Terrorism

I was in Hiroshima, participating in the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, when the latest barrage of nuclear madness flailed out from the U.S. presidential campaign trail. Almost inured to Bush's romance of ruthlessness and believing that almost anything else can only be an improvement, people from nations across the world were shocked and angered by Obama's and Clinton's recent nuclear madness.

It remains to be seen how badly Barrack Obama's self-inflicted wounds will be. First he played cowboy sheriff and G.W. Bush - threatening unilateral military attacks against a sovereign and already fragile nation - Pakistan, but attempted to soften the blow by pledging not use nuclear weapons against Al Qaeda. Someone was planning to hit South Waziristan with nuclear weapons? He then further demonstrated incompetence and ignorance by saying that he would not use nuclear weapons against civilians. Nuclear weapons can be used without inflicting Hell on earth and taking countless civilian lives? Has he not heard of fall out or considered the fact that the U.S. tactical (as opposed to "counter-value" strategic) nuclear weapons include many Hiroshima-size A-bombs?

Hillary Clinton then went on to confirm what many long suspected: that in its approach to the world, terrorizing U.S. first strike nuclear weapons are always on the table, saying "I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons." That means that U.S. presidents should never remove the nuclear threat when dealing with other nations.

This is consistent with other statements she has made on her presidential campaign trail. Last February, as she was leaving the New Hampshire high school where she had just formally launched her campaign with a carefully staged event, a young peace activist caught her going out the door. She asked Senator Clinton, "When you say that all options must be on the table with Iran, do you really mean that we should be threatening all of that country's women and children with genocide?" The Senator's chilling response was, "I meant what I said."

The Obama and Clinton statements - like President Bush's nuclear threats and campaign to post-modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal and vastly expand the U.S. nuclear weapons production infrastructure - violate commitments the U.S. has made in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and they stand in stark defiance of the International Court of Justices' advisory ruling on the use and threatened use of nuclear weapons.

They also reflect the banality of evil. Regardless of what their personal beliefs about the existence and actual use of nuclear weapons may be, to rise to the pinnacle of power of a nuclear-enforced empire, they and other aspiring politicians have found it necessary to demonstrate that they are tough enough to defend the empire with nuclear weapons. You can't build or maintain an empire without terrorizing people across the planet.

However, like symbolic politics, engaging in the banality of evil results in true evil. Statements and threats create expectations. When their bluffs are called George Bush and future U.S. presidents may believe it necessary to back up their words by carrying out their threats. Since the nuclear annihilations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during international crises, confrontations and wars, every U.S. president has prepared and threatened to initiate nuclear attacks -- primarily to maintain U.S. hegemony in East Asia and the Middle East - most recently during the run up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. In several cases: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1976 "Ax Incident" in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and Bill Clinton's 1994 nuclear threat against North Korea the world came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe.

These U.S. threats and the refusal of the U.S. and other declared nuclear powers to fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitment to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals are the primary forces driving nuclear weapons proliferation, which in turn, further increased the dangers of nuclear war.. As Mohamed El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Commission and Nobel Laureate Joseph Rotblat frequently reminded us, because no nation will long tolerate an equal imbalance of terror, ending nuclear "hypocrisy" and moving to abolish all nuclear weapons is the only way to prevent proliferation.

Understandably other nations want to redress this imbalance - most by demanding implementation of Article VI of the NPT. Some, however, having given up on the NPT, have sought or seek their own deterrent nuclear arsenals: India, Pakistan, North Korea, and now possibly Iran.

To stanch nuclear madness in Washington, Iran's apparent nuclear weapons program, and the possibility of nuclear weapons proliferation across the Middle East and elsewhere, political candidates and the rest of us should be singing a different tune: The U.S. and other nuclear powers must honor their "irrevocable" commitment to implement Article VI of the NPT, beginning with credible steps to fulfill the 13 steps agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiating a Fissile Materials Cut Off Treaty would be a start. The U.S. must also cease turning a blind eye toward Israel's provocative and genocidal nuclear arsenal and actively join the campaign for the creation of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East as called for in the 1995 NPT Review Conference and by Arab nations since then.

These are hardly radical notions. Even the war criminal Henry Kissinger, Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz, and Clinton Secretary of Defense William Perry have concluded that the embrace of the nuclear double standard is a losing strategy and have called for the U.S. to honor its Article 6 abolition commitments. Another world is truly possible.

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Joseph Gerson

Joseph Gerson

Dr. Joseph Gerson is Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau. His most recent book is Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World. His previous books include The Sun Never Sets and With Hiroshima Eyes.

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