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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I've been mulling Hersh's article (as Bran suggested yesterday) and it's leading me into some uncomfortable places. From here on out we're in tin-foil hat territory. This is all speculation, none of it corroborated with anyone, just pure mental spinnin' of the wheels and whatnot.

O.k., with that out of the way, here's the deal. It seems to my mind that the U.S. has a vested interest in an international nuclear weapon production capacity, one that operates outside of the purview of weapons inspectors, arms treaties, and other niceties of international life that make actually using nuclear weapons inconvenient. I don't know why this might be the case (other than the aforementioned desire to keep some small weapons around on the d.l.), but nevertheless there does seem to be a certain, er, "flexibility" when the U.S. addresses the question of who can possess nuclear technology, and when. It's no secret that some in the Bush Administration desire an expanded role for "tactical" or "theatre" nuclear weapons. In fact, also in the back of my mind lie some questions about the use of these weapons in Iraq (number one: are any deployed there? Number two: have they been used?). The CIA has a history of sourcing its weapons for clandestine operations from third parties who have known ties to, or simply are, shady international arms dealers. Why not have the same sort of a network for nukes? In any case, the proliferation of weapons generally is not an issue the U.S. has pursued with gusto. Lots of big companies in the U.S. profit off their international arms sales, and while most are legit there's still a percentage that gets siphoned off into the black market. If it weren't true that the CIA has used this black market in the past, then I'd rest a bit easier knowing the U.S. could be serious about stopping proliferation. On the other hand, the way "clandestine" operations conduct their business I'm not sure the U.S. is totally out of the nuclear proliferation underworld.

Of course, none of this makes any difference if we can't concoct scenarios when the U.S. would actually _use_ a small nuclear weapon. And, quite frankly, I can't, which is why I've gone to great effort to say that this is all speculation. Nuclear blasts leave all sorts of tell-tale signs, so much so that it's always been assumed that their main usefulness is as a last resort or a deterrent. Again, however, we run into the arguments by members of the Bush Administration and other administrations that tactical nuclear weapons are necessary. And not just for fighting heavily-armed adversaries, but also for the small-scale wars that are predicted to dominate U.S. military actions for the forseeable future.

To go back to the question about the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Iraq, my tendancy is to think something that brazen would be hard to hide. It'd be quite a shock to learn that the U.S. broke the streak of not using nuclear weapons in battle since WWII in Iraq, and I'd think at some point in time someone, somewhere, would talk. And the rumors in Iraq itself would be very hard to stifle. To my knowledge, no such rumors are going around. There was a story awhile back on the Al-Jazeera website about strange-looking wounds on some of the injured Iraqi civilians, but that link has since died and despite my best efforts I can't locate the article. Again, there hasn't even been a whisper about nukes being used in Iraq, and I can't fathom something like that happening without anyone noticing.

Andrew 7:52 PM : |


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