Thursday, March 01, 2007

Don't Think of Nuclear War!

This is the kind of post The Fear of All Sums was really created to cover, people playing mind games with words and figures like this.

In an essay entitled, The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War, George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics at UC Berkley, breaks down the way Strongman George Bush's insane plans are being soft-pedaled in the media...

The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete."
Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, April 17, 2006

"The second concern is that if an underground laboratory is deeply buried, that can also confound conventional weapons. But the depth of the Natanz facility - reports place the ceiling roughly 30 feet underground - is not prohibitive. The American GBU-28 weapon - the so-called bunker buster - can pierce about 23 feet of concrete and 100 feet of soil. Unless the cover over the Natanz lab is almost entirely rock, bunker busters should be able to reach it. That said, some chance remains that a single strike would fail."
Michael Levi, New York Times, April 18, 2006

A familiar means of denying a reality is to refuse to use the words that describe that reality. A common form of propaganda is to keep reality from being described.

In such circumstances, silence and euphemism are forms of complicity both in propaganda and in the denial of reality. And the media, as well as the major presidential candidates, are now complicit.

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional "bunker-busters" like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a "low yield" "tactical" nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure "success," then the "attack" would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that's right, nuclear war — a first strike nuclear war.

We don't know what exactly is being planned — conventional GBU-28's or nuclear B61-11's. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter...


Bush, Cheney, McCain, Edwards, Clinton, and Obama all say indirectly that they seriously consider starting a preventive nuclear war, but will not engage in a public discussion of what that would mean. That contributes to a general denial, and the press is going along with it by a corresponding refusal to use the words.

If the consequences of nuclear war are not discussed openly, the war may happen without an appreciation of the consequences and without the public having a chance to stop it. Our job is to open that discussion.

Of course, there is a rationale for the euphemism: To scare our adversaries by making them think that we are crazy enough to do what we hint at, while not raising a public outcry. That is what happened in the lead up to the Iraq War, and the disaster of that war tells us why we must have such a discussion about Iran. Presidential candidates go along, not wanting to be thought of as interfering in on-going indirect diplomacy. That may be the conventional wisdom for candidates, but an informed, concerned public must say what candidates are advised not to say.

I highly recommend the full article.

In the past I've linked to at least one of those articles cited at the top of the excerpt and my point in doing so bears repeating. Starting a first-strike nuclear attack with so-called "low yield" nuclear weapons (an absurd contradiction in terms) is not beyond the audacity nor stupidity of our current leadership in Washington. It would be a mistake for us to put such a thing past them. Before dismissing such speculation as alarmist consider this previous post and some of the GOP's past rhetoric on this very subject. Yes, they're thinking (thought) about this and may very well have already decided to do it.

You know, there was a time when a nuclear war was considered a "big deal".