Two Democrats Take Nuclear Attack Threat Off the Table – For a Minute


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Two leading democratic presidential hopefuls have recently said they’d take the threat of nuclear attack “off the table,” hinting at their deep psychological discomfort with the idea of deliberate mass destruction. Call it the Hiroshima Syndrome.

Author: John LaForge, Nukewatch – an environmental action group
Published in: Havre Daily News in Havre, Montana
Date: September 25, 2007

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Two Democrats Take Nuclear Attack Threat Off the Table — For a Minute
(550 words)
by John LaForge
Two leading democratic presidential hopefuls have recently said they’d take the threat of nuclear attack “off the table,” hinting at their deep psychological discomfort with the idea of deliberate mass destruction. Call it the Hiroshima Syndrome.

Both New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton — albeit before she announced her run — and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, dismissed the long-standing U.S. threat to keep “all options open,” regarding the government’s willing readiness to wage nuclear war anywhere in the world.

On August 2, Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press, “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” pausing before he added, “involving civilians.” Although Obama quickly retracted the statement saying, “Let me scratch that,” his message needs repeating: H-bombs cannot be used without the grossly indiscriminate killing of civilians.

Senator Clinton publicly chastised Obama for temporarily ruling out the threat to push the button, but she has also said that she would not use nuclear weapons.

In April 2006, nine months before she announced her Oval Office bid, Clinton was asked in a TV interview about her position toward Iran. She said, “… no option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table. This [Bush] administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven’t seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that’s a terrible mistake.”

Both Clinton and Obama promote a militarized foreign policy that should be rejected and resisted. Both have embraced the idea of pre-emptive, sneak attacks against targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan — acts that would violate the UN Charter and the Constitution. Yet their public qualms about waging nuclear war are extremely rare. Their implied change of consciousness could bode ill for the nuclear weapons establishment. More such talk should be encouraged.

At least a dozen former nuclear war planners and Cold Warriors — Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Gen. George Butler and Adm. Stansfield Turner among others — have denounced nuclear weapons and called for their abolition.

Even Paul Nitze, a Reagan administration national security advisor and founder of the Committee on the Present Danger, wrote in an October 28, 1999 New York Times Op/Ed, “I can see no compelling reason why we should not unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons. It is impossible” to use nuclear weapons “without large-scale destruction of many innocent people.… I can think of no circumstances under which it would be wise for the United States to use nuclear weapons, even in retaliation for their prior use against us. ”

General George Lee Butler, as a former commander of the Strategic Air Command, “had to,” in his own words, “be prepared to advise the President to sign the death warrant of 250 million people living in the Soviet Union.” Since his retirement, Gen. Butler’s been out renouncing his career-long advocacy of nuclear madness. The general has said, “Nuclear weapons are not weapons at all. They are insanely destructive agents of physical and genetic terror… They’re some species of biological time bombs whose effects transcend time and space, poisoning the earth and its inhabitants for generations to come.”

The candidates and the public should take a lesson from Nitze and the Butler — then make Congress ban the bomb.

Respectfully,
John LaForge

LaForge works on the staff of Nukewatch — an environmental action group — and edits its quarterly newsletter. His articles on nuclear weapons and reactors and militarism have appeared in Z magazine, the Progressive, Earth Island Journal, the New Internationalist and on the opinion pages of the Miami Herald, the Minneapolis StarTribune and the Madison Capital Times.