A Biased U.S. Calls Shots on Nuclear Weapons

By Ruether, Rosemary Radford | National Catholic Reporter, May 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

A Biased U.S. Calls Shots on Nuclear Weapons


Ruether, Rosemary Radford, National Catholic Reporter


The threat of nuclear war did not end with the Cold War. A recent Pentagon report outlined the continuing spread of nuclear weapons, citing North Korea, China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, India and Pakistan as countries with developed or prospective nuclear military capacity. In addition, the spread of chemical and biological weapons threatens horrors to life on earth as devastating as nuclear explosions. Yet there is little effort in the international community to curb the spread of this dangerous technology.

The major barrier to international negotiations toward this end is lack of genuine bilateralism. TheUnited States continues to operate on the assumption that it is fine for the United States to build huge stores of such deadly weapons and to tolerate such weapons in the hands of "allies." The threat, as our leaders see it, is possession of such weapons by countries we regard as adversaries or potential adversaries. Thus, the United States is spending millions to decommission 11,246 nuclear warheads in Russia but not to abolish its own nuclear stockpile estimated at 13,570 warheads.

The United States targets its nuclear arsenal on these "enemy" countries and organizes its military budget on the presupposition that our military capacity must support major wars against at least two of them at once. Typically, an Asian country, such as North Korea, and a Middle Eastern country, like Libya, Iran or Iraq, are mentioned in Pentagon plans as likely adversaries in such war plans. Yet the Pentagon reacts to the specter of such countries develQping their own arsenals as if it were an outrage, even though the weapons are similar to those the United States is planning to hurl against them. Clearly, given our national policy, one can hardly expect these targeted countries to agree to stop developing such weapons or to liquidate those they may have.

One country that was notably absent in the Pentagon report of caUntries that have developed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of deadly magnitude is Israel. Israel is treated by the United States as an exception to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Since the 1950s, Israel has secretly developed its nuclear weapons technology and is estimated today to have more than 300 nucle ar bombs. Yet, as American journalist Seymour Hersh has shown in his detailed history, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (Random House, l99l), the United States government looks the other way, officially declining to mention existence of these weapons. It sees Israel's nuclear weapons as serving "our side" against Israel's Arab neighbors.

Significantly it has been Jews, Americans like Seymour Hersh and Israelis, who have been the major whistle-blowers on Israel's nuclear weapons. In 1986 an Israeli Jew of Maroccan ancestry, Mordecai Vanunu, who worked as a technician in the Israel nuclear weapons plant in Dimona, became increasingly disturbed by the potential of these weapons to create havoc in the Middle East and ultimately in Israel itself. He left Israel with inside photos of the plant. After going to Australia where he became a Christian, he decided to release his information to the London Sunday Times, which published a story on Vanunu's material on Oct. …

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