In 1984, Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka wrote ?WarDay,? a novel set in the near future about the outcome of a limited nuclear war. At the time, the Reagan administration was talking about the survivability of this type of warfare. Whitley and Jim pointed out that yes, we would survive, but there would be a terribly high price to pay.
Now the Los Angeles Times reports it has obtained a classified Pentagon document that was released to Congress on January 8, which shows the Bush administration is talking about the ?WarDay scenario? again. Bush has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against seven possible countries: China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. ?This is dynamite," says Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. ?I can imagine what these countries are going to be saying at the UN.?
Bush wants to build smaller nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield situations and says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against our enemies. The report recommends using nuclear weapons in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or ?in the event of surprising military developments.?
?They?re trying desperately to find new uses for nuclear weapons, when their uses should be limited to deterrence,? says John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World. ?This is very, very dangerous talk . . . Dr. Strangelove is clearly still alive in the Pentagon.?
Jack Spencer, a defense analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. says the doesn?t surprise him and is ?the right way to develop a nuclear posture for a post-Cold War world?We need to have a credible deterrence against regimes involved in international terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction.?
The new report, signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is now being used by the U.S. Strategic Command to prepare for limited nuclear attacks. U.S. policymakers say we would not use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states unless they were allied with nuclear powers. There is some ambiguity about whether we would use nuclear weapons in retaliation for attacks using chemical or nuclear weapons.
The report says the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in an Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, or in an attack from North Korea on the south. They might also become necessary in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor. The report says Russia is no longer officially an ?enemy? but says the huge Russian arsenal, which includes about 6,000 deployed warheads and 10,000 smaller nuclear weapons, remains a danger.
Pentagon officials say we need to develop ?theater? nuclear weapons, which are designed for use against specific targets on a battlefield. Officials have often spoken of the advantages of using nuclear weapons to destroy the deep tunnel and cave complexes that exist in Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East. Nuclear weapons give off powerful shock waves that can crush structures deep in the Earth.
When the report refers to ?surprising military developments,? it suggests that a rogue regime or terrorist group might suddenly unleash a wholly unknown weapon that would be difficult to counter without the use of nuclear devices. Critics say the report contradicts earlier statements by the Bush administration that it wants to reduce our nuclear stockpile. Cirincione says, ?This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than deterring them.?
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