Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What about those nuclear bunker busters that Seymour Hersh wrote about earlier this year?

Last April, Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker about contingency plans to use nuclear bunker busters against Iran. In a post at and cross-posted at, Jorge Hirsch, a Professor of Physics at the University of California at San Diego, says the nuclear option is still on. He maintains that not only is the Bush administration planning to attack Iran, but that the use of one or more tactical nukes is an integral part of the plan.
The U.S. is closer than it has been since Nagasaki to using nuclear weapons again. This year, for the first time in its history, the American Physical Society, representing 40,000 members of the profession that created nuclear weapons, issued a statement of deep concern on this matter: "The American Physical Society is deeply concerned about the possible use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states and for preemptive counter-proliferation purposes."
According to writer Hirsch, the willingness to use nukes is key to Donald Rumsfeld's "transformation" of the military into a downsized force that can continue to project American power around the globe at a time when the public is sick and tired of American military casualties in conventional fighting. In pursuit of this objective, The Bush administration has made sweeping changes in the nuclear policy of the United States during the past five years, without consulting Congress or the American people -- changes that would make it easier to adopt a nuclear posture in a conflict.
The new nuclear doctrine is the software, the new STRATCOM is the hardware, and Rumsfeld is the driver for the "downsizing" program that is about to be launched. Brace yourself.

There have been many voices across the political spectrum calling for Rumsfeld's resignation for the botched Iraq war yet he "retains the full confidence" of Bush. Why? Because Rumsfeld cannot be fired until he demolishes the "nuclear taboo," by detonating a small tactical nuclear weapon against an enemy. The U.S. military is reluctant to even consider the use of nuclear weapons against Iran, because it would provoke "an outcry over what would be the first use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict since Nagasaki." Only after a small tactical nuclear weapons strike against Natanz or another Iranian facility will this barrier fall, and Rumsfeld's transformation will be a fait accompli.

Why is "downsizing" the military so important to the PNAC crowd? Because the American public has no stomach for a draft nor large losses of American military personnel. If it becomes possible to wage war "on the cheap," without the loss of American life, and in the process we can lower the price of oil and spread "liberty" across the world, opposition will be muted. Public opinion on the Iraq war was not turned by the enormous number of Iraqi lives lost (of which there isn't even an effort to keep a count); it is only affected by the number of American lives lost.
There's lots more. Read it and weep. And then spread the word.


QuestRepublic said...

Has even a HINT of the US thinking of launching a nuclear weapon in a unprovoked attack leaked out of the Pentagon?

Please consider that there are many Democrats running for election right now who have strong connections to the active military. Any talk of a nuclear offensive would be catapulted into this election year politics.

Hyping the risk of nuclear confrontation does nothing right now, except feed into the "BE VERY SCARED - ALL THE TIME!" mentality that some neo-cons espouse, as cover for their own political/economic hi-jinks.

The US military will do everything it can possibly do to avoid the use of nukes. Neither the President nor the Secretary of Defense fly planes any more, or con our US Navy ships. They have to order the Generals and Admirals.

If "someone" were to stage some provocative incident "ala-Tom Clancy novels", everyone would smell a rat. Since it looks like another political party takes over the House soon, that means Congressional investigations and a further winnowing of support for Republican politicians, if the current administration were to get implicated in inciting a "nuclear event".

Worrying about this is like losing sleep over being struck by lightning. By all means, advocate for a rational use of the Federal budget, or arms-control, or a good energy policy. These are the underlying strategies that KEEP nations from getting so desperate, that they resort to nuclear weapons.

Madison Guy said...

Yes. The hint leaking out the the Pentagon was in the Sy Hersh story. The Jorge Hirsch story I link to has other hints.

Questrepublic, I understand your concerns and share them. However, a)I would have been a lot less worried about unprovoked attacks if we hadn't staged just such an attack against Iraq -- there was a time when that would not have seemed possible either; b) The Bushies have been pretty careful NOT to take the nuclear option off the table, and they also seem highly committed to regime change in Iran; c) Frankly, without tactical nukes, they would have absolutely no chance of prevailing without ground forces against Iran -- a much bigger and stronger country than Iraq -- and they know that.

Like it or not (and I don't like it at all) there's nothing in our nuclear chain of command procedures that would allow a military officer to countermand a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. Under policies and procedures in place, the president really is "the decider." Perhaps reasonable minds might prevail anyhow, were someone crazy enough as to order a mistaken or unprovoked all-out Trident missile attack with hundreds of hygrogen bombs.

But we're not talking about that here -- just quite small tactical nuclear "bunker busters" that, at least in the short run, would cause little more death and destruction than conventional bombing.

The terrible thing is the precedent it would set, not the immediate harm

And for what it's worth, I don't think it will happen before the electionn. Just too risky and unpredictable. They know that. More likely after the election, but before new Congress takes office.

QuestRepublic said...

Thank You for your response to my comment.

I noted your emphasis on the use of tactical nukes versus larger weapons; these are the types that Seymour Hersh had written about, opining that the Pentagon Brass had been relutantly convinced to use them against the hardened Iran sites.

I believe that will not happen; this is after reading all of Seymour Hersh's articles since the Abu Ghraib one; also having read Scott Ritter's new book and hearing him Monday on radio. Most folks seem to be thinking of a strike against Iran, down the road. I do not see that happening.

Even with tactical nukes, the US cannot attack Iran and expect to improve the military, domestic political or diplomatic situation. Iran could respond to an unprovoked attack by completely shutting down tanker traffic in the Persian Gulf. The US fleet cannot operate close enough to protect the shipping in the Gulf, without placing very valuable naval assets at risk from Iranian anti-ship missiles. I'd be happy to discuss some other military downsides to a US attack also, but the anti-ship missiles by themselves effectively turn the Gulf into a "Persian Lake". The only way to remove that threat is with a massive strategic strike on Iran, with even worse predictable consequences, economically, politically and diplomatically.

When you compare public mood and Pentagon appetites between pre-Iraq War to pre-Iran war, you see none of the "apparent justifications" in place now that existed 3/2003. Plus, LOTS of people in DC are reading the political tea leaves, looking to attack the Republicans and looking to NOT preemptively attack anyone.

As far as military command and control goes, it is not a "push the damn button" decision by the politicians. Assets have to be put in place; enough time is available for the rational people in the Pentagon to make their case before some attack that has has NO probability of a rosy outcome.


Marked Hoosier said...

I wouldn't be shocked if they wanted to use new little bunker buster nukes...

They wouldn't get any complaints from their fan base... heck I saw t shirts being sold by Michelle Malkin advocating "nuke the moon."