28 April 2006

The new Dark Ages

If some soothsaying wizard had come along my path 20 years ago and said, “In 2006, your country will be on the verge of being ruled by a theocracy -- a fascistic, totalitarian regime,” I would have given him a quizzical smile, shaken my head and moved on. If he'd told me that we would be engaging in wars of convenience, including nuclear wars, I'd have laughed out loud, but I'd probably have given him my pocket change, thinking he was one of those sad, crazy-as-a-bedbug people who wander the streets.

In 1986, the very idea would be ludicrous applied to the United States of America.

And, I’m embarrassed to say, I’d have had to go look up the definition of “fascism,” if I thought any more about it at all. See, I grew up gently, coddled in a democracy and fed on equality, so I didn’t really “grok” words like that back then. I associated the term vaguely with Mussolini, and we all know what happened to him.

In 1986 I was three years out of the U.S. Air Force, had a 5-year-old daughter, had recently remarried and had just arrived in Northern Germany with my Air Force husband. His job over there was to watch the skies along the border between West and East Germany for “hostile” aircraft on radar, as East Germany was still under the thumb of the Soviet Union and its Communist government.

My own four years as a military member at the end of the 70s and the early 80s had been spent mostly in Washington state, watching the skies of the Pacific Northwest on radar. At the time, the best military minds conjectured that a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union against the U.S. would come out of the north in the form of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or carried by high-flying, rumbling bombers accompanied by swarms of jet interceptors. Probably both.

Our own strategy against the Soviets was the same. My job had been to help to direct, by radar close control, our own interceptors against the Soviet bombers and ICBMs in the hope that we might be able to destroy them before they could drop their nuclear payloads on our cities.

In the course of my military service I learned enough about our defensive capabilities in this regard to be unconvinced of our success. My feelings had nothing to do with America’s military might, which was awesome even back then. It was the knowledge that the weapons the Soviets and we had pointed at each other were far too efficient for either side to win against.

If there was any consolation at all, it was knowing that even as America did all she could to bravely counter the threat, our Soviet counterparts would be desperately doing the same. And we’d both know it was futile. Because the moment one side or the other actually launched nuclear missiles or bombers, we were equally doomed -- and we’d take the rest of the world with us. It was insanity – and we all knew it.

So I’d have laughed that wizard off. We were fighting a Cold War – infinitely to be preferred to a “hot” war. And in the end, a careful program of détente and diplomacy on both sides of the conflict saved the world from nuclear annihilation.

Well, at least, that time.

I could not have imagined the world I live in today. At this moment, the Decider is decidin’ whether to use nuclear weapons against Iran, our newest Enemy of the Week. I believe he’s already decided to do it – now it’s merely a matter of deciding just when would be most stragetically advantageous in terms of keeping the Republicans in power here at home.

We should remember that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and does not represent a direct or imminent threat against the United States. Instead, Iran is merely engaging in saber rattling – not surprising, considering the Decider named it, along with Iraq and North Korea, as part of the “Axis of Evil.” We know what happened to Iraq. North Korea CAN retaliate, so we won't risk attacking them. That leaves ...

A “bunker buster” nuke may not have the massive size of the nukes we used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II or of the ones that came later – the ones we and the Soviet Union brandished at each other for decades – but the massacre would nevertheless be horrendous.

According to the
Union of Concerned Scientists, “Plans to use nuclear weapons against Iran also fail to recognize the immediate dangers inherent in the use of nuclear weapons. The administration is reportedly considering using the B61-11 nuclear 'bunker buster' against an underground facility near Natanz, Iran. The use of such a weapon would create massive clouds of radioactive fallout that could spread far from the site of the attack, including to other nations. Even if used in remote, lightly populated areas, the number of casualties could range up to more than a hundred thousand, depending on the weapon yield and weather conditions.

"Threatening to use nuclear weapons against Iran provides the strongest of incentives for nuclear proliferation, since it would send the message that the only way for a country to deter nuclear attack is to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. The administration cannot have its cake and eat it, too—it cannot have a viable nuclear non-proliferation policy while continually expanding the roles for its own nuclear weapons."

Such an attack on Iran would turn the entire world against us – and deservedly so.

In 1986 the Cold War was winding down to an end. We had managed, somehow, not to destroy the world. And yet here we are today, on the verge once again of nuclear annihilation.

All of this makes me ashamed for my country. I simply cannot imagine the U.S. using nuclear weapons in a first-strike scenario. Of course, I couldn’t imagine my country engaging in a conventional war of convenience, either, as we did in Iraq.

What in the world is wrong with us?

Oh -- by the way. My convenient little desktop buddy Answers.com kicked my shin a few times as I was writing this so I could refresh my memory regarding what “fascism” means – and memorize it, for good measure:

often Fascism
A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
Oppressive, dictatorial control."

Sound familiar? Thanks, Answers.com.

1 comment:

gardenin' guy said...

It seems almost inconceivable to me that ANYONE who had lived through the cold war era could possibly entertain the notion that we should ever use nuclear weapons, regardless of how ill-informed, drunk or stoned they were...then or now. I personally believe that W is a puppet who makes NO political decisions so I'm even more amazed that people who were already in high positions in the government during the cold war, who were much closer to the ONE AND ONLY! time the actual use of nuclear weapons occurred, could possibly consider such inhuman stupidity. In an article I read recently, the Iranian government was celebrating raising the purity of their uranium from three point some percent to four point something, 4.6% I believe. While that's getting real close to the five percent purity required for Iran to be able to start making electricity, it's a heck of a long way from the 90% purity required to make a nuclear warhead, especially at their rate of progress. So, like the fictional weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is the current American regime going to waste even more hundreds of thousands of lives and countless billions of dollars just to keep Iran from being able to build a nuclear power plant?