Obama’s Nuke Double Standards

President Obama warns that “all options are on the table” regarding a possible attack against Iran, though there’s no credible evidence that it’s building a nuclear bomb. By contrast, Israel maintains an undeclared nuclear arsenal and the U.S. has thousands of nukes with no specific plans to get rid of them, Nat Parry notes.

By Nat Parry

The United States continues to demonstrate double, triple and quadruple standards in its policies toward nuclear proliferation and disarmament.

On the one hand, it flouts its own obligations to disarm as spelled out in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It tolerates its ally Israel defying this treaty by maintaining an undeclared nuclear arsenal. It even adopts a policy of containment toward rogue state North Korea, which is openly threatening war against U.S. ally South Korea and has recently threatened to use nukes against the U.S. mainland.

The mushroom cloud of the atomic bombing over Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945.

However, when it comes to Iran, which insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and is continuing to engage in diplomatic negotiations — recently concluding what a Western official described as “useful” talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty — the United States imposes sanctions, makes threats of force and even engages in cyber-attacks that could be considered acts of war.

Speaking in Jerusalem last week, President Obama reiterated that U.S. policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, what Obama called “the world’s worst weapons,” at virtually any cost.

Israel and the United States, he said, “agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel. And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so. Iran’s leaders must understand, however, that they have to meet their international obligations. And, meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government. The United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps. And I will repeat: All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.”

On one hand it could be considered reassuring that the President is stating that the U.S. “prefers to resolve this diplomatically,” rather than militarily, but the flip side of that, of course, is the stated insistence that “all options are on the table,” including the military option.

Also implied is that the U.S. – as the inventor, leading stockpiler and only country to ever use nuclear weapons – could actually launch a nuclear assault in order to prevent Iran from obtaining these weapons. After all, if no option is off the table, supposedly that means that the nuclear option is on the table.

While that might be considered too extreme even for the anything-goes standards of the United States, the implicit threat is indeed clear: if Iran continues to defy the will of the U.S. government, the U.S. retains the right to wipe that country off the map.

What is perhaps more interesting about Obama’s statement however is his explicit reference to nukes being “the world’s worst weapons.” The unstated implication is that these weapons are in a wholly different league than any other weapon on earth. While nuclear weapons may be considered too dangerous to be used, Obama hinted, nearly any other weapon ever devised is considered fair game.

Depleted Uranium

It is noteworthy that as Obama was singling out nuclear weapons as uniquely horrific, new information was coming to light about the U.S.’s use of depleted uranium in its war against Iraq last decade. Significantly, in Fallujah – which was targeted mercilessly by U.S. forces in 2004 – the use of depleted uranium has led to birth defects in infants 14 times higher than in the Japanese cities targeted by U.S. atomic bombs at the close of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As the Huffington Post reported last week, “ten years after the start of the U.S. invasion in Iraq, doctors in some of the Middle Eastern nation’s cities are witnessing an abnormally high number of cases of cancer and birth defects.”  Scientists blame  the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus in the U.S. military assaults.

The babies and small children suffering horribly from the U.S. military’s reckless use of chemical weapons might consider depleted uranium and white phosphorus pretty horrible. But Obama is of course correct that nuclear weapons are indeed horrific and their effects too ghastly to truly comprehend. His implication though that they are nevertheless safe in certain hands, namely the world’s already existing nuclear powers such as the U.S. and Israel, is dubious.

Although Iran has not invaded another country in hundreds of years, the U.S. has launched dozens of covert actions and wars of aggression since rising to superpower status following World War II. Likewise, Israel has frequently attacked its neighbors, including Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, not to mention the regular assaults it commits against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

If there are countries that truly can’t be trusted with the world’s worst weapons, some might say that it is the countries that actually launch aggressive wars on a regular basis. Further, while nukes certainly have a unique capability of delivering devastation unlike any other weapon in the world, they have also long been considered a stabilizing force by nuclear security strategists.

In short, because they are so uniquely destructive, they can provide a powerful deterrent to would-be aggressors. This, of course, is the primary reason why countries may seek to obtain nuclear weapons — and the main reason why only full disarmament can ever truly eliminate the threat of proliferation.

North Korea has made this perfectly clear in its ongoing bluster issued against the United States. Earlier this month, North Korea’s foreign ministry said the country will exercise its right to “pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors” because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against it.

While this threat was roundly – and rightly – condemned by the international community, in substance it is not drastically different than official U.S. policy, which indicates that the United States retains the right to a first nuclear strike. The Obama administration’s own defense strategy published last year clearly states that the U.S. will maintain its nuclear arsenal as long as these weapons exist, and if necessary, will use them.

“As long as nuclear weapons remain in existence,” it says, “we will field nuclear forces that can under any  circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage, both to deter potential adversaries and to assure U.S. allies and other security partners that they can count on America’s security commitments.”

Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the United States. It is nevertheless striking how different the U.S. treats this semi-nuclear power in comparison to countries that don’t have the ability to inflict damage against the United States, such as Iran.

The Iran Anomaly

When it comes to Iran, Obama insists that “they have to meet their international obligations,” and if they don’t, the U.S. just might launch a military assault. Left unsaid, of course, is that the U.S., as a nuclear power, also has international obligations, namely to move towards complete nuclear disarmament.

As the most recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference reminded states parties to the treaty in 2010:

“The Conference recalls that the overwhelming majority of States entered into legally binding commitments not to receive, manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in the context, inter alia, of the corresponding legally binding commitments by the nuclear-weapon States to nuclear disarmament in accordance with the Treaty.”

The Conference further regretted that nuclear-armed countries such as the United States have failed to live up to their end of the NPT bargain:

“The Conference, while welcoming achievements in bilateral and unilateral reductions by some nuclear-weapon States, notes with concern that the total estimated number of nuclear weapons deployed and stockpiled still amounts to several thousands. The Conference expresses its deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons.”

When it comes to disputes over compliance with the treaty, however, for example Western suspicions that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons or Iranian complaints that the U.S. is failing to disarm, the Review Conference reiterated the obligation that only diplomatic means should be pursued, and that “attacks or threats of attacks” must be avoided:

“The Conference emphasizes that responses to concerns over compliance with any obligation under the Treaty by any State party should be pursued by diplomatic means, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty and the Charter of the United Nations. …

“The Conference considers that attacks or threats of attack on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes jeopardize nuclear safety, have dangerous political, economic and environmental implications and raise serious concerns regarding the application of international law on the use of force in such cases, which could warrant appropriate action in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. The Conference notes that a majority of States parties have suggested a legally binding instrument be considered in this regard.”

While the United States continues to flout its NPT obligations to disarm, other nations of the world continue to press for the nuclear powers to live up to their promises. As the Inter Press Service reported on March 7,

“For the first time, ‘humanitarian diplomacy’ is being deployed to drive home the need for banning nukes – though under the self-imposed exclusion of the P5, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who own a crushing majority of the 19,000 nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world many times over.

”A first step toward humanitarian diplomacy was taken in Oslo at a Mar. 4-5 conference convened by the government of Norway. Mexico will host a follow-up meeting ‘in due course’ and ‘after necessary preparations,’ Juan José Gómez Camacho, the country’s ambassador to the UN announced.

“Participants in the conference included representatives of 127 states, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and civil society, with the International Campaign for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in the forefront.”

While this is indeed a hopeful step, it’s difficult to say how successful it can be without the United States and the other nuclear powers. The P5, not Iran, should be the primary targets of nuclear non-proliferation efforts, as there are no other countries on earth that have flouted the NPT as routinely since the treaty was signed.

Pressure needs to be brought to bear particularly on the United States, as the inventor of nuclear weapons, the country with the least scruples about using military force (including the use of horrific weapons such as depleted uranium, white phosphorus and cluster bombs), and the world’s leading exporter of conventional weapons.

Nat Parry is the co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush. [A version of this article appeared at Compliance Campaign.]

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7 comments on “Obama’s Nuke Double Standards

  1. adewuyi olusegun on said:

    Many thanks Nat for hitting the nail on the head. That is the reality of our time. The unscrupulous display of hipocrazy and power by the so called military giants and police of the world. The persistent double standard in diplomacy as well as lack of transparency in mediation for peace has really damaged world politics and diplomacy.
    How can a nation convince another to be compliant with NPT when she hasnt obliged to the same treaty?
    The criminal tendency of certain nations has really been overlooked by the UN so much that it is becoming a shame in the face of the toothless UN . We saw how lebanon,Palestine, Iraq,Afghanistan had suffered in the hands of oppressors both directly and indirectly.The world witnesseso much atrocities committed almost without any consequences by the allied forces as well as the US army against civilians both in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Lebanon in 2006.Even as voices were raised against continous destruction of the Lebanese and their country,many American diplomats were asking for continuos shelling;I remember Rice saying to Isreal to “continue the job”. These behaviour of the world super powers has really destroyed the beauty of peaceful coexistence and a near collapse of world politics. When it suits them ,they go against certain principles and policy in one country but support it for another country or allies.
    I believe the only way to global peace is to respect other nations and be honest in peace deals and talks rather than rhetorics of war.
    Olusegun Adewuyi
    South Africa.

  2. elmerfudzie on said:

    I am recapping here certain comments made previously regarding the BRICS nation coalitions: Every time I see a visual depiction of the Nagasaki bombing, the word fear comes to mind. Fear of the then notorious Japanese fighting ferocity. In part it just may have been half the reason Truman dropped the bomb(s). This Horror was committed in exchange for another kind of Horror; a long and protracted city-to-city fight inside mainland Japan, regardless of any signed documents of unconditional surrender. NO, I am not eluding to Iran in any way here. Fast forward now to those nations who have decided to venture into commercial nuclear power. In reality, the real angst runs deep in everyone’s nervous system and concerns ever evolving high tech weaponry. Bombs have become too big; Atomic and they’ve become Too small, bio-warfare or CBW. This whole mess, inspired another attempt for a One World Government along with a single world currency. All this in the hopes of controlling or limiting the use of new and terrible bombs. At the outset, I was moved towards believing that a group of bankers derived from the Bilderberg Group and Council on Foreign Relations could apply the Cecil John Rhodes model. Through the coercive power of financialized capitalism they would dominate the military direction of traditional industrial and agricultural economies of the second and third world countries. Unfortunately, this strategy cannot foster world peace and is, at best, a pipe dream. The “Rhodesian” model and long range plan has degenerated into a game of musical chairs, in particular when grabbing national resources such as raw materials. Add to this grasping and thieving, the first world continues to be divided even against itself. Recent Sino-Rusian agreements are an effort to oppose the Western Occident and United States’ financialization strategies. The gradual dissolution of the New World Order has resulted in an unraveling of sovereign rights and states into twisted, evil things with nightmarish scenarios. Even George Orwell could not have foreseen microchip implants in lieu of paper currency or Total Information Awareness by various spy agencies and worst of all, the kind of endless propaganda that spews the existence of a monolithic moral authority, higher than any other. It denounces and persecutes religious leaders, theologians, prosecutes corporate and government whistle-blowers, prisoners of conscience, only to dismiss these inspired grievances as having faulty logic, untrue or lends support to a dubious “enemy”. Let us not forget that drivel from the lips of Bush Junior, “either your with us or against us”. This is a global phenomenon, a half dozen time zones away, the almost feudal powers within the Old Supreme Soviet mistakenly thought that by recasting themselves into a Dumas or Russian Federation, their opposites would not see a Leninist(s) or former KGB-ers. By the same token, the Republics and so-called Democracies must admit to repeating this nonsense, without the name changes. For example; bought and paid for representatives, senators, and unelected authorities such as UK’s House of Lords ET-cetera. For most of us, attempts at a grand manipulation of common man and common good is becoming a very tiresome business indeed and looks as though history is about to repeat itself. The entire world is returning to fiefdoms and fascism. But what of the next world war? why it’s just around the corner, again!

  3. Hillary on said:

    “the use of depleted uranium has led to birth defects in infants 14 times higher than in the Japanese cities targeted by U.S. atomic bombs at the close of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
    .
    It is reported that the United States and Britain used up to 2,000 tons of Depleted Uranium during the Iraq war and is an enormous DIRTY SECRET.
    .
    With the amounts of depleted Uranium deposited in Iraq , Afghanistan , Lebanon & Palestine we may expect soaring rates in WORLD WIDE birth defects & cancers.
    .
    The “dust” is blowing in the wind but no discussion in the MSM or on TV.

    .

  4. Hillary on said:

    Excellent comments here so far.
    .
    The $64,000 question must be where exactly has the MSM ( the 4th Estate )been all this time ?
    .
    This is a human disaster of enormous proportions that MSM & OUR Government keeps from “we the people”.
    .
    Depleted Uranium is another American WMD seeping into Mother Earth
    .

  5. the Lion on said:

    What is forgotten here also is that Israel is the ONLY country on the planet that has sold Nuclear weapons, it has done what it accuses Iran of plotting to do and it did it with a country that was at the time on the UN security council weapons sanctions lists! Now that is more than a double standard!

  6. Claus-Erik Hamle on said:

    Missile engineer Bob Aldridge-www.plrc.org-on European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), the missiles in Romania, Poland and on 32 ships: “Whether they are on ships or land, they are still a necessary component for an unanswerable first strike.” The missiles will be deployed by 2018 and result in Launch On Warning by 2017. claus eric/antiwar.com esp. interview with Ray McGovern May 07, 2012.

    • elmerfudzie on said:

      Do you really believe that involving NATO members in another layer of missile defense is thing but total nonsense? Do you believe that the old KGB man himself, Putin is going to permit a true encirclement or enhanced first strike capable deployments? Isn’t there a lesson to be gleaned from JFK’s order to withdraw our missiles from Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis? What’s to stop Putin from smuggling suitcase nukes in the vicinity of high-tech, financial or brain-trust locations (financial districts are no longer automatically areas with all the grey matter) throughout Western Europe? Isn’t the EPAA really about fear mongering thereby forcing governments to expend more (fiat) money on new weapon systems? When are we all going to get over this obvious exploitation and trickster-ism by the more militarized economies? The Russians have a mobile, hypersonic cruise missile, Iskander ballistic missile, that doesn’t require orbital re-entry to nuke something and it wouldn’t take any time at all to obliterate logistically important targets anywhere in northern Europe despite the latest “hit-a-bullet with a bullet” achievements, of which I contend, are dubious if non-existent so-called success rates especially those against intended targets moving above Mach 6. If this latest encirclement by NATO is an attempt to slow the escalation of possible future military adventures, already envisioned by top brass, then let’s have an open diplomatic debate about every one of them. Why not give the Foreign Diplomatic Service(s) a challenge and chance to really accomplish something brand new!