Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Obama, Nukes, and the World

Posted in Barack Obama, Citizen Radio, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 6, 2009

nagasaki_nuclear_bombPresident Obama has seized upon North Korea’s missile launch to talk about a new approach to nuclear disarmament. Most people agree with the swell commonplaces associated with Obama’s vague rhetoric. Sure, we shouldn’t blow up the planet. Yes, nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous.

But beyond that, the rules for nuclear armament are very hazy. Who can pursue nuclear weapons changes depending on time, place, and what the United States can gain from allowing (or forbidding) nuclear ambitions.

Certainly, reducing armaments is the pathway to abolishing nuclear weapons. However, the United States has placed itself in the position of favoring/allowing some countries’ nuclear pursuits (United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, China, Russia) ahead of other countries’ sometimes-identical quests (Iran, North Korea, Syria). There was some good in Obama’s Prague speech, but there were also bad pockets. Let’s explore the minefield, shall we?

Good: reducing nukes

Few people adopt qualms for statements like this. It would be nice to live in a safer world where we’re not consumed with the fear that some general somewhere has gone bat shit crazy and sold the nuclear armament codes to Al-Qaeda.

Bad: The complete lack of universality

The United States picks and chooses which countries can, and cannot, pursue nuclear technology. Whilst holding Kim Jong-Il’s missiles just out of his reach, America gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in an extremely volatile region of the world.

Soon after North Korea’s missile launch, President Obama gave a speech in Prague during which he declared, “Rules must be binding…Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” True, but what words? What are these rules, and why do sacred rules only apply to certain people?

Who can have missiles? Who can pursue nuclear technology, and why are 1,000-2,000 nukes on the U.S. and Russian sides any less dangerous than 5,000(PDF)?

Furthermore, “nuclear” describes a range of pursuits from missiles and bombs to energy. Iran claims it wants nuclear energy to power its state, while Israel and the United States claim their true interests lie in nuking Israel off the map. Such a move would be pretty dumb, considering Tehran would be obliterated instantly during the retaliation, but there it is – the strange double standard, combined with vague guidelines: Israel may have nukes, but Iran may not pursue nuclear power because we clairvoyantly believe Iran’s true intentions are to nuke Israel. And yes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document all kinds of human rights violations on the part of Israel that should lead us to believe it too is a reactionary government incapable of living humanely with its neighbors, and therefore shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons, but nevermind. Step aside: confusing standards to uphold here.

North Korea’s pursuit of a missile is another illustration of such a variance in priorities. While certainly crazy, Kim Jong-Il is hardly a looming threat to the west. His sputtering rocket is the equivalent of a five-year-old’s tantrum. He got the attention he’s been craving, but he’s unlikely to blast Alaska to smithereens. Call this the flexing-for-attention strategy. Sarah Palin needn’t stakeout the coastline with Todd, and her armed children, just yet.

Bad: Fear-mongering for the sake of geopolitical conquest

I recently interviewed activist and author of several books, Tariq Ali, about the volatility at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Obama’s rationale behind expanding the covert drone operation within Pakistan is that we can’t let the Taliban get a nuclear weapon. (Pakistan is one of those “nuclear no-no” countries that we curse having the bomb). Mr. Ali very patiently explained to me how absurd this notion is:

I think this is one of the stupidest, fear mongering things. It is true Pakistan is a nuclear state. It is also true that the Pakistani military is half a million strong, that these nuclear facilities are amongst the most heavily guarded facilities in the country, just like they are in the United States, in Israel, in India, in China, in Russia now. So the notion that any armed group of extremists could even get near these facilities is a joke.

But let’s suppose they do. All the nuclear weapons require codes to be fired. These codes are now imbedded in all these weapons. There’s a handful of top military people who know what these codes are. There are also rumors, by the way, that the United States defense intelligence agency has its own personnel in there. This has been denied, but it wouldn’t totally surprise me if it were true.

So there is no problem on that front unless the Pakistani military splits. Were it to split, then all bets are off. And the only reason it would split is if the United States expanded the war into Pakistan, making it extremely difficult for lots of nationalist-minded military officers to go along with this. Because there is that current and they say, “Well, it is our country. Why is the United States using our military bases to bomb our own people?”

What I am saying to you is now news to the administration. There are intelligent people behind Obama, who know all this. And that is why its puzzling as to why they trying to destabilize the country.

Someone explain to Mr. Ali that the United State’s policies don’t have to make sense. The U.S. has nukes, so it gets to make the rules. You don’t have to make sense when you can kill the world with your arsenal of deadly, deadly weapons. Of course, if the U.S. disarms, it may have to shield itself with logic and justice instead of contradictory ideologies, gross favoritism, and the ability to vaporize the world a hundred times over.

If Part 1 of Obama’s Al-Qaeda-with-nukes fear-mongering is Al-Qaeda’s ability to steal a nuke, part 2 is Al-Qaeda’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, a claim impressively more absurd than the one made in part 1.

Building a nuclear weapon isn’t like cooking up some meth in the back of a Chevy Chevette. It takes decades to enrich uranium (ask Iran). With a halfway competent intelligence community (something I would never accuse the U.S. of having, but rather something they should aspire to have,) we’d spot something suspicious in no time. Namely, dodgy, bearded dudes crouching in caves, their faces aglow in an eerie green light from their tubes of uranium.

While Obama’s pursuit (meaning, something beyond pretty words) of nuclear disarmament would be noble, there are other problems with the U.S.’s nuclear philosophy that needs his attention. Double standards, favoritism, and fear-mongering are cancerous elements that rob the U.S. of respect and leverage in the nuclear debate.

Cross-posted from allisonkilkenny.com. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

Join November5.org and Create Real Change

Posted in activism, environment by allisonkilkenny on November 11, 2008

logo2

Join November5.org, the citizen group that serves as a Congressional watchdog.

Update from Nov5:

We are off to a great start. In the 5 days since we launched November5.org, nearly 10,000 of you have signed up for this effort!

Getting our country back on track by using the leverage we can exert over Congress is an approach that naturally fits with third party and independent voters, as well as many who voted for Democrats and Republicans. Millions of us realize that we must now put our shoulders to the wheel of justice and push harder than ever.

If we all move fast to get our friends and family involved, we could have 1000 active and organized citizens in each Congressional district in 2009. To do this, we need you to encourage people to sign up today by forwarding this link: www.november5.org.

Remember to emphasize to others that what will make November5 different from many other similar efforts is that we will have no allegiance to any political party. We want to create a non-partisan mechanism to get problems solved. Action will result when members of Congress hear loud and clear from their constituents back home. This will not be about raising big money for expensive television ads during the Super Bowl. It will involve using tried and true organizing techniques – and all the local creativity we can muster – to make sure that our Representatives respond to our voices, district by district, person by person.

We want to focus on the victories – big and small – that we can achieve. Too much citizen advocacy involves sending emails or letters to Washington, D.C. We need a return to raising our voices on the ground “back home,” where Congressional elections are decided.

High on our list is a plan to pass privately-delivered, publicly-funded health care. This approach would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the current for-profit system, enough to provide coverage for every American. After all, how can you be civically active if you are worried about your health care? Many organizations do great work on this issue (see Physicians for a National Health Program), but there is a need for much more citizen muscle behind it. That’s where we’ll come in.

Other issues we are looking at include: new regulation of Wall Street, a $10 living wage, the elimination of unnecessary weapons systems that cost tens of billions, a strong drive for investment in solar, wind, and conservation – against coal and nuclear – and a federal law requiring paper ballots and establishing uniform rules for ballot access for all candidates.

Soon, we will email you with more details on how this website will enable you to organize in your district, and on how we will keep building November5 in the coming weeks.

Now, though, it all comes down to getting all of the people who agree with the basic approach of shifting our focus to Congress in 2009 signed up for November5. This is the critical building phase and we all have to do everything we can to get the word out.
Onward for Justice, 

The November5 Team Five Things You Can Do Right Now: