Imagining the Unthinkable

Imagining the Unthinkable
by Stephen Lendman
The combination of America’s rage for war, its nuclear arsenal, and global delivery systems makes the unthinkable possible – nuclear war.
On March 27, David Krieger and Daniel Ellsberg raised the possibility in their Christian Science Monitor article headlined, “For nuclear security beyond Seoul, eradicate land-based ‘doomsday’ missiles,” saying:
“America’s 450 launch-ready land-based nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are the opposite of a deterrent to attack. In fact, their very deployment has the potential to launch World War III and precipitate human extinction – as a result of a false alarm. We’re not exaggerating.”
Indeed not. For decades, the threat’s been real. Post-9/11, it’s more than ever possible. Hundreds of ICBMs target Russia, China, and likely other countries like Iran. Launching them threatens humanity.
Leaders considering the possibility are deranged. Once heading for targets, it’s too late. Presidents often rehearsed it.
In 1962, the Cuban missile crisis nearly brought nuclear war. An October 2002 Havana US/Russia/Cuba summit disclosed the close call for the first time.
Devastation was avoided because Soviet submarine captain Vasily Arkhipov countermanded an order to fire nuclear torpedos when US destroyers attacked Russian submarines near Kennedy’s “quarantine” line. Had he obeyed, vast destruction or possible nuclear winter might have resulted.
Nuclear expert Graham Allison sees parallels between Iran today and Cuba then. Despite no threats then and now, heightened tensions risk potentially devastating conflict. When politics and heated rhetoric spin out of control, anything’s possible, including nuclear war.
In 1995, Boris Yeltsin nearly launched missiles. He thought a US one targeted Russia. His fear turned out to be a Norwegian weather sounding rocket. Disaster was narrowly averted.
In May 2000, the Pentagon’s Joint Vision 2020 called for “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively.
Washington’s December 2001 Nuclear Policy Review asserted a preemptive first strike nuclear policy. The Bush administration’s 2002 and 2006 National Security Strategies reaffirmed it. In 2006, Iran was mentioned 16 times, saying “(w)e may face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran.”
Post-9/11, America asserted the right to use nuclear weapons against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attacks (like underground ones), in retaliation for nuclear, biological or chemical attacks, or in case of unexpected military developments whether or not they’re, in fact, threatening.
The Bush and Obama administrations also violated 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions. The ABM and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties are ignored. So are the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention and Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It prohibits additions to current stockpiles.
In 2010, the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was old wine in new bottles. Rhetoric changed, not policy. NPR 2010 said America “reserves the right” to use nuclear weapons “that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and US capacities to counter that threat.”
The 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations remained unchanged. It removed the distinction between defensive and offensive deterrents, saying:
“The new triad (land and sea-based strategic bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines) offers a mix of strategic offensive and defensive capabilities, active and passive defenses, and a robust research development, and industrial infrastructure to develop, build, and maintain offensive forces and defensive systems….it provides additional military options.”
NPR 2010 and current Obama policy leave land/sea/air triad deterrents unchanged. On high alert, nuclear missiles can be launched preemptively.
So can bunker busters with conventional or nuclear capability, including the so-called 30,000 pound Mother of All Bombs “massive ordnance penetrator (MOP).” It’s designed to penetrate up to 200 feet of reinforced concrete before detonating an enormous explosive blast.
If any nation launches enough thermonuclear warheads, humanity’s threatened. Krieger and Ellsberg explained:
“This is because smoke from the enormous nuclear firestorms created by even a ‘successful’ US nuclear first-strike would cause catastrophic disruption of global climate and massive destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer, leading to global famine.”
Helen Caldicott’s books say enough nuclear explosions “would create nuclear winter, with the U.S. covered with a cloud so thick that it would block out the sun for years, and that would be the end.” Other nuclear experts agree.
Nuclear bunker busters can do it. Krieger and Ellsberg said they cause huge underground nuclear explosions “with much blast and heat and radiation. It’s called activation by neutrons—millions of tons of earth and dust—so you have a much greater radioactive fallout that’s shot out into the air than you would if a bomb is exploded in the air above a city.”
Atmospheric scientists Alan Robock, Brian Toon, and others say a large enough attack produces “immense firestorms” able to cover the planet in dense stratospheric smoke. Heated by the sun, it would remain at least 10 years and block sunlight from reaching the earth’s surface. Mass starvation would follow.
Nuclear weapons threaten security. Eventually they’ll be used. Humanity’s survival depends on total abolition, said Krieger and Ellsberg. Both seek two principle goals:
(1) “a commitment by the existing nuclear weapon states to forego launch-on-warning and first use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances;” and
(2) “good faith negotiations for a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible, and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.”
Krieger heads the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Ellsberg gained fame for releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Both understand today’s dangers. They want them eliminated to save humanity from possible self-destruction. It’s no exaggeration.
In his book titled, “Failed States,” Noam Chomsky discussed “the threat of nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world’s only superpower is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes.”
In “Hegemony or Survival,” he cited evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr’s work. He said human intelligence doesn’t guarantee survival. He believed beetles and bacteria stand a better chance.
He ominously observed that species on average survive about 100,000 years. Humanity’s been around about that long. He wondered if we’d use our remaining time to self-destruct. If so, we’d be the only species ever to do it. Given our current path, it’s possible and perhaps sooner than most people imagine.
Hold the War, says Israel
America and Israel have longstanding Iran war plans. Launching it means WW III. With nuclear bunker buster or other nuclear weapons, the dangers Krieger, Ellsberg, Caldicott, and others explain are real.
On March 29, Haaretz headlined, “Israel’s plan to attack Iran put on hold until next year at the earliest,” saying:
On March 27, “Israel’s 2012 war against Iran came to a quiet end. The capricious plans for a huge aerial attack were returned to the deep recesses of safes and hearts. The war may not have been canceled but it has certainly been postponed. For a while, at least, we can sound the all clear: It won’t happen this year.”
At issue, said Haaretz, is possible hundreds of US casualties. Their blood would be on Israel’s hands. War won’t happen “until at least the spring of 2013.”
At the same time, last September The New York Times headlined, “US Quietly Supplies Israel with Bunker-Busting Bombs,” saying:
Unnamed US officials confirmed it without commenting on their number or capabilities. In addition, “Israel developed its own bunker-busting bomb,” but America’s are more “cost-effective.”
Israel is nuclear armed and dangerous. Perhaps its arsenal includes earth-penetrating bunker busters. They increase the threat of disaster if used, either its own or what Washington supplies.
Given the rage of both countries for war, postponing it may only buy time to attack jointly after America’s November elections. Obama wants another four years. He can’t run again. Lame ducks have greater flexibility in second terms than first, provided Congress goes along if legislation’s needed.
Wars don’t need it. False flags launch them. Most past US wars began that way. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes Iran may be blamed for a false flag on US soil to justify retaliation. Others feel the same way.
Former Israeli intelligence officer, Avi Perry, wrote a Jerusalem Post article about a planned “’Pearl Harbor scenario, in which Iran launch(es) a ‘surprise’ attack on the US Navy.” Doing so would give Washington “the perfect rationalization to finish them off.”
Iran, of course, plans no such attack or others against any targets. But it won’t prevent Washington from staging a false flag blamed on Tehran. Most often, “big lies” launch wars. It’s an American tradition since the late 19th century.
They work every time. Washington needs popular support. Manufactured fear provides it. People rely on governments for protection when threatened, even if no threat whatever exists.
Deception creates an illusion of one. Majorities are fooled every time. One war follows another. Expect an eventual nuclear one.
All bets are off if it happens. The time to prevent it is now. Only people power can do it. It’s up to us. It’s our only chance. Imagine the potential consequences otherwise.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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