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BRUSSELS, May 18 2010 (IPS) - There are three major issues concerning nuclear weapons, all very difficult: disarmament-nonproliferation, military use, and theological significance. But there is a universal remedy: solve the underlying conflicts. Achieving disarmament through peace is much easier than achieving peace through disarmament.

The first issue involves a possible US-Russia treaty to eliminate some of the estimated 23,000 aging “strategic” (genocide) nuclear bombs; the “nuclear summit” of 46 countries in Washington convened by Obama to secure fissionable material; the nuclear disarmament conference of 60 countries convened in Tehran by Iranian president Ahmadinejad, demanding the destruction of all atomic weapons, starting with the US arsenal; and the NATO meeting in Estonia on the 240 “tactical” bombs stationed in Europe.

The US nuclear triad (land, submarine, and air-based delivery) has not been touched, nor have those tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, nor, most importantly, the use of depleted radioactive uranium in weapons by the US which cause slow, agonising death.

To call the recycling of some monstrous old weapons ‘disarmament’ is pure public relations. Storing uranium in the US -the fox in the hen house- not even under supervision of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sounds like a bad joke. This is a rerun of the Cold War, just as Afghanistan is a rerun of Vietnam.

The second nuclear issue is catastrophic. In 1967 I published an essay for the Pugwash organisation, warning of suitcase bombs that could be hidden near crucial targets, for example on a sail boat, operated by remote control, and used for blackmail to obtain particular demands. (in “Peace, War, and Defense”, www.transcend.org/tup). This method is far simpler than delivery by missile, where the sender can easily be identified. An unsigned letter making threats is far harder to deal with, particularly if non-state actors are among the suspects. Dismissing the letter as a bluff would carry heavy risks. Determining the culprit after a nuclear explosion though analysis of the fallout would be impossible if laboratories were no longer functional.

The 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing reminds us of how the “experts” perceived clear indications of involvement of the Middle East, though without specifying which country. But the origin was the US Midwest, not the Middle East. Timothy McVeigh learned extreme violence as a US soldier in the 1991 Gulf War massacre, and was upset about the Waco massacre two years earlier. He was executed in 2001. But death is no deterrent to suicide bombers, and there are many of them around.

The third nuclear issue, which presents an obstacle to disarmament, is the “divinity problem”. God uses extreme force to punish pagans, such as the plagues He sent to Egypt to force it to let the Jews go. Similarly the US used nuclear bombs to punish the Japanese (who had already capitulated), telling them whose God was mightier. Nuclear weapons confer divinity on their owners -civilisations, not states and certainly not non-states. Giving such divine power to “savages” is worse than proliferation: it is profanation. For the US, the ideal scenario is that the US alone would have nuclear bombs; second best, certain allied Christian countries would as well. A hyphenated Judeo- bomb -as in Judeo-Christian- is also acceptable. And with Bolshevism gone, even an Orthodox Christian bomb might be tolerable, if tamed by a treaty and some shield.

But what about a Confucian bomb? Suspect. A Hindu bomb (1998, code-named “The Buddha has smiled”)? Controversial. A “buddhist bomb” is an oxymoron, but a Shinto bomb? Also problematic -could they seek revenge?

But the real problem in a West unable to respect Islam is an Islamic bomb. What if Iran saw itself as the Persian civilisation? Indeed, it does, being older than most others. An even worse possibility would be an Islamic non-state, one claiming to be as close to the divine as anybody else, Al Qaeda (“the base”), bent on protecting the sacred in Mecca-Medina-Jerusalem and on punishing the unfaithful intruders, for example by destroying some buildings on 9/11.

Giving up nuclear status is seen as giving up divinity. For the inner club, this seems unreasonable.

Is there a way out? English women played a significant role in opposing and ultimately abolishing slavery and colonialism. Some English unilateralism might lead the way. Ladies of England, join forces with that great gift, the liberal Nicholas Clegg, who even doubts the usefulness of the UK’s Trident nuclear programme! Please, do it again! (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

(*) Johan Galtung, a professor of Peace Studies, is founder of TRANSCEND, a peace-development-environment network. His most recent book is “The Fall of the US Empire–And Then What?” (www.transcend.org/tup).

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