Thursday, April 13, 2006
by Steven D
Thu Apr 13, 2006 at 09:30:18 AM PDT
Supposedly outraged that anyone could possibly conceive that the Bush administration might be planning to use nuclear weapons in an attack on Iran, on Monday both President Bush and his Press Secretary, Scott McClellan were quick to condemn such charges by Seymour Hersh in the current edition of the New Yorker as "wild speculation."
Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld went even further on Tuesday, implying that anyone who believed the Hersh report was living in a "fantasyland." Not to be outdone, GOP Senator Judd of New Hampshire equated Hersh's credibility with that of a Disney cartoon character, Donald Duck.
I fail to see why they are so outraged about these claims. After all, the US military's deployment and possible use of of these so-called "tactical nuclear weapons" against rogue states seeking WMD has been the official policy of the United States since the Defense Department issued its Nuclear Posture Review Report on January 8, 2002:
Greater flexibility is needed with respect to nuclear forces and planning than was the case during the Cold War. The assets most valued by the spectrum of potential adversaries in the new security environment may be diverse and, in some cases, U.S. understanding of what an adversary values may evolve. Consequently, although the number of weapons needed to hold those assets at risk has declined, U.S. nuclear forces still require the capability to hold at risk a wide range of target types. This capability is key to the role of nuclear forces in supporting an effective deterrence strategy relative to a broad spectrum of potential opponents under a variety of contingencies. Nuclear attack options that vary in scale, scope, and purpose will complement other military capabilities. [...]
The planning process [for the New Triad] not only must produce a variety of flexible, pre-planned non-nuclear and nuclear options, but also incorporate sufficient adaptability to support the timely construction of additional options in a crisis or unexpected conflict. [...]
Composed of both non-nuclear systems and nuclear weapons, the strike element of the New Triad can provide greater flexibility in the design and conduct of military campaigns to defeat opponents decisively. Non-nuclear strike capabilities may be particularly useful to limit collateral damage and conflict escalation. Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities).
I know that's a lot of military jargon to wade through, but the critical point is contained in the last sentence I highlighted in the above excerpt: Nuclear weapons could be employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, (for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon facilities). Isn't this precisely the situation the Bush administration and its supporters claim exists in Iran? Deep underground bunkers allegedly protecting a secret nuclear weapons program (I say allegedly because I have yet to see any information from a credible source that documents the existence of such underground facilities)?
Since that DoD report was sent to Congress in January, 2002, the Bush administration has taken additional steps to bring the first strike use of nuclear weapons by American forces closer to reality. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post first reported on the Pentagon's revised nuclear strike doctrine in his September 11, 2005 report:
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. [...]
Titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" and written under the direction of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the draft document is unclassified and available on a Pentagon Web site. It is expected to be signed within a few weeks by Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, according to Navy Cmdr. Dawn Cutler, a public affairs officer in Myers's office. Meanwhile, the draft is going through final coordination with the military services, the combatant commanders, Pentagon legal authorities and Rumsfeld's office, Cutler said in a written statement. [...]
The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.
Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy." [...]
The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for "attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons."
But that's not all folks. The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) announced in a press release dated December 1, 2005 that it had "achieved operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons." What follows are excerpts from a news report regarding STRATCOM's press release contained in in my story posted here last December entitled The Future of Blitzkrieg is Now:
The annual Global Lightning exercise last month tested U.S. strategic warfare capabilities, including the so-called CONPLAN 8022 mission for a global strike, according to publicly available military documents.
CONPLAN 8022 is "a new strike plan that includes [a] pre-emptive nuclear strike against weapons of mass destruction facilities anywhere in the world," said Hans Kristensen, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kristensen first published the STRATCOM press release on his Web site, nukestrat.com.
Let that sink in for a moment. Since December 1, 2005, our military has had the capability to execute CONPLAN 8022, a "pre-emptive nuclear strike against WMD facilities anywhere in the world." Sounds a lot like what Hersh was describing in the New Yorker, doesn't it? And what the hell is the CONPLAN 8022? Well, here's the Washington Post story by Wiiliam Arkin, dated May 15, 2005, on what it is, and what it calls for:
CONPLAN 8022 is different from other war plans in that it posits a small-scale operation and no "boots on the ground." The typical war plan encompasses an amalgam of forces -- air, ground, sea -- and takes into account the logistics and political dimensions needed to sustain those forces in protracted operations. All these elements generally require significant lead time to be effective. (Existing Pentagon war plans, developed for specific regions or "theaters," are essentially defensive responses to invasions or attacks. The global strike plan is offensive, triggered by the perception of an imminent threat and carried out by presidential order.)
CONPLAN 8022 anticipates two different scenarios. The first is a response to a specific and imminent nuclear threat, say in North Korea. A quick-reaction, highly choreographed strike would combine pinpoint bombing with electronic warfare and cyberattacks to disable a North Korean response, with commandos operating deep in enemy territory, perhaps even to take possession of the nuclear device.
The second scenario involves a more generic attack on an adversary's WMD infrastructure. Assume, for argument's sake, that Iran announces it is mounting a crash program to build a nuclear weapon. A multidimensional bombing (kinetic) and cyberwarfare (non-kinetic) attack might seek to destroy Iran's program, and special forces would be deployed to disable or isolate underground facilities.
According to the Wikipedia entry for CONPLAN 8022, it was completed in November 2003. So, for the last 2 and 1/2 years, our military has had a plan to use nuclear weapons to destroy the WMD infrastructure of "rogue states" like Iran.
Have I got your attention now? Let's look back and review what we have so far regarding the Bush administration's nuclear strike policies, shall we?
1. January 2002: The Rumsfeld Defense Department issues a report to Congress on our nuclear forces posture which states that official US military policy now formally encompasses the use of nuclear weapons against targets like deep underground bunkers.
2. November 2003: STRATCOM completes its global strike plan, CONPLAN 8022, for dealing with possible WMD threats from nations like Iran.
3. March-September 2005: The Joint Cheifs issue their draft revision of the "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" which envisions a pre-emptive nuclear strike against an adversary's WMD facilities. [Note: The Pentagon, after exposure of this draft revision by the Washington Post, canceled the document on February 6, 2006 in response to demands by 16 lawmakers to be briefed on its contents.]
4. October 2005: STRATCOM conducts an exercise to test its Global Strike capability known as "Global Lightning." That exercise proves a success.
5. December 2005: STRATCOM issues press release stating it had "achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons."
6. April 2006: Seymour Hersh reports in the New Yorker that Bush is planning to attack Iran and may use nuclear weapons to destroy certain targets such as underground bunkers suspected to be harboring elements of Iran's secret nuclear weapons program. Days later, President Bush and other administration officials condemn Hersh's report but do not specifically issue a denial.
Now maybe Hersh is off base in his charges that Bush is planning to attack Iran, and in that attack use nuclear "bunker-busting" bombs against Iran's nuclear facilities. I don't happen to think Hersh has gone off the deep end on this story, but, for argument's sake, let's posit that he might have been misinformed by his sources. Nonetheless, in light of the history of the Bush administration's loosening of the threshold for using nuclear weapons by US forces, can anyone claim that his report is based on mere "wild speculation?"
By the way, for those of you who might have difficulty imagining that any President or US administration could seriously contemplate using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive attack against a non-nuclear state, let me refer you to a study by the National Institute for National Policy (a neoconservative think tank) in 2001 entitled "Rationale and Requirements for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control." This study was co-authored by, among others, Stephen J. Hadley, Bush's current National Security Adviser, and Stephen A. Cambone, currently the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and this is what it said about the need for the United States to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against potential threats from China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya:
Under certain circumstances very severe nuclear threats may be needed to deter any of these potential adversaries.
I think that says it all, don't you?
Update [2006-4-13 12:46:56 by Steven D]: For those of you who would like to do something other than just wring your hands, please go read my diary from yesterday, Sign My Petition to General Pace Not to Attack Iran. If you agree with its premise, go sign my petition asking all members of our armed forces to disobey any order to attack Iran from Bush until he first obtains a Declaration of War from Congress.
The link to the petition is HERE.