The Three Nuclear Issues

EDITORIAL, 26 Apr 2010

#109 | Johan Galtung

Washington— The three issues are disarmament-proliferation, the military use, and the theological use of nuclear arms.  All rather untractable.  But there is the universal remedy: solve underlying conflicts, please.  More easily said than done?  To the contrary.

The USA-Russia possible treaty to junk aging “strategic” (genocide) nuclear bombs of the 23,000 said to exist; the “nuclear summit” of 46 countries in Washington convened by Obama to secure fissionable material (in the USA?); the nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran convened by Ahmadinejad of 60 countries calling for destroying all atomic weapons starting with the US arsenal; and the NATO meeting in Estonia on the 240 “tactical” bombs stationed in Europe, have put the first issue on the agenda.  Not more, so far.  See you next time, next summit, in Korea 2012.

The US nuclear tripod (land-, submarine- and air-based delivery) has not been touched, nor those tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, nor, and most importantly, the factual use of nuclear arms by the only country ever to drop nuclear bombs as depleted uranium.  Very deadly.  And what an agonizing death, made in USA.

That time has come to recycle some monstrous old weapons is clear, that applies to all products; to call it disarmament is public relations.  True, the shield for unilateral vulnerability reduction as originally envisaged has been canceled, but then it turned up again on the Polish side of old East Prussia, close to Kaliningrad.  And loose uranium is problematic, given the many places it is mined.  Storing it in the USA, the fox in a hen-yard, not even under UN-IAEA supervision, sounds like a very bad joke.

We have lived through this before: just as Afghanistan is a rerun of Vietnam, this is a rerun, not a reset, of Cold War shows.  Obama for sure has read about them.  But he has not lived them.

The second nuclear issue is catastrophic.  In 1967 this author published an essay, originally for Pugwash, where bomb delivery in suitcases, possibly placed in luggage lockers, or dug down under a crucial target, with trip wires, remote controls, and blackmail, published or not, with demands, plays some role.(1)  The obvious delivery, not that clumsy and costly missile approach.  In the meantime lockers are out, scanners might detect a bomb or two.  But there are other places.     And that brings us to the crucial sender problem, supposedly the Pentagon nightmare, according to the by far best media in the USA, the National Public Radio, NPR.

So who is the sender, particularly if non-state actors are among the suspects–and they are many, far beyond 200 or so state actors–of such unsigned letters?  One may leave it unanswered, hoping it is a bluff, and there may have been some of those already.  But imagine it is not.  A nuclear explosion is delivered just on time; what then?  There is something called “nuclear forensics”, searching for signatures in the fall-out.  Sounds time-consuming, and the laboratories may no longer be functional. Moreover, after a bomb explosion there may be other concerns, also after a warning, with the desperate public clogging all roads.

Such letters might also indicate that there is more than one bomb scheduled for detonation if demands remain unmet.

The 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing reminds us of “experts” sensing clear Middle East signatures, the question being which country.  But the origin was the US Midwest rather than the Middle East.  Timothy McVeigh learnt extreme violence as a US soldier in the 1991 Gulf war massacre, and that he was very upset about Waco massacre two years earlier.  He was executed in 2001. As a warning to suicide bombers? There are many McVeighs around.

Then what?  Throwing bombs all over to join the apocalypse?

Add to this the divinity problem.  God uses extreme force, causing desertification, to punish pagans.  So do nuclear bombs, and birds of a feather go together.  They can be used to punish Japanese (who had capitulated) telling whose God is the stronger. They confirm divinity on their owners; civilizations, not states and certainly not non-states. Divine power to them is worse than proliferation.  It is profanization. Best USA alone, second best a Mother Country share in divinity.  From evangelical and anglican to catholic-secular is within the family; so is a hyphenated judaic bomb like in judeo-christianity.  With bolshevism gone even an orthodox christian bomb, if tamed by a treaty and some shield.

Confucian?  Hm.  A Hindu device 1971, a bomb 1998, code-named “The Buddha has smiled”.  Hm.  A “buddhist bomb” is an oxymoron, but a shinto bomb?  Also problematic, could they be revengeful?

But the real problem in a West unable to respect islam is the islamic bomb. Lo and behold, could Iran even see itself as Persian civilization? They do, and older than most others.  And islamic non-state, even one claiming to be as close to the divine as anybody else, the base, Al Qaeda?  Also bent on protecting the sacred in Mecca-Medina-Jerusalem and on punishing the unfaithful intruders like by beheading some buildings on 9/ll, enacting the Saudi flag, the shahada around the henchman’s sword.  Next time?

To give up nuclear status is to give up divinity.  That the inner club should multilaterally do so defies rationality.

Any way out?  As twisted as the road traveled by English women out of slavery and colonialism: that Mother Country.  Some English unilateralism might raise the Daughter to maturity, and if she has serious doubts, then dominos might start falling.  Ladies of England, join forces with that gift, liberal Nicholas Clegg who even doubts Trident genocide!  Please, please: do it again!!


(1) “Two Approaches to Disarmament”, chapter 3 in Peace, War and Defense, Copenhagen: Ejlers, 1976, pp. 54-93; see

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Apr 2010.

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3 Responses to “The Three Nuclear Issues”

  1. Akifumi Fujita says:

    Shocking article for me as a Japanese citizen who shares more or less collective memory of the A-bombing by the only country ever to drop two, not one, bombs in the War. As always it took me some time to follow the line of thought with jumps and twists born out of his theory of peace.He points out here the divinity problem of nuclear bombs.They confirm divinity to their owners, civilizations, not states and not non-states.And they can be used to punish Japanese as a possible pagan after many years of faithful obedience, the result of the capitulation. This is indeed a nightmare for me. They could be revengeful. History implies that. The way they handle Okinawa makes me think this way.How to avoid this to happen? Maybe, solve underlying conflicts step by step with a little creativity. It will take time, but we will have to live it.