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[casi] Greenpeace says no to war on Iraq

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The weapon is the enemy

Why attacking Iraq will not solve the problem of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Tue 24 September 2002


What did we learn from the cold war, the disarmament movement of the last
three decades, and the intricate history of arms control? What we should have
learned is this: The development, production and use -- or threatened use  of
nuclear weapons is a vicious cycle. Weapons of mass destruction don't buy
greater security. They don't bring stability. Mutually Assured Destruction
didn't end the cold war. The escalation of nuclear arsenals stopped when the
perception of hostility and threat was diminished, buffered by a global
perception of the moral and political limitations of nuclear weapons as tools
of diplomacy. It's especially important that we remember those lessons now, as
the world community ponders a war which is allegedly against weapons of mass
destruction. War on Iraq would bring enormous financial benefit to western oil
interests, and we remain convinced that US strategy is not only about routing
terrorism or stopping weapons of mass destruction but also about dominating
fossil fuel supplies.. But let's take, for the moment, the argument on its own
merit, that the US is going after Iraq out of fear of the spread of weapons of
mass destruction, and particularly nuclear weapons. Greenpeace has opposed the
development, production and use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass
destruction since its inception more than 30 years ago. The testing and
production of nuclear weapons has already wreaked havoc on ecosystems and
human health; the use of nuclear weapons by accident or through conflict could
spell -- at best -- severely radioactive sacrifice zones with many thousands
of people affected, or at its worst -- the end of our planet's ability to
sustain life as we know it. We believe that nuclear disarmament by all nations
is a fundamental prerequisite of a sustainable future for Earth in the 21st
century. It is therefore imperative that the international community -
including the Bush Administration -tackle the question of nuclear
proliferation and nuclear disarmament in a coherent manner. A full-scale
attack on the nation of Iraq for seeking to acquire nuclear weapons would be
without precedent. The US did not threaten to attack Israel, India or Pakistan
for acquiring nuclear weapons. There are three military strategies available
to prevent proliferation: counter-proliferation strikes, nuclear deterrence,
and military assault to create a "regime change". All are flawed. Military
counter-proliferation -- the Israeli strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981
is an example -- may deal temporarily with the technical manifestations of
proliferation,yet it raised the very tensions which drive weapons programs in
the first place. They're also only as good as the intelligence they're based
on. In the case of Iraq, the IAEA dismantled a clandestine programme to obtain
nuclear weapons; the threat of a military counter-proliferation response from
the US has apparently failed to deter Iraq from further attempts to reinstate
the programme. If nuclear deterrence was a viable strategy, it would be
working now. In Cold War logic, deterrence would dictate that Iraq -- or any
other state -- would be cowed by the overwhelming superiority of the US
nuclear arsenal and military machine. This clearly isn't the case. For a
regime facing destruction whether it uses a nuclear weapon or not, even a
single nuclear strike is easily rationalised as legitimate self-defence, and
an appropriate response against a nuclear-armed aggressor. Can the US
successfully disarm Iraq by invading the country, taking over its
infrastructure, and placing a puppet regime in power? Possibly. Will a regime
change bring peace to the region and deter other states or agents from
pursuing weapons of mass destruction? Of course not. Quite the opposite. Take
Iran. It's a country with a chequered history of relations with the US, but is
currently counted as a friend in the declared "war on terrorism." It's
politically inconvenient for the US to notice at the moment that Iran is also
moving swiftly toward nuclear capability, just as it was politically
inconvenient for the US to note Saddam Hussein's use of biological weapons
against his own people in a different time. To Iran, the lesson of an invasion
on Iraq will be to ensure the swift development of its own weapons of mass
destruction, and to develop them while America is focused elsewhere. Military
strategies will not succeed. A toolbox of responses is required, but clearly
the first and fundamental question is one of leadership and political will.
President Bush has said that the real issue in Iraq is not the acceptance of
UN weapons inspectors, but verifiable disarmament. This is true. The problem
is the enormous inconsistency of such a statement coming from the possessor of
more then six thousand nuclear warheads. The formal non-proliferation regime
has been undermined year after year by the "official" nuclear weapon states,
which by their behaviour clearly show they believe nuclear weapons are
necessary for their security. The nuclear weapons states have effectively
thumbed their noses at the United Nations and international agreements with an
alacrity equal to that of Iraq's. The US and the other "official" nuclear
weapon states have legal obligations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. They
should be leading by example. Instead, the US Senate has refused to ratify the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Bush administration has undermined the
proposed verification protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention. And arms
control with Russia has devolved into politically convenient bilateral
deal-making rather than transparent, legally binding and verifiable
disarmament agreements that actually destroy nuclear weapons. The Bush
Administration cannot reinforce the non-proliferation norm by edict. It cannot
act with any credible authority to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction
of others without addressing its own. The case against these weapons must be a
moral one, not a strategically convenient one. Second, diplomacy. Pressure
from other Arab states as well as western countries is clearly important,
particularly as a contribution to a more effective and positive US Middle East
policy. Solving the Palestinian issue is a necessary prerequisite for any
movement by Israel to join negotiations on weapons of mass destruction in the
region. The US can play a key role in resolving that conflict. Thirdly,
containment followed by engagement. Continued pressure on Iraq must include a
comprehensive approach to the problem of the proliferation of nuclear
technology and know-how, particularly but not exclusively from Russia. There
must be a containment of the feasibility of the weapons programme. But there
must also be a containment of the ambition behind it. Furthermore effective
measures need to be taken to stop the spread of weapons usable material ,and
technology, thus further reducing the threat. Ultimately, what we need is a
new theory of deterrence when it comes to nuclear weapons. At its root,
deterrence is and always has been a matter of perception: the perception of
threat, imagined response, and a close calculation of exactly what either of
two combatants believe they can get away with. Morality and what's deemed
acceptable behaviour by states and their leaders is also a perception, and one
which changes over time. As we move toward a globalisation of civil society,
we need to build a world-wide moral deterrence against the possession of
nuclear weapons. The cornerstone of any state's claim to moral authority, and
any leader's, must be based on their accountability to civil society. They
must abide by global agreements for the global good, they must conform to the
most global definitions of acceptable behaviour. The ability of a state to
exert its will upon the world community should be measured in its demonstrable
commitment to the common benefit of that community. The authority of its
leaders, at home and abroad, must rest in a new, global and inclusive
definition of the public trust. That would mean nuclear weapon states would
commit to, and begin, the process of eliminating their nuclear weapons in the
certain knowledge that such weapons are incompatible with sane and sustainable
security policies from a global perspective. Any state thinking about
acquiring nuclear weapons would have to be deterred by the strength of global
repugnance -- at both the state and individual levels, to the acquisition of
nuclear weapons. Any leader driving a state in that direction must know that
they will face a credible worldwide outrage,untainted by hypocritical
inconsistencies, and with a moral authority that will be daunting to their
futures as leaders, domestically and abroad. This moral outrage needs to be
effectively backed by agreed obstacles and sanctions that can be applied in an
impartial and objective manner. It is evident that the Bush Administration is
unenthusiastic about the use of multilaterialism in general and the United
Nations in particular as tools for conflict resolution, preferring instead to
use its military power to ensure that its strategic objectives are met. This
is perhaps the biggest challenge for the international community of the 21st
century. We can no longer afford to continue as a planet made up of
self-interested nations and national leaders. A world in peril needs world
leaders, accountable to the needs and moral imperatives of our common future.
If every inhabitant of Earth were a voter, what future would nuclear weapons
have in a global plebiscite on their elimination?[1][2]

Salwa de Vree,

Leiden, The Netherlands


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