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Obama’s Nuclear-Weapons Conference Fatally Flawed

17 April 2010

The following are the excerpt from William Pfaff's article posted on

The most important force at work among vulnerable third-world states is the desire to have a nuclear deterrent against invasion or attack by the United States (or in the Iran case, Israel), or by some other nation in the future. The claim that if it possessed nuclear weapons, it would aggressively attack Israel (or the U.S. or Europe) is mendacious propaganda, since nations, intelligent ones, such as Iran, are not given to committing suicide.


This threat is put about because Israel wishes the United States preemptively to demolish Iran as it already has demolished Iraq.


As for the threat that President Obama described in calling this meeting, that terrorists would obtain nuclear weapons, this seems to me extremely unlikely, if only because no government possessing these weapons would imagine giving such power to terrorists, or allowing weapons to be stolen. The world would hold them, not the terrorists, responsible for what followed, and they would themselves become the victim of retaliation.


A different problem, complicated by the U.S. itself, might have found a solution at this meeting. Mr. Obama met separately with the leaders of Pakistan and India on Sunday, a day earlier than the plenary meeting. This was because the United States, during the George W. Bush administration, seemed to reward India’s secret introduction of nuclear weapons into South Asia. Pakistan had already followed India’s example, to have a deterrent ready to set against India’s new weapons. There was then, and remains, a Cold-War style balance of terror between the two countries.


Democracy in both America and Britain is coming under scrutiny these days. Quite apart from the antics of MPs and congressmen, it is said to be sliding towards oligarchy, with increasing overtones of autocracy. Money and its power over technology are making elections unfair. The military-industrial complex is as powerful as ever, having adopted "the menace of global terrorism" as its casus belli. Lobbying and corruption are polluting the government process. In a nutshell, democracy is not in good shape.


How strange to choose this moment to export it, least of all to countries that have never experienced it in their history. The west not only exports the stuff, it does so with massive, thuggish violence, the antithesis of how self-government should mature in any polity. The tortured justification in Iraq and Afghanistan is that elections will somehow sanctify a "war against terrorism" waged on someone else's soil.


The high-minded attacks on corruption in Muslim states from London and Washington is futile. In most countries corruption is the lubricant of power. Nor is the west that clean. Britain showered corruption on the Saudis to obtain arms contracts. The activities of American firms in "rebuilding" Iraq were wholly corrupt. In 2001 the British in Kabul – in the person of Clare Short no less – were put in charge of suppressing Afghan opium, fuel of most of that country's corruption. Britain allowed it to continue, when the Taliban had been in the process of stamping it out.


As Britons go the polls, they should challenge their candidates to justify what is being done in their name. A system of government that they have spent two centuries evolving and still not perfected is being rammed down the throats of poor and insecure people, who are then hectored for not handling it properly. Why should they? The invasions of their countries was not their choice. They did not ask to be a model for Britain's moral exhibitionism. They did not plead for their villages to be target practice for western special forces.


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