March 06, 2006

Our Mad Hatter, and the Drive Toward Annihilation

If there is an advanced alien race watching mankind from somewhere beyond the stars, they must be struck with astonishment and wonder at the enthusiasm with which we court our own annihilation. We already possess fearsome weapons that could destroy all of life on earth many times over. Yet this is not enough: many of us insist we need still more, supposedly to better ensure our own "safety" and protection. This is not unlike a deranged man who presses a razor-sharp blade more deeply into his own throat, in an effort to prevent an attacker from killing him.

And now, our president -- not satisfied with the destruction and destabilization of the Middle East that his fatally misguided policies have unleashed -- has made our extraordinarily precarious situation even more dangerous. After referencing Ron Suskind's now famous NYT article about Bush and his acolytes, where Suskind noted the administration's delusional dismissal of facts and its ardent belief that they are empowered to "create [their] own reality," Bob Herbert writes:
This mad-hatter thinking was on display again last week. President Bush, who used specious claims about a nuclear threat to launch his disastrous war in Iraq, agreed to a deal — in blatant violation of international accords and several decades of bipartisan U.S. policy — that would enable India to double or triple its annual production of nuclear weapons.

The president turned his back on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (dismissed, like reality-based thinking, as passé) and moved the world a step closer to an accelerated nuclear arms race in Asia and elsewhere. In the president's empire-based, otherworldly way of thinking, this was a good thing.

For decades, U.S. law and the provisions of the nonproliferation treaty have precluded the sale of nuclear fuel and reactor components to India, which has acquired an atomic arsenal and has refused to sign the treaty. President Bush turned that policy upside down last week, agreeing to share nuclear energy technology with India, even as it continues to develop nuclear weapons in a program that is shielded from international inspectors.


A cornerstone of the nonproliferation strategy has been the refusal to share nuclear energy technology with nations unwilling to abide by the provisions of the nonproliferation treaty. Last week George W. Bush decided he would change all that by carving out an exception for India.

Presidents from both parties — from Richard Nixon through Bill Clinton — had refused to make this deal, which India has wanted for more than three decades.

"It's a terrible deal, a disaster," said Joseph Cirincione, the director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment. "The Indians are free to make as much nuclear material as they want. Meanwhile, we're going to sell them fuel for their civilian reactors. That frees up their resources for the military side, and that stinks."


In the early 1960's, President John F. Kennedy, a member in good standing of the reality-based community, tried to convey the menace posed to mankind by nuclear weapons. "Today," he said, "every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us."

Today, in 2006, as Congressman Markey reminds us, terrorists as well as rogue governments are racing to get their hands on nukes.

"We've had a consensus for a generation," he said, "that the world will cooperate to restrict the spread of these nuclear materials. If this consensus breaks down, then we increase exponentially the likelihood that the catastrophic event that Kennedy warned about will, in fact, occur."
Bush's deal with India reveals still further the hypocrisy and phony "diplomacy" being utilized allegedly to prevent the "unacceptable" danger of a potentially nuclear Iran. Let us remember that Iran is "an [International Atomic Energy Agency] member in undisputed compliance with its Safeguards Agreement and the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons," as Gordon Prather reminds us in a valuable article.

To explain mankind's lethal impulse toward self-destruction, I must once again return to Alice Miller. From the Preface to Banished Knowledge:
It is quite simply not true that human beings must continue compulsively to injure their children, to damage them for life and thus destroy our future. When I wrote The Drama of the Gifted Child, while under the influence of psychoanalytic thinking, I still believed that such a cycle of abuse was inevitable. Now I know that that is not true. Infectious diseases need not spread if the virus is known. Injuries can heal and need not be passed on, provided they are not ignored. It is perfectly possible to awaken from sleep and, in that waking state, to be open to the messages from our children that can help us never again to destroy life but rather to protect it and allow it to blossom.


By the time of my therapy I had grasped the fact that I had been abused as a child because my parents had undergone similar experiences in their childhoods and had learned to regard that abuse as having been for their own good. Because they--like the analysts in my training--were not allowed to feel and thus understand what had happened to them in the past, they were unable to recognize the abuse and passed it on to me without a trace of guilty feelings.

I realized there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the history of my parents and teachers that had so blinded them. But I felt that, in spite of all this, I can and must try to demonstrate to young parents, and above all to future parents, the dangers of the misuse of their power, to sensitize them and sharpen their ears to their child's signals.

I can do this if I help the child--hitherto a victim condemned to silence, deprived of rights--to speak out, if I describe his suffering from his perspective and not from that of the adult. For it is from this very child that I received vital messages, answers to questions that had remained unanswered throughout my entire study of philosophy and psychoanalysis yet had refused to cease preoccupying me all my life. Only when the actual reasons for my childhood fears and pains became clear to me in their full extent did I understand what grown men and women must keep at a distance throughout their lives and why, instead of facing up to the truth, they prefer, for instance, to organize a gigantic, atomic self-destruction without the slightest inkling of its absurdity. For me, the absurdity acquired its compelling logic once I was able ... to locate the missing piece, the hitherto strictly guarded secret of childhood. For when we no longer need to confront the child's suffering blindly, we suddenly realize that it is up to us adults, depending on how we treat our newborn infants, either to turn them into future monsters or to allow them to grow up into feeling, and hence responsible, human beings.

In this book my aim is to share with others the knowledge I have gained over the last few years. The extent of my success remains to be seen. However, since I am convinced that this knowledge of the child's situation can lead people to a radical and urgently necessary rethinking, I wish to leave nothing untried.
For much more on these issues, I refer you to one particular essay in my Miller series: To Destroy the World: The Case of Saddam Hussein. That entry offers an excerpt from Miller's Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, and Miller's answer to "the essential question: What makes a person wish to destroy the world?"

Miller notes that " [n]either politicians, experts of various sorts, nor even the majority of journalists" will ask this question -- and with very few exceptions, they are adamant in their refusal to consider the answer. Nonetheless, it is a question that must be asked about Bush and many of his supporters. Tragically for all of us, their campaign of destruction may be very far from complete.

UPDATE: Read this, too, by Joseph Cirincione (quoted by Herbert above):
Buffeted by political turmoil at home, US President George W Bush sought a foreign-affairs victory in India. To clinch a nuclear-weapons deal, Bush had to give in to demands from the Indian nuclear lobby to exempt large portions of the country's nuclear infrastructure from international inspection.

With details of the deal still under wraps, it appears that at least one-third of current and planned Indian reactors would be exempt from International Atomic Energy Agency inspections and that Bush gave in to Indian demands for "Indian-specific" inspections that would fall far short of the normal, full-scope inspections originally sought. Worse, Indian officials have made clear that India alone will decide which future reactors will be kept in the military category and exempt from any safeguards.

The deal endorses and assists India's nuclear-weapons program. US-supplied uranium fuel would free up India's limited uranium reserves for fuel that otherwise would be burned in these reactors to make nuclear weapons. This would allow India to increase its production from the estimated six to 10 additional nuclear bombs per year to several dozen a year. India today has enough separated plutonium for 75-110 nuclear weapons, though it is not known how many it has actually produced.

The Indian leaders and press are crowing about their victory over the United States. For good reason: President Bush has done what Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and his own father refused to do - break US and international law to aid India's nuclear-weapons program. In 1974, India cheated on its agreements with the United States and other nations to do what Iran is accused of doing now: using a peaceful nuclear energy program to build a nuclear bomb. India used plutonium produced in a Canadian-supplied reactor to detonate a bomb it then called a "peaceful nuclear device". In response, president Richard Nixon and Congress stiffened US laws and Nixon organized the Nuclear Suppliers Group to prevent any other nation from following India's example.


In addition to breaking US law and shattering long-standing barriers to proliferation, lawmakers are concerned about the example the nuclear-weapons deal sets for other nations. The lesson Iran is likely to draw is simple: if you hold out long enough, the Americans will cave. All this talk about violating treaties, they will reason, is just smoke. When the Americans think you are important enough, they will break the rules to accommodate you.
The full article has more.