How do you convince military planners to prepare
detailed plans for a nuclear attack against a non-nuclear nation, without having
them think you are a madman?
Use the dachshund principle,
as illustrated by this old story:
A small boy asked his father how wireless telegraphy works.
"First let me explain how telegraphy works with wires," said the father. "Imagine
a dachshund so long that his tail is in New York and his head is in London.
You pull his tail in New York and he barks in London [no reference to Tony Blair
intended]. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said the boy, "it's perfectly clear. Now what about wireless telegraphy?"
"Exactly the same thing," replied the father. "Only without the dachshund."
In July of this year,
a remarkable story by former CIA intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi appeared
in the American Conservative and spread quickly over the Internet.
"The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's
office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing
up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist
attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on
Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons."
The "9/11-type terrorist attack" is, of course, the dachshund. You need it
to make the process understandable, but not to actually do wireless telegraphy.
If you are Dick Cheney and you want to draw up plans to nuke Iranian installations,
how will you go about it? You need a "reasonable" scenario to convince
people that you are not mad, that it is not a waste of time to plan to nuke
a non-nuclear country that is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty,
a country that is working with the IAEA to dispel unproven accusations that it is aiming to produce nuclear weapons, and that
is at least a decade away from the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons (NIE estimate), further than it was in a CIA 1993 estimate. Well, if another 9/11 attack or
worse were to occur, and it was attributable to Iran, such a response might
be conceivable. So let's draw up the plans, just in case.
Once wireless telegraphy is in place, it works without the dachshund. Once
plans to nuke Iran are in place, they can be implemented without the "9/11-type
Barely two months after the Giraldi story appeared, the Pentagon's "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" [.pdf], which outlines
several scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries
in precisely the same situation as Iran, came to light. Coincidence?
Barely two weeks later, the U.S. succeeded in getting a totally toothless
resolution passed by the IAEA [.pdf] on Iran's noncompliance
with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which implies, however, that the U.S.
would not be violating its commitment to the NPT if it used
nuclear weapons against Iran. Coincidence again?
John Bolton has been the administration's point man on nuclear policy and aggressive in denouncing Iran's supposedly evil intentions. He will be
the ideal person to explain to the world, after the fact, why a preemptive nuclear
strike on Iran was justified. Earlier this year, he was appointed as U.S. ambassador
to the UN, over extraordinary bipartisan opposition. Coincidence again?
All along, the administration has been ratcheting up the pressure on Iran,
disseminating "classified" evidence from a laptop computer that purports to prove that
Iran is developing nuclear weapons. U.S. pressure managed
to derail the negotiations between Iran and the European
Union following the "Paris agreement" of December 2004.
The Philip Giraldi story concludes,
"Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly
appalled at the implications of what they are doing that Iran is being
set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack but no one is prepared to damage
his career by posing any objections."
And those senior Air Force officers are presumably not prepared to make the
information public, because it is classified.
Nevertheless, let us see if we can glimpse what the relevant classified information
may be. Executive Order 12958 of 1995, dealing with "Classified
National Security Information," says that information considered for classification
includes, among others:
- (A) military plans, weapons systems, or operations;
- (B) foreign government information;
- (E) scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national
- (G) vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, projects,
or plans relating to the national security.
Now fast forward to March 25, 2003, and the updated version, Executive Order 13292. All the above is included, with the
- (E) now has added "which includes defense against transnational terrorism";
- (G) now has added "which includes defense against transnational terrorism";
- a new item: (H) weapons of mass destruction.
The new executive order was put in place right after the Iraq invasion started,
so presumably it does not relate to Iraq but to the next adventure. (Especially
since the information on Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" was much more
definite and detailed in Cheney's unclassified version than in the classified one.)
Why was it important to update the executive order? From the difference between
the 1995 and 2003 orders, we may conclude that perhaps the administration has
the following information that is being kept classified, which was not covered
by the 1995 version but is now covered by the 2003 version:
What does the U.S. do in response? It follows point (A) above, i.e., drafts "military
plans, weapons systems, or operations," which, of course, are classified.
Again we can guess what the classified plans are by looking at the "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" [.pdf] that was revealed
in September 2005. It envisions using nuclear weapons in scenarios
- Against "an adversary using or intending to use WMD against U.S., multinational,
or alliance forces or civilian populations."
- "To demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter
adversary use of WMD."
- "[O]n adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing
chemical or biological weapons
- "To respond to adversary-supplied WMD use by surrogates against U.S. and
multinational forces or civilian populations."
So there are many reasons to believe that the plan that Philip Giraldi
(and Seymour Hersh, and William Arkin) talked about has been developed and is firmly
in place just as the plan to attack Iraq by air and invade it with ground
forces was developed and firmly in place already four months before UN resolution 1441, as revealed by the New York Times on July 5, 2002.
It is truly peculiar, given the strident rhetoric the administration has launched against Iran, that it has not publicly accused Iran of having
WMD. Contrast this with the case of Iraq. There are, of course, many administration
documents that make such statements , , . The U.S. also accuses Hezbollah and various Palestinian groups of being surrogates
of Iran and terrorist organizations, and the 9/11 commission has suggested that al-Qaeda has ties to Iran.
It would be relatively straightforward to connect the dots and make a strong
case to attack Iran, much stronger than the case for Iraq ever was.
However, the administration is deliberately not "connecting the dots"
publicly yet. Why? Because this time we are talking big guns, nuclear. If the
administration did make its case public in advance, there would be enough time
to check the veracity of the claims, and to consider whether they justify
a nuclear strike on Iran. By keeping the information classified, the administration
can prepare for the nuclear strike without being subject to public scrutiny.
The dots will be connected after the bombing, too late for any debate.
Why are all the people who know about this plan not telling? Donald Rumsfeld tells you why:
"I think anyone who has a position where they touch a war plan has an
obligation to not leak it to the press or anybody else, because it kills people."
Sure enough. If you were told that leaking top-secret information on the Iran
war plan could cause Iran to launch preemptive chemical missiles against U.S.
forces in Iraq and kill thousands, or could unleash terrorist attacks against
the United States, you would not do so. Not to mention the potentially severe
penalties associated with leaking classified information.
Administrative and criminal penalties apply to anyone who
"has information relating to the national defense" and has "reason to believe
it could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any
foreign nation" and "willfully" transmits that information to "any person not
entitled to receive it."
But what if you knew of the nuke-Iran plan and sincerely believed that it would
severely injure the United States, because nuking a non-nuclear country would
turn the U.S. into a pariah nation in the civilized world? And that leaking
information on this plan could help the United States avoid such a fate?
The Nuremberg trials, commemorated this week, would not have existed if following
the law of the land and orders from superiors were the only criteria to be considered
under any circumstance. Principle
IV of the Nuremberg Tribunal stated:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government
or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international
law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
International Court of Justice has ruled that "the threat or use of
nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law
applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of
What if you were in a position to leak the Iran plan, and you sincerely believed
that using nuclear bombs against a non-nuclear country is a crime against humanity?
What if you sincerely believed that using nuclear bombs, no matter how small, would break a 60-year-old taboo and unleash a chain reaction that could lead to the obliteration of humanity from the face of the earth?
You would be facing a very difficult moral choice (see , , , ).