The New Nuclear Arsenal: Costly and Illegal – US Nuclear Hypocrisy and Iran
By FRIDA BERRIGAN
The Bush administration is very focused these days on Iran’s nuclear program. This focus has only sharpened in the aftermath of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s recent report that Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of a UN Security Council demand.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is not a very pleasant prospect for anybody to think about,” Vice President Dick Cheney told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in Australia. “It clearly could do significant damage. And so I think we need to continue to do everything we can to make certain they don’t achieve that objective.” Asked if the administration would continue to pursue diplomacy, the vice president responded that while “we’ve been working with the EU and going through the United Nations with sanctions the President has also made it clear that we haven’t taken any options off the table.”
In the White House, “options on the table” is code for military action. There have been many media reports of U.S. preparations to attack Iran. But the primary rationale for such an attack–to prevent Iran from going nuclear–is deeply problematic. Not only is the United States beefing up its military in general, it is even planning a modernization of its nuclear arsenal. The nuclear hypocrisy of the Bush administration makes any resolution of the conflict with Iran all the more difficult.
U.S. Military Spending
The new round of hand-wringing and saber-rattling about Iran’s nascent but worrisome nuclear program comes just a few weeks after the Bush administration announced its new budget, which included billions for nuclear weapons development. The Department of Energy’s “weapons activities” budget request totals $6.4 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the Pentagon’s $481.4 billion proposed budget. But the budget for new nukes is large and growing — even in comparison to Cold War figures.
During the Cold War, spending on nuclear weapons averaged $4.2 billion a year (in current dollars). Almost two decades after the nuclear animosity between the two great superpowers ended, the United States is spending one-and-a-half times the Cold War average on nuclear weapons.
In 2001, the weapons-activities budget of the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees the nuclear weapons complex through the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), totaled $5.19 billion. Since President Bush’s January 2002 “Nuclear Posture Review” asserted the urgent need for a “revitalized nuclear weapons complex” — “to design, develop, manufacture, and certify new warheads in response to new national requirements; and maintain readiness to resume underground testing” — there has been more than a billion-dollar jump in nuclear spending. Included in the $6.4 billion 2008 request is money for “design concept testing” of two new nuclear warhead designs that officials hope will be deployed on submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles– even as U.S. warships set their helms towards the Strait of Hormuz to menace Iran back from the nuclear brink.
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