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by Alexander Cockburn

Bush Inviting New Cold War With Plan for New Nukes (2007)

When in trouble, reach for nuclear submarines. President Nicolas Sarkozy, derided by the French as a lightweight, rushed off at the end of March to launch Le Terrible, the fourth in France's fourth generation of such submarines. Thus he seizes the torch of "massive retaliation" from his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who said that a state-terrorist onslaught on France or even the EU might require a nuclear missile lobbed into the perp's presumptive backyard, wherever that might be. Le Terrible is itself powered by a nuclear reactor, and the range of its 16 missiles, each armed with three warheads, is just under 5,000 miles, so M'sieu Ahmadinejad had better watch his tongue, otherwise it might be Teheran frappe.

Le Terrible's deployment brings France's full menu of warheads to 348 warheads, of which 288 are on submarines, 50 on air-launched cruise missiles. There are 10 old-fashioned bombs.

On his way out of office at the end of 2006, Tony Blair took the same line as Sarkozy. A Britain without up-to-date nuclear-armed subs, he proclaimed, would be the sport of every bully on the block. "Our independent nuclear deterrent is the ultimate insurance," Blair told the House of Commons. He cited Iran and North Korea as prime present dangers. Mind you, Britain's present nuclear guardians -- the Vanguard subs -- are only scheduled to go out of service in 2022. It will apparently take 17 years to design and build the new subs. Double this to allow for screw-ups (more on screw-ups in a moment) and we won't be seeing Britain's last, best line of defense deployed until about 2050. By then global freezing will have rendered subs moot anyway.

Now, a familiar pattern is for statesmen and high functionaries to retire and then spend their sunset years denouncing nuclear weapons and "the balance of terror." Not Jimmy Carter, I'm glad to say. You'd think that after years talking up peace and the benefits of peaceful negotiation, Carter would reel in shock if someone said, "I want our next nuclear sub to bear your name." But he didn't. After Bill Clinton tied down the Connecticut vote by OK-ing another Trident nuclear sub to be built at Groton, he announced in 2000 that it would be called the Jimmy Carter. As in, "Today Teheran is a smoldering, irradiated ruin after receiving a salvo of nuclear missiles from The Jimmy Carter." It was probably Bill Clinton's idea of a joke after Carter had said that he really loved Al Gore's loyal and loving relationship with Tipper, so similar to his with Rosalynn.

But Carter was thrilled. The announcement came during the Democratic convention in Los Angeles in 2000. Larry King interviewed Carter and was clearly baffled at the contradiction:

KING: The USS Jimmy Carter is being constructed. It will be the newest submarine in the fleet.

CARTER: And the fastest and quietest ship in the world.

KING: Now that has got to be

CARTER: I'm very flattered.

KING: I know, Mr. Former President, there's a lot of things to be proud of, but that's got to be kooky.

CARTER: Kooky?

KING: I mean, kind of like kooky. You're going to go and slam the champagne against it. It's your sub.

CARTER: My wife will christen the submarine.

KING: Permission to board the Carter, right? They're going to say that.

CARTER: Absolutely. You'll be welcome, by the way.

Sums it all up, doesn't it? Here we have an absolute disconnect between the rational human who has criticized Israel for its apartheid policies and the lunatic reveling in having his name painted on a machine that could kill hundreds of thousands of people with a single detonation.

In the old days I would have ended with a pious paragraph or two about the pressing need to end the arms race. Not any more. We'll never stuff that genie back in the bottle. Every country should have a couple of nuclear missiles and, if they really want one, a nuclear sub. You can get the sub from the Germans and put the missiles out for bid.

"Screw-ups," I wrote above. Why so negative, Mr. Cockburn? As readers of this column may know, I speak as a maiden-voyageur on March 27 through Britain's latest tour de force in technological incompetence -- T5. This is the new British Air terminal at Heathrow, which cost about $7 billion to build across nearly twenty years. All systems failed. BA had forgotten to provide parking for the baggage handlers. The software for the entrail didn't work either. A seasoned baggage handler said the conveyors went too fast anyway.

If you can't design an entrail to put a bag on a plane, can you design a nuclear sub to launch untested armed systems to speed a nuclear missile on its way to Teheran or the Hindu Kush or Pyongyang and be sure it won't swerve off course and hit Tel Aviv, capital city of our "stalwart ally," as Barack Obama calls it even when he's sound asleep?

Richard Rogers, designer of T5, is also the architect retained to do the redesign of the Javits Convention Center in New York. He was recently pressed by defenders of the reputation of our stalwart ally to explain his connection to a group called Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, which had criticized Israel's wall. Rogers distanced himself from APJP at a speed approaching that of light, and said he thought the wall is a fine idea. Maybe the T5 disaster was retribution for this cowardice.

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor   April 11, 2008   (

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