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UFPPC (www.ufppc.

org) Digging Deeper CXLIV December 20,
2010, 7:00 p.m.

Joseph Gerson, Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to
Dominate the World (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2007).

[Thesis. In the post-WWII period U.S. becomes a much more formidable
foreign policy has relied on nuclear task . . .' At a still deeper spiritual level,
terrorism.] the embrace of total and nuclear war has
institutionalized what Hannah Arendt
Acknowledgments. Family, Roger van described as the 'banality of evil'" (34).
Zwanenberg, AFSC, friends (xi-xii). "[I]n 1996 the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) ruled that the use and
Foreword by Walden Bello. Summary threatened use of nuclear weapons
of book, with endorsement (xiii-xiv). violate international law" (35). "[The
Pentagon's] Clinton era 'The Essentials of
Introduction. Deterrence is only one of Post-Cold War Deterrence' commits the
five ways the U.S. has used its nuclear U.S. to maintaining 'a capability to create
arsenal (1-3). Outline of book (3-7). a fear of national extinction' in the minds
Personal connections (8-10). of those it seeks to intimidate. Chomsky
has described this doctrine, which
Ch. 1: Deadly Connections: Empire continues to shape U.S. policy and
and Nuclear Weapons. "Although it is practice, as among 'the most horrifying
not widely known beyond academia, the documents I've ever read.' It asserts that
consensus today among informed ". . . We have to have a national persona
scholars is that the atomic bombings of of irrationality with forces 'out of control'
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so we really terrify everybody'" (35-36;
unnecessary"; they were motivated by emphasis by Gerson). People have been
geostrategic interests (13; 11-14). A used as guinea pigs (36-37). "[W]e need
"sophisticated system of U.S. censorship" to ask if the U.S. has truly been a
has rendered the topic of imperialism 'democracy' for the past 60 years. . . .
taboo and kept most Americans ignorant What . . . are the meanings and
of their inheritance of Britain's imperial consequences of the existence of a
role (15; 14-20). In the aftermath of the secret and ultimately all-powerful state
Cold War, the U.S. has continued to within a state?" (37). Table of 40
invoke its nuclear arsenal to attain its instances of U.S. "nuclear blackmail" (37-
political ends (20-25). A myth has 38).
deliberately been inculcated that
deterrence was the sole purpose of Ch. 2: First Nuclear Terrorism—
nuclear weapons (25-27). In fact, they Hiroshima and Nagasaki. "Contrary to
serve the purpose of intimidation, or the myths and the propaganda
terrorism, not deterrence (27-32). For campaign, the bombings were terrorizing
the U.S., "[n]ear-absolute power has crimes against humanity" (39; 39-41).
corrupted almost absolutely" (32; 32-37). U.S. interests vis-à-vis the USSR were the
"Richard Falk has written [in 1983] that principal motive for use of the bomb; the
'The roots of first strike planning exist so notion it was used to save American lives
deep as to suggest that even the posts of and end the war is a "government-
President and Secretary of State and enforced myth" (42; 41-43). By the
Senator have become largely ornamental 1930s, the U.S. and Japan had become
in relation to national security policy. competitors for hegemony in east Asia;
Throwing 'the rascals' out, accordingly access to oil was the precipitating cause
of conflict (43-44). The myth about the attempted to forestall U.S. use of
bomb's rationale has been strenuously overwhelming 17:1 nuclear superiority
preserved (45-47). A number of (100-02). Kennedy, inexperienced and
additional factors were present (47-48). reckless (102-06), was "obsessed with
"Roosevelt opted for Churchill's vision of Cuba" (107; 107-10). The popular
an anti-Soviet U.S.-British nuclear version of events depicts reckless
monopoly," and Truman adopted an Russians faced down by courageous
aggressively anti-Russian approach Americans (110-13). The Kennedy
under the influence of Averell Harriman, administration did not believe the
Edward Stettinius, and Churchill (49; 48- missiles in Cuba altered the balance of
51). As the U.S. grew confident it could power (113-16). But domestic political
defeat Japan without Soviet help, the considerations required a response (117-
race for East Asia began (51-53). 19). The USSR backed down after Robert
Japanese leaders were convinced of the F. Kennedy conveyed an off-the-record
need to surrender (53-56). The concession to withdraw U.S. missiles
successful Trinity test occurred on the from Turkey (119-22). Subsequent
eve of the Potsdam conference, where revelations showed that the risk of
Truman and Churchill demanded Japan's nuclear war was much greater than most
unconditional surrender (56-59). understood; the U.S. military was not
Bombing of Hiroshima; accounts of fully under control (122-28). The
victims by survivors (59-66). Truman's dangerous legacy of the crisis (128-29).
Genghis Khan-like message; Stalin
understood (66). Nagasaki (67-70). The Ch. 5: Vietnam: Failures of Nuclear
Japanese offered to surrender on Aug. 9, Diplomacy. Nixon and Kissinger
1945, conditional upon maintaining the "repeatedly threatened North Vietnam
emperor (70-71). Stalin had to be with nuclear weapons" (130). "Operation
threatened to prevent Soviet occupation Vulture" was a plan to help the French
of Hokkaido (71-72). before Dien Bien Phu by using in
Indochina by using three atomic bombs
Ch. 3: Postwar Asia—Targeting (133-35). Geneva Accords (135-37).
Korea and China. U.S. economic and Kennedy attempted to limit U.S.
political interests in Asia (73-76). In the involvement and was disenchanted with
1950s the U.S. possessed and exerted a the conflict (137-41). The Pentagon
nuclear "imbalance of terror" in Asia (76- pressured Johnson to expand the war
79). In the Korean War and aftermath (141-44). The Gulf of Tonkin incident
the U.S. was prepared to use nuclear never occurred (144-45). Escalation
weapons (79-84). The U.S. used nuclear (145-48). The U.S. threatened to use
blackmail to force China to back down in nuclear weapons at Khe Sanh (148-53).
1955 and 1958 (84-89). China's bomb Nixon's Vietnam policy (153-57).
(89-91). In a classic move of Realpolitik, Operation Duck Hook in the fall of 1969
the U.S. made China its tacit ally in the included 29 days of Defcon 1 readiness
1970s (91-92). and a secret nuclear threat against the
USSR (157-62). Nixon blamed the peace
Ch. 4: The Cuban Missile Crisis— movement (162-63). Nuclear weapons
Prestige, Credibility, and Power. In considered during the peace negotiations
the standoff over Cuba, the U.S. and (163-66).
USSR were on the brink of a war that
could have killed 200m people in the first Ch. 6: The Middle East: Monopolizing
hour and 500m overall (93-96). "The Prize." The U.S. considers the
Background on Cuba (96-100). The Middle East "the geopolitical center of
Cuban crisis occurred because the USSR the struggle for world power" (167). Oil
is central (168-69). By mid-1950s the 36). Clinton threatened Libya with
U.S. had established a special nuclear attack in 1996 (236-39).
relationship with Saudi Arabia,
negotiated a Tripartite Agreement with Ch. 8: "Romance of Ruthlessness"—
Britain and France, integrated Greece Seven Minutes to Midnight. In the
and Turkey into NATO, devised bilateral early 21st century the risk of nuclear war
agreements involving Iraq, Pakistan, and has increased (240-41).
Iran, and worked with Big Oil and Israel Neoconservatism (241-44). The Nuclear
(169-72). The 1956 Suez Crisis advanced Posture Review in December 2001
U.S. dominance (173-78). The U.S. emphasized nuclear first strike
invoked nuclear weapons when capabilities and urged the development
intervening in the Lebanese civil war in of more usable nuclear weapons and
1958 (178-83). The Six-Day War ended preparations for resumption of testing
with a U.S. nuclear threat against the (244). In 2005 the Pentagon released
USSR (183-95). A nuclear threat shielded and then rescinded its "Doctrine for Joint
Jordan's "Black September" attack on the Nuclear Operations," which emphasized
PLO in 1970 (195-97). With Nixon too the unpredictability of when the U.S.
distraught to be consulted, Kissinger would use nuclear weapons (245-46).
convened an NSC meeting that invoked a The 2002 National Security Statement
nuclear threat to protect Israel in the (246-48). The U.S.'s priority with respect
October 1973 war (197-203). During the to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
Carter administration the U.S. moved to was "to preserve the existing hierarchy
deploy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, of nuclear terrorism" (248; 248-50). In
doubled the number of warheads the Iraq war, the U.S. threatened nuclear
targeting the USSR, and proclaimed the war (250-53). With respect to North
Carter Doctrine (protect access to the Korea, the Bush administration chose
Persian Gulf "by any means necessary") confrontation (254-62).
(203-06).
Ch. 9: Abolition or Annihilation.
Ch. 7: Nukes and the New World Humanity faces an "existential plight"
Order—What We Say Goes. The end (263; 263-64). The injustice of U.S.
of the Cold War actually increased the nuclear dominance ensures that
chances of nuclear war, though it did proliferation will occur if there is not
lessen the chances of a global cataclysm abolition (265-67). A review of arms
(207-09). Nuclear dimensions of the control agreements (267-71). The
1990-1991 Gulf War included an explicit revitalization of abolition movements, in
threat to respond to chemical weapons which the Japanese movement is central,
with tactical nuclear weapons (211-18). especially Gensuikyo, and which has
Clinton remained committed to nuclear enlisted many of the national security
blackmail (218-20). Aggressive counter élite, e.g. Paul Nitze (271-85).
proliferation policy is designed to Exhortation (285-90).
maintain U.S. hegemony (220-22).
Nuclear doctrine demonstrated U.S. Notes. 38 pp.
reliance on nuclear weapons (223-24).
The U.S. view of international Selected Bibliography. 184 books.
negotiations on nuclear matters is cynical
(224). The aim: "full spectrum About the Author. Joseph Gerson is
dominance" (225). Carter defuses North Director of Programs of the American
Korean crisis in 1994 (225-32). Friends Service Committee in New
Confrontation with China in 1996 (232- England and the editor of The Deadly
Connection: Nuclear War & U.S.
Interventions (1986), the coeditor of The years his antiwar work has focused on
Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. He has
of Foreign U.S. Military Bases (1991) and lectured internationally and at more than
the author of With Hiroshima Eyes: 70 American colleges and universities.
Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion, and Moral He helped launch the "No U.S. Bases"
Imagination (1995) and The Politics and network, which includes more than 100
Geopolitics of "Missile Defenses" (2001). organizations in 40 countries. He lives in
Cambridge, MA. Videos of his talks are
[Additional information. Joseph available on YouTube.]
Gerson has been involved in peace and
justice movements since the mid-1960s. [Critique. Empire and the Bomb
He holds an undergraduate degree from convincingly makes an appalling
Georgetown University's School of argument: that in the post-WWII period
Foreign Service (1968) and completed a U.S. foreign policy has relied on nuclear
Ph.D. in Politics and International terrorism. Empire and the Bomb is well-
Security Studies at the Union Institute documented and presents clear
and College in 1995. He was a Vietnam- conclusions in an lucid, workmanlike
era draft resister, and worked at the War style that, given the horror of his subject
Resisters' International in London and matter, possesses a terse and sometimes
Brussels. He helped launch the nuclear eloquent sobriety.]
freeze movement in the 1980s. In recent