Art is a rehearsal for eventuality. A poem told by the campfire, some old blind man recounting the tale of the siege of Troy, a story rhythmic and vivid, prepares us for life as we might experience it ourselves in coming time. We can pick and choose and sort out the men we want to be from the panoply of characters in a play, find our soul-mates in the past, live as they lived, and die as they died. When I first heard the story of the Iliad I wanted to be the top guy there. And so it was in Sunday school when I heard the story of Cain and Abel: I wanted to be God. But as time passed, I realized the best I could do in this Earthly existence is be the best me I can fake well enough to fool some girls into loving me at least briefly. I should have settled for being a hero. I should have paid more attention to the narratives of our lives. I want to correct past failings here. Let's look briefly at the cosmic struggles of our time and see what they say to us and where we might fit in realistically.
We talk about things that we hope to do, and we talk about the things we hope we've done. We go to plays and movies and watch dramas on television. We do these things to rehearse our responses to the future possible, to clear the way for whatever might befall us. To prepare ourselves for it we talk about death.
The stories below are both about death, and they are both preparatory for us. They both speak the unspeakable, they tell stories of nuclear war against our enemies.
The first story comes as a reaction from Muslims against an American congressman who raises the idea of nuclear assault on Mecca in retaliation for an attack on us. Unsurprisingly, Muslims think it's a bad idea to melt Mecca. They seem not too concerned that Islam is likely to provoke such a response, only that such a response would end up destroying one of their preferred religious sites. Muslims don't often bother to mention that they urge the destruction of the modern world and its replacement with a 7th century caliphate; dhimmis like us, if we aren't killed, being enslaved and made to live only to provide our new Muslim masters with jizya, the survival tax. Tancredo spoke the unspeakable. Having done that we can all get nervous in public. We'll follow in the steps of our nervous Muslim cousins.
Four years and a day after Muslims destroyed much of the Pentagon, the Pentagon is in the news with a story about using nuclear weapons against our enemies. The unspeakable is becoming quite articulate. We've excerpted below some paragraphs from that longer essay.
We aren't likely to act on a plan we haven't aired in public. Public societies, such as those in the West, need time to rehearse their reactions to public ventures. We talk things over, mull them in our collective national minds, and sometimes we think better of our ideas and go on to others. We don't react impulsively. Ours is a rationalistic society, whether Sweden or New Zealand. And here we are, our leaders talking about nuclear war on our enemies.
America, for all the farcical grunting, the chest-pounding histrionics and hair-pulling theatrics people perform at the mention of its name, America is not a militarily aggressive nation. But we have dropped the Big One. Twice. And now there's talk of it again. If America gets a good case of war fever, we could flatten the whole world in an hour, and no one can stop us.
So this debate is among us. No one else really matters. This is the time when we talk and listen and decide what role we will play in whatever eventuality comes to fruition. I want to be the president this time. Our mates here have chimed in that they want to be the ones pushing the buttons. But the fact is that to even write about this means the debate has now begun in earnest, and we are preparing ourselves for an eventuality that was almost impossibly remote even yesterday.
Congressman Tancredo Advocates Preemtive Nuclear Strike on Mecca
July 18, 2005, Washington, DC -
In a radio interview last Thursday, July 14, Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) advocated the United States preemptively strike Mecca with nuclear weapons. The Colorado Congressman's made his comments on the Pat Campbell Radio Show (AM 540) in response to Campbell's statement that terrorists are seeking the means to attack the United States with a dirty bomb. Tancredo suggested that a preemptive attack on Mecca would be enough of a threat to make terrorists think twice about attacking the United States again. Listen to his comments here:
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is alarmed at Congressman Tancredo's comments advocating an attack on Mecca. It is irresponsible for a member of the United States Congress to advocate destroying the holy site of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims with a nuclear weapon. For good reason members of Congress and the Administration have expressed deep concern at the negative effects of hateful rhetoric directed against the United States in some elements of the Arab and Muslim worlds. But we must also be keenly aware of the damaging and irrational rhetoric against Arabs and Islam expressed by members of Congress, the Administration, and the media.
Statements by members of Congress, just like the legislation they pass, are closely followed around the world. Tancredo's remarks will be widely distributed by media outlets throughout the world and will be seen as representative of the views of the United States government. At a time when the United States is asking religious tolerance of others shouldn't others expect the same from the United States?
This incident is all the more inexplicable as just last week, on July 14, Congressman Tancredo expressed extreme disapproval at a Chinese government official for his remarks regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Tancredo said "For a senior government official to exhibit such tremendous stupidity by making such a brazen threat is hardly characteristic of a modern nation." For more information, see:
In a letter faxed to Congressman Tancredo today, former congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar, ADC President said, "While we must do all that we can to find terrorists and end their means to strike again, advocating for a nuclear attack against a holy place revered by the world's 1.2 billion followers of Islam is completely unacceptable and contrary to American values and tradition of freedom and tolerance of religion." Oakar said, "These remarks have no place in the United States Congress."
ADC demands Congressman Tancredo provide an immediate and public explanation for his remarks. We urge ADC members, supporters, and friends to contact the congressman and request a clarification and apology. Additionally, ADC asks Members of Congress and the Bush Administration to denounce Congressman's Tancredo's comments and to clarify that dropping a nuclear bomb on Mecca is not part of the United States policy to win the war on terrorism.
Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan
Strategy Includes Preemptive Use Against Banned Weapons
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 11, 2005; A01
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.
At a White House briefing that year, a spokesman said the United States would "respond with overwhelming force" to the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, its forces or allies, and said "all options" would be available to the president.
The draft, dated March 15, would provide authoritative guidance for commanders to request presidential approval for using nuclear weapons, and represents the Pentagon's first attempt to revise procedures to reflect the Bush preemption doctrine. A previous version, completed in 1995 during the Clinton administration, contains no mention of using nuclear weapons preemptively or specifically against threats from weapons of mass destruction.
Titled "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" and written under the direction of Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the draft document is unclassified and available on a Pentagon Web site. It is expected to be signed within a few weeks by Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, director of the Joint Staff, according to Navy Cmdr. Dawn Cutler, a public affairs officer in Myers's office. Meanwhile, the draft is going through final coordination with the military services, the combatant commanders, Pentagon legal authorities and Rumsfeld's office, Cutler said in a written statement.
The first example for potential nuclear weapon use listed in the draft is against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD" against U.S. or allied, multinational military forces or civilian populations.
Another scenario for a possible nuclear preemptive strike is in case of an "imminent attack from adversary biological weapons that only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy."
The draft document also envisions the use of atomic weapons for "attacks on adversary installations including WMD, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons."
The Joint Staff draft doctrine explains that despite the end of the Cold War, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction "raises the danger of nuclear weapons use." It says that there are "about thirty nations with WMD programs" along with "nonstate actors [terrorists] either independently or as sponsored by an adversarial state."
To meet that situation, the document says that "responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today."
To deter the use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, the Pentagon paper says preparations must be made to use nuclear weapons and show determination to use them "if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use."
The draft says that to deter a potential adversary from using such weapons, that adversary's leadership must "believe the United States has both the ability and will to pre-empt or retaliate promptly with responses that are credible and effective." The draft also notes that U.S. policy in the past has "repeatedly rejected calls for adoption of 'no first use' policy of nuclear weapons since this policy could undermine deterrence."
Hans M. Kristensen, a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who discovered the document on the Pentagon Web site, said yesterday that it "emphasizes the need for a robust nuclear arsenal ready to strike on short notice including new missions."
In spite of our attempts at levity above we do feel that the very fact that nuking our enemies is today part of the public discourse brings such a possibility to our immediate attention in a way that it could not have been without public articulation by members of the governing public. In other words, when the big guy speaks, we listen up quick. We think it's serious. How serious is something we should think about before we declare ourselves of any position at all.