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Empire & the Bomb

How the US uses nuclear weapons to dominate the world
By Joseph Gerson. Published 31st May by Pluto Press

In this book Joseph Gerson has done a great service to the international movement for peace. He provides a timely reminder of the central role that nuclear weapons play in power politics yesterday and today.

He describes how the United States developed the first atom bombs and used them against two Japanese cities at a time when Japan was already suing for peace.

He describes the changing nuances of American policy through the Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and Bush doctrines, but one thing always remained constant. Nuclear weapons remained the ‘cornerstone’ of US foreign policy.

He argues that preserving empire, not deterrence has been the primary purpose of the US nuclear arsenal and that the United States has threatened to use these weapons in order to get its own way on no less than 30 occasions since the Second World War. Well known are the close encounters of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the Berlin crisis of 1961.

Less well known, are the threats to annihilate North Korea and lay waste parts of China and the Soviet Union over the Korean War in 1952, the astonishing offer of 2 atom bombs to France in 1954 to break the Vietnamese siege at Dien Bien Phu, the threats to attack North Vietnam on several occasions, the threats to use nuclear bombs during Middle East wars and President Carter’s threat to use ‘any means necessary’ to retain control of the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

More recently the nuclear threshhold has been lowered by developing more usable nukes, and nuclear attacks have been prepared and threatened against Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Russia and China.

Prior to the 1991 war on Iraq, General Norman Schwarzkopf proposed that tactical nuclear weapons be used against Iraqi targets. And less than a year ago, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh authoritatively asserted that the Pentagon was planning to use nuclear weapons to destroy underground targets in a pre-emptive attack on Iran - a report which has not been contradicted by the Bush administration.

It’s not just the direct threat of nuclear attack, but it’s the strategic cover which America’s nuclear arsenal provides, which enables the United States to carry out conventional actions of aggression, knowing that any attempt resist or intervene will be met by irresistable nuclear force.

Gerson argues that these are the real forces driving nuclear proliferation, that the message learned by others is that only by acquiring nuclear weapons will they be able to protect themselves from nuclear attack. This book is essential reading for any serious peace activist.

Alan Mackinnon

Nuclear Free Scotland Magazine - June 2007

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