Revolution#109, November 18, 2007

Who REALLY Holds the People of the World Nuclear Hostage?
Why a U.S. Attack on Iran Must be Stopped

In his infamous “Axis of Evil” 2002 State of the Union address, Bush put Iraq and Iran in the bullseye of the next phase of the “war on terror.” He outlined what were to become the whole set of concocted lies about Iraq’s “WMDs”—lies used to justify a war that has brought about—according to documented estimates—over a million deaths and created four million internal and external refugees.

And now, Iran is in the crosshairs. In one possible scenario, Dick Cheney is reported to be cooking up plans for Israel to attack Iran, and then for the U.S. to dive into the war when Iran counter-attacks. Massive U.S. naval power off the coast of Iran puts the U.S. in position to attack at any time. The White House is demanding $88 million to modify B-2 Stealth bombers to carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bunker-buster bomb—very possibly for use in a war on Iran.

Central to the “case for war,” on October 17, Bush said, “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War 3, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”

In the face of all this, there is far too little resistance to the danger of a U.S. attack on Iran. Perhaps, even among people who are appalled by the death, destruction, and torture the U.S. has brought to Iraq and Afghanistan, there is confusion about the danger posed by Iran’s reactionary rulers acquiring nuclear weapons, and threatening the world with nuclear war.

In this article, we will examine why in fact, if you are concerned about the danger of nuclear war, right now the most urgent and essential thing you need to be doing is joining with others to politically, and massively oppose a U.S. military attack on Iran in any form.

Who Holds the People of the World as Nuclear Hostages?

Iran has a nuclear development program, which has the potential to, at some point, provide them with the technology to make nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons proliferating in a highly unstable region are indeed a threat to the entire planet, and nuclear weapons in the hands of reactionary mullahs—are not in the interests of the people of Iran, just as nukes in Pakistan and India are not in the interests of the people there or anywhere.

But by far the greatest and most imminent danger of the use of nuclear weapons, including in the Middle East, is coming from the United States.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever used nukes. The post-war era of U.S. imperialist domination, based on the outcome of World War 2, was “ushered in” and announced in part by the U.S. annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs. That massacre of 200,000 people defined the role of “the bomb” in U.S. global power.

Today, the United States has 10,000 nuclear weapons. Greenpeace points out, “While the prospect of an all out exchange of arsenals between Russia and the U.S. has receded, the 15 kilotons of destruction that obliterated Hiroshima could today be accomplished with a lunch-box sized bomb. George Bush talks openly of developing new ‘more useable’ nuclear weapons. Even more alarmingly, the administration continues to seek approval for a programme geared toward designing more robust, more ‘usable’ nuclear weapons.”

The United States deploys 480 nuclear weapons in Europe. These weapons are not rotting remnants of the “cold war.” They are up-to-date, ready-to-fire weapons of horrific mass destruction that are built into U.S. war planning doctrine—including neutralizing Russia’s nuclear strike capacity. So not only does the U.S. have 10,000 nukes—they’ve also given themselves the right to use them in a “pre-emptive” attack.

Regime Change Disguised as Disarmament

In his book Target Iran, former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter writes that the WMD hoax that justified the Iraq war is “being replayed, with American policy objectives once again being hidden behind a veil of deceit, with regime change disguised as disarmament.” (page xix)

Iran has repeatedly sought deals to develop a nuclear program that would be acceptable to the world’s imperialist powers. Former U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith wrote: “In May 2003, the Iranian authorities sent a proposal through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, for negotiations on a package deal in which Iran would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for an end to U.S. hostility. The Iranian paper offered ‘full transparency for security that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD [and] full cooperation with the IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments.’ The Iranians also offered support for ‘the establishment of democratic institutions and a non-religious government’ in Iraq; full cooperation against terrorists (including ‘above all, al-Qaeda’); and an end to material support to Palestinian groups like Hamas. In return, the Iranians asked that their country not be on the terrorism list or designated part of the ‘axis of evil’; that all sanctions end; that the U.S. support Iran’s claims for reparations for the Iran-Iraq War as part of the overall settlement of the Iraqi debt; that they have access to peaceful nuclear technology; and that the U.S. pursue anti-Iranian terrorists...” (“The Victor?” by Peter Galbraith, New York Review of Books, October 11, 2007)

The response to Iran’s proposal? According to Flynt L. Leverett, who served in senior posts at the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency, “[T]he formal response of the administration to this was to complain to the Swiss foreign ministry that the Swiss ambassador in Tehran was exceeding his brief by talking with Iranians about a paper like this and passing it on.”

U.S. accusations of Iranian violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) cover for and justify a strategic drive for regime change in Iran, with war an “option on the table.” The rulers of this country perceive a need to radically re-configure the Middle East, to crush or bring under their control Islamic fundamentalist forces. In the pages of Revolution, we have addressed and analyzed the factors behind that (for a comprehensive overview, see Bringing Forward Another Way by Bob Avakian at The “debacle” in Iraq—as the U.S. rulers see it—has upped the ante for the U.S. in the Middle East. It is this agenda of radical transformation of the Middle East in the service of U.S. empire that is driving the U.S., not some concern over the danger of nuclear war.

Getting to a World Without Nukes

Nuclear weapons enforce a world dominated by imperialism. And imperialist powers use their nuclear arsenals to contend over “their share” of world domination.

Imperialism is a system where huge monopolies and financial institutions control the economy and political system—not just in one country but all over the world. Imperialism means that capitalist exploiters oppress billions of people all over the earth. And it means war. War that puts down resistance and rebellion of the oppressed.  War between rival imperialist states.

In an article titled, “If You Want to Understand the Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism and the ‘War on Terror,’ You Need to Know:” we wrote:

“[A]fter World War 2, with the weakening of other colonial powers, on both the winning and losing sides in that war, the U.S. moved to bring vast amounts of territory under its domination, in the form of ‘neo-colonialism,’ effectively controlling and robbing countries throughout the Third World, with terrible consequences for billions of people, even while those countries were nominally ‘independent.’ Where they stood in the way of this domination and exploitation by the U.S., governments throughout the Third World, including popularly elected (and more or less secular) governments, were overthrown through bloody coups engineered and led by the CIA—for example, in Iran in 1953, and Indonesia in 1965—and brutally oppressive regimes, subservient to the U.S., were installed and kept in power for decades.” (Revolution #105, October 21, 2007)

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has targeted and attacked reactionary regimes that are not sufficiently compliant to the imperialists, or who present a challenge to the domination of U.S. imperialism. This is guided not by any altruistic concern that these regimes “oppress their own people” (countless U.S. client states viciously oppress their own people), but by the same drive to dominate the world.

Iran’s nuclear program is both a response to U.S. threats and a vehicle to advance Iran’s regional ambitions. The development of Iran’s nuclear program has the potential to tip the regional balance of forces in the Middle East in Iran’s favor, against unpopular U.S. client regimes. And, to challenge the regional monopoly of nukes in the hands of the U.S. and Israel—which sits in the middle of all this with 400 nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems. In response to Iran’s program, several U.S.-backed regimes in the Middle East are reported to be developing their own nuclear programs. As the U.S. empire aggressively pursues its agenda, this strengthens reactionary Islamic forces and their race to bolster their aspirations.

From both sides of this clash between McWorld vs. Jihad, there is nothing positive for the people. If you do support one side in this clash, you end up supporting the whole reactionary dynamic. And it is up to us to bring forward something completely different.

The vast and highly sophisticated technology and production capacity that exists today is a result of the collective labor of millions of people around the world. And all that could be, and should be used to feed, clothe, and house people, educate them, and unleash them to consciously transform the world in the interests of humanity. The obscenity of a huge amount of the world’s resources going to producing massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons is an extreme expression of the prevailing social relations dominating the world today.

When you confront what imperialism does to people around the world—including the threat of nuclear war—then you need to resist that. And, beyond that, you confront the need for fundamental change to the whole oppressive world order. That fundamental change requires revolution, which can only be made at a time of major societal crisis and can only be the conscious act of millions. Such a revolution in the United States would deal a major blow to the world imperialist system, and lift a huge weight from the backs of the people of the world.

A socialist society would immediately and radically transform the relationship of the United States to the world, from global vampire to a base area for the world revolution. A fundamental goal of that revolution would be to attack what Bob Avakian has called the “lopsidedness” in the world, “In the world today the advanced productive forces are concentrated in a handful of the advanced—that is, imperialist—countries while the economies of most of the countries in the world are not simply backward but distorted, disarticulated in their development because of imperialist domination and plunder.” (See “We Have A World to Win: Bob Avakian on Imperialism and Internationalism,” Revolutionary Worker #1032, November 28, 1999, available at

Bringing Forward a Whole Different Dynamic

Part of the paralyzing dynamic in the world today is that it is in the interests of both sides of the McWorld/Crusade vs. Jihad conflict to tell people that their only choices are one or the other of these oppressive and reactionary poles. But to support one side against the other actually strengthens both.

The president of the United States told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, “God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam.” (“‘Road map is a life saver for us,’ PM Abbas tells Hamas,” Haaretz, by Arnon Regular 06/24/2003) The Islamic Republic of Iran is ruled by obscurantist clerics. This is a very dangerous situation. And U.S. imperialism and Islamic Jihad both oppose and reinforce each other. When the U.S. invades Afghanistan and Iraq, and threatens (and possibly attacks) Iran, this not only strengthens their military hand in the world, but their monstrous ability to exploit and oppress billions. At the same time, in the absence of a powerful real alternative—the Islamic fundamentalists are able to rally people to their banner of obscurantism, oppression, and forms of opposing the U.S. that do not serve a real liberation struggle. When these forces rule, they do not change the feudal oppression people are suffering under or the subordination of their economies into the imperialist division of labor.

What we need is a completely different dynamic worldwide, a dynamic of revolutionary struggle giving the people of the world another way out of this madness. Imperialism is the common enemy of the people of the world. While revolution in every country is a distinct process, communist revolution can only succeed if it aims for a world free of all oppression. Everywhere, people need revolution and state power to be able to change any of this in any fundamental way and to even begin bringing the dream of a world without nuclear weapons into being.

STOPPING a U.S. War on Iran

Yes, the rulers of this country are determined to terrorize the world with their “War on Terror.” We must be more determined to wage political struggle to stop them. The Call from The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime, written in summer 2005, includes the following prescient point: “That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn—or be forced—to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.”

That Call says: “And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.”

This challenge remains urgent and critical. Bush is not acting like a “lame duck.” His lies about Iranian nukes are not in service of disarmament. He is turning up heat on Iran, in the service of U.S. imperial interests. And he is greatly increasing the danger of a profoundly unjust U.S. war on Iran.

Now is no time to sit back and wait to see what will happen in a year or 14 months. Now is a time to act! We in our millions must, and can, take responsibility to change the course of history.

When the Sixties Stopped the Use of Nukes Against Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, in 1969, Richard Nixon and his national security advisor Henry Kissinger seriously considered using nuclear weapons against Vietnam (an option they called “Duck Hook”). An article at the National Security Archive reveals that: “Nixon pulled the plug on the prospective operation sometime between October 2 and October 6 [1969]. …Nixon began to doubt whether he could maintain public support for the three- to six-month period that Duck Hook might require. Another concern was that the three major antiwar demonstrations previously scheduled for October 15 and November 13-15—dates coincidentally bracketing the launch of Duck Hook—might additionally erode public confidence in his leadership, [and] expand into larger demonstrations...” (“Nixon White House Considered Nuclear Options Against North Vietnam...,” edited by William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball.)

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond