Paperback, Books Talks — and Iraq

I just returned — totally energized — from a series of talks in southern New Hampshire and Vermont to coincide with the release of the paperback edition of In Mortal Hands. It’s heartening to see people at a local level genuinely concerned about the big nuclear issues of our day. If what I said was eye opening to my audiences, listener comments were equally eye opening for me — and I want to hear more from all of you! What I think a lot of people realized is that the nuclear narrative as conveyed by Washington and the mainstream media is misleading a lot of people.

A case in point: Iraq. It’s interesting that Tony Blair in his new book says that he is convinced that had Saddam Hussein remained in power he would have tried for a nuclear weapon. He’s probably right. That doesn’t absolve him or former President George W. Bush of the deaths of at least 100,000 Iraqis and 4,400 soldiers (and thousands more injured) in a war started under false pretenses. At the same time, it is worth remembering that the seeds of the conflict are rooted in a failed nonproliferation policy dating back to the early 1980s. During the whole of that decade the US and its European allies turned a blind eye to dozens of exporters who sold Saddam suspect nuclear technology — and the International Atomic Energy Agency gave Iraq a clean bill of health year after year. Nonproliferation goals took a back seat to larger geopolitical purposes (the “tilt” toward Iraq and against Iran) and commercial interests.

The same dynamic is still at work today. Hence nuclear exporters are stumbling over each other in a mad rush to sell to countries in Asia and the Middle East (where concerns about the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs are providing justifiable anxieties), providing the expertise and technology that might someday be converted into clandestine nuclear programs, as was the case with Iraq.

The proliferation problem was only one topic we talked about in Hancock, Peterborough and Brattleboro. People in Vermont are very worried about a leaking reactor in their state, and the folks in Hancock and Peterborough were asking questions about emergency preparedness. Let’s hear more of your concerns and questions!

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