Does the Iranian Government Have a Right to a Nuclear Bomb?

As Reuters reported last week, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has confirmed that while the Iranian government is still enriching uranium at an increasing rate, there is no evidence of a weapons program under development.  Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still maintains that the nuclear program is entirely peaceful.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, senior Obama administration officials say the 2007 intelligence report which confirmed that Iran’s government put a stop to its efforts to create a nuclear bomb in 2003 is still accurate.  Just last February, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also confirmed that the government is not pursuing a weapons program.

The nonexistence of a nuclear weapons program hasn’t stopped the neoconservatives in Congress and the press or the Obama administration from denouncing Iran publicly in the name of American hegemony.  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney remains willing and eager to use military force to halt the country’s nuclear development.  At a speech before the Veterans of Foreign War convention in July, Romney called the prospect of Iran having a nuclear weapon the greatest “danger in the world today” and castigated President Obama for not doing more to stop the continuing enrichment.  The Obama administration hasn’t been sitting idly by however when it comes to Iran.  Under pressure from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, perhaps the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, Obama signed into law the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act in July which would give “a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer” to Israel “to maintain its qualitative military edge” according to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi.  With Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing a game of nuclear blackmail with the White House in an effort to goad Obama into launching a preemptive attack on Iran, U.S. National Security Director Tom Dinilon reportedly presented an attack plan to the war-ready Netanyahu recently.

Should Netanyahu pull the trigger and strike Iran before the U.S. elections as he is rumored to be determined to do, it is highly likely that both President Obama and the U.S. Congress will come to the rescue by ordering the deployment of the military.  The Israeli news source Yediot Ahronoth recently reported that the White House told the Iranian government they would not assist in an Israeli strike if American interests were let be in the Persian Gulf yet the Obama administration has denied the allegation.  The U.S. military literally has the country surrounded with bases; as if already prepared for a full blown assault.  A campaign in Iran will be added to the lengthy list of Middle East excursions this decade that include Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya.  The drums for war are indeed being pounded upon not by the general public but by well-connected interest groups looking to profit from bloodshed.

The United States isn’t the only country whose leaders are opposed to Iran’s government possessing nuclear arms.  The European Union’s embargo of Iran’s oil exporters came into effect on July 1st in an effort to curb the nuclear program.  In fact, many Western nations including Canada and Japan have colluded to ban their citizens from doing business in Iran.  Following the U.S.’s lead, it has been decided by the power players in the international community that Iran is not allowed to have nuclear arms.

The idea that the U.S. government should be the sole decider of what governments are allowed to own what weapons is demonstrative of the hegemonic desires of the ruling establishment.  It is automatically assumed that because the government of Iran refuses to bow down to the American empire, it should be stripped of its sovereignty.  There is no consideration of the question at the heart of the matter:  should people have the right to own nuclear weapons in a free society?

It is certainly not outside the bounds of moral considerations to agree that people should have the right to defend themselves from harm’s way or if they feel genuinely threatened.  This includes the right to own small arms for defensive purposes.  Denying someone the right to own arms is denying them the right to protect their own life.  In the context of violent behavior, the act of simply owning a firearm or weapon in no way constitutes a threat towards another.  In a society where property rights are respected and upheld, gun control is a coercive intrusion into peaceful living.

But does the notion that man has a natural right to own the means to protect his life apply to nuclear weapons?

At first glance it may appear so since the mere possessing of a nuclear bomb does not constitute a threat toward anyone.  There is a clear difference between owning a gun and a thermonuclear device however.  As Murray Rothbard explains:

…while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes, but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear weapons, even ‘conventional’ aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction.

Nuclear weapons are bound to kill innocents just because the radius of damage is so encompassing.  Since they can’t be pinpointed, nuclear weaponry can’t be used purely for defensive purposes on Earth.  The only plausible scenario for the justified stockpiling of a nuclear bomb is if there exists a threat beyond Earth.  Economist Walter Block calls this the proportionality thesis.  Because the universe is conceivably wide enough where the setting off of a nuclear device may not harm an innocent person, ownership of an atom bomb can be permissible.

Nuclear weaponry has only one function; the annihilation of vast amounts of people and property.  There is no other use.  In a free society on Earth (which is thus far the only planet known to have the resources to sustain rational beings like humans) there would be no need for anyone to own nuclear arms.  For the state that operates off of the power-lusting of its controllers, the incentives change.  Through educational indoctrination and media propaganda the nation-state becomes synonymous with its inhabitants.   Americans, Canadians, Brits, etc., are affiliated with their government even when certain atrocities are committed solely by individuals of authority.  This mistaken identify provides the perfect cover for the various political classes to scheme for further power grabs.  Wars between states are often fought not for the defense of the citizenry but for other motives outside of protecting life.  They are neither an economic stimulant nor a dignified crusade; they are destructive and horrifying.  War is really mass murder financed through violent means; both of which are unlawful under natural law.  Ultimately it is the various minions of the state seeking national glory and resources located in the jurisdiction of another nation-state who conduct war.

For the U.S. government to even begin to lecture Iran’s on whether or not it should have the right to develop a nuclear weapon ignores the very fact that it remains the one and only government on the planet to ever used the atom bomb to exterminate hundreds of thousands human beings.  American school children are often told that the use of the nuke was necessary to save the troops who were going to invade Japan during World War II even though such an explanation is dubious.  As John V. Denson points out, President Truman kept to a policy of no-surrender even while the Japanese government was willing to admit defeat as long as the emperor could remain in power.  The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were carried out as a demonstration of force to the Russians.  Many of his advisers, including General Eisenhower, had pressured him to not go ahead with the nuking but Truman would have none of it.  Establishing the United States government as a supreme world power was more important than the lives of innocent women and children.

It should also be noted that while it is widely believed that Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, threatened to wipe the nation of Israel “off the map,” this was a mistranslation.  On October 25, 2005, Ahmadinejad reportedly gave a speech titled “The World Without Zionism” in which he supposedly uttered the infamous remark.  But as Arash Norouzi, co-founder of the Mossadegh Project, explains, the words “Israel,” “map,” and “wipe out” were never actually uttered.

So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:

“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”

That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word “regime.” pronounced just like the English word with an extra “eh” sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase “rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods” (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want “wiped from the map”? The answer is: nothing.

None of this is to say that Iran’s government is filled with respectable men trying to do what is best for Iranians.  It has its own history of brutal murders and political suppression.  This despicable behavior is not an excuse to distort facts however.  As history has shown, campaigns of misinformation are often orchestrated to make way for war.  And unfortunately for Americans and Iranians alike, war may very well be on the horizon.

The heightening tension between the United States government and Iran’s is based off of the fallacious notion that nuclear weapons have a legitimate purpose outside of killing enormous amounts of people.  Yet they have no other real purpose in the end.  Governments possess nuclear weaponry because there is little recourse for state-sanctioned murder.  The millions of innocent lives that stand to be vanquished off the face of the Earth have little meaning to the power-tripping political elite.  So while the Iranian government’s pursuance of nuclear weapons should be condemned, the United States government, the Israeli government, and others capable of waging nuclear war are in no place to criticize.

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13 Responses to “Does the Iranian Government Have a Right to a Nuclear Bomb?”

  1. Justaguest says:

    While I agree with the point of the article, it and some commenters reference millions nuked by the US. I have always heard closer to 200K to 400K. I am ignorant to the facts or are you alleging that the commonly quoted historical numbers are inaccurate by at least 10x?

    • bradbrzezinski says:

      You are correct and your observation should be warning you that agreeing with the article puts you in dubious company.

      • Justaguest says:

        While I unfortunately do not have time discuss the merits of their arguments, I never assume that someone is wrong about everything just because they are wrong about something. It is certainly plausible that the writer mentions millions because they are mistakenly associating the amount of people killed in the Holocaust with the amount of people killed in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    • James E. Miller says:

      Justaguest,

      Yes, you are correct. I misread the figure and adjusted. It was sloppy comprehension on my part.

  2. alex parkhurst says:

    Let's assume Iran is run by fanatics. Let's assume they believe, as Rafsanjani has said, that Israel is a one bomb country, but they drop three instead to make sure in a triangle between Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. At that point if you model nuclear exchanges and map them, Israel is finished. Israel has four Dolphin subs with nuclear cruise missiles with a fifth just finsihed in Germany.

    OK, your country is toast. Do you retaliate by killing a few million Iranians. Too late – Iran has already won.

    Israel only has one choice.

    Iran is making a mistake in my opinion. They are threatening the only people on earth who recently have been purposely threatened with annihilation. Herr Hitler gave the Jews a history lesson they will not forget. Iran is choosing the wrong folks to threaten.

    Game Theory suggests Israel only has one option. Will they move first?

  3. rodomarko says:

    I agree that everyone has the same rights.like also having nuclear weapons.
    would you have given Hitler this same rights?
    what happens if a schizophrenic regime wants the same rights.would you give it to them?
    there is a moral issue.although I am an israeli, I want to tell you that about 37% of israelis are AGAINST an attack against Iran.Today even there was a group shouting against this same matter in front of the Defense Ministry.
    If there was a real Democratic Iran I would also be in favour of Iran having a Bomb.Everyone should have one according to you.One Happy world would ensue this way.Pakistan has one and Israel never thought of attacking Pakistan.What do you say about this?!

  4. bradbrzezinski says:

    “The United States isn’t the only country whose leaders are opposed to Iran’s government possessing nuclear arms. The European Union ………, many Western nations including Canada and Japan …….”

    There is the noticeable lack of admission that Sunni Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are terrified of the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran. Omitting this data makes it seem that Western nations are acting on a whim whereas they are interested in world stability as well as self-preservation.

  5. Roger says:

    Excellent article. I particularly like the observation that "For the state that operates off of the power-lusting of its controllers, the incentives change. Through educational indoctrination and media propaganda the nation-state becomes synonymous with its inhabitants…. This mistaken identify provides the perfect cover for the various political classes to scheme for further power grabs."

    Well said. Those that lust after power are naturally inclined to lust after nuclear weapons. After all, power is power.

  6. Ian Nunn says:

    In actuality, a right is a permission granted by an authority that has the power to deny the activity sought. So the question is really who has the power to deny Iranians nuclear weapons? If the answer is no power, then the question of a right is irrelevant. If the answer is a specific power then the answer is what has that specific power granted? Any other consideration is philosophical irrelevance.

  7. Aristides says:

    A review of experts found that 2/3 believe that a nuclear Iran would behave rationally (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/iran-is-too-rational-to-attack-israel-1.402481)

    This sentiment has also been shared by various top commanders in the Israeli and American military/intelligence communities, including General Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Former Mossad Chief, Meir Dagan (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/153590) and current Mossad Chief, Tamir Pardo (http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/mossad-chief-nuclear-iran-not-necessarily-existential-threat-to-israel-1.404227)

  8. Amagi says:

    No they don't. They have shown themselves to to be irresponsible with power, threatening bullying their neighbors. Getting a bomb would only accentuate this behavior.

    • Amagi,

      As I pointed out, Iran has made no direct threat to the Israeli people. That is an overblown myth. Secondly, Iran's government has never nuke millions of innocent lives to death like the U.S.'s. The charges you bring against Iran could easily be applied to the U.S. tenfold.

      • bradbrzezinski says:

        The "wipe off the map" translation was defended by Reuters AND by the BBC as conveying an accurate representation of the import of Ahmadenijad’s speech. Iranian government English websites used the same translation. The incident caused Iranian ambassadors to be hauled onto the carpet in many countries; it was a big deal and the Iranian government could have issued a clarifying statement if they meant something else.

        However, what really exposes the disingenuous nature of this argument is that Iran has made many threats. Former president Rafsanjani in 2001 specifically referenced destroying Israel with nuclear weapons, even adding that any retaliation would only damage the Islamic world but it would destroy Israel because of its small size. Ahmadenijad appears at the UN spouting antisemitic rhetoric and uses the same kind of terminology to refer to Israel that the Nazis did for the Jews. In the past year or so, Iran issued statements about every week, referring to the disappearance of Israel.

        People like you then argue that because there is an artificially manufactured dispute over the translation of one speech, there is no threat. What makes it stupid is that Iran is actually threatening the West. (Examine the content and symbolism used in these speeches and in military displays and it becomes clear.)

        Just like Hitler’s antisemitism served to mask the greater evil intent of the Third Reich, Iran’s focus on Israel is a diversion from their greater, heinous aspirations.

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