January 27, 2006

A Nuke Is A Nuke Is A Nuke

(revised for clarity 1/27/06. 8:54 a.m.)


Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the Administration’s daily drum beat of WMD hysteria leading up to the Iraq Fiasco War.  I could just be perseverating, but it feels like the same crazy-making is building again in the restive and regular news reports concerning the (so-called?) Iranian nuclear crisis.

So, what makes this story pertinent to The BAG?  Well, in this campaign, the boogeyman happens to have his own icon.

One reason it wasn’t easy to sell the world on the “clear and imminent danger” of Saddam’s WMD (besides the fact he didn’t have any) was because BushCo. lacked good visual aids.  Not this time.  Just look at that beautiful dome-topped tower of death.  And to think, all it takes is just one press briefing by some Administration functionary concerning wayward isotopes and the media is falling all over itself to push a containment vessel in your face.


When I saw the world’s most infamous hot water heater — Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor — pop up again in last week’s LA Times, I just thought “it’s enough with the visual incitement.”  And wouldn’t you know, as soon as I thought that, there was the icon on a satellite pic on YahooNews, and there it was in an illustration on the cover of The Week, and there it was on the side panel of my milk carton.

(Well, maybe not on the milk carton.)

Anyway, I’m not a scientist.  I don’t even pretend to fully understand the true risks of an Iranian weapons program.  But I do know about visual conditioning.  And there are a few key pieces of information I see floating around which might otherwise lend some temporal and factual context to the rise of the drum beat.  For example, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of armscontrolwonk.com (who has been guest blogging about Iran and the bomb at Wampum), Iran is still probably at least a decade away from producing a nuclear weapon.  Also (and this is perhaps why these fear-inducing file photos drive me crazy), the Council on Foreign Relations points out in a beginners FAQ that there is not much connection — physical or otherwise — between a commercial nuclear reactor (which produces “commercial grade” uranium or plutonium), and some research facility somewhere, which is concerned with the more explosive stuff.


(The always “viscerally unnerving” satellite map.  Bushehr commercial nuclear reactor facility.)

But then, we live in a country where the average knowledge of geography barely extends beyond the lower 48, and an Arab is, well, just an Arab — if not also a Muslim.  That being the general level of sophistication, who would even care that this highly photogenic commercial reactor is in Bushehr while Iran’s bomb making lab is actually tucked away in Esfahan.  Or that, ever since Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, just the sight of a nuke plant induces some instant and automatic association with apocalypse.

What I really do care about, however, is how much ever-more-dangerous highly enriched “political-grade” propaganda is being engineered at the White House for consumption by people who are already visually convinced that a nuke is a nuke is a nuke.

(image credits to follow)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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