Cutting more than daisies
The USA is whipping up the prospect of nuclear war and the destruction of civilisation to justify blasting Afghanistan with the 'world's biggest bomb'.
Speaking over a video link to Eastern European leaders on 6 November, George W Bush warned that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network presented a serious nuclear threat – ‘eventually to civilisation itself’. On the same night, US forces dropped 15,000lb ‘daisy cutter’ fuel-air bombs, which create a blast impact similar to that of a small nuclear weapon.
Not knowing quite what it is doing in this war, the USA is blasting Afghanistan with the ‘world’s biggest bomb’ – then whipping up the prospect of nuclear war and the destruction of civilisation to justify itself.
It is highly unlikely that bin Laden has nuclear weapons – or any way to acquire them. After reviewing the issue, the UK Guardian concluded that there was ‘no evidence’ that bin Laden ‘is close to building his own atomic device’, or has managed to steal one from elsewhere (1). No matter. ‘Now he’s buying nukes’, warned the front page of the Mirror, seemingly buying Bush’s statement that ‘[bin Laden] announced this was his intention, and we need to take him seriously’ (2).
But the USA is looking to gain active involvement from coalition partners. Bush threatened that nations would be held ‘accountable for inactivity’: ‘A coalition partner must do more than express sympathy: a coalition partner must perform. All nations, if they want to fight terrorism, must do something.’
Realising that getting involved in a messy and aimless war is not a compelling prospect for some armchair coalition partners, Bush is trying to frighten them to their feet. For those coalition partners already on their feet, Bush is trying to stabilise their wobbles. ‘These terrorist groups seek to destabilise entire nations and regions’, he threatens.
And given that the USA had apologised for the first handful of bombs dropped on Afghanistan by dropping some lunchboxes at the same time, the invented spectre of nuclear threat also helps the USA to justify its war to itself.
But there is something quite desperate about the escalation of force. Both carpet bombing and the daisy cutter bombs are signs of a directionless war. If you don’t know where your enemies are, or what you want to achieve, you resort to just flattening areas. For example, it is claimed that the daisy cutter bombs are being employed on bin Laden’s tunnel networks – after the USA received new intelligence from the Russians. These bombs flatten a one-mile area: would this be necessary, if the USA knew where the caves were?
Riddled with uncertainty about what it is trying to achieve in this war and how to achieve it, the USA is lashing out wildly. This is a dangerous dynamic indeed, with very real consequences for people on the receiving end.
Josie Appleton is speaking at the spiked conference After 11 September: Fear and Loathing in the West, on Sunday 26 May at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. See here for full details.
spiked-issues: Attack on USA
(1) Guardian, 7 November 2001
(2) Mirror, 7 November 2001
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.