The Human Costs of Bombing Iran
By Matthew Rothschild
-- -- George Bush didn’t exactly deny
Seymour Hersh’s report in The New Yorker that the Administration
is considering using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran.
Neither did Scott McClellan.
Bush called it “wild speculation,” and McClellan said the United
States would go ahead with "normal military contingency
Those are hardly categorical denials.
So let’s look at what the human costs of dropping a tactical
nuclear weapon on Iran might entail.
They are astronomical.
“The number of deaths could exceed a million, and the number of people
with increased cancer risks could exceed 10 million,” according
to a backgrounder by the
Union of Concerned Scientists from May 2005.
The National Academy of Sciences studied these
earth-penetrating nuclear weapons last year. They could “kill up
to a million people or more if used in heavily populated areas,”
concluded the report, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department
Physicians for Social Responsibility examined the risks of a
more advanced buster-bunker weapon, and it eerily tabulated the
toll from an attack on the underground nuclear facility in
Esfahan, Iran. “Three million people would be killed by
radiation within two weeks of the explosion, and 35 million
people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, would be exposed to
increased levels of cancer-causing radiation,” according to a
summary of that study in the backgrounder by the Union of
While Congress last year denied funding for a new nuclear
bunker-buster weapon, the Pentagon already has a stockpile of
one such weapon in the arsenal: the B61-Mod11, according to
Stephen Young, a senior analyst at the Federation of the
That the Administration is considering using such a weapon
against Iran is “horrifying and ludicrous,” says Young.
But it is now Bush Administration doctrine to be able to use
such weapons. The new “National Security Strategy of the United
States of America,” which Bush unveiled in March, discusses the
use of nuclear weapons in an offensive way. “Our deterrence
strategy no longer rests primarily on the grim premise of
inflicting devastating consequences on potential foes,” it
states. “Both offenses and defenses are necessary. . . . Safe,
credible, and reliable nuclear forces continue to play a
Even more explicit is the Pentagon’s draft of a revised
doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons, which was revealed by
Walter Pincus of The Washington Post last September.
It envisions using nuclear weapons for “attacks on adversary
installations including WMD, deep hardened bunkers containing
chemical or biological weapons.” It says that the United States
should be prepared to use nuclear weapons “if necessary to
prevent” another country from using WMDs.
This is a mere amplification of the Nuclear Posture Review of
December 31, 2001, which stated: “Nuclear weapons could be
employed against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack
(for example, deep underground bunkers or bio-weapon
If the United States used nuclear weapons against Iran, it would
be violating the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, which
prohibits nations that possess nuclear weapons from dropping
them on nations that don’t.
But in the Bush Administration, planning to do this is just
And a million casualties or more?
For Bush, that is evidently not a disqualification.
© 2005 The Progressive
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