American Hiroshima – the next 9/11?
Chughtai in London
Friday 25 November 2005 10:55 PM GMT
When Australian police announced recently that
eight men arrested on terrorism charges were planning a bomb attack against a
nuclear reactor near Sydney, many security observers elsewhere were not
Officials and analysts in the United States have
been warning that al-Qaida or associated groups are planning such attacks on
Dubbed American Hiroshima, the plan apparently
targets New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Las
Vegas, Boston and Washington, DC.
Former US Defence Secretary William Perry says
there is an even chance of a nuclear attack on the US this decade. Renowned
investor Warren Buffet has predicted "a nuclear terrorist attack ... is
David Dionisi, a former US army intelligence
officer, is convinced that plans for a nuclear attack are under way.
Once a conservative Republican, Dionisi enjoyed
success as a Fortune 500 business executive after leaving the army. But he later
rejected his political beliefs and now advocates peace, social justice and
In his new book, American Hiroshima, Dionisi argues
decades of unjust US foreign policies will be largely to blame for sowing the
seeds of hostility and vengeance which could lead to a nuclear
Aljazeera's Shaheen Chughtai caught up with Dionisi
Dionisi had just flown from Liberia where he helps
run a Catholic orphanage.
Aljazeera.net: You were once a conservative
Republican. What made you change your beliefs?
Dionisi: The transformation was a discovery
process. When I joined the military, I had a very limited view of what the US
was doing around the world. Through my experiences as a military intelligence
officer and later as a business executive doing international volunteer work, I
started to see our foreign policies were often hurting people and making the
world more dangerous.
One of the more dramatic moments in this process
was when I was assigned to a unit focusing on implementing US foreign policy in
central America. I was part of a rapid deployment team designed to go in and
suppress forces working for social justice in places such as Honduras,
Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.
You describe the US public as uninformed - why?
The major media outlets are owned by a handful of
corporations interested in promoting advertising and pro-government messages.
Anything that challenges the existing power structure very often fails to
receive air time. I highlight Fox as an extreme example of the Republican
But when your country is fighting a war, you have
an obligation to understand what's really going on. If you don't, you can become
an agent of injustice. If people can find the time to watch baseball or soccer
etc, they can make an effort to read, travel, talk and not be limited to the
messages of fear.
They also need to understand their history. In
1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented a plan called Operation Northwood,
which is now declassified. It proposed conducting mass casualty attacks on
American targets and blaming it on Cuba to rally public support for war against
Fidel Castro. President Kennedy rejected the plan. So we shouldn't just assume
any future attack on our soil is the work of al-Qaida.
Your book condemns alliances with repressive
regimes. Can't these be justified if they serve a greater cause?
History teaches us that when you form alliances
that promote injustice, you can only expect injustice in the future. Kindness
begets kindness and the inverse is also true.
The US fought the largest secret war in its history
during the 1980s in Afghanistan - over $6bn was funnelled into that war. As a
result, US collaboration with and responsibility for al-Qaida goes well beyond
what most even informed Americans understand.
If you consider that there are over 500 prisoners
in Guantanamo Bay from over 40 countries - though not a single one is from Iraq
- and that the CIA recruited thousands of people from over 40 countries to be
part of that war - none from Iraq - you can better understand how the US played
a direct role in creating what became the Taliban and al-Qaida.
Bush supporters argue the removal of Saddam and the
Taliban was beneficial and therefore justified military action.
That starts from an artificial premise. When the
Bush administration says, "Well, it's great that Saddam's gone," it fails to
acknowledge that Bush's father and President Ronald Reagan were key forces that
helped create Saddam Hussein.
Looking at what happened in 1979 it can put a lot
of this in perspective. As Reagan came into office, the US embassy hostages in
Iran were released after 444 days in captivity. Americans don't know this wasn't
a coincidence. The US had agreed in writing not to attack Iran and also paid
Tehran $8bn. That's why that media event (of the hostages' release during
Reagan's inauguration ceremony) occurred with such precise timing.
How do you know this?
These are facts that were subsequently published.
The agreement with Iran was submitted for review by the current administration
to see if it would be binding and prevent an attack in the near future.
Bush administration attorneys concluded it was
signed under duress and therefore not binding. I know this from a former senior
member of the Bush administration, a seasoned CIA officer named Ray
The US felt humiliated; the Reagan administration
wanted to hurt the Iranians but its hands were tied. So Saddam Hussein was used
as the agent for that. He ended up invading Iran ... and you had this brutal war
from 1980 to 1988 that killed over a million people.
What was the US role in that war?
By 1982, Iran had recaptured lost territory and
Saddam asked the US for help. So President Reagan signed a National Security
Decision Directive - NSDD 114 - to provide all means of support to Saddam
Hussein. Donald Rumsfeld then went on a very sensitive mission to deliver
satellite intelligence, other forms of intelligence and weapons of mass
That's why the current Bush administration was so
confident Saddam had chemical and biological weapons; they knew the US had
supplied the ingredients in the 1980s.
Saddam broke with the US, however, when he found
out we were selling weapons to Iran in the mid-1980s - the Iran-Contra affair.
All this puts the invasion of Kuwait into perspective. Saddam got clear messages
from the US saying he could invade; plus he felt the US owed him one after
betraying him over Iran.
All these wars form a continuum of injustice. Look
at the UN economic sanctions in the 1990s that the US and UK refused to lift:
over a million Iraqis died, including 500,000 children. That's more than the
number who died from the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombings.
You list numerous "unjust" actions that led to
attacks on US targets - isn't that justifying terrorism?
I talked to the CIA's Michael Scheuer, head of the
"find Bin Ladin" team, and he stresses that people in the Muslim world are not
fighting us because of our freedoms or elections but our foreign policy. This is
something the Bush administration constantly twists.
The basic principle is: if you hurt someone,
they're going to want to hurt you. We need to ask questions like: Why did 9/11
happen? Bin Ladin has a very clear articulation of why he's at war with the US,
Britain, Israel and others. If Americans read it, they'll see it's very clear
about things such as US forces on Arab land.
And it's not just an Arab or Muslim issue. I learnt
this in South Korea where the US has had troops since 1950. When you're there
that long, it sends a powerful message that you're not there to liberate, you're
there to occupy.
You describe the US as the biggest WMD
The US has spent $5 trillion on 70,000 nuclear
weapons since 1945 - more than the rest of the world combined. A Congressional
report in 1999 found the designs for every deployed nuclear warhead - and for
some not built yet - had been stolen and passed to China. Israel acquired its
programme from the US too.
Despite this, ordinary Americans are more concerned
about the Bush administration's lies and hyped-up warnings about WMD in places
such as Iraq.
Is Iran really a threat to the US? An alliance
between Shia Iran and Sunni-led al-Qaida seems far fetched.
Iran will not attack the US if the US does not
attack Iran. Congressman Curt Weldon (who accuses Tehran of plotting to attack
the States) talks about attacking Iran but such talk makes the world more
dangerous. If we were Iran, we'd develop nuclear weapons simply because Israel
has them. So the US should facilitate a process whereby Israel eliminates its
As for the religious differences between Iran and
al-Qaida, yes, that's been true - but Bush's War on Terror has been pushing the
sects together. Intelligence reports indicate Bin Ladin's son Saad has been
based in Iran. No, we can't be certain they're helping each other. But in any
case, the Bush administration does not want peace with Iran.
You say "kindness begets kindness". What's your
After the first world war, the Treaty of Versailles
punished Germany harshly, producing hardship and hostility that the Nazis
exploited. But after the second world war, when the Marshall Plan helped rebuild
Germany and Japan, the US did more to promote democracy than at any time during
the Cold war.
To make the world a safer place, we must
aggressively attack the causes of suffering and hostility. Imagine if Bush had
said after 9/11: "People are capitalising on our mistakes in the Middle East.
So, let's ensure there is no hunger, lack of clean water, lack of education etc
in the Muslim world." We would have made more friends and drained support for
If we can't expect US foreign policy to change
soon, isn't it too late to stop an American Hiroshima?
It's not too late although your point is realistic.
But we can still influence the US response. Far more people will die in the
retaliation and the counter-retaliation.
If the US had the wisdom, we could make the world
safer. The US military budget was over $420 billion in 2005. We could split that
three ways: a third on economic development in the Middle East, especially Iraq;
a third on tackling injustice at home, such as providing universal healthcare -
and that would still leave us with the world's biggest military
People have to become more involved. The
anti-Vietnam war movement is an example - but it failed to hold government to
account. If we had tried (former Defence Secretary) Robert McNamara or (former
Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger for crimes such as the illegal bombing of
Cambodia, it would have sent a powerful message to future leaders. The Bush
government today wouldn't have been so bold.
Ultimately, Americans need to understand many of
them will die and parts of their country will become uninhabitable unless they
hold their government to account.
By Shaheen Chughtai in