Is your email box filling with appeals to you to contact Congress about the Iran deal? Are they telling you we have to have this deal or we’ll have war with Iran? After getting too many of those emails from surprising sources, it seemed worthwhile to step back and look at the big picture and remind myself what my commitment to nuclear abolition means. The result is this open letter:
Dear Friends who I love dearly and who I believe with all my heart mean well,
Please stop sending me “It’s the Iran Deal or War” crap. My inbox is filling with “Don’t Bomb Iran” and “Diplomacy Not War.”
I’m asking you to stop for two reasons:
- Surely you don’t mean it. Surely you find that insidious threat as stomach-turning as I do. “Don’t make us kill you for no reason at all. Because we’ll do it.” Despite the fact that, deal or no deal, Iran is still in compliance with the Nonproliferation Treaty—way more in compliance than the US, not to mention our staunchest MidEast ally which has not even signed the Treaty because it won’t comply with it.
That kind of talk is dangerous, right-wing cant and we should not legitimize it for one split second by pretending it might be true. It’s not an honest or fair framing of the question on the table. It’s a trap. Don’t fall for it, please, please, please.
- The fight to get the Iran deal approved by Congress is not our fight. It’s a dangerous distraction from the work of getting rid of all nuclear weapons.
I’ve thought about this a lot, trying to figure out what makes this deal so precious, and to whom, and here’s what seems clear to me. I’m looking at the big picture, because, really, that’s close enough to see what’s going on. The details, in this case, are devils distracting us from the big picture.
Here are five important things to remember about the Iran deal.
- The Iran deal codifies an astonishing double standard—though it’s probably lost its power to amaze in the United States. We get bombs; you don’t. We’ve taken this double standard as our right for decades, part of our idea of American Exceptionalism, I guess (which, technically, applies to a fraction of North America).
- The Iran deal doesn’t change much—Iran was submitting to inspections before and will be submitting to them some more (with or without a deal).
- The Iran deal props up the basic illusion of security on which nuclear weapon policy depends, that:
- a) nuclear weapons—which are suicidal as well as homicidal—somehow grant nations that have them a measure of security;
- b) if Iran is stopped from developing them, no one else will get them, either;
- c) nuclear weapons offer some assurance of regional stability.
- The Iran deal maintains an imbalance that, if you think of it from Iran’s viewpoint, is completely irrational: We, and Israel, are allowed to threaten Iran with our nuclear weapons (nothing is off the table, we always say), and allowed to “protect” ourselves with our nuclear weapons. They are not allowed to do either—they are not allowed to have nuclear weapons. In what rational world does this approach anything remotely resembling fairness or justice?
- The Iran deal also makes Iran jump through way more hoops and submit to way more inspections and accountability measures than we ourselves do.
AND YET SOMEHOW SOME PEOPLE THINK THIS IRAN DEAL CUTS IRAN TOO MUCH OF A BREAK OR DOESN’T DO ENOUGH TO PROTECT OUR “INTERESTS.”
And some others think it is this deal or war.
What I am not hearing anyone consider is this possibility, however remote it seems to us, armed to the teeth as we are with our nuclear suicide vests, laughing incredulously when Oscar Arias says our nuclear weapons are a sign of weakness rather than a sign of strength:
Maybe Iran is serious when both its political and religious leadership say they don’t want nuclear weapons. The reason I ask you to consider it is twofold: 1) If you were an Iranian in Iran, you could make equally rational arguments for and against nuclear weapons (if you set aside moral qualms, which apparently they are not willing to do); and 2) there is no evidence to suggest otherwise (even US intelligence estimates concur). I know! It’s just impossible to believe, isn’t it?
Bottom line: if the Iran deal is a good thing, it’s virtues are limited, and the framing of the current push to get Congress to approve it as “war or diplomacy” provides a wonderful cover for the weaponeers who continue to fund our nuclear modernization program with billions of tax dollars.
If we’re serious about nuclear abolition, I think the Iran deal is not our fight. At least some of us need to be saying, loud and clear, that any one-sided deal that countenances the nuclear double standard not only kicks the can down the road, it increases the nuclear peril by undermining the hopes of the rest of the world that nuclear weapons states might one day honor their commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.