Terry Gross interviewed David Albright the other day on “Fresh Air“. Albright is the director of the “Institute for Science and International Security, which focuses on stopping the spread of nuclear weapons”, according to Gross. Amidst the talk of the danger of Middle Eastern countries developing nuclear weapons as a result of the A.Q. Khan network, Gross mentioned Israel several times: in the context of the nation’s bombing of the Osirak Nuclear Reactor, in Iraq in the eighties; and its recent flattening of a purported nuclear plant in Syria.
But surprisingly, or not surprising if you are a student of media, Israel’s own covert nuclear weapons program never once came up in the conversation. According to the Federation of American Scientists, declassified government documents show that the US monitored what intelligence sources were positive was a nuclear weapons program begun in the fifties. By the seventies its estimated that Israel had “75-130” nuclear warheads. Because Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is not required to report about, or allow inspection of these weapons. They literally could be in any state of disrepair, or being sold to just about anybody, or even stolen from Israel’s own program for sale. Of course, though it’s an open secret in some circles, it’s not a topic generally discussed on NPR and when it is, it’s quickly dropped; as if the fact that our country contemplates bombing one country to prevent it from gaining nuclear weapons on behalf of another with a completely covert and unregulated nuclear arsenal, was somehow an afterthought. As Terry Gross observes, we never hesitate to speak of bombing Iran as a way of protecting Israel:
GROSS: Isn’t there a debate now too about what do we do? Do we bomb Iran if it builds a nuclear – a weapon, or do we practice, you know, containment – try to prevent them from actually using it and hope that like with China, like with the former Soviet Union, that the weapons will exist but not be used?
Recently, Neil Conan helped elucidate this double standard when he threw a softball on “Talk of the Nati0n” to former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns during an interview in February on Iran’s “nuclear ambitions”.
CONAN: An email we have from Michael in Boulder, Colorado. We get a lot of these every time we raise this issue. I don’t understand how anyone can discuss a nuclear Iran without mentioning the nuclear arsenal of Israel. If a nuclear-free Middle East is desired, it is impossible to avoid talking about both – unless you’re the U.S. media, it seems.
Prof. BURNS: Well, we’ll talk about it right now on NPR. But my sense is that Israel is a responsible, democratic government of a democratic country. And I really don’t think you can compare Israel to the situation in Iran. We have an autocratic government which is a mendacious government, a government that has not met its international commitment. And it’s lied to the United Nations and to the rest of the world about what it’s doing to enrich uranium time and again. And so I just don’t think there’s a moral comparison between these two countries.
CONAN: In terms of the…
Prof. BURNS: …two governments, I should say.
CONAN: I understand. In terms of international obligations, Iran’s derived from the fact that it was a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty which Israel has never signed.
Prof. BURNS: Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the reason why Iran has been sanctioned three times by the U.N. Security Council – 2006, ’07 and ’08 – is because it’s fundamentally violated both commitments that it did make in writing to the NPT.
You know, when President Obama and President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Brown announced in September at that press conference in New York that Iran had this facility near the holy city of Qom that it hadn’t told the rest of the world about it, that exposed an Iranian lie. And when the Security Council found out many years ago – several years ago that Iran had been enriching uranium, that exposed an Iranian lie to the international community.
So I really don’t think it’s possible to compare the behavior and attitudes of the Iranian and Israeli governments. They’re two very – and we’re allied, in a sense, to Israel. We have a commitment to Israel. And Israel’s democratic nature, I think, makes it a very responsible country, whereas Iran’s autocratic government has been very irresponsible in the way it’s dealt with the rest of the world.
CONAN: Now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, Nicholas Burns served as undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Bush administration.
You’re listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
There you go. Israel=good, Iran=Bad. Good enough for Neil Conan, obviously, who moved on without rebuttal, and good enough for Terry Gross, who giggled her way through the interview without even this lame mention.
How absurd. The most important issue when discussing nuclear weapons in the Middle East must be the nations that already have nuclear weapons. I feel like a hack simply writing the words.