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Was That Nuclear-Armed B-52 Flight Destined for Iran?

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There’s something definitely screwy about the August 30 incident in which a B-52 bomber flew from Minot AFB in North Dakota to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana carrying five fully armed Advanced Cruise Missiles, each equipped with nuclear bombs capable of exploding at anything from 5 kilotons to 150 kilotons.

The government has been quick to say that the flight, which violated a number of long-standing orders regarding shipment of nuclear weapons in US airspace, was a “mistake.”

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But was it a mistake?

The biggest question is why a B-52 armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles would fly to Barksdale AFB. If, as reported, the weapons were being transported to be decommissioned, which supposedly is the destination for 400 of these doomsday weapons, then they should have been destined for Kirtland AFB in Texas, near the Panax plant outside Amarillo, TX, where they would be dismantled. As Michael Salla writes in a disturbing piece in Saturday’s edition of OpEdNews (http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_michael__070907_was_a_covert_attempt.htm), the weapons should also not have been flown at all on a B-52, as there have been standing orders for 40 years against such flights over US soil, following several accidents in which bombs or nuclear-armed rockets were lost because “broken arrow” incidents including inadvertent bomb drops or crashes. A second order, issued in 1991 at the end of the Cold War by George Bush’s father, barred the loading of nuclear weapons on any bomber. Any pilot would have known this, as would any ground support people loading the missiles on the B-52.

According to Salla, if these five cruise missiles were really being transported by air to Texas for decommissioning, they should have been disarmed and flown in specially designed transport planes that are built to resist nuclear leakage in the event of a crash. They would never be transported under the wings of a B-52.

What makes the incident even more suspicious is that Barksdale AFB is a staging area for B-52s being sent to the Middle East for combat duty. As the website GlobalSecurity.org (http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/facility/barksdale.htm)reports: “Barksdale Air Force Base is headquarters for the 2d Bomb Wing, Eighth Air Force and 917th Wing. The 2d Bomb Wing provides global combat capability and trains all B-52 combat crews.”

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The official Barksdale AFB website (http://www.barksdale.af.mil/) says: “Barksdale warriors and B-52s have a proud tradition serving both at home and abroad in support of the Global War on Terrorism; they have played vital roles in combat operations supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

The original expose of the B-52 flight appeared in the newspaper Army Times (http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/09/marine_nuclear_B52_070904w/). Staff writer Michael Hoffman writes that his initial source for the story was three officers “who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.”

So this is a case where some military officers who knew something wrong was happening did the honorable, patriotic thing and went public with a publication they trusted, both to do the right thing, and to protect them.

So what is going on here?

Salla suggests the worst: that this was likely a deliberate action, ordered through a chain of command outside the Pentagon. Salla notes that it has been widely reported that the top brass in the US military (note: with the exception of some wackoes in the Air Force), have staunchly opposed any use of nuclear weapons in the event of an air attack on Iran. So an order to send nuclear-armed cruise missiles to the Persian Gulf region, if that’s what this flight was, would not likely have come through the normal chain of command from the Secretary of Defense through the Air Combat Command (ACC, successor to SAC). It would, Salla hints darkly, have come through the back channel set up since even before 9-11 by Vice President Dick Cheney, who is known to be pushing for an attack on Iran, and who would like nothing better than to use nuclear weapons to disable Iran’s nuclear processing facilities.

We’re talking about treason here, if Salla is right.
And the seriousness of what happened—five nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, in firing position, flown across the width of the continental US in violation of all standing orders to a base that is a staging area for B-52 flights to the Persian Gulf war zone—demands a full public investigation.

'The Democrats in charge of Congress, and the Republican minority, may not have the stomach to stand up to the Bush administration’s obsession to keep the bloodletting going in Iraq, and they may not have the courage even to put a stop to plans to attack Iran, but even the most reprehensible weasels and cowards among them should have the basic decency to know that this bizarre and suspicious flight needs to be investigated to the fullest to get to the bottom of what was going on.

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Salla suggests that behind the scenes, Gates and the generals, who clearly distrust and dislike the vice president and who don’t want an Iran attack, will use this incident to go after the vice president and force him into a “medical” resignation. He says that the exposure of the flight will also put any attack on Iran on hold, because military leaders will be worried that there are other nuclear weapons that have been introduced into the equation secretly, either for use in Iraq or for a “black flag” operation against US forces.

Let us hope so they are right, and that this will be Cheney’s undoing.

I’m not as confident as Salla, however.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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