MINOR REBUKES ON NUKES
Mark Hertsgaard’s 1,480-word “Climate and the G-8” [July 18/25] was more useful than Elizabeth Kolbert’s twenty times longer, 29,400-word New Yorker article on climate change. Could that have anything to do with two of The New Yorker‘s biggest advertisers being ExxonMobil and General Motors, and one of The Nation‘s being a maker of efficient home lighting?
One quibble: Hertsgaard makes nukes sound too good. He suggests they don’t contribute to climate change. But mining nuclear fuel and transporting nuclear fuel and waste are contributors; he says the nuke industry leaves out the billions spent on plant construction from its “cheap power” claims. But he fails to mention the more significant costs the industry leaves out: storing and guarding waste for the next 250,000 years and taxpayer funding of liability insurance.
An accident or act of sabotage (easier to pull off than 9/11, says the Union of Concerned Scientists) at the Indian Point nuke, twenty miles from New York City, would kill millions and leave Manhattan uninhabitable for hundreds of years. No private insurance company will underwrite that risk. So who does plant owner Entergy rely on for insurance? Uncle Sam, of course. The minute Congress pulls the plug on the Price Anderson (nuke insurance) Act, every nuke in the nation will close. But these are minor complaints. The Nation should promote Hertsgaard to weekly columnist.
INDICTING OUR WAR CRIMINALS
In “Torture and Accountability” [July 18/25], Elizabeth Holtzman simultaneously makes and misses her point. She does well to remind us that the torture guidelines George W. Bush and Attorney General Gonzales seem to have approved are violations of the 1996 Federal War Crimes Act and that, accordingly, the US judicial system or another judicial body should exact punishment. However, she does not go far enough. The Geneva Conventions also forbid “launching an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or civilian objects in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects,” and define such as a “grave breach.” This would seem an easy enough set of criteria to satisfy. Moreover, the indictment would be able to be far more wide-reaching in its scope, given the array of Administration officials who doubtless authorized the war plan, particularly the assault on Falluja.
But even that misses the point. These laws will not be enforced, and their violators punished, until power structures realign to permit such enforcement. Holtzman reminds us that “it is never easy to hold powerful officials accountable for their misdeeds, but it is still important to try to do so”; how much more important, then, to hold them accountable for the atrocities they commit in our name!