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Out Cheneying-Cheney: Obama’s Likely Defense Pick Once Backed Pre-emptive Attack on North Korea

StoryDecember 04, 2014
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President Obama is reportedly preparing to nominate former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to replace ousted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. A trained physicist, Carter has a long history at the Pentagon, where he once served as the chief arms buyer. In 2006, he made headlines when he backed a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if the country continued with plans to conduct a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. He co-wrote a piece headlined “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy.” We speak to Alice Slater, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a member of the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show with the man first in line to be the next secretary of defense. Obama administration officials have said Ashton Carter heads the White House shortlist to replace outgoing Chuck Hagel. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest responded to questions about the nominee.

PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: Mr. Carter is obviously somebody who has generated a lot of headlines today. He is somebody who has previously served the administration as the deputy secretary of defense, a position that he filled very, very ably. He was confirmed by the United States Senate into that position in September of 2011 with—by unanimous consent. So this is an indication that he fulfills some of the criteria that we’ve discussed in the past. He’s somebody that certainly deserves and has demonstrated strong bipartisan support for his—for his previous service in government. He is somebody that does have a detailed understanding of the way that the Department of Defense works.

AMY GOODMAN: An announcement will come after the official vetting process is complete, but Carter is said to be the only candidate left after two others withdrew from consideration. His appointment will require approval from the Republican-led Senate. Chuck Hagel was pushed out last week amidst reported differences with the administration’s military campaign in Iraq and Syria. A trained physicist, Carter has a long history at the Pentagon, where he served as the chief arms buyer. He was also assistant secretary of defense under former President Bill Clinton and deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013.

To find out more about Ashton Carter, we go to Alice Slater, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and a member of the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee.

You’re deeply concerned about Ashton Carter being named secretary of defense.



ALICE SLATER: Because it’s business as usual. I mean, it’s the perpetuation of what Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. This is somebody that has rotated inside and outside of industry. He’s advised Goldman Sachs and other business companies on what kind of military equipment, you know, they shouldn’t be manufacturing, and they’ve been doing deals for years. And he was brought in because Hagel was kind of like—well, not exactly the peace movement, but they were going to ratchet down dumb wars, anyway, which is what Obama said. And now it looks like we’re just expanding the whole war machine. And he’s a perfect candidate for this. I mean, it’s really pathetic, because he actually wrote an op-ed that we should be bombing North Korea’s nuclear power plant. And—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I’d like to go to that, actually, that op-ed. In 2006, in a Washington Post op-ed, written with former Defense Secretary William Perry, Ashton Carter urged the Bush administration to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea if the country continued with plans to conduct a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In the piece headlined, “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy,” Perry and Carter wrote, quote, “Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not.” They went on to say, quote, “if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched.”

ALICE SLATER: And actually, Cheney criticized them. The peaceful Cheney said they had gone too far. That’s where we’re at now. It’s the same gang. I mean, I’m particularly upset with Ashton Carter because I’m so familiar with the whole nuclear disarmament process, or re-armament process, I should say. Right now our government is planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years for new bomb factories, delivery systems, missiles, submarines, airplanes and new nuclear weapons. And he has been part of the push, particularly starting when Clinton, President Clinton, signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1993, which we had been working for all our adult lives. They had this little kicker that they allowed laboratory tests and subcritical tests. What’s a subcritical test? They’re blowing up plutonium at the test site a thousand feet below the desert floor—they’ve done 26 of them—with high explosives, but it doesn’t have a—


ALICE SLATER: In Nevada, at the Nevada test site. And because it doesn’t have a chain reaction, Clinton said, “That’s not a test. We can do this.” Like “I didn’t inhale, I didn’t have sex, and I’m not doing nuclear testing.” And that’s why India tested, because India objected, after the test ban was signed, to the technical laboratory tests and the subcritical tests and said, “If you don’t preclude that in the test ban,” which Carter was advising at that time, “we’re not going to sign it.” And then India went and developed their weapons. And—

AMY GOODMAN: He advised Clinton on deploying a missile shield in Alaska?

ALICE SLATER: Well, he was talking to him that it would be OK, you know, that it didn’t violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. That was his advice. Well, Russia disagreed. And then Clinton started the big—the infrastructure for these missile—the expansion of the missiles. We had a treaty since 1972 with Russia, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. In order to stop the missile race, we wouldn’t build anti-missiles, so we wouldn’t need so many missiles. And Bush actually walked out of the treaty. That wasn’t Carter, but they started the inroads. And now we have missiles in Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia—not Yugoslavia, Turkey. We took missiles out of Turkey. Kennedy took missiles out of Turkey in order to get the Soviets out of Cuba, and now we’ve got them back in there. And everybody’s saying Putin’s a bad guy; meanwhile, we’re pushing them right up against the wall.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alice Slater, I want to thank you for being with us, New York director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She is headed to Vienna for the conference, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN. To see our conversation in Vienna a few weeks ago about this conference, you can go to democracynow.org.

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