Michael E. Salla, M.A., Ph.D.
Critically exploring whether or not there was a covert attempt to instigate a catastrophic nuclear war against Iran is illuminated through an introduction using the recent B-52 Incident. On August 30, a B-52 bomber armed with five nuclear-tipped Advanced Cruise missiles travelled from Minot Air Force base, North Dakota, to Barksdale Air Force base, Louisiana, in the United States. Each missile had an adjustable yield between five and 150 kilotons of TNT which is at the lower end of the destructive capacities of U.S. nuclear weapons. For example, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 13 kilotons, while the Bravo Hydrogen bomb test of 1954 had a yield of 15,000 kilotons. The B-52 story was first covered in the Army Times on 5 September after the nuclear armed aircraft was discovered by Airmen. LINK
What made this a very significant event was that it was a violation of U.S. Air Force regulations concerning the transportation of nuclear weapons by air. Nuclear weapons are normally transported by air in specially constructed planes designed to prevent radioactive pollution in case of a crash. Such transport planes are not equipped to launch the nuclear weapons they routinely carry around the U.S. and the world for servicing or positioning.
The discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 was, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, the first time in 40 years that a nuclear armed plane had been allowed to fly in the U.S. LINK. Since 1968, after a SAC bomber crashed in Greenland, all nuclear armed aircraft have been grounded but were kept on a constant state of alert. After the end of the Cold War, President George H. Bush ordered in 1991 that nuclear weapons were to be removed from all aircraft and stored in nearby facilities.
Recently, the Air Force began decommissioning its stockpile of Advanced Cruise missiles. The five nuclear weapons on the B-52 were to be decommissioned, and were to be taken to another Air Force base. An Air Force press statement issued on 6 September 2007, claimed that there "was an error which occurred during a regularly scheduled transfer of weapons between two bases."
Furthermore, the statement declared: "The Air Force maintains the highest standards of safety and precision so any deviation from these well established munitions procedures is considered very serious." The issue concerning how a nuclear armed B-52 bomber was allowed to take off and fly in U.S. air space after an 'error' in a routine transfer process, is now subject to an official Air Force inquiry which is due to be completed by September 14.
Three key questions emerge over the B-52 incident. First, did Air Force personnel at Minot AFB not spot the 'error' earlier given the elaborate security procedures in place to prevent such mistakes from occurring? Many military analysts have commented on the stringent security procedures in place to prevent this sort of mistake from occurring. Multiple officers are routinely involved in the transportation and loading of nuclear weapons to prevent the kind of 'error' that allegedly occurred in the B-52 incident.
According to the U.S. Air Force statement, the commanding officer in charge of military munitions personnel and additional munitions airmen were relieved of duties pending the completion of the investigation. According to Kristensen, the error could not have come from confusing the Advanced Cruise Missile with a conventional weapons since no conventional form exists. So the munitions Airmen should have been easily able to spot the mistake. Other routine procedures were violated which suggests a rather obvious explanation for the error. The military munitions personnel were acting under direct orders, though not through the regular chain of military command. This takes me to the second question
Who was in Charge of the B-52 Incident?
Who ordered the loading of Advanced Cruise missiles on to a B-52 in violation of Air Force regulations? The quick reaction of the Air Force and the issuing of a public statement describing the seriousness of the issue and the launch of an immediate investigation, suggests that whatever occurred, was outside the regular chain of military command. If the regular chain of command was violated, then we have to inquire as to whether the B-52 incident was part of a covert project whose classification level exceeded that held by officers in charge of nuclear weapons at Minot AFB.
The most obvious governmental entity that may have ordered the nuclear arming of the B-52 outside the regular chain of military command is the last remaining bastion of neo-conservative activism in the Bush administration.
Vice President Cheney has taken a very prominent role in covert military operations and training exercises designed for the "seamless integration" of different national security and military authorities to possible terrorist attacks. On May 8, 2001, President Bush placed Mr. Cheney in charge of "[A]ll federal programs dealing with weapons of mass destruction, consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies". LINK. Mr. Cheney subsequently played a direct role in supervising training exercises that simultaneously occurred during the 911 attacks.
According to former Los Angeles Police Officer Michael Ruppert, Mr. Cheney had a parallel chain of command that he used to override Air Force objections to stand down orders that grounded the USAF during the 911 attacks, LINK.
Mr. Ruppert learned that the Secret Service had the authority to directly communicate presidential and vice presidential orders to fighter pilots in the air thereby circumventing the normal chain of command. (Crossing the Rubicon, pp. 428 - 429). Furthermore: "It is the Secret Service who has the legal mandate to take supreme command in case of a scheduled major event - or an unplanned major emergency - on American soil; these are designated "National Special Security Events".LINK.
Mr. Ruppert and others have subsequently claimed that 911 was an "inside job;" and alleges Mr. Cheney through the Secret Service, played a direct leadership role in what occurred over 911. Consequently, it is very possible that Mr. Cheney could have played a similar role in circumventing the regular chain of military command in ordering the B-52 incident. The B-52 incident could be part of a contrived "National Special Security Event" directly controlled by Cheney by virtue of the alleged authority granted to him by President Bush, and through the Secret Service which at least theoretically, has the technological means to by pass the regular chain of military command. I now move to my third key question.
Why was the nuclear armed B-52 sent to Barksdale AFB?
If initial reports that the weapons were being decommissioned, but were mistakenly transported by a B-52 bomber, then the weapons should have been taken to Kirtland Air Force Base. According to Kristensen, this is "where the warheads are separated from the rest of the weapon and shipped to the Energy Department's Pantex dismantlement facility near Amarillo, Texas". LINK.
However, it has been revealed that Barksdale AFB is used as a staging base for operations in the Middle East, LINK.
This is circumstantial evidence that the weapons were being deployed for possible use in the Middle East.
There has been recent speculation concerning a possible attack against Iran given reports that the Pentagon has completed plans for a three day bombing blitz of Iran according to a Sunday Times report, LINK. The Report claims that 1200 targets have been selected and this will destroy much of Iran's military infrastructure. Such an attack will devastate Iran's economy, create greater political instability in the region, and stop the oil supply. A disruption of the oil supply from the Persian Gulf could trigger a global economic recession and lead to the collapse of financial markets.
In a rather disturbing synchronistic development, there have been reports of billion dollar investments in high risk stock options in both Europe and the U.S. that would only be profitable if a dramatic collapse of the stock market were to occur before September 21. Similar stock options were purchased weeks before the 911 attack in 2001, and investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider trading. The combination of the Sunday Times report and the Stock market option purchases is circumstantial evidence that plans for a concerted military attack against Iran have been secretly approved and covert operations have begun, LINK.
Seymour Hersh in May 2006 reported the opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the use of nuclear weapons against Iran.
In late April, the military leadership, headed by General Pace, achieved a major victory when the White House dropped its insistence that the plan for a bombing campaign include the possible use of a nuclear device to destroy Iran's uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. .. "Bush and Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning," the former senior intelligence official told me. "And Pace stood up to them.
Then the world came back: 'O.K., the nuclear option is politically unacceptable.' LINK.
Given earlier opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is likely that the present attack plans for Iraq drawn up by the Pentagon don't involve the use of nuclear weapons. In order to circumvent the regular chain of command, opposed to a nuclear attack, it is very likely that Vice President Cheney contrived a "National Special Security Event" that involved a nuclear armed B-52. This would have given him the legal authority to place orders directly through the Secret Service to the Air Force officers responsible for the B-52 incident.
Conclusion: Exposing those Responsible for the B-52 Incident
Consequently, there is considerable circumstantial evidence to argue that the nuclear armed B-52 was part of an apparent covert operation, outside the regular chain of constitutional military command. The alleged authority responsible for this was Vice President Cheney. He very likely used the Secret Service to take charge of a contrived National Special Security Event involving a nuclear armed B-52 that would be flown from Minot AFB. The B-52 was directed to Barksdale Air Force base where it would have conducted a covert mission to the Middle East involving the detonation of one or more nuclear weapons most likely in or in the vicinity of Iran. This could either have occurred during a conventional military strike against Iran, or a False Flag operation in the Persian Gulf region.
Apparently, the leaking and discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 at Barksdale was not part of the script. According to a confidential source of Larry Johnson, a former counter-terrorism official from the State Department and CIA, the discovery of the nuclear armed B-52 was leaked. Johnson concludes: "Did someone at Barksdale try to indirectly warn the American people that the Bush Administration is staging nukes for Iran? I don't know, but it is a question worth asking." LINK.
While the general public is likely to be given a watered down declassified report by the Air Force over the B-52 incident on September 14, the real investigation will reveal that it was part of a covert operation that intended to bypass the regular chain of command in using nuclear weapons in the Middle East. This will likely result in a furious backlash by key figures in the regular military chain of Command such as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and the Commander of Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, who have direct responsibility for the conduct of military operations in the Middle East. The US. Air Force, the Secretary of Defense and Commander of Central Command, is now aware of what was likely going to be the true use of the B-52 and the responsibility of the Office of the Vice President.
It is very likely that the exposure of the B-52 incident will lead to an indefinite hold on plans to attack Iran given uncertainty whether other nuclear weapons have been covertly positioned for use in the Middle East. Significantly, public officials briefed about the true circumstances of the B-52 incident will almost certainly place enormous pressure on Vice President Cheney to immediately resign if it is found that he played the role identified above. It is therefore anticipated that in a very short time, the public will learn that Cheney has resigned for health resigns.
The forthcoming September 14 U.S. Air Force report will likely describe the B-52 incident as an "error" and an "isolated incident" as foreshadowed in the September 6 Press Statement. This will create some difficulty in exposing the actual role played by Cheney and any other government figures that supported him. There will be a need for continued public awareness of the true events behind the B-52 incident in order to expose the actual role of Mr. Cheney. Only in that way can Cheney be held accountable for his actions, and other government figures that supported his neo-conservative agenda be exposed. Regardless of whether Cheney's role as the prime architect of the B-52 incident is exposed to the public, the official backlash against his covert operation should force his resignation. In either case, a very dangerous public official would be removed from a powerful position of influence. More importantly, the world has been spared a devastating nuclear war by courageous American airmen who revealed the true contents of an otherwise routine B-52 landing at Barksdale, AFB headed for a covert nuclear mission to the Middle East.
About the author:
Michael E. Salla, M.A. Ph.D., is a former Assistant Professor in the School of International Service, American University, Washington D.C. He is the author of five books and founder of the Exopolitics Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Kona, Hawaii.
Michael Kane, "Simplifying the case against Dick Cheney," LINK
Larry Johnson, "Staging Nuke for Iran?", LINK
Michael Hoffman, "B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard," LINK
Michael Salla, Ph.D. "Will the U.S. Attack Iran Before September 21? - Are CIA Front Companies Investing $4.5 Billion to Profit from attacking Iran?", LINK
Edward Thomas, Lt. Col., "U.S. Air Force Statement on B-52 Nuclear Incident at Minot," PDF LINK
Michael Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon (New Society Publishers, 2004).
Greg Webb, "US Bomber Mistakenly Flies with Nuclear Weapons", LINK http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/home/Frontpage/2007/09/07/01751.html