The "Divine Strake" bomb test scheduled for the US nuclear test site in Nevada has been delayed, at least temporarily, due to a lawsuit filed by nearby residents who feared it would send radioactive material their way. It's already sent something else: a message to the Islamic world. We're telling them that our God is greater than theirs, because he's given us the Bomb. And we're warning them that we're planning to use it.
"Divine Strake" will use non-nuclear explosives to simulate a nuclear 'bunker-buster' attack, creating a mushroom cloud that may rise 10,000 feet (nearly two miles) into the air. Its stated purpose is to enhance our ability to use nuclear bombs to destroy underground facilities. And where have we claimed it will be necessary to do that? The Islamic Republic of Iran, of course.
This explosion is very possibly a violation of nuclear test-ban treaty provisions, despite the use of non-nuclear explosives, because it is being used to design nuclear weaponry. But testing is not its only purpose. The test is intended to send a threat - not just to Ahmadinejad, but to the entire Muslim world. In all likelihood, the name is part of the communication
So far, the only people who have responded in fear are residents of nearby areas. They have sued to stop the test because they're afraid it will scatter radioactive materials from old nuclear tests into the air and onto their communities.
Why the name? "Strake" is an obscure term from nautical construction, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as "a single continuous line of planking or metal plating extending on a vessel's hull from stem to stern." It's meaningless in this context, and serves as a place-marker for the adjective: "divine."
Is the name part of a psychological operation against Iran, and Muslims in general? It's very likely. The widely-publicized burning of an insurgent's body by American soldiers was a classic psy-ops move, carefully planned by military intelligence (Hayden's people). So are the Quran desecrations and other anti-Islamic gestures used by the torture artists in the American Gulag.
The flap over Bush's use of the word "crusade" to describe the Afghanistan invasion, and the Islamic objection to the term "Operation Enduring Freedom" (only God is ever-enduring for Muslims) made the impact of language crystal-clear to US leaders. It's impossible to imagine that Pentagon leaders wouldn't realize the message they're sending by using a word like "divine" to describe a gigantic bomb.
So what's the message? It's simple: Beware of the Christian Nuclear Jihad.
Is threatening Iran with nuclear weaponry a bad response to the current situation? I think it is, but whether you agree or not, this psy-op messaging is a terrible idea. It's an insult to the entire Muslim world, include those we are trying to promote as leaders in Iraq - and the one billion Muslims who aren't Arabs and don't live in the Middle East.
We've already had Gen. Boynkin telling the world that the US will defeat its Muslim enemies because "my God is bigger than theirs." And while that was not a psy-ops move (he's just an idiot running his mouth off), Boynkin was never reprimanded. In fact, he was select by Undersecretary of Defense Cambone to investigate torture operations in the so-called "Black Room." (Guess what? He didn't find any problems.)
And it's not going to work. All people of deep faith believe their God is more powerful than any human weapon. The Pilgrim Travelers complained about the atom scare in their 1950's gospel song, Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb: "everybody's talking about the atom bomb/nobody's talking about the day my Lord will come."
Bob Marley said the same thing in Redemption Song: "Fear not atomic energy/none of them can stop time." And country artists the Louvin Brothers said in The Great Atomic Power, "when the mushroom of destruction comes in all its fury great/God will surely save His children from an awful, awful fate."
What this "message" does accomplish is to further undermine our standing among the planet's Muslims, and further polarize the Islamic and Western worlds - at a time when they should be unified.
Could this all be ineptitude, rather than calculation? It's possible, if unlikely. Our civilian leadership at the Pentagon may be lousy at their jobs, but there are lot of smart people in the career military. If it is simple stupidity, it's another reason why Bush and Rumsfeld need to go - just a different one.
It's natural to conflate the divine and the terrible, especially when confronted with the awesome power of the atom bomb. Robert Oppenheimer looked at the first mushroom cloud and thought of these lines from the Bhagavad-Gita:
I am become Death
destroyer of worlds.
Those are the words of God, revealing Himself in the incarnation of Vishnu. Oppenheimer was reflecting on humanity's assumption of near-divine power, with all the risks that entails.
As for Divine Strake, it would be a good idea not to hold the test at all. But if we do, let's use the word "divine" to describe something else. There's always Bette Midler.
We don't need another holy war, for God's sake - or anyone else's.