Chapter 41: Ultimatum
Copyright© 2016 by Graybyrd
“An informal discussion. Is that even possible at a Presidential level?” Dee’rah asked.
“Your father and I certainly wish it to be so,” Lyn’na-ra responded. “The alternative, if we are unable to find resolution, will be most painful.”
“And that is?”
“Quarantine. We’ve mentioned it more than once. It is not something we wish, but unless we can convince Earth’s leaders, and its peoples, that they are too far down the path; and that they must immediately reverse course, or face their fate, then I fear there will be no choice. Michael and Jon’a-ren have convinced the planetary council to offer this one last opportunity,” Lyn’na-ra said. “Jon’a-ren wishes to discuss it first with those he has come to trust and admire among the human leaders, in a private and informal setting. If he is able to persuade them to make further effort, then we will assist. Otherwise, I fear we may be leaving.”
Jon’a-ren flew straight to Camp David, where he was met and escorted to the President’s lodge. Waiting there were President Bronstein, UN Secretary-General Kusnadi, and Swiss Ambassador Levant. It was late afternoon, so a small table had been set with a light meal. All knew and were comfortable with each other. Formalities were dispensed with. Only Jon’a-ren knew the serious topic about to be discussed.
An hour later, after a very convivial meal and exchange of pleasantries, catching up on family matters and affairs of grandchildren, the men retired to the lodge’s great room and a circle of seats fronting a stone fireplace. The discreet serving staff wheeled in a small cart with cups and carafes of after-dinner coffee, with tea for Jon’a-ren. They poured for each man, then left as silently as they’d come.
“Forgive me, my friends, if I ask that we dispense with titles this evening. I wish to inform all of you as leaders, but more importantly, I have requested this informal setting so I may speak to you as one trusted friend to another. Please allow me to say what I must, and when I ask each of you for an answer, please know that I have good reason to ask, and that your answers are vitally important to the issue.
“Aaron, I ... we, the Masi’shen ... are aware that you consider the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of Middle Eastern nations to be a grave threat. No one will admit that the Israeli government has such weapons yet it seems commonly accepted that they do. It is also accepted that the Iranian nation feels it must have such weapons to achieve parity, a balance of power. The nations who call themselves the nuclear club fiercely resist the Iranian effort. Is this an issue of trust? The nations with nuclear weapons trust themselves and each other not to use them, but do not trust Iran?”
“That sums it up pretty accurately, Jon’a-ren,” President Bronstein answered.
“And there is the premise that any nation possessing these weapons, could use them in response to a sufficiently hostile threat, is that not so?” Jon’a-ren said.
“That over-simplifies it, but yes, I suppose so,” Aaron responded. “For many years during the so-called Cold War it was the concept of ‘MAD’, mutually-assured destruction, that maintained a certain trust, a stability between the opposing powers.”
“Yet if my reading of your history is correct, your nations came within moments of unleashing a nuclear holocaust upon yourselves in an incident known as the Cuban missile crisis. Correct?”
“Much closer than any of us care to admit to ourselves, yes,” Aaron muttered.
“And I am also aware of an incident of a false alert in which a wave of nuclear-tipped missiles were within moments of being launched against your nation. It was prevented only because a Russian general refused his orders and stopped it. Is that also true?”
“Yes. I have read the classified intelligence briefing for myself. It left me with nightmares.”
“Yet these systems, the balance as you call it, and the promise of retaliation should an attack come, these are still in place?” Jon’a-ren pressed ahead.
“They are, but we feel the numbers of weapons and their targets are greatly reduced. We also believe the safeguards to be greater. Where is this leading, Jon’a-ren?” President Bronstein asked. The others remained silent, thoughtful, sipping their coffee.
“Patience, my dear friend. Excuse my direct questions but you will come to see how essential the answers will be to our understanding. I mentioned that Israel has nuclear weapons. They have been very circumspect with them; they have treated their responsibility well. It is a pity I cannot say the same for their use of conventional weapons and their armed forces,” Jon’a-ren said.
“Indeed? Israel has been hard pressed! They have armed enemies all around. Iran continues to demand the destruction of Israel. There is hardly a day their civilian population does not suffer a terrorist attack, with innocent people maimed or killed!” Aaron answered.
“True. But are these attacks the crimes of terrorists, or the only possible response left to a bitterly oppressed people who live under total Israeli subjugation, economically oppressed, and without any hope of that which the Israelis reserve for themselves? For every Israeli killed, a hundred or more Palestinians die. And Israeli soldiers and bulldozers crush and destroy their homes, entire neighborhoods. Is this not true?”
“They defend themselves,” Aaron charged. “They respond to terrorism in the only way they can. They target the terrorists!”
“For every Palestinian father, brother, son they kill, they cause a hundred to rise up in anger in their place,” Jon’a-ren responded. “Israeli tank and artillery shells, bombs and missiles, they kill far more than terrorists. They kill families, children, old people in their homes and shops and schools. Far more innocents die than terrorists, my friend. The Israeli retaliation turns the surviving Palestinians into enemies who will never forget, never forgive. Is that the legacy Israel wishes? To forever be the captors and punishers of a subjugated people who despise them and have come to such despair that they live only to die while taking an Israeli life?
“You do realize, my friend, that the Islamic nations of the Middle East truly consider America their enemy because of its blind support for Israel while they continue down this insane path?” Jon’a-ren said.
“What choice do they have? Every gesture of accommodation is met with another attack, another terrorist atrocity?” Aaron snapped back.
“Perhaps. It seems that both the oppressor and the oppressed are like two men locked together in a grotesque embrace, each holding a knife thrust into the other’s back. They are locked in a struggle to the death. Both will die. Is this not hopelessly insane?”
“That’s one way of viewing it,” Aaron responded. “But what is the answer? We certainly cannot abandon Israel. They are the only beacon of freedom and democracy in that blighted region, and without our guarantee of support they’d be overrun and swept away!”
“Ahhh, yes. We come back to balance of power and retaliation again. The thread from which hangs the fabled Sword of Damocles. The threat of doom which hangs over all. What would you say, Aaron, if I were to tell you that deep under its northern desert Iran has already accomplished its goal of nuclear weapons production? That they have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons already stockpiled and they continue to refine them and add to them? All that remains to accomplish is to retrofit their conventional missiles to carry the new warheads, and that is progressing rapidly?”
Aaron, Sugiarto Kusnadi, and Jacques Levant gasped in shock. Aaron turned pale and then red with anger.
“Those infernal bastards—” he began to shout, until Jon’a-ren’s raised hand and stern words stopped him in mid-shout.
“Aaron! I do not tell you this so that you may order your nation’s armed forces on high alert! Calm yourself!”
Aaron struggled to come to grips with the horror of this revelation by his Masi’shen friend. Jacques broke the sudden silence.
“Is this true, my friend? All the surveillance satellites, the intelligence networks, the probing, the inspections, all have failed to uncover this horrible Iranian secret?”
“Yes, it is true. That is one reason why I have begged you, my trusted friends, to meet with me. For the moment, Aaron, my friends, please calm yourselves. Please trust that we would not allow the use of these weapons in anger. They are safe where they are for the moment.”
“Thank God for small favors,” Aaron spat. “But that won’t let me sleep any better tonight!”
“I fear you face far greater fears than that, if I cannot convince everyone here of a greater issue,” Jon’a-ren sighed. “But first, there is another issue. I’d like to clear up one point. Sugiarto, given this new development in the nuclear balance of power, what can the United Nations do to bring this threat to global security under control?”
Sugiarto hesitated for a long moment before answering: “Given the history of actions by the permanent members of the Security Council, the opposing sides and their views and the historic use of their veto powers, there is nothing that can be done except to hope for a resolution asking for voluntary remission of the weapons. More realistically, given the existing fears, I’d expect one side to call for a coalition of forces to force Iran into yielding the weapons, and equally fierce opposition from the other side. It would result in another increase in tensions between opposing interests,” he responded.
“So it is fair to say that the United Nations are not united on the issue of nuclear weapons?” Jon’a-ren accused.
“No, of course not. That has been held as a sovereign right of the great powers, the charter members of the United Nations. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia, the victors of the Second World War; they came together to form the United Nations from the ashes, and they reserved for themselves the right of unhindered sovereignty, essentially granting themselves immunity from any United Nations rulings,” Sugiarto explained.
“So it is of no consequence, then, if all the other member nations who do not possess such weapons would decide for themselves that they wish those nations who do have them to be ordered by UN mandate to give up all stockpiles of their nuclear weapons for destruction?”
“Good God, man! No nation would agree to that!” Aaron burst out.
“Regrettably, that is so,” Sugiarto agreed. “There would be great fear among each of the nuclear powers that if they were disarmed, left naked and exposed without retaliatory defense, then some rogue nation would somehow acquire a nuclear device and use it with impunity. That is the fear.”
“Damned right it is!” Aaron retorted. “Even if I tried, and God knows I wish I could get rid of the damned things, there’s not the slightest chance in Hell that I could get the Congress, the military, the courts or the people to go along with it. I’d be driven out of office, impeached, branded a hopelessly insane idealist if I even suggested such a thing!” Aaron explained.
“So in effect, a small handful of nations are holding the world community of nations hostage in a precarious standoff, one that has proven liable to provocation and susceptible to accident. Is that an accurate analysis?” Jon’a-ren asked.
“In point of fact, I think the situation of the vast majority of Earth’s peoples forced to live under the shadow of nuclear annihilation with no choice in the matter, no voice that can be raised in meaningful protest, and that your so-called United Nations is deliberately crippled and powerless to act on their behalf ... this speaks volumes as you would say, to the disparity in meaningful relations between our two worlds!” he said.
The others remained silent. Sugiarto was clearly embarrassed and upset; Aaron remained unsettled and angry. Jacques finally cleared his throat and answered.
“As representative of a historically neutral nation that has declined participation in modern wars; one that has exercised neither the desire nor the will to develop such unspeakable weapons, cruel devices of unspeakable horror, I must answer your question by saying, ‘yes, we feel as though we’ve been held hostage to nuclear terror for many years.’ We are totally powerless to intercede. We have no choice, no voice, no say in the matter. What you say describes the situation perfectly. And I will add, my friend Aaron, that as much as we do trust you and value your friendship and the support of your great nation, we do resent going to sleep each evening wondering if we will wake in the morning to a world in ashes, or if we will wake at all!”
“Aaron, you are the leader of a great nation, a superpower on the world stage. The burden falls upon you to heed this last challenge.
“Jacques, you are an ambassador and emissary to many nations whose trust you hold. Your words carry great weight.
“Sugiarto, you hold a position of mediation and guidance leading the only institution of world unity, as poor as it is, on this planet.
“It is my burden to deliver to you a judgment and a challenge from the Nis’prax Mas’shi-dul, the Planetary Council of M’shai’dur, the Masi’shen home world. I deliver it as my duty requires:
“This long conversation, the questions and answers regarding the stores of nuclear weapons among the powerful nations, your perceived and admitted inability to divest yourselves of them, or to control their spread, or to seriously prevent their use, deliberately or accidentally, is an intolerable situation. Intolerable even to your own peoples, those who are held hostage to the self-serving interests of a privileged few. They have no means to force a change. Nor do we, your galactic neighbors. But as I have warned, we do have the means to isolate you and your threat to us.
“Your crude technology of radioactive fissionable weapons is considered anathema in the civilized galaxy. It is a poisoner of worlds, a savagely brutal bringer of death, and an immolator of civilizations. You toy with it like a child would toy with a live hand grenade.
But far worse is the human ability to turn depraved, bestial, and cruel beyond measure, insensate to decency, unaccountable to conscience. The deliberate study, nurturing, and refinement of disease organisms and poisonous toxins, engineered to kill by the most hideous means imaginable thousands and hundreds of thousands of your kind? Your god must be weeping in heaven for you.
“Neither Lyn’na-ra or myself could believe that of you when we began to hear hints of these things from those who sought to better inform us of your history, of man’s inhumanity to man. Then one day Michael, not intending to be cruel, was attempting to warn his mate, our beloved daughter Dee’rah who now shares a blend of humanity within herself. He brought her a history of the European conquest and colonization of the New World, the American continents, north and south. He sought to make her understand the dual nature of humankind, the good ... and the evil.