Alice in Nuclear Blunderland

Feature story - March 8, 2006
Editor's note: In preparing this article about the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, we read the news stories from all of the most reputable sources, we read the reports from all of the best institutions, we read the statements from all of the governments and agencies, but nowhere could we find a reasonable, rational, or plausible explanation of what was happening. We decided the only answer was the absurd.

More nuclear power = less nuclear weapons? Only if you're as mad as a hatter.

Ever since Alice had slipped down the Rabbit Hole, the news had beengetting curiouser and curiouser. She found herself at avery large table where the March Hare, a dormouse, a hippopotamus, andthe Mad Hatter were having tea.

The Hatter was telling a story about how George W. TweedleDum had justgot back from a trip to India, where he was promising to give awayshiny new nuclear technology. At the same time, TweedleDee hadbeen getting very red-faced at the United Nations about someshiny new nuclear technology in Iran that he wanted taken away. He broke off his story to wave an empty teapot at Alice.

"Would you like less tea, my dear?"

"Don't you mean more

tea?" asked Alice politely.

"No no no no. We don't have any "more tea" we only have "lesstea." And it's very rude to ask for what we don't have. Now, would youlike some more Peaceful Nuclear Technology and Less Nuclear Weapons togo with that?"

"Umm, yes please" said Alice, thinking this must be the correct answer and not wanting to upset the Hatter again.

"There you go again, asking for what we can't possibly give you!" cried the Hatter, springing to his feet.

"How about some safe, clean nuclear power instead?" offered the dormouse helpfully.

"That sounds quite nice, I suppose," said Alice with some hesitation.

"Wrong answer! No such thing!" the Hatter shouted with glee, politely adding "One lump or two?"

Alice was quite put out. "Isn't it rude to offer something you don'thave?" asked Alice. "And even ruder to offer something that doesn'texist? What kind of a tea party is this?"

"Why this is an IAEA Board of Governors meeting, my dear, and we'rehaving an NP Tea Party!" said the March Hare, glancing nervously at avery large watch which was chiming the hour by barking loudly.

"An NP Tea Party? What's that?"

"It's all very simple," said the Hatter as he handed out slices of cakeand then went around smacking everyone's hand when they started eatingit, "the NPT is a treaty in which the parties that have nuclear weaponsagree to get rid of their nuclear weapons in exchange for the partiesthat don't have nuclear weapons promising not to get nuclear weapons.As part of the incentive for not getting nuclear weapons they'rerewarded with the means to make nuclear weapons.  Slice of Cake?"

Alice eyed the yellow cake suspiciously. She heard a distant voice shouting "Off with their heads!"

"Now, at the moment we're discussing the case of Iran, which has signedthe treaty and promised not to build nuclear weapons and so has beenrewarded with the means to make nuclear weapons. But there are some people

at this party who think that they're actually using thosemeans to make nuclear weapons as a

means to make nuclear weapons

."

"Which they've said they don't want..." said Alice.

"Oh yes, but as you of all people should know, my dear, saying what wemean isn't always the same as meaning what we say. Saying thatthey aren't making nuclear weapons is just what you'd expect them to doif they were making nuclear weapons. Proof enough."

The Hatter took a slice of cake and pushed it into the face of the Hippo, whoalready had his mouth full. "You shouldn't eat so much cake," he sputtered.

George W. TweedleDum suddenly appeared. "Personically, I'd like to see lessnuclear weapons in the world. Which is why I'm building more."

"THAT's the spirit!" cried the Hatter.

"But I don't understand!" cried Alice. "If you can use nuclearpower technology to make nuclear weapons, and you want to get rid ofthe nuclear weapons, shouldn't you stop handing out the nuclear powertechnology?"

George W. TweedleDum patted Alice on the head. "You are anabsurd little creature, aren't you? Hatter, why don't you explanify theTreaty thing?"

"The TREATY thing, yes yes, mustn't forget that!" cried the Hatter ashe absent-mindedly dipped the dormouse in his tea.

"Now yousee on the one hand, Iran has signed the Non-treaty on WeaponsProliferation, and the Treaty on the Proliferation of Non-weaponsNuclear, and the Proliferation of Treaties on the Proliferation ofWeapons, Non..."

"Which are all the same thing," said the dormouse, yawning.

"So if THEY try to get nuclear weapons, that's quite illegal and wemust send them to the Queen of Hearts' Security Council for punishment."

"India, on the other hand," said the Hatter holding up a second handand dropping the teapot on the dormouse's head, "has never signed thetreaty, so their nuclear weapons are perfectly OK and they should berewarded with more nuclear technology."

"Pakistan, on the third hand," and oddly the Hatter actually produce athird hand at this point, " has never signed the treaty, but we're notso sure about them, so we're NOT going to reward them with more nucleartechnology."

George W. TweedleDum smiled broadly. "The lessonification here isnever, never sign a treaty. That's my motto. Lot of bother. I promiseto keep my nuclear weapons and everybody else has to get rid of theirsunless I say they can keep them. That's my kind of Treaty. I believe inmaintaining high standards. I believe in maintaining high standards."

"You said that twice." said the Hatter.

"He has to say it twice," said the dormouse. "It's a double

standard."

The Hatter now declared it was time for a vote. "Now, who thinkswe should send Iran to the Queen of Hearts? ("Off with their heads!came the cry from the garden next door again...) Everyone looked at theHippo. The hippo started to raise his foot, and everyone in theparty started to raise their hands. Or paws.  Then the hippo puthis foot down, and everyone in the party did the same. Then George W.TweedleDum took a large hatpin and quietly stuck it into the ratherlarge backside of the Hippo, who jumped into the air with his footraised, and everyone in the party followed suit."

"There then, it's settled, off to the Queen of Hearts with them!" sang the Hatter.

"Is that what you call democracy?" asked Alice curiously.

"Well it looks like democracy, but in reality the Hippo decides, andthe Hippo just does what TweedleDum tells him to do" said the Hatter.

"Oh. I see," said Alice. "I suppose then it's not really a democracy at all, is it?"

"Well it's just a very different kind of democracy, my dear. Some people call it a Hippocracy. Cake?"

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