Michael Salla, Ph.D. / OpEd News.com – 2007-10-15 23:13:06
WASHINGTON (October 13, 2007) — From October 15 to 19, 2007, a set of military and civil exercises will be held in Oregon, Arizona and Guam. The exercises, TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield 08, are designed to test official responses to the detonation of radiological dispersal devices on U.S. territory.
The exercises will be overseen by Vice President Dick Cheney who will travel specifically to Portland to coordinate all Federal departments and agencies responses to the simulated attacks. This has led to a number of civilian groups expressing alarm that TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield might be used as a cover for False Flag operations that replicate what occurred during the 911 attacks.
On September 11, 2001, Dick Cheney was overseeing a series of simulated terrorist attacks involving hijacked airplanes hitting buildings that was called “Vigilant Guardian”. Vigilant Guardian was run simultaneously with NORAD training exercises called Vigilant Warrior and Northern Vigilance that altogether involved as many as eleven hijacked airplanes.
This created much confusion and led to stand down orders for the US Air Force that was unsure if the 911 attacks were part of the simulated exercises or real attacks. This confusion accounted for the long delays between initial reports of hijacked planes being used in ‘terrorist’ attacks, and Air Force intercept missions being launched using the few planes not involved in the Northern Vigilance exercise.
What makes TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield especially concerning is that they follow upon an incident involving five (later revised up to six) nuclear cruise missiles found on a B-52 sitting on a tarmac at Barksdale Air Force Base on August 30. The Air Force has launched an official inquiry and so far has announced to the public that the B-52 incident was nothing more than an unusually high number of errors.
A Washington Post article on September 23 summarized the main arguments for this explanation which has effectively put to an end any further investigations by mainstream media sources. In contrast, a number of researchers have argued that the B-52 incident could not have occurred without very senior officials giving orders, and others refusing to comply with such orders.
According to Wayne Madsen a number of Air Force personnel refused to allow the nuclear armed B-52 to fly in a covert mission to Iran outside the normal chain of military command.
Madsen describes the nature of the internal conflict over the B-52 incident: “Command and control breakdowns involving U.S. nuclear weapons are unprecedented, except for that fact that the U.S. military is now waging an internal war against neo-cons who are embedded in the U.S. government and military chain of command who are intent on using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive war with Iran.”
Madsen is alluding here to the most plausible explanation for the source of orders leading to the B-52 incident. The orders emanated from the office of the Vice President, and in particular Dick Cheney himself. Cheney’s orders were opposed all the way up the Department of Defense hierarchy including Admiral William Fallon, Commander of Central Command, and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
This is supported by a recent report in the Telegraph newspaper that Gates has become the chief opponent to Dick Cheney’s plans to commit the U.S. to another war against Iran and is encouraging military officers to be more candid in their assessments of a new conflict.
What makes the B-52 incident even more disturbing is that six nuclear cruise missiles left Minot Air Force Base, and the initial Military Times report on September 5 reported that five nuclear warheads were discovered at Barksdale Air Force Base. This was subsequently revised by the Military Times to six in an updated story five days later on September 10. How could the Air Force mix up how many nuclear weapons were initially involved in the incident?
The most plausible explanation is that there had been a discrepancy in the number of nuclear weapons that had left Minot and what had been later discovered at Barksdale? The nuclear armed B-52 had been sitting on the tarmac in an unsecured military environment for up to 10 hours before its nuclear payload was discovered.
This offered plenty of time for the removal of one of the nuclear weapons. Such an event had to be covered up for national security purposes which is why the Military Times revised its initial report.
The possibility of a missing nuclear weapon is augmented by an unprecedented official standown by the Air Force on September 14 where all planes were grounded allegedly to review Standard Operating Procedures. Was the Air Force really conducting an emergency inventory to locate any missing nuclear weapons?
This raises the disturbing possibility that not only was the B-52 ordered to participate in a covert mission to attack Iran outside the regular chain of military command, but that one of its nuclear weapons was secretly siphoned off for another covert mission. If Dick Cheney did give the order for the nuclear weapons to be loaded on to the B-52, it is highly likely that he is aware of the location and potential use of the missing nuclear missile.
A number of serious questions therefore need to be asked about the appropriateness of Cheney being in charge of TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield. This is even more urgent if there is a missing nuclear warhead that was taken from the B-52 for a yet undisclosed mission. Could this mission be related to the TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield exercises?
In a Presidential Statement released on May 21, 2001, President Bush gave Vice President Cheney the power to coordinate national efforts in response to terrorist attacks: “I have asked Vice President Cheney to oversee the development of a coordinated national effort so that we may do the very best possible job of protecting our people from catastrophic harm.”
An “Office of National Preparedness” was created to implement the “national effort overseen by Vice President Cheney” and would “coordinate all 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.”
Effectively, this means that during TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield, VP Cheney will be responsible for all efforts to respond to weapons of mass destruction. He will have the power of override any Department of Defense objections to activities concerning “consequence management” of nuclear weapons. If there was a missing nuclear weapon from the B-52 incident, then TOPOFF and Vigilant Shield could provide the cover for its use.
The possible use of the B-52 missing nuclear weapon could trigger the martial law scenario found in National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 51 after the declaration of a “Catastrophic Emergency.” NSPD 51 defines a “Catastrophic Emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”
Once declaring such an emergency, President Bush or his successors according to Continuity of Government provisions, can take over all governmental functions at local, state and national levels, as well as private sector activities, to ensure the U.S. emerges from the emergency with an “enduring constitutional government.”
So far, the Air Force inquiry is classified and information on a possible missing nuclear weapon has not been disclosed. It is unlikely that much information will be disclosed to the public for national security reasons.
The only U.S. Congressman calling for an official public inquiry into the B-52 incident is Dennis Kucinich. As long as the role of Dick Cheney in the B-52 incident is not investigated and the missing nuclear weapon is not located, Cheney should be removed from any position of authority in coordinating civil and military responses to any simulated terrorist attack.
Such exercises provide him the opportunity and authority to secretly approve the covert use of a nuclear device that can be used to trigger a declaration of a “Catastrophic Emergency.” U.S. National Security is not served by Dick Cheney having a prominent role in leading TOPOFF 4, Vigilant Shield and any future simulated terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.
Dr. Michael Salla is an internationally recognized scholar in international politics, conflict resolution, US foreign policy and the new field of ‘exopolitics’. He is author/editor of five books; and held academic appointments in the School of International Service& the Center for Global Peace, American University, Washington DC (1996-2004); the Department of Political Science, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia (1994-96); and the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington D.C., (2002). He has a Ph.D in Government from the University of Queensland, Australia, and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has conducted research and fieldwork in the ethnic conflicts in East Timor, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Sri Lanka, and organized peacemaking initiatives involving mid to high level participants from these conflicts.