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34°4'48" N, 49°42'0" E.
Cross-posted to Long story; short pier.

Arak is not an old city, though it is the capital of the Markazi Province, one of the oldest settled areas on the Iranian plateau.

Arak, Iran.

That white patch in the upper-right is a sometime lake and salt-flat, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s the Kavir-e Mighan (or Miqan, or Miyqan, or MeiQan, depending), except this page says it’s the Shur Gel. I don’t remember; I do remember seeing plumes of dust rising hundreds of feet into a hard blue-white sky, the only sign of a convoy of trucks driving across it, lost somewhere in the shimmering heat-haze.

Arak, Iran.

There’s a university in Arak, now: the Islamic Azad University of Arak, founded in 1985, some 23,000 students, degrees in drama, agricultural science, Islamic theology, English literature. —Actually, there’s several universities: the Arak University of Medical Sciences, the University of Arak, the Tarbiat Moallem University of Arak, a campus of the Iran University of Science and Technology. I don’t know how old any of those are. I don’t remember any of them; I remember a small town and dust and open sewers and the incongruities of an American-style suburb thrown up away from all that, platted blocks of yellow grass and red-brick houses and the high-rise apartment towers off over that way.

Arak, Iran.

If I’m remembering correctly, the suburbs were at the southern end of Arak; we looked out on the mountains to the south and west. We’d drive up there and go tromping about. I spelled my name in flat rocks with letters taller than myself in the snow, but when we got back in the car and drove back down to our house and I got out and looked back, I couldn’t see them. When we went out into the country for the last day of Nawruz, I remember it looked a lot like this:

Somewhere outside Arak, 30 years ago.

And I remember we could look out the window of our car and see farmers threshing wheat the way they had for centuries:

Threshing wheat outside Arak, 30 years ago.

But if nothing changed for centuries, a lot can happen in thirty years.

Arak, Iran.

Thirty miles to the northwest these days there’s a brand-new heavy water production plant. Heavy water is water made with deuterium atoms, rather than simple, light-water hydrogen; it’s used to moderate neutrons in nuclear reactors that run off natural uranium, rather than enriched uranium. Just the ticket if you’re trying to get a nuclear program off the ground.

I haven’t seen the list of 400 possible sites the president plans to attack in Iran, but I can tell you the Arak heavy water facility is on it. I don’t know if it’s hardened enough to require a nuclear bomb. If so, it’ll (probably) be a B61-11, which could generate between 25,000 and 1.5 million tons of radioactive debris—depending on the yield “dialed in”—some thirty miles northwest of a house I lived in, thirty years ago.

The 100 KT Sedan nuclear explosion, one of the Plowshares excavation tests, was buried at a depth of 635 feet.

If not, it’ll just take a lot of conventional ordnance. —And I know, I know: who cares? The Russians loved their children, too. So did the Iraqis.

I just can’t help but take this personally. I’m only human.

Kip Manley
Comments
richardf8 From: richardf8 Date: April 9th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

Nice post.

The Russians loved their children, but they were atheists and no eschatological vision was likely to to drive their nuclear actions. In fact, I have heard it said that Gorbachev's fear that Reagan's eschatology could lead him to engage in a nuclear action led to Glasnost. So the Russians DID indeed love their children.

I have good friends living in Israel. People I went to High School with. People I am sympathetic to. And people, who, love them or hate them, I still regard as family. They are my people.

So, when the Iranian president speaks of killing 6 Million of my kin, all of a sudden, the people he leads are expendable in my eyes. I'm sorry, but that's a fact. They can change their leadership - it would be a violent and bloody process - because they can't have a free and fair election until they extricate themselves from clerical leadership (Aminedejab was chosen from a slate from which more popular, more secular, candidates had been eliminated by these clerics). Or they can face the consequences of tolerating a leader who vociferously contemplates Genocide.

My point is that there are people, good people, on both sides of the equation. But when leaders rattle sabres in a particular way they invite the deaths of their people. If people don't change that leadership, they should not be surprised when their leaders are taken at their word and responded to accordingly.
kiplet From: kiplet Date: April 9th, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)

Re: Nice post.

Thank you. (This is Kip, by the way.) Now: I hope I don't need to do much to point out the hopeless mathematics behind a statement like this:

So, when the Iranian president speaks of killing 6 Million of my kin, all of a sudden, the people he leads are expendable in my eyes. I'm sorry, but that's a fact.

—I'm not saying nothing should be done. But we are choosing to do something not to solve the problem of Iran getting nuclear weapons maybe somewhere ten years down the line; we're choosing to do something about the religious mania and messianic vision of our own leader, who sees This War Now as his God-given due. The kin of which you speak, most directly threatened by the Iranian president's statement, aren't nearly so worried as we are; then, they aren't ruled by a party at 36% and dropping.

I'm afraid that math is as hopeless and obscene as it seems.
richardf8 From: richardf8 Date: April 10th, 2006 03:31 am (UTC) (linkie thing)

Re: Nice post.

we're choosing to do something about the religious mania and messianic vision of our own leader, who sees This War Now as his God-given due.

The thing that scares me more than anything, is that when the messianic vision of Bush and the messianic vision of Aminedejab square off, well, prophecies become self-fulfilling when the world is run by people who are nihilistic enough to want to see them fulfilled. Prophetic texts were written as watchwords, not as instructions.

Some people see a coming war between Islam and "The West." Conservatives are spinning horror stories of a future in which we live as Dhimmi under a global Caliphate.

I don't see it that way. I see the wackos of Islam and the Wackos of Christendom whipping their respective constituencies for the purpose of having some kind of great big Crusade/Jihad thingy, and my chief concern is for the people of the place they are likely to pick as a battleground.

Bush has promised to act to "protect" Israel from Iranian threat. I find this troubling on a few levels. The first is that it pretty much defines Israel as the battleground, and the second is that it gives fodder to those who accuse the "Israel Lobby" of steering us to war, whether in Iraq, Iran, or elsewhere.

I don't trust Bush. Never did, never will. I don't even believe he's REALLY trying to immanentize the eschaton. I think he's just out to line his pockets, just like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. If telling evangelicals who want to see that final battle in Israel that he's going for it helps that end, he does it. And that is what "defending Israel" is a euphemism for.

But the way I see it, right now, we're in a bad quandary. If we eliminate our wackos, the other wackos will hold sway. The reverse is true as well. So how can we get reasonable people to inject some reason into the equation. How can secular Iranians who resent having lived under Sharia law for the past 25 years and Secular Americans who do not want to live under the religious law Jerry Falwell might develop to put the brakes on, to restore balance.

Six years ago, I'd have thought we'd have a shot. Now, with all that has passed since, I'm a lot less certain.
patgreene From: patgreene Date: April 9th, 2006 11:12 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)
I'm so sorry, Julia. The places of our childhoods become very special; I know how it felt when New Orleans and Mississippi were ravaged last year by Katrina, and I wait with bated breath every time a cat 5 heads for St. Petersburg. And those are natural disasters with limited cpacity for loss of life. To be faced with one of them possibly being wiped out by my own government using nuclear weapons would be incomprehensible.

It seems the government has gone insanse.

I pray that Arak and the rest of Iran stays safe, and that we turn away from this horrible evil that our government is contemplating.
jmhm From: jmhm Date: April 9th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)
Kip guestposted this...
patgreene From: patgreene Date: April 9th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC) (linkie thing)
Sorry, I missed that.

Kip, My heart goes out to you.
shelleybear From: shelleybear Date: April 10th, 2006 01:55 am (UTC) (linkie thing)
I've always said, that as beastly horrible as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, they at least had the positive point of showing just how horrible the use of Nuclear weapons could be.
That no one would be stupid or evil enough (or both) to not have learned from history.
I certainly thought that the threat of such an action would not come from someone who was alive when the bombs were dropped (even if only a child).
Now I see that I was wrong.
Bush is both stupid and evil enough to contemplate such an action.
ahhhs. -- hmmm?
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