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The world, through Iran’s telescope

COMMENTARY | October 21, 2009

The ugly truths that Iranians see go a long way toward explaining why they are so determined to get the Bomb, writes George C. Wilson.

By George C. Wilson

Just before Iran gets back to dominating the front page again, let’s look at the deeds — not words — of the United States and Israel through Iran’s end of the telescope. The ugly truths Ira­nian leaders and their people see go a long way toward explaining why they are so determined to get the Bomb.

First of all, the United States is the only country on Earth that actually killed thousands of civilians by incinerating them with nu­clear bombs. Yes, I know. It was during World War II when the Jap­anese were considered all bad guys. But the truth is that the United States government has lots of blood on its hands when it warns the Iranians not to build the bomb or else.
A study financed by the National Science Foundation estimated that the Little Boy uranium-235 bomb dropped from our Enola Gay B-29 bomber on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killed 80,000 to 140,000 Japanese instantly and injured 100,000 more.
The Fat Man plutonium implosion bomb dropped from our Bock’s Car B-29 bomber on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, killed 74,000 and injured 75,000 more, according to the same study. Fatal radiation sickness was a side effect of our two nuclear bombings.
After the war, American presidents — including Harry Truman, who approved dropping Fat Man and Little Boy — looked with alarm at the furious efforts of the So­viet Union and China to get the Bomb. The Soviet Union tested its first one in August 1949, and China joined the nuclear club by testing its first bomb in October 1964.
There were plans in the Pentagon’s bottom drawer to slow Soviet and Chinese nuclear bomb programs by bombing their facilities. But the stickier questions back then are the same ones that hang over plans for bombing Iranian plants today: How do you bomb nu­clear material without shooting poisonous radioactive material into the atmosphere where upper winds could carry it far and wide and kill innocents? And if bombers and/or missiles just hit with con­ventional explosives the Iranian machinery for making the Bomb, avoiding the nuclear material itself, would the temporary setback in­flicted be worth the storm of world protest bound to follow?
Up to now, presidents have clamped the claws of hawks in their midst who wanted to bomb Soviet, Chinese and now Iranian nuclear bomb facilities before they became lethal. U.S. and Soviet leaders eventually settled for keeping nuclear pistols at each others’ temples all through the Cold War.
This strategy of mutually assured destruction was based on the premise of “I won’t if you won’t, and if you do, I’ll kill you dead with all the nukes you’ll miss in your surprise strike.”
So far, MAD has kept these two biggest nuclear powers from pulling the trigger.
Even if Iran makes good on its promise to let International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors study its newly disclosed plant at Qom on Oct. 25 to convince world leaders it is pursuing nuclear energy, not the Bomb, hawks in this country, Israel and elsewhere will not believe it. They will argue that Israel can have the Bomb but Iran cannot — a double standard if you’re looking through Tehran’s end of the telescope.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates in its latest Military Balance report that Israel possesses “up to 200 nuclear warheads” that could be put aboard its Jericho 1 and 2 missiles to hit Iran. A fair but uncomfortable question for Obama, Congress and others to ask themselves is this one: If mutually as­sured destruction kept the United States and Soviet Union — the two scorpions in the bottle during the coldest days of the Cold War — from nuking each other, would Iran’s possession of the Bomb have the same sobering effect on Israeli and Ira­nian leaders?
Iran seems hell-bent on getting the Bomb, sanctions or not, sooner or later, so it’s time to think about the unthinkable.
Israel has demonstrated to the world that it is willing to resort to invading another nation’s air space and bombing its nuclear facilities to delay its pursuit of the Bomb. Ex­hibit A is Israel’s bombing on June 7, 1981, of Iraq’s nuclear reactor bought from France.
The bombers were American-made F-16s escorted by Ameri­can-made F-15 fighters. Still shrouded in mystery is the Israeli bombing of a suspected nuclear development facility in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007.
Way back in the presidency of John F. Kennedy, his secretary of State, Dean Rusk, came to lunch at The Washington Post and told us reporters and editors that Israel had the Bomb and that he had warned its ambassador that the United States would take a dim view of Israel ever using it. “We won’t be the first,” Rusk said the ambassador told him. When the ambassador reached Rusk’s office door to exit, he added, “And we won’t be the second.”
There’s one more thing for Obama to worry about.
This column first appeared in National Journal’s congressdaily.com

nieman column
Posted by mike
10/27/2009, 10:57 AM

thank you for your thoughtfulness...

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