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April 24, 2008
According To Rules, Iran Now Allowed To Attack U.S.
You've probably seen that Hillary Clinton just said this:
CHRIS CUOMO: You said if Iran were to strike Israel, there would be 'massive retaliation." Scary words. Does 'massive retaliation" mean you'd go into Iran? You would bomb Iran? Is that what that's supposed to suggest?
CLINTON: Well, the question was, if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel, what would our response be? And I want the Iranians to know that if I am president, we will attack Iran. And I want them to understand that...we would be able to totally obliterate them. That's a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that. Because that, perhaps, will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish, and tragic.
While belligerently phrased, this was not a threat by Clinton to attack Iran first. Instead, it's a statement of deterrence. And interestingly, it's quite similar to an infamous statement by Saddam Hussein back in 1990. Here's an AFP story from that April:
President Saddam Hussein has ordered the Iraqi air force to retaliate with chemical weapons in the event of atomic attack by Israel, the official Iraqi News Agency agency reported Monday. "I gave the order to Iraqi air force and missile commanders to retaliate with binary chemical weapons as soon as they know that Israel has attacked any part of Iraq with an atomic bomb,'' he was quoted as telling a visiting U.S. Senate delegation on Thursday. It was unclear why the agency waited until Monday to report the president's comments. On April 2, Hussein threatened to "make fire burn up half of Israel with chemical weapons if it attacks Iraq.''
The difference is that (1) Saddam's statement was repeatedly used in 2002-3 as evidence for why he was a madman who had to be destroyed, and (2) the "if Israel attacks Iraq first" part was generally dropped, so it was no longer a statement of deterrence but rather a threat of naked aggression.
So by the standards we apply to others, Iran is now allowed to say Clinton has promised to "obliterate" them whether or not they attack anyone. And, since this demonstrates we're madmen who must be destroyed, they therefore are allowed to invade America.
Here are some examples of the truncated use of the Saddam statement. This is from Kenneth Pollack's book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq:
Israel is well aware of the threat it faces from Iraq...It was Israel that Saddam threatened to "burn" half of in 1990 and that he lobbed thirty-nine Scuds at during the Gulf War. The Israelis have listened carefully to Saddam's rhetoric for thirty years and have watched carefully as he built up Iraq's strength, at least rhetorically, for an eventual confrontation with Israel.
From Lloyd's List, one of the world's oldest publications, on August 6, 2002
Oil traders make painstaking forecasts of everything from refining margins to weather patterns to safeguard profits.
Now they are attempting the impossible - trying to read the mind of a man accused of gassing his own people and who once threatened to burn half of Israel.
Barbara Amiel in the Chicago Sun-Times (and the UK Telegraph) on September 9, 2002:
If we leave this tyrant alone, he will continue consolidating his power. He will get more nightmarish weapons of mass destruction...The first endangered outpost of the West would be Israel, which Saddam threatened to "burn half of" with chemical weapons in 1990.
David Frum in Canada's National Post on September 22, 2002:
UN, Schmu-en says Schroeder -- it is German national interests that come first.
And what a set of national interests they are, too!...If Saddam ever does make good on his threat to "burn up half of Israel," the poisons he will use for this second Jewish holocaust will come from many of the same companies that supplied the gas for the last one.
Robert Lieber in the Los Angeles Times on September 29, 2002
Containment Has Run Its Course
Before his march into Kuwait, Hussein threatened to "burn half of Israel."
Tamar Miller and Tamar Morad in the Boston Globe on October 27, 2002:
[I]n April 1990, after the successful test of the Tammuz missile, Saddam threatened to "burn half of Israel"...
In the National Review on October 28, 2002, David Pryce-Jones didn't even bother to get the timing of the Saddam statement right, folding it into the Gulf War while also getting the date of the war wrong:
In the 1990-91 Gulf War he threatened to "burn half of Israel" and fired 39 Scud missiles.
Michael Scott Doran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on January 19, 2003, in an op-ed adapted from a piece in the Council on Foreign Relations publication Foreign Affairs:
In preparation for the invasion of Kuwait, Baghdad expressed its casus belli in terms of Kuwait's alleged participation in a Zionist-imperialist conspiracy to destroy Iraq. Saddam accompanied this rhetoric with bellicose anti-Israel statements, such as his famous threat to burn half of the Jewish state with chemical weapons.
Beautifully enough, the same formulation continues to be used even years later.
Here's Jeffrey Goldberg in New York Times on March 14, 2006:
Saddam Hussein had once promised to “make fire burn half of Israel”...
Yossi Melman on WashingtonPost.com on December 14, 2006:
Some 16 years later, in 1990, shortly after becoming science minister, Prof. Yuval Ne'eman who was a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and party to the nuclear secret, also made declarations, which suggested that any attack on Israel would provoke an extremely serious response. The remarks came against the backdrop of Saddam Hussein's threats in April 1990 that Iraq could "burn half of Israel."
Finally, Aluf Benn in Haaretz on February 3, 2007:
In the spring of 1990, Saddam Hussein threatened to "burn half of Israel."
Given all this, I assume there won't be any whining on America's part when Iran uses Clinton's statement to whip up domestic political war fever and then attacks us. We will simply nod acceptingly and say "well, fair's fair."
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at April 24, 2008 11:05 PM