by   Michael Hammerschlag



Attacking Iran’s  nuclear facilities is said to be impossible by a chorus of wise men, many of whom couldn’t be heard before the reckless Iraq invasion. It would provoke an “explosion of hatred in the Muslim world.”  [A] military strike would be disastrous for the United States.” He (Bush) does not have a military option.” “It would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.”


Well maybe, but the true cause of the wholesale rejection of action against the untenable threat Iranian nukes present is Bush’s immolation of the US military honeymoon, the presumption of good faith in America’s integrity and decency; that military action would be the very last step of the world’s storehouse of democracy. The greatest strategic danger in Bush’s criminally reckless and dishonest invasion was that it would politically paralyze our ability to deal with any other threats and cripple the military. Those younger than 40 won’t remember.


Before there was Al Qaida (what there really is of it- perhaps 1000 odd people before Iraq), there was Iran, fomenting terrorism around the world (directly or via their Islamic Jihad surrogates), blowing up US Embassies and Marine barracks in Beirut (300 dead), Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, perhaps the Pan-Am 103 bombing1, executing tens of thousands of dissenters, assassinating scores of émigrés around the world including many founding Revolutionaries, and criminally imprisoning US diplomats for 15 months.


Ayatollah Khomeini was simply a monster- for 6 years after a settlement could have been reached in the 8 year war with Iraq, he sent hundreds of thousands of children into machine guns with only a headband in human wave attacks for "the glory of Allah" (500-750,000 died).


One thing was obvious for the last quarter century- Iran should never ever be allowed to have the Bomb- they are the only country besides North Korea that might use it against us, they have a perverse obsession with martyrdom, and a far greater record of international terrorism (N. Korea’s is vast, but directed entirely at the South). Strangely the Russians have been helping the Iranians' nuclear aspirations in a phantom hand reprise of their “influence”, although they are even more endangered by bomb diversion to Chechen rebels, who have thought nothing of slaughtering schools of children in response to the Russians’ huge depredations and would fry Moscow in a heartbeat.2       click to enlarge

 No one is suggesting a war or invasion, but a 5-10 day aerial campaign against the 12-24 nuclear sites and air and coastal defense systems. Again, action is handicapped by the corrupt and manipulative Administration conflation of the struggle against a handful of terrorists into a war on terrorism, a war that can never end because one can’t defeat a tactic. That has diverted, corrupted, and wasted our capabilities, resolve, and principles in the ancient sands of Mesopotamia. But if such an attack can delay the Iranian achievement of a nuclear bomb from 1-2 years to 8-10, it would be worth the world condemnation and Iranian retaliations. In 8-10 years, hopefully the brutal teetering Islamic dictatorship, despised by the vast majority of the populace, will be gone. Despite the Army and Marines being vastly brutally overextended, the Air Force and Navy aren’t, and are ideally situated for removing the Iranian nuclear plants.


 Those who definitively declare that Iran is 10 years from a bomb now are spinning fantasy- no one can know that, and almost all predictions of incipient nuclear capabilities have been wrong3. The basic plans for a bomb are well known, especially since Pakistani Abdul Khan spread specific ones around the world like Johnny Appleseed- the only missing ingredient is fissile material, which can be generated in a year or two. And no matter what the Iranians say and what inspections they agree to, Ahmadinejad means to have the bomb, and will do whatever it takes. Naysayers say ‘but Iran only has 162 uranium enriching centrifuges’, but would they tell us if they had 5000, with Bush threatening attacks? Russia and China have no intention of imposing UN sanctions.


Iran has some of the largest oil reserves in the world and doesn’t need nuclear power plants. Are they living in a dangerous nuclear neighborhood? Not really. Pakistan may not like Shiites, but there haven’t been great tensions between them. Russia hasn’t been threatening since the 50’s and is even selling Iran  nuclear technology. Turkey has no nukes of its own, and little to do with Iran; India is more remote. Iraq is now a partial satrapy of Iran (most ruling Shiites lived in Iran for many years) and no threat whatsoever as it descends into civil war. Israel isn’t about to ever use their nukes unless their survival is threatened or Tel Aviv is vaporized. The only reason Iran wants nukes is to keep America at bay, and project power. Under a nuclear umbrella all manner of provocative acts would be likely.


Bombing Iran won’t be painless. They can cause widespread uprisings and attacks against US forces in Shiite Iraq; perhaps even prevail on the Iraqi government to throw us out of the country (one way out); they could sink ships in the Persian Gulf with their supersonic anti-ship missiles; they could cut oil production (but probably not for long). US interests may be attacked throughout the Muslim world, and the world will excoriate and isolate us. But none of these compare to the horrific prospect of a nuclear sun rising over an American city. Not the Bush propaganda lie, but the real thing.


Wise man former NSA director William Odom said to me (audio), “They wouldn’t kill us with one nuke.” Yes, but our political system couldn’t take 200-400,000 dead (estimate of 20 kt. bomb in midtown Manhattan), look how pathologically we reacted to 3000 dead in 9-11. We would become a police state, throw the 8 million US Muslims in camps or deport them, expand the already ominous surveillance till the Bill of Rights  was an irrelevant piece of paper. Saying that Iran will go all out to make nukes if we bomb them is like saying we can’t put a criminal in jail cause he’ll kill us when he gets out- it renders any action impossible. Could Bush be using this as another diversion from his abysmal record? Yes, but it doesn’t matter. We don’t have to trust Bush- we can trust the fulminating threats of radical fundamentalist hostage-taker Ahmadinejad, who has purged all moderate voices in the government and made apocalyptic threats against Israel not heard for 30 years.


Unlike everything Bush has previously done, this is a real critical national security issue, that will determine if the US will exist as a liberal democracy. It’s a tough choice, but one we must take, not for Israel, which can take care of itself, but for us.



1  We supposedly pinned it on the Libyans, but they had suffered 14 years of sanctions and were willing to plead to anything to stop them; it was also authoritatively stated that Iran and Syria were responsible at different points. The accidental US downing of the Iranian Mecca pilgrim Airbus by the Vincennes five months before (after the Iraqi missile attack on the Stark) means to me that Iran had to have a hand in it.


2   I tried to influence the Russian sale of submarines and nuclear technology to Iran in a column I wrote in ’93 in Russia, it was about the only thing the respected liberal Moscow News  wouldn’t run.


3  Soviets wouldn’t have Bomb till 1955; it was ’49; China wouldn’t have one till ’72, it was ’64; Israel’s only was suspected in 1968-70, known in 1980-86, but they had the Bomb by 1966;  India’s Bomb in 1974 was relative surprise; Cuba had no Bombs in the Missile Crisis, they actually had 162 (audio-McNamara)



Michael Hammerschlag’s commentaries + articles have appeared in Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Honolulu Advertiser, Columbia Journalism Review, Media Channel, and Capital Times.  He reported from Russia for 2 1/2 years and wrote for Moscow News, Tribune, Guardian, Times, and We/Mui. His web page is , mail:


NSA Director Gen. William Odom (article) -new (REALAUDIO)- 52 min    Dissects strategic blunder of Iraq, escape strategies, geopolitical consequences, Iran attack, Korea- April 7 - Brown Univ., Watson Institute

 MY QUESTIONS on IRAN BOMBING (realaudio) + @ 2:03 HANDICAPPING IRAQ CIVIL WAR - 7:14 min total WindowsMedia

NEW HOPE for IRAN-  June '97            NPR  TOTN comments on Iran 1/22/03  (move slider to 21:45-24:40)
Overwhelming election of Khatami; likelihood of overthrow of Islamic dictators. A country of children: 70% under 25 years, 40% under 14- tired of sexual and cultural repression: strict segregation of sexes, no dances, Western videos, movies, handholding. Corruption of ruling mullahs and perversion of Islamic values: 98% of clergy NOT in leadership. Origin of Shiite's obsession with death and sacrifice. America's options- (forecasts lifting of Rushdie Fatwa)