Presidential Candidates Back Nuclear Strike Against Iran
By Patrick Martin
07 June, 2007
of ten candidates for the Republican presidential nomination explicitly
or tacitly supported a US attack on Iran using nuclear weapons, in response
to a question at Tuesday night’s nationally televised debate in
Despite the extraordinary
character of these declarations—giving support to the first use
of nuclear weapons in war since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 62 years ago—there
was virtually no US press coverage of these remarks and no commentary
on their significance.
While the Republican candidates
sought to present the military action as a limited one against Iran’s
alleged nuclear weapons facilities, calling them “tactical nuclear
strikes,” no one should misunderstand what this means. The use
of nuclear weapons, in whatever form, against a densely populated country
of 75 million would be an act of mass murder.
These comments reflect the
derangement and depravity of considerable sections of a ruling elite
which believes it must make a “success” of its occupation
of Iraq, even if it requires “doubling its bet” and attacking
another major country in the Middle East—one which is three times
larger than Iraq and with a long history of struggle for independence
and against colonial-style rule.
The initial exchange came
about half an hour into the debate, which was broadcast on CNN and moderated
by CNN anchorman Wolf Blitzer. After some initial discussion on the
Iraq war, in which nine of the ten candidates vowed to persevere in
the effort to control the oil-rich country, Blitzer asked Congressman
Duncan Hunter of California, former chairman of the House Armed Services
Committee, about recent talks between US and Iranian officials in Baghdad.
He asked Hunter whether it was correct to negotiate with Iran, given
Iran’s alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons. When Hunter
endorsed the talks, Blitzer followed up with this question:
Blitzer: If it came down
to a preemptive US strike against Iran’s nuclear facility, if
necessary would you authorize as president the use of tactical nuclear
Hunter: I would authorize
the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt
those particular centrifuges.
Blitzer then turned to former
New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who currently leads in opinion polls
of prospective Republican primary voters.
Blitzer: What do you think,
Mayor? Do you think if you were president of the United States and it
came down to Iran having a nuclear bomb, which you say is unacceptable,
you would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons?
Giuliani: Part of the premise
of talking to Iran has to be that they have to know very clearly that
it is unacceptable to the United States that they have nuclear power.
I think it could be done with conventional weapons, but you can’t
rule out anything and you shouldn’t take any option off the table.
The same question was then
posed to former Virginia Governor James Gilmore, and to former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney, the candidate with the most backing from Wall
Street and other financial interests.
Gilmore criticized “the
desire for Iran to dominate that portion of the world,” adding
that while he supported negotiations with Iran, “We’re also
going to say that having a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. They need
to understand it. And all options are on the table by the United States
in that instance.”
Questioned by Blitzer, Romney
used the same formulation.
Blitzer: Governor Romney,
I want to get you on the record. Do you agree with the mayor, the governor,
others here, that the use of tactical nuclear weapons, potentially,
would be possible if that were the only way to stop Iran from developing
a nuclear bomb?
Romney: You don’t take
options off the table.
These four candidates were
the only ones directly asked the question, but five others—Senator
John McCain, Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman Tom Tancredo, former
Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, and former Arkansas Governor Mike
Huckabee—had ample opportunity to object or to distinguish their
positions from this endorsement of mass murder.
Only one candidate chose
to do so, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, the former Libertarian presidential
candidate. Paul, a conservative politician who articulates the isolationist
strain in American bourgeois politics, is a critic of the Iraq war.
He finally addressed the issue of using nuclear weapons an hour after
it was raised, in response to a question from a college professor in
the audience, who asked what each candidate thought was the most important
moral issue facing the country.
Several of the Republican
candidates gave predictable responses, citing abortion and the “right
to life,” a right which they are not prepared to concede to the
people of Iraq, Iran or any other country that stands in the way of
American imperialism. Congressman Paul’s response is worth quoting,
since it demonstrates how far the “mainstream” of American
bourgeois politics has gone in embracing mass killing as an instrument
of state policy.
Blitzer: Congressman Paul,
what’s the most pressing moral issue in the United States right
Paul: I think it is the acceptance
just recently that we now promote preemptive war. I do not believe that’s
part of the American tradition... And now, tonight, we hear that we’re
not even willing to remove from the table a preemptive nuclear strike
against a country that has done no harm to us directly and is no threat
to our national security!”
These remarks were greeted
with considerable applause, an indication that even among self-identified
rank-and-file Republicans there is growing unease over the escalating
militarism of the American ruling elite.
But in the corporate-controlled
US media, there was little or no commentary about the endorsement of
a nuclear strike against Iran. CNN, which broadcast the debate, reported
it in passing, and cited only Congressman Hunter’s support for
the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post reduced
the issue to a single clause of a sentence towards the end of its report
on the debate, in which, it claimed, McCain, Giuliani and Romney “each
had moments in which they shined.” The Post reporters did not
say if they thought that Giuliani’s and Romney’s support
for possible nuclear strikes on Iran was such a moment.
The entire treatment of the
subject was limited to the following: “The candidates said they
would not remove the option of using nuclear weapons to prevent Iran
from obtaining such weapons, and they also fielded questions about abortion,
religion, health care and global warming.”
The rest of the mainstream
press did not even report this endorsement of an unprovoked US nuclear
attack on Iran. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated
Press, Bloomberg News Service, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News all said nothing.
There is no politically innocent
explanation for this silence. One can only imagine the howling in the
American media if a prominent official figure in China had threatened
the use of nuclear weapons against Taiwan, or if a candidate to succeed
Vladimir Putin in Russia had called for nuclear strikes against one
of its pro-Western neighbors.
Outside the United States,
the significance of the threats of nuclear attack on Iran was widely
recognized. The British news service Reuters led its report on the debate
with the Iran comments, under the headline, “Republicans: Iran
Must Not Have Nuclear Arms.” The lead paragraph begins: “Republican
candidates for US president agreed on Tuesday that Iran must not develop
atomic weapons even if a tactical nuclear strike is needed to stop it
The Israeli daily newspaper
Ha’aretz also took note, commenting, “One of the more memorable
statements was made by former Governor Jim Gilmore, who said that all
options were on the table in dealing with Iran, including the possible
use of tactical nuclear weapons.”
The bloodlust expressed in
these remarks is not limited to the nine Republicans on the stage in
New Hampshire. Prospective candidate Fred Thompson, the former senator
from Tennessee, gave a television interview immediately after the debate
in which he solidarized himself with the call for a preemptive strike
against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
As for the Democrats, nearly
all of the party’s presidential candidates, as well as the entire
congressional leadership, are on record in support of escalating the
US campaign of diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and military
saber-rattling against Iran, aimed at preparing public opinion in the
United States for a new and even more terrible slaughter in the Middle
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