How Many Times Has Netanyahu Fear-Mongered About Nukes?
Benjamin Netanyahu is being suitably mocked for the Wily E. Coyote-like picture of a bomb he used at the UN to describe Israel’s “red line” concerning Iran’s purported efforts to build a nuclear weapon. There’s no need for me to pile on; even right-wingers are horrified, with Jeffrey Goldberg — Jeffrey Goldberg! — tweeting earlier today that “Netanyahu’s bomb cartoon is the Middle East equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s chair” and that “[o]kay, it’s official: #Netanyahu has no idea what he’s doing. He has just turned a serious issue into a joke.”
That said, two points are worth making. To begin with, as I have blogged about before, Israel first started claiming that Iran was on the brink of developing nuclear weapons in 1984 — and Netanyahu himself has been making the claim since 1992. So Israel’s latest claim needs to be taken with a pile, not simply a grain, of salt.
It’s also important not to forget Netanyahu’s fear-mongering about the supposed nuclear program of another state — Iraq. Here is what he wrote — in an editorial revealingly entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam Hussein” — in the Wall Street Journal in 2002:
But the question of whether removing Saddam’s regime is itself legitimate is not one of them. Equally immaterial is the argument that America cannot oust Saddam without prior approval of the international community. This is a dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons, who has used these weapons of mass destruction against his subjects and his neighbors, and who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons. The dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Saddam were understood by my country two decades ago, well before Sept. 11. In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Began dispatched the Israeli air force on a predawn raid that destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Though at the time Israel was condemned by all the world’s governments, history has rendered a far kinder judgment on that act of unquestionable foresight and courage. Two decades ago it was possible to thwart Saddam’s nuclear ambitions by bombing a single installation. Today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do. For Saddam’s nuclear program has changed. He no longer needs one large reactor to produce the deadly material necessary for atomic bombs. He can produce it in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country–and Iraq is a very big country. Even free and unfettered inspections will not uncover these portable manufacturing sites of mass death.
How anyone could take seriously Netanyahu’s (latest) claims about Iran’s nuclear program after reading that paragraph is beyond me.