The Corpse Is The Real Murderer

Jonathan Tobin claims that the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists doesn't count as terrorism because Iran = Nazi Germany 2.0:

[Y]ou need a particular form of moral myopia not to see that heading off a potential second Holocaust in the form of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel or the nuclear blackmail of the rest of the Middle East is not a form of terrorism. Anyone who believes Iran should be allowed to proceed toward the building of a nuclear bomb has either lost their moral compass or is so steeped in the belief that American and Israeli interests are inherently unjustified they have reversed the moral equation in this case. Rather than the alleged U.S. and Israeli covert operators being called terrorists, it is the Iranian scientists who are the criminals. They must be stopped before they kill.

How do you unpack this? Only one country in the Middle East has nukes and the ability thereby to act with impunity: Israel. Israel has not signed the non-proliferation treaty and has already bombed two other states attempting to get a nuclear deterrent to rival its, Iraq and Syria. And to ascribe genocidal motives to civilian scientists is to look inside a person's soul and know something we cannot know. Maybe the assassinated scientist believed, as the Green Movement does, that the nuclear program should be pursued out of patriotism and national pride – rather than genocide. The nuclear program was actually started by Green Movement hero, Mousavi. But David Frum knows better:

These scientists were actively engaged in developing instrumentalities for genocide.

Really? Larison provides a reality check:

Israel has a nuclear deterrent of hundreds of warheads that would keep Iran from attacking it even if Iran had a nuclear weapon. There is still no evidence that the Iranian leadership has decided to develop a nuclear weapon. The Iranian leadership is intent on the self-preservation of their regime rather than mass suicide, and the official Iranian position is that the use of nuclear weapons is forbidden by Islamic law. On the basis of this total fantasy of an Iranian nuclear first-strike attack on Israel, Tobin sanctions the murder of people who may be involved in nothing more than legitimate scientific research. "They must be stopped before they kill," he says, but there is no reason to think that "they" are going to do the killing he fears. It goes without saying that these acts have nothing to do with American or Israeli self-defense.

Are we not back at the One Percent Doctrine? And have we learned nothing from its application in the Bush-Cheney years?

It's perfectly understandable why Israel doesn't want Iran to have a single nuclear weapon to counter-balance the hundreds of warheads that Israel has pointed at Iranians. But unless you believe that the Iranian regime is completely irrational about its own self-interests or even its own survival – something belied by its entire history – the notion that it represents an existential threat is a leap. Yes, it's a leap fueled by the completely understandable Israeli and Jewish paranoia that another Hitler is always a Chamberlain away. And it is fueled by vile eliminationist and anti-Semitic rhetoric in Tehran. But if the West could live with Mao's nuclear weapons, and his public threat to destroy the planet to make it safe for communism, then surely we can live with Iran's much punier deterrent against Israel's nuclear arsenal.

This is doubly true because any attempt by Israel to attack Iran would create a "day after" of assured danger to Israel, rather than a vague future amorphous threat of Iranian nuclear power. In former Mossad head, Meir Dagan's words:

Even if Israel attacked immediately, Dagan argued, it wouldn't halt Iran's nuclear program. On the contrary, the Iranians would be more motivated than ever to arm themselves and pursue a military course, while Israel would undoubtedly "pay a terrible, unbearable price." He said that Iran and Syria, along with Hamas and Hezbollah, the terror militias they financially back, would rain missiles on the country from north to south, killing thousands. "How can we defend ourselves against such an attack?" Dagan asked, adding: "I have no answer to that."

And if we are serious about non-proliferation, and want to retain even a semblance of even-handedness, the US should seek nuclear disarmament on all sides, including Israel. But I know that's so outside Washington's mainstream that I will be accused of insanity. Personally, I think Israel, given its vulnerability, has every reason to have a nuclear deterrent. But once it has assembled one, it seems odd to argue that none of its foes should have a deterrent in return.