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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Those opposed to nuclear annihilation are appeasers and guilty of "handwringing"

I read numerous pro-Bush blogs on a daily basis, including many war mongerers who routinely imply that we ought to be eradicating large numbers of Middle Eastern civilians as the solution to all of our woes, so it takes a lot in the extremism department to really surprise me. But this column from Walter Williams -- highly recommended today by National Review's Mark Levin -- did so with plenty of room to spare.

Williams points out that we could easily "annihilate" Iran or Syria with nuclear weapons launched from submarines. He then claims that the Great Generation of World War II would have done so already, but laments the tragic fact that we are deterred from doing this by what he calls the "handwringing about the innocent lives lost, so-called collateral damage" (all emphasis mine):

Does the United States have the power to eliminate terrorists and the states that support them? In terms of capacity, as opposed to will, the answer is a clear yes.

Think about it. Currently, the U.S. has an arsenal of 18 Ohio class submarines. Just one submarine is loaded with 24 Trident nuclear missiles. Each Trident missile has eight nuclear warheads capable of being independently targeted. That means the U.S. alone has the capacity to wipe out Iran, Syria or any other state that supports terrorist groups or engages in terrorism -- without risking the life of a single soldier.

Terrorist supporters know we have this capacity, but because of worldwide public opinion, which often appears to be on their side, coupled with our weak will, we'll never use it.

Today's Americans are vastly different from those of my generation who fought the life-and-death struggle of World War II. Any attempt to annihilate our Middle East enemies would create all sorts of handwringing about the innocent lives lost, so-called collateral damage.

Such an argument would have fallen on deaf ears during World War II when we firebombed cities in Germany and Japan. The loss of lives through saturation bombing far exceeded those lost through the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Like all lovers of the Western way of life, Williams blames the free press for these threats to our freedoms: "Our adversaries in the Middle East have advantages that the axis powers didn't have -- the Western press and public opinion." After spilling his nuclear annihilation fantasies out in the open, Williams pays lip service to the idea that we should at least think a little bit before eradicating entire countries -- "I'm not suggesting that we rush to use our nuclear capacity to crush states that support terrorism" -- but there is little doubt about what he is advocating.

Many Bush supporters routinely play this game of leapfrog where they inch closer and closer to being explicit (rather than coy) about what they really want -- the use of unrestrained force, meaning nuclear force, in Iran, Syria, against Hezbollah and even in Iraq. Williams advances that ball rather substantially. He goes so far as to mock as "handwringing" concerns over the (hundreds of millions or so) innocent lives that would be eradicated if we dropped nuclear weapons and eliminated whole countries. Those who think we ought not to vaporize Syria and Iran off the face of the earth are, to Williams, weak, appeasing losers who can't stop their annoying "handwringing" over all this "innocent life" garbage. What is there to say about that? It would be funny if it weren't quite so sick. Maybe it's time to hear some more life-affirming sermons from Ramesh Ponnuru about how amoral Democrats are the Party of Death.

It is tempting to dismiss insanity like that spewing forth from Williams because, well, because it's so insane, patently so. Some ideas are so self-evidently outrageous that even analyzing them rationally is impossible. If there is any such "idea" which clearly qualifies, it would be using nuclear weapons to offensively eradicate a country which has not attacked us. Even suggesting that is monstrous and dangerous (isn't that supposedly what makes the Iranian president so evil, so Hitlerian -- that he openly speaks of eradicating Israel from the map?).

And yet Walter Williams and Mark Levin are perfectly mainstream figures, as are Shelby Steele, John Podhoretz and scores of others who -- with varying degrees of candor -- have insinuated their support for similar bloodthirsty proposals. All this complaining about how we are losing in Iraq, being humiliated by Iran and Syria, getting pushed around by Hezbollah, all because we are too restrained in our use of military force has been edging closer and closer to collective calls for all-out destruction of our enemies.

It's plainly time to add pre-emptive nuclear annihilation of entire countries to the list of policies (along with the use of torture as an interrogation tool, rendition, laweless detention of U.S. citizens, and presidential law-breaking) which are so self-evidently contrary to the defining values of our country that they used to be taboo even to advocate, but are now commonly accepted policies among many mainstream pundits, including those who most ardently support the current president.

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