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Targeting Baghdad

By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
web posted June 24, 2002

With President Bush committed to finishing the job his father started in Desert Storm, it might do us all good to review what little Israel was able to do in 1981 to get rid of the nuclear threat being built by Saddam Hussein twenty years ago. All agreed that Israel's pre-emptive strike against Iraq's nuclear facility was an act of great daring, courage, and intelligence. But, of course, Israel was roundly criticized and condemned for its "aggression."

Yet, that pre-emptive strike eliminated in one fell swoop the threat of nuclear holocaust in the volatile Middle East, and it gave the nations in that area a few more years of breathing space in which to consider alternatives to nuclear war. That there is still no peace, and knowing that the Iraqi dictator is determined to get his nuclear bomb, means that Bush must act soon to prevent the worst from happening. And apparently, Saddam Hussein has skillfully hidden the facility in which the bomb is being manufactured. Thus, President Bush's task will be infinitely more difficult than the pre-emptive strike by Israel.

The Israeli attack was amazingly skillful. "The central building is entirely collapsed," said one of the French technicians who flew back to Paris after the attack. "The atomic reactor is unreachable and the anti-radiation shield has disappeared." The Frenchman also reported that one of the bombs did not explode, thereby making it impossible to rebuild the reactor without first destroying everything that remains. The technician complimented the Israelis on their skill. "The precision of the attack was stupefying. The Israelis chose their hour perfectly to avoid the maximum loss of human life."

Was the pre-emptive strike justified? Was it an act of aggression? First of all, Iraq took part in the Arab assault on Israel in 1948 shortly after the Jewish state declared its independence. The Iraqi attack was an act of war, and no peace treaty has been signed between Israel and Iraq since then. So, technically, they are still at war. In fact, Iraq felt free to launch missiles against Israel during the Gulf War, even though Israel took no part in that war and was restrained by the United States from retaliating.

But if you know that your enemy is preparing to destroy you, must you wait until he attacks first before fighting back? Large landmass countries like the U.S. and Russia can afford the luxury of waiting if they want to. But a tiny country like Israel, with long vulnerable frontiers and mortal enemies in the region has no choice but to strike first if it is to survive.

We all know what happened when Israel permitted itself to be caught by surprise by Syria and Egypt in 1973. That two-week war cost Israel proportionately more casualties than the entire ten-year Vietnam War cost Americans. Unlike the United States, Israel cannot afford long, passive, fruitless military operations that squander resources, drain the nation's will, cripple the morale of its soldiers, and end in defeat. So we can understand why Israel made its move against the Palestinians in the West Bank with sudden and overwhelming force. Even without Bush's urging them to get out, they were determined to destroy the terrorist infrastructure as quickly and effectively as possible.

The international community, instead of condemning Israel, should have thanked it for taking out that nuclear facility in Baghdad. The attack had awakened the world to the dangers of nuclear proliferation, particularly among small countries with ambitious dictators. When John Phillips, a Princeton student who had written a paper on how to build an atomic bomb, was approached by a Pakistani who wanted to buy his plan, he reported the incident to the FBI. He had no doubt that Iraq was building an atomic bomb with French technical help. "France is the whore of nuclear proliferation," he said bluntly.

We know that Osama bin Ladin has been trying to get his hands on nuclear weapons. Does Saddam Hussein have a secret deal to supply them to him-at a price? What we do know is that George Bush wants to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his nuclear weaponry as soon as he can. How he will do it is no doubt the best kept secret in Washington. But we hope and pray that it is as surgical and efficient as the Israeli strike in 1981.

Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including, "Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers," "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud," and "Homeschooling: A Parents Guide to Teaching Children." These books are available on Amazon.com.

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