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December 04, 2013 3:43 PM The Ghost of Curtis LeMay

By Ed Kilgore

A lot of Members of Congress who are complaining about the Iran nuclear “first step” agreement, or about alleged “appeasement” of Tehran generally, get all euphemistic about their alternative strategy, aside from the usual Green Lantern thinking about the magic of being “resolute” or “tough.” But as TPM’s Caitlan MacNeal reports, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) isn’t afraid to come right out and talk about using nukes to “deter” nukes:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said Wednesday that if the U.S. needs to use the military option against Iran, America should deploy its “tactical nuclear devices.”
“I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground. You do it with tactical nuclear devices, and you set them back a decade or two or three,” Hunter said in an interview with C-SPAN. “I think that’s the way to do it — with a massive aerial bombardment campaign.”

To those of us of a certain vintage, Hunter’s nuke-talk is reminiscent of a famous 1968 press conference by former SAC commander Gen. Curtis LeMay, who was being introduced as George Wallace’s American Independent Party running-mate, and who really wanted Americans to get over their silly taboos about using nuclear weapons. Here’s a contemporary account from the L.A. Times:

LeMay, joining Wallace’s campaign in Pittsburgh, said the world had a “phobia about nuclear weapons” destroying the world. To support his statement minimizing the effects of nuclear contamination, he talked extensively about a film made in Bikini [a U.S. nuclear testing site before the Test Ban Treaty] in 1964 by a University of Washington expedition.
LeMay said the film showed that except for land crabs which were “still a little bit hot” and rats that were “bigger, fatter and healthier than before,” conditions had returned to “about the same” on the ring of coral islands that were battered by 23 nuclear test explosions during the late 1940s and 1950s.

Even Wallace was horrified and kept trying to interrupt LeMay, but the general wouldn’t be denied his chance to thump the tubs for tactical nukes.

Hunter’s not quite that impolitic, but he did offer his own lumbering geopolitical thinking about Iran:

“I think America now knows its limitations in that area and what we can do,” he said. “Do we want to spend 20 years there after we tear it down to build it back up again so that it isn’t run by a crazy tyrannical leader like has happened in, let’s say Iraq and Afghanistan again. You’ve got some crazy guys running the governments there.”

So nuke ‘em til they glow, eh? Maybe the Iranians will be “a little hot” for a while, but the rats will be bigger, fatter and healthier than ever.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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