- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Well before the outbreak of World War II, a little known Austro-Italian writer, Italo Svevo, wrote a novel, "Confessions of Zeno, " in which occurred this remarkable passage:

"When all the poison gases [of the war] are exhausted, a man, made like all other men of flesh and blood, will, in the quiet of a room, invent an explosive of such potency that all the explosives in existence will seem like harmless toys beside it. And another man, made in his image and in the image of all the rest, but a little weaker than them, will steal that explosive and crawl to the center of the Earth with it, and place it just where he calculates it would have the maximum effect. There will be a tremendous explosion, but none will hear it and the Earth will return to its nebulous state and go wandering through the sky, free at last from parasites and disease."

I was reminded of Svevo's hallucinatory vision as I read parts of a speech by former Iranian President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in which he proposes using a nuclear bomb against Israel. The speech was delivered Dec. 14 at Tehran University at the end of the month of Ramadan. It was published in the Iranian press, in Farsi, Arabic and English, as documented by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute. (MEMRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.) This is how Mr. Rafsanjani is quoted in the English-language Iran News, Dec. 15:

"If one day the world of Islam comes to possess the weapons currently in Israel's possession [meaning nuclear weapons] on that day this method of global arrogance would come to a dead end. This is because the use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam."

Agence France Presse offered this version: "The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would totally destroy Israel, while the same against the Islamic world would only cause damage. Such a scenario is not inconceivable."

Apparently Mr. Rafsanjani has never heard of the Soviet disaster at Chernobyl and the radioactive fallout whose effects on people and livestock are still measurable for hundreds of miles distant from Chernobyl.

It is common knowledge that Iraq and Iran (the State Department has described Iran as "the most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism") are working hard to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq was on the eve of producing a nuclear bomb 20 years ago. Osirak, the 75-megawatt Iraqi reactor, was less than 600 miles from Tel Aviv. In fact the $275 million reactor was two weeks from going on line.

On June 7, 1981, nine Israeli F-16s demolished that reactor and made possible an American victory in the Gulf war. The Israeli government announcement of the raid stated in stark, simple language: "We under no circumstances will allow an enemy to develop against our people weapons of mass destruction."

The U.S. government strongly condemned the pre-emptive strike against Iraq. But that was yesterday. Today the then leader of the Israeli air force, David Ivry, presently ambassador to the United States, has on his embassy office wall a satellite photo of the destroyed reactor taken 10 years after the raid. According to George Will, the photo has this handwritten description:

"For Gen. David Ivry, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm." It is signed: "Dick Cheney, Sec[retary] of Defense, 1989-93."

And just a few weeks ago, an article in the Weekly Standard titled "Rumsfeld's just war," quoted the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as endorsing pre-emptive strikes against rogue states like Iraq. Had it not been for the Israeli 1981 bombing raid at Osirak, U.S. troops would have confronted a nuclear-armed Iraq, he said.

Joe Loconte of the Heritage Foundation and author of the article, quotes Mr. Rumsfeld as saying that when "extremists" seek weapons of mass destruction, what would otherwise appear to be an offensive strike is, strategically speaking, defensive. Says Mr. Rumsfeld:

"Self-defense means you must go after them. You don't have a choice. And that gets you to pre-emptive strikes. It's not a tough call for me."

Mr. Rafsanjani's speech, which one can say with certainty is government policy, is a declaration of war against "colonialism." Read in the context of the present Middle East crisis, his words are nothing short of a declaration of permanent and, in time, nuclear war against the West and against the sole democracy in the Middle East. Mr. Rumsfeld in a Nov. 2 article in The Washington Post, wrote that "the next war may be vastly different from those of the past century but also from the new war on terrorism that we are fighting today." The Rafsanjani speech documents the Rumsfeld pronouncement.

The question then for President Bush is this: Do we wait until Iran and Iraq acquire weapons of mass destruction and then negotiate from weakness? September 11 was a challenging strike by an implacable enemy. Will the next strike by the enemy be nuclear? The Bush administration should tell the American people how close Iran, Iraq and other rogue states are to obtaining the kind of weapon novelist Italo Svevo envisioned eight decades ago. Thus the American people would be prepared for what's ahead.

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