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Fast-forward 35 years to Dec. 5, 2006, when the Senate held a one-day hearing on Gates' nomination to become Secretary of Defense. When Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Gates whether he thought the Iranians would consider a nuclear attack on Israel, Gates answered [as already mentioned above]:
"I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf."
This is tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis [which exceeded my hopes as his erstwhile mentor]. It even included matter-of-fact mention of Israel's nuclear capability, which President Barack Obama himself has refused to acknowledge. When Helen Thomas pressed the issue at Obama's inaugural press conference (Feb. 9, 2009), the President awkwardly ducked the question, explaining he did not want to "speculate."
The Question: Do you agree with Mr. Gates that Iran would see a nuclear capability "in the first instance as a deterrent?" And how many nuclear weapons do Western experts believe Israel has? President Carter has said 150, but that was some time ago.
A Follow-up: Let's assume Iran does get a nuclear weapon: Do you think it would commit suicide by firing it off in the direction of Israel?
Background and Lead-In: This question deals with torture, an issue that has been given new life recently, with more and more Republican presidential candidates speaking in favor of it. We have surely come a long way since Virginia patriot Patrick Henry insisted passionately that "the rack and the screw," as he put it, were barbaric practices that had to be left behind in the Old World, or we are "lost and undone."
The Question: On Sept. 6, 2006, Gen. John Kimmons, then head of Army intelligence told reporters at the Pentagon, in unmistakable language:
"No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that."
Gen. Kimmons knew that President George W. Bush had decided to claim publicly, just two hours later on the same day, that the "alternative set of procedures" for interrogation -- methods that Bush had approved, like water-boarding -- were effective. Whom do you think we should believe: President Bush? Or Gen. Kimmons?
This article first appeared in Consortium News