Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash

Nuclear Saber Rattling in Gaza Suggested by Right Wing Lawmakers

Phil Garber


Of all of trump’s blunders as president, the gravest and least discussed may be his 2017 cancellation of the Iran nuclear agreement, which had been negotiated under President Obama and approved by all of the world’s major nations in a landmark effort to curb Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon.

The cancellation of the historic pact is being underscored recently by suggestions by Republican U.S. lawmakers that Israel would be justified to use nuclear weapons to incinerate Gaza and end the war. Such an escalation could very likely draw in other nations with unmonitored nuclear weapons, including Iran.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has reported that Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tons of explosives on the Gaza Strip since October 7, equivalent to two nuclear bombs. In comparison, the Little Boy nuclear bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima during World War II yielded 15,000 tons of high explosives and destroyed everything within a one-mile radius, the monitor reported.

Trump called the 2017 Iran deal “horrible” and accused Iran of violating the “spirit” of the deal. Trump said the United States would “work with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms. As was typical of trump’s trail of broken promises, no such solution was ever reached and it has been extremely difficult for President Biden to revitalize the treaty.

The U.S. officially withdrew from the agreement on May 8, 2018. All major European companies soon abandoned doing business with Iran out of fear of U.S. punishment.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, was reached on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, United States plus Germany together with the European Union.

The negotiations centered on restricting Iran’s critical nuclear facilities, including the Arak IR-40 reactor, Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, Gachin Uranium Mine, Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, Isfahan Uranium Conversion Plant, Natanz Uranium Enrichment Plant, and the Parchin Military Research complex.

Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, welcomed the agreement. Russia’s foreign minister considered the agreement a “positive development in the security of the Middle East.” Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud “expressed his hope that reaching a final binding deal would strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world.” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the framework agreement with Iran was “well beyond what many thought possible even 18 months earlier.”

Not surprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, later a strong trump supporter, strongly opposed the framework and claimed the plan threatened the survival of Israel and that “such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it.”

Under the plan, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors would have access to all of the nuclear facilities including enrichment facilities, the supply chain that supports the nuclear program and uranium mines as well as continuous surveillance at uranium mills, centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities. Iran was required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.

On Aug. 8, 2015, 29 prominent U.S. scientists, mostly physicists, published an open letter endorsing the agreement as “technically sound, stringent and innovative” to provide assurance in the coming decade and more that “Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, and provides a basis for further initiatives to raise the barriers to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the globe.”

Another open letter endorsing the agreement was signed by 36 retired military generals and admirals and was released on Aug. 11, 2015. The letter said the agreement was “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” and “If at some point it becomes necessary to consider military action against Iran, gathering sufficient international support for such an effort would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance. We must exhaust diplomatic options before moving to military ones.”

After withdrawing from the deal, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran under the policy of “maximum pressure.” The Iranian currency quickly dropped significantly and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “ from the first day: don’t trust America.” The American flag was set on fire in Iran’s Parliament and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Forces based in Syria launched rockets at Israeli. CNN said it was “the first time Iranian forces have fired rockets directly at Israeli forces.”

A year after the United States withdrew and reimposed sanctions, Iran halted sales of excess enriched uranium and heavy water to other countries and resumed enrichment of uranium.

Talks were revived under Biden but by May 2022, negotiations had completely stalled, as Republicans pushed the Biden administration away from negotiations with Iran.

The war when Israel retaliated after Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel last October 7, killing 1,200 civilians and foreigners. Hamas seized 253 hostages and has freed 123, while 98 hostages are reported to be alive and remain held by Hamas. A total of 36 hostages have died in captivity. Israel released 240 hostages during a weeklong pause in the fighting.

To date, at least 35,173 people have been killed in the Israeli attacks, including more than 14,500 children killed, more than 79,051 injured, and more than 10,000 missing along with destruction of infrastructure, widespread famine and dislocation of more than one million Palestinians.

Against international pressure, Israel appears ready to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which is presently sheltering 1.4 million people. The U.N. and the Biden administration have warned that an Israeli invasion would be catastrophic.

Trump said early in March that Israel had to “finish the problem” in Gaza, while Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said that even babies killed in Gaza should not be considered “innocent Palestinian civilians.”

“As a whole, I would encourage the other side to not so lightly throw around the idea of innocent Palestinian civilians, as is frequently said,” Mast said in November. “I don’t think we would so lightly throw around the term ‘innocent Nazi civilians’ during World War II.”

Last November, Israeli Heritage Minister Emihai Eliyahu said that use of nuclear weapons is an option in the war. Netanyahu quickly disavowed the comments and suspended him from cabinet meetings.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its nuclear capability but it is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Israel would be justified in using nuclear weapons to vaporize Gaza, in the same way the U.S. incinerated two Japanese cities with atomic weapons to end World War II in 1945. The bombs dropped on Aug. 6 and 9, destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians between the initial blasts and the deadly radiation that followed.

“When we were faced with destruction as a nation after Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans and the Japanese, we decided to end the war by the bombing [of] Hiroshima [and] Nagasaki with nuclear weapons,” Graham said. “That was the right decision. Give Israel the bombs they need to end the war. They can’t afford to lose.”

Graham said the U.S. should tell Israel to “do whatever you have to do” to finish the military campaign. He argued that Israel would be justified in destroying Gaza and slaughtering its 2.2 million civilians because the U.S. did it to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Graham said the U.S. made “the right decision” because it ended the war.

“So when we were faced with destruction as a nation after Pearl Harbor, fighting the Germans and the Japanese, we decided to end the war by bombing Hiroshima, Nagasaki, with nuclear weapons,” Graham said. “Why is it okay for America to drop two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end their existential threat war? Why is it okay for us to do that? I thought it was okay.”

Graham said the U.S. should “give Israel the bombs they need to end the war they can’t afford to lose, and work with them to minimize casualties.” Graham did not explain how casualties could be minimized in the wake of a nuclear holocaust that would destroy all medical infrastructures, making it nearly impossible to deliver aid to the injured and dying.

Last November, Graham said no number of civilian casualties in Gaza would make him question Israel’s military tactics.

“If somebody asked us after World War II, ‘Is there a limit what would you do to make sure that Japan and Germany don’t conquer the world? Is there any limit what Israel should do to the people who are trying to slaughter the Jews?’ The answer is no. There is no limit,” he said. Graham said Israel should be “smart” and “limit civilian casualties,” but he blamed Hamas for the deaths of innocents.

“The goal is to destroy Hamas,” he said of Israel’s strikes. “Hamas is creating these casualties, not Israel.”

Lindsey’s neighbor to the north, Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., joined in suggesting that Israel could use nuclear weapons in its war on Gaza. In an interview on the right wing Newsmax network, Murphy also compared the situation to Japan and the United States during World War II.

“If you look at what imperial Japan did to the United States, we came back and said basically you’re going to have to unconditionally surrender, and when they didn’t, we had to drop the two atomic bombs on them,” Murphy said. “This is where Israel has every single right in the world to press this conflict further.”

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., said at a town hall meeting in March that Israel should “get it over quick” and end the war by dropping nuclear bombs on Gaza “like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Walberg said the U.S. was wrong to have built a temporary port off the coast of Gaza to supply humanitarian aid because “any humanitarian aid to the Palestinians would support Hamas, Iran, Russia” and “arguably North Korea’s in there, and China too.”

“We shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid,” Walberg said.

Michigan has one of the nation’s largest Arab American and Muslim populations, with about 300,000 people who claim ancestry from the Middle East or North Africa, and many have opposed U.S. support for Israel and the war in Gaza.

Throughout their political careers, Walberg, Murphy and Lindsay have been longtime Biden opponents and far right, hyperbolic trump supporters.

Walberg, 73, was in congress from 2007 to 2009 and again from 2011 to the present. In 1964, Walberg served the Barry Goldwater 1964 presidential campaign as a volunteer. From 1973 to 1977, he was pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in New Haven, Ind. He also spent time as a pastor and as a division manager for the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago while continuing to live in Michigan.

Walberg rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, saying, “I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, He can take care of it.”

In 2008, Walberg repeatedly invoked birther conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, arguing that Obama should have been impeached over his birth certificate.

On October 8, 2023, Walberg gave a keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Uganda, at the invitation of Ugandan legislator David Bahati. Walberg urged Uganda to “stand firm” against international pressure to reverse its “ Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, which prescribes lengthy prison sentences and in certain instances the death penalty for homosexual activities.

He supported efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in favor of trump, who has erroneously claimed widespread voter fraud.

Walberg and his wife, Sue, have been married since 1974. Ordained as a Baptist, Walbert identifies as nondenominational and attends a church affiliated with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Walbert and the late Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., were the only two United Brethren church members in Congress. On May 18, 2010, Souder resigned from Congress after admitting to an affair with Tracy Meadows Jackson, a married female staffer. Souder died in 2022.

“Politics is just another format that can be used as a place of intentional ministry,” Walberg said in an interview with World magazine. “Everything comes at me through the filter of my faith. It has to be that way if this is more than a religion.”

Graham, 68, has been in Congress since 2003. Graham sought the Republican nomination for president, dropping out before the 2016 Republican primaries began. Before withdrawing from the race, Graham called trump a “jackass” for saying that Graham’s close friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was “not a war hero.” Trump reacted by calling Graham an “idiot” and revealed Graham’s personal cellphone number at a campaign rally, asking people to call Graham. He was an outspoken critic of trump’s 2016 candidacy and repeatedly said he did not support Trump. After a March 2017 meeting with trump, Graham became a staunch ally of trump.

Murphy, 61, a urologist, has been in Congress since 2019. He has traveled as a medical missionary, including a stint when he was 20 working in a Catholic leprosy hospital in India. He also performed medical missionary work in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

In March, Murphy introduced a bill to bar federal funds from any graduate medical school with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. In clearly racist terms, he said DEI training is “dangerous” because it will lead to “future physicians less qualified to meet patients’ needs.”

Murphy was one of the most vitriolic Biden opponents. He tweeted that “There has not been a single president in this country‘s history that has done more damage than @POTUS JoeBiden. In just two years he is taken us from riches to ruin and divided this nation so badly it may never recover.”

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Murphy claimed on Twitter that Biden “obviously is fighting the ravages of dementia. So sad that we have a Candidate who obviously is fighting the ravages of dementia as the Democratic nominee.”

Murphy claimed that Biden was “on something” when he delivered his 2024 State of the Union speech.

“I was in the State of the Union address, and Joe Biden must have been jacked up on something that day. I absolutely believe that from a medical viewpoint and actually have a little bit of good knowledge that happened,” said. Murphy. “He can’t stand, and he can’t stand under the lights for that long, and I don’t think he can keep a concept in his brain that long.”

Murphy said Biden had gotten a facelift and that he’s being “manufactured and puppeteered by the Democratic Party to be president.”

“I fully believe that has to do sometimes with pharmacology,” said Murphy.

In an October 2020 tweet, Murphy called Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamla Harris a “walking disaster” who “was only picked for her color and her race.”

Murphy was condemned for a, Islamaphobic tweet directed at Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, who is a Muslim.

Omar had expressed remorse after a Capitol police officer was killed during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by trump supporters.

“Heartbroken to learn another CP as killed while protecting the Capitol”, Omar wrote. “The death toll would have been worse if the assailant had an AR-15 instead of a knife.”

Murphy’s response: “Would have been worse if they had been flying planes into the buildings also.”

Murphy signed a letter criticizing his alma mater, Davidson College, for removing a requirement that its president and most trustees be Christian. He also signed on to an amicus brief challenging Biden’s 2020 presidential victory. After the storming of the Capitol, Murphy voted to agree with the objection to Pennsylvania’s results.

Murphy opposed abortions even when the victim was raped. In June 2022, Murphy tweeted that “no one forces anyone to have sex.”