Barry Goldwater, 2.0

California congressman says if war with Iran comes, let’s use nukes

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Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr.

A California congressman who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq said Wednesday that the U.S. should use nuclear weapons if forced into a war with Iran over its nuclear program.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable but I think if you have to hit Iran, you don’t put boots on the ground,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr., a Republican member of the armed services committee, said in an C-Span interview. “You do it with tactical nuclear devices and you set them back a decade, or two, or three. I think that’s the way to do it with a massive aerial bombardment campaign.”

Barry M. Goldwater


Barry Goldwater, 1909-1998

Hunter is a former Marine representing the same part of California his father represented as a congressman from 1981 to 2009.

There’s an echo of history in Hunter’s remark. In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., advocated the use of “low-yield atomic weapons” in Vietnam to defoliate the jungle (makes Agent Orange look pretty good).

Hunter added that crossing the nuclear threshold would be “a huge undertaking.” But he wasn’t thinking of the human or diplomatic toll, or what such a move might mean for the U.S. position in the world. His concern was less fissile and more fiscal. “It would cost,” he said, “billions and billions of dollars to do it.”