What follows is a response to Eric Alterman’s response to my original post concerning Alterman’s endorsement of the Stuxnet computer worm against Iran’s nuclear program, which Alterman found to be a source of “joy.” If you have the patience, you can read his initial column, my blog post criticizing it, and his reponse to my criticism. Or maybe you have better things to do. Like, your laundry. 

Alterman wonders, in his response, if infecting Iran’s computers with a deadly virus is an act of war. He writes: “I have no idea if a computer virus constitutes an ‘act of war’ or not, though if it does, an awful lot of hackers working on behalf of say, Wikileaks, better watch their backs.” What he’s missing, of course, is that when a nation uses a computer virus against another nation, that isnt the same thing as what a hacker for Wikileaks does. It’s the equivalent of say, one country putting a biological virus in another nation’s food supply. Indeed, Russia has formally asked NATO to conduct an inquiry into the Stuxnet virus, whose origin was apparently in Israel but may have had some sort of US support. Reports AFP: “Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said the Stuxnet virus caused centrifuges producing enriched uranium at the Bushehr plant to spin out of control, which could have sparked a new ‘Chernobyl tragedy,’ the 1986 nuclear meltdown in Ukraine. ‘NATO should get down to investigating this matter,’ he said.” But Alterman is joyous about it. 

Alterman says, in his response, in regard to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, that he “personally said nothing about them one way or another, and I certainly don’t profess to know who carried out the [assassinations] to which Dreyfuss refers.” Here he’s being disingenuous at best. It’s almost certain that the murders were carried out by Israeli hit squads. Alterman works himself into a snit over my comment that if he sees “joy” in unleashing a computer worm because it undermined Iran’s program, he may equally be joyous if the murders have also slowed the program. True, he doesn’t say so. But he doesn’t condemn the assassinations, and if they did slow the program and thus reduce the chances of war with Iran, then why wouldn’t he think that the murders were joyous, too? 

Alterman says that I wronged him by mixing up a potential Israeli attack on with an American one. “[Dreyfuss] also spends a great deal of time arguing that an American attack on Iran under Obama was not imminent, but fails to notice that the column was entirely devoted to an Israeli, not an American operation,” he writes. Well, no. He says outright, in the original column, that neocons are “trying to goad Barack Obama into a war,” and he says that Israel’s joyful deployment of Stuxnet means that “ought to serve as a warning to Obama and company against listening to any of these incautious warmongers.” That sounds, to me at least, like he’s referring to the worry that Obama, not Israel, might be tempted to bomb Iran. Of course, either an Israeli attack on Iran or an American one would be illegal, unjustified and catastrophic in its results. But the neoconservatives and their friends would find either one, or both, acceptable. In any case, I’ve never implied that an American attack on Iran is “imminent.” In fact, I feel strongly that Obama has zero appetite for war with Iran, and that he’ll do anything he can to avoid it.