The Daily Caller editor in chief Tucker Carlson faced an onslaught of criticism yesterday for telling Fox News “Red Eye” viewers that “Iran deserves to be annihilated.” Carlson’s comments, first reported on ThinkProgress, led The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg to observe, “This is the sort of rhetoric that leads to war. I have no doubt this clip will be played over and over again in Tehran by a regime eager to prove that America wants to — to borrow a phrase — wipe Iran off the map.” In emails to Glenn Greenwald, Carlson largely walked back his statement, saying, “I think attacking could be a disaster for the US and am worried that Obama will do it, for fear of seeming weak before an election.”
Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, Carlson tried to walk back his comments:
I was actually trying to make the opposite point but I was doing it in a very inarticulate way. [...] I was actually urging caution. I’m not particularly hawkish to be totally honest with you.
Later in the show, facing a question from a call-in guest about his statement calling for the annihilation of Iran, Carlson responded, “I misrepresented my own views,” and attempted to clarify his position:
The point I was actually making on that show on Tuesday night was, which I’m sure you didn’t see, while Iran’s government clearly is evil and I would like to see Iran’s government crushed, I think there probably are consequences to bombing Iran and going to war with Iran that might hurt us. Specifically, what would it do to the cost of energy?
The two C-Span segments in which Carlson addresses his “Red Eye” comments are combined below:
Indeed, gas prices would, no doubt, skyrocket if the U.S. began another war in the Middle East. But that’s just one of many consequences. The U.S. Navy’s fifth fleet based in Bahrain, U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Iraq’s stability could all be put in danger and Hezbollah could stage terrorist attacks on Israeli and/or U.S. targets. All of that aside, the large number of U.S. and Iranian casualties that would result from any attempt to “annihilate” Iran or overthrow the government with outside military force is well worth considering before casually discussing launching a third U.S. war in the Middle East.
While the IAEA has said it has concerns about military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. officials have said that its unclear whether the Islamic Republic has decided on building a bomb, an attack would give reason for Iran to weaponize its program.
Tucker Carlson’s efforts to walk back his incendiary statements are appreciated but there are other reasons, apart from rising gas prices, to be reticent to “annihilate” a country of 74 million people.