In 1981, Israel bombed and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Baghdad. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had pronounced himself as the reincarnation of Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, and named the nuclear reactor "Tammuz" -- the name of the calamitous Jewish month when Nebuchadnezzar's troops laid siege on Jerusalem 2,500 years earlier. Ilan Ramon (later to become Israel's first astronaut, who died in the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia) and seven other pilots executed the daring raid -- flying over enemy Arab territory for hours, and avoiding detection with their tight formation that emitted a radar signal resembling a commercial airliner. However, even as Israel celebrated the successful raid, condemnation was nearly universal. One prominent U.S. senator called it "one of the most provocative, ill-timed and internationally illegal actions taken in that nation's history." Two decades later, as the world feared Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, the Israeli action was vindicated.
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