On Sept. 21, 1976, as his car rounded Sheridan Circle on Embassy Row, former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier was assassinated by car bomb. Ronni Moffitt, a 25-year-old American women who worked with Letelier at the leftist Institute for Policy Studies, died with him.
Michael Townley, an ex-CIA asset in the hire of Chile's intelligence agency, confessed to using anti-Castro Cubans to murder Letelier, in what was regarded as an act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
Which raises a question: Are not the murders of four Iranian scientists associated with that nation's nuclear program, by the attachment of bombs to their cars in Tehran, also acts of terrorism?
Had the Stalin- or Khrushchev-era Soviets done this to four U.S. scientists in Washington, would we not have regarded it as acts of terrorism and war?
Iran has accused the United States and Israel of murder. But Hillary Clinton emphatically denied any U.S. complicity: "I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran."
"The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this," added National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, "We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like this."
Victoria Nuland, Clinton's spokeswoman at State, denounced "any assassination or attack on an innocent person, and we express our sympathies to the family."
The assassinated scientist was a supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility that hosts regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran is building a bomb, it is not at Natanz.
U.S. denial of involvement leaves Mossad as the prime suspect. Israel has not denied it, and this comes at a sensitive time in U.S.-Israeli relations.
In Foreign Policy magazine, author and historian Mark Perry, claiming CIA documentation, alleges that Mossad agents in London posed as CIA agents and contacted Jundallah, a terrorist group, to bribe and recruit them to engage in acts of terror inside Iran.
Jundallah has conducted attacks in Sistan-Baluchistan province, killing government officials, soldiers, and women and children.
According to Perry, when George W. Bush learned of the Mossad agents posing as CIA while recruiting terrorists, he "went totally ballistic."
Yet Meir Dagan, head of Mossad at the time, denies it, and, ironically, has called any Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities "the stupidest thing I have ever heard."
Who is telling the truth? We do not know for sure.
What we do know is that "Bibi" Netanyahu is desperate to have the United States launch air and missile strikes to stop Teheran from becoming the world's ninth nuclear power. And he is echoed not only by U.S. neocons, but GOP candidates save Ron Paul.
Nor should we be surprised.
To bring America into its war with Germany, Winston Churchill set up William Stephenson, "A Man Called Intrepid," with hundreds of agents in New York to engage in everything from bribery to blackmail of U.S. senators to get the United States to enter the war and pull England's chestnuts out of the fire.
This is what desperate countries do.
And while America First kept us out of the European war until Adolf Hitler invaded Russia, ensuring that Russians, not Americans, died in the millions to defeat him, eventually America was maneuvered into war.
Whoever is assassinating these Iranian scientists, be it homegrown Iranian terrorists, Jundallah at the instigation of Israel, or Mossad, the objective is clear: Enrage the Iranians so they strike out at America, provoking a U.S.-Iranian war.
Is such a war in America's interests? Consider.
While U.S. air and naval power would prevail, Iranian civilians would die, as some of their nuclear facilities are in populated areas. Moreover, we cannot kill the nuclear knowledge Iran has gained. Thus we would only set back their nuclear program by several years. And a bloodied and beaten Iran would then go all-out for a bomb.
The regime, behind which its people would rally, would emerge even more entrenched. U.S. bombing did not cause Germans to remove Hitler or Japanese to depose their emperor. And we lack the ground troops to invade and occupy a country three times the size of Iraq.
All U.S. ships, including carriers in that bathtub the Persian Gulf, would be at risk from shore-based anti-ship missiles and the hundreds of missile boats in Iran's navy. Any sea battle would send oil prices to $200 and $300 a barrel. There goes the eurozone.
Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shia of the Saudi oil fields and Bahrain, home port to the Fifth Fleet, and Iranian agents in Afghanistan and Iraq could set the region aflame.
As America started up the road to Baghdad in 2003, Gen. David Petraeus is said to have asked, "Tell me how this ends."
Before some agent provocateur pushes us into war with Iran, Congress should debate the wisdom of authorizing President Obama, or anyone else, to take America into her fifth war in a generation in the Middle and Near East.