Thursday, May 11, 2006

Understanding Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush: the context

How best to understand Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush?

I've already noted that the letter seems to have worked nicely as propaganda for many people; the evil Bush seen as rejecting the "process" (as in "peace process" or "process of dialogue that might lead to understanding and rapprochement") that Ahmadinejad is seen as opening.

And so, in the interest of cultural sensitivity, I turn to Amir Taheri, Iranian expatriate journalist, to help us out in our desire to comprehend Ahmadinejad. Writing in today's NY Post, Taheri gives us some needed historical and religious context:

"The whole world is moving towards God," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written to his American counterpart, George W. Bush. "Would Your Excellency not wish to join?"...

Ahmadinejad's epistolary exercise seems merely another of his quirks. But it must be seen as yet another sign that the new leadership in Tehran is determined to provoke a direct confrontation with the United States in the hope that, plagued by internal problems, the Americans will either back away or be humiliated.

Ahmadinejad's move fits into a 14-century-long Muslim tradition, initiated by the Prophet Muhammad himself, of writing letters to "the rulers of the world." In 625 A.D., having consolidated his position in Medina and established a secure power base for his rule, the prophet decided it was time to call on "the infidel" to abandon their faith and submit to Islam. He dictated letters to Khosrow Parviz, the Persian king of kings (a Zoroastrian), and to Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium and the Ethiopian monarch Negus (both Christian).

To each, the prophet's offer was simple: Convert to Islam and secure a place in paradise - or cling to your beliefs and face the sword of Islam.

The Persian monarch ordered his security services to find the "insolent letter writer" and bring him to the court in Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire at the time. According to Islamic folklore, Muhammad escaped capture only because, soon after, Khosrow Parviz was murdered by his son and designated heir. And within a decade the Persian Empire had disintegrated, with most of its territory falling to the armies of Islam...

It would be wrong to dismiss Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush as just another of the Islamic leader's many weird habits. It would be more prudent, and better politics, to take Ahmadinejad seriously and try and understand him in his own terms.

His letter contains a crucial message: The present regime in Iran is the enemy of the current international system and is determined to undermine and, if possible, destroy it.


It continues to puzzle me that so many of us have to learn the same lesson over and over, and that is this one: tyrants mean what they say. Iran's leadership hasn't had its people chanting "Death to America!" for nothing for all these long decades.

There are issues open to debate: how close is Iran to being able, if not to destroy, then at least to inflict a significant body blow on the US or its ally Israel; and what would be the best course of action to prevent it.

But there should be no debate on one thing: the desire is there on the part of Iran's leadership (perhaps not its people--but, unfortunately, their intent doesn't count for much in this equation). If, after so much repetition, we fail to understand that one basic fact, then we are worse than useful idiots: we might be sowing the seeds of our own destruction.

11 Comments:

At 2:24 PM, May 11, 2006, Blogger David Blue said...

I thought at first that his was a serious declaration of intent.

But how could that be? After all, the Islamic Republic of Iran declared its intent in its foundation, in "Death to America!" and the dogmas of the Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini. So there's nothing new there. And Islam declared its intention toward us a long time ago. These are the words of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

So, if this is not the moment when ultimate intentions are revealed, what moment is it?

It is the moment when a serial killer does his pre-killing ritual, which he can't help doing because it's so much fun, and which he did for each of the dozens of people now buried in pieces in his basement.

It's the "click" moment.

In The Silence of the Lambs, the serial killer Jame Gumb loves to cock his big, powerful revolver before shooting his victim dead. It's a foolish thing to do, because it's a sound in the dark in which he loves to stalk his victims, watching their blind terror and futile efforts to survive through his night goggles. But it's a ritual he treasures: one little "click," one big "Bang!" and no more fuss from you.

Our enemies, invincibly determined to be nuclear armed, reaching for the weapon, really shouldn't have done their little pre-killing ritual. But they had to: it's part of something they can't stop doing - something they don't want to stop doing. I'd bet good money Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was grinning to himself as he put that tell-tale phrase in.

We've heard the "click" in the dark.

That's what moment this is.

 
At 2:39 PM, May 11, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Hollywood never uses body blows, so I don't think they will ever believe a body blow is possible.

Like the Democrats say, it is very easy to fire up a population with a war, by creating an imagined enemy. They should know, they've done it before in WWII, and their justification is always that the enemy they lied that they would not go to war with, really was an enemy. But their allies and Iranian dictators can still fire up a lot of support with a war, primarily because they can make us their enemies.

 
At 5:06 PM, May 11, 2006, Blogger Shane said...

My first impulse would be to thank him for his letter by sending him a canned ham -- Danish, of course. But that would be a waste of a good canned ham.

 
At 12:50 AM, May 12, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Send him some anthrax littered letters back. No, I'm serious.

 
At 6:18 AM, May 12, 2006, Blogger Goesh said...

- buying time to bomb Jews, that's my take on it. This maniac at some conference again declared in affect that Israel would in time cease to exist.

 
At 12:31 PM, May 12, 2006, Blogger camojack said...

I like Shane's idea...and definitely Danish.

 
At 1:46 PM, May 12, 2006, Blogger SB said...

Sounds like a very subtle mind game he's playing with the rest of the world. On the surface it's patently ridiculous, but in context it makes sense.

Question is, are we playing A's game or ours? Or does it matter?

 
At 2:36 PM, May 12, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

As I understand it, this rambling letter contains what is known as a da'wa, an invitation to an Infidel asking him to convert to Islam. The historical record, starting with Mohammad, is that this invitation, if not accepted, leads to attack by the letter's sender. Nothing could be more clear than this.

Yesterday I reviewed a collection of all the aggressive lines in the Koran, many hundreds of them. It then occurred to me that while the Bible and Torah are, in the vast majority of their passages, an attempt to get Christians and Jews to contain and put to good use their aggressive instincts and tendency to dominate others and, in the New Testiment particularly, to have sympathy for their fellow man, the Koran has as its message in the overwhelming number of passages, that Allah commands Muslims to give these aggressive and dominating tendencies free reign in the service of punishing backsliders within Islam and conquering or killing infidels without Islam. I see no admonitions in the Koran to have sympathy for non-mulims, who are described as destined to burn eternally in Hell in innumerable verses, rather such infidels, based on practices flowing directly from the Koran, are given the choices of conversion to Islam, dhimmitude i.e. semi-slavery, or death.

 
At 12:02 AM, May 13, 2006, Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

We have been at war with Iran since 1979. This letter does not change that.

The good news is that we now have forward bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 
At 10:28 AM, May 13, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Does anyone remember when the fake liberals kept complaining that we should attack Iran, instead of Iraq, because Iran is more of a threat than Iraq? So... where are the fake liberals now about attacking Iran?

 
At 7:43 AM, May 28, 2006, Blogger justasking said...

Re: reviewing all the aggressive lines in the
Koran--yes, prudent to do so, just as it is
prudent to review such lines in the Talmud.

 

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