June 24, 2009

Crazy Mullahs?

“The real meaning of President Obama's recent address to the Muslim world in Cairo,” writes Jeffrey Kuhner, “is that he is turning his back on the Jews at a time when they face another possible Holocaust.”

Turning his back on the Jews? President Obama? Whose chief of staff twice served as an Israel Defense Forces volunteer? Whose special advisor for the Persian Gulf formerly chaired the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute? President Obama? Who supports increasing military aid to Israel? Who promised, “I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally, Israel”? Who promised, “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon—everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon—everything”? President Obama is turning his back on the Jews?

Yes, claims Kuhner, best known for starting a January 2007 smear campaign against then Senator Obama. He continues:

Mr. Obama is repeating Chamberlain's tragic mistake—except this time, the Israelis are to play the role of the Czechs, the sacrificial lamb at the altar of appeasement. Senior Israeli intelligence officials admit the Obama administration has privately told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington can live with an Iranian nuclear bomb. Mr. Obama believes it is only a matter of time”…

The Obama administration argues that Israel's nuclear arsenal can serve as a strategic deterrent to the Iranian bomb, similar to how mutually assured destruction (MAD) between the United States and the Soviet Union kept the peace during the Cold War. But the Soviet Union was a rational, atheistic power. Iran's mullocracy is a messianic, apocalyptic Shi'ite regime, willing to sacrifice millions of Iranians to achieve the Final Solution.

Now, first of all, it’s debatable whether Obama actually told Israeli officials that “Washington can live with an Iranian nuclear bomb.” But, even supposing he did, it’s not clear what he meant by this. Did he mean that his administration didn’t really care if Iran acquired nukes? Or did he mean that, even if, worse case scenario, Iran acquired nukes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world?

Either way, let’s suppose that Iran obtained nuclear weapons. Would it then try to destroy Israel? The answer, it seems to me, is a resounding no. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni feels the same way. As do 80% of Israelis, as a recent poll conducted by a Tel Aviv University think tank reveals. But Kuhner sees things differently and provides the following evidence:

Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, a so-called "moderate" and a predecessor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has vowed that Tehran will not be deterred by the fear of Israeli nuclear retaliation. "If the day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession," he said, ". . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world." In other words, the mullahs believe Iran can survive a nuclear exchange, while Israel can't.

These are the words—and ideas—of madmen. Mr. Obama lacks the courage and will to confront America's deadliest enemies.

Now the most important thing to note in the above Rafsanjani quote, pulled from a speech he gave back in 2001, is the ellipsis. An ellipsis, of course, tells us that some words are missing. And in this case, the missing words are quite significant. For, by inserting those three dots where he did, Kuhner makes it sound like Rafsanjani is determined to acquire nuclear weapons and use them against Israel. But if we take the time to read Rafsanjani’s entire speech, it becomes clear that nowhere in it does he claim that either Iran or any other Islamic nation should develop nuclear weapons and that nowhere in it does he say that, if such a nation obtains such weapons, it should use them against Israel.

Rather, Rafsanjani simply attempts to explain why Israel is a hegemonic power. The answer, he believes, is that the U.S. and Britain (“the imperialists”) believe that Israeli hegemony serves their own interest and have therefore supplied it with weapons of mass destruction. If an Islamic nation also acquired such weapons, he continues, then there would be a regional check on Israel’s power, thus forcing the American-British pawn to lose its hegemonic status. As he says (and notice how the meaning of his words changes without Kuhner’s ellipsis): “If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy [of maintaining Israeli hegemony] will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world.” For this reason, he notes, the U.S. and Britain don’t want any Islamic country to acquire nuclear weapons.

So, whatever else we might say about the speech, it’s simply absurd to conclude, along with Kuhner, that Rafsanjani has advocated nuking Israel. We can object to Rafsanjani’s reasoning. We can object to his hatred for the Israeli government. But we can’t conclude that he has advocated nuking Israel. Because all he has done is explain why he believes Israel is a hegemonic power. And an explanation, of course, is not a call to jihad!

And, oh by the way, it’s worth noting that Iran has a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Commission. And that the International Atomic Energy Commission continues reporting that Iran is not diverting its nuclear energy for non-peaceful uses. And that even the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Not that I expect any of this information to get in Kuhner’s way. After all, he has important propaganda to write.

Now I’m not defending Rafsanjani or the other mullahs. As the recent, probably fraudulent, election reminds us, Iran is a brutal dictatorship. I certainly don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. (Just as I don’t want any nation to have nuclear weapons.) But, as awful as the Iranian government is, there’s no evidence that it’s led by apocalyptic “madmen” hell-bent on bringing about the Final Solution. In fact, everything I’ve read has led me to believe that they’re fairly rational, calculating men who, like most politicians, are above all else intent on preserving their own power. If there really was evidence that they were a bunch of suicidal crazies, it’s hard to imagine why a seemingly intelligent man like Jeffrey Kuhner would feel the need to distort the actual record.

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