TCS Daily

Another Word War

By Robert McHenry - August 15, 2006 12:00 AM

Mahmood Ahmadinejad, President of the Republic of Iran, has a blog. The day draws ever more nigh when I shall be the last human without a blog, as I am now, so far as I can tell, the only one without a cell phone. But enough about me.

I don't know what the name of the blog is, for what I take to be the title area of the site remains untranslated when you click for the English-language version. "IslamPundit" is a possibility, I suppose, or "Daily Mah."

Speaking of titles, the title of this piece is taken from the survey question prominently positioned on Mr. Ahmadinejad's home page, which appears thus:

Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?

The blog visitor is then invited to click on buttons marked "yes" and "No". I am heartily in favor of any number of word wars.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's initial entry is a sketchy autobiography, padded out to quite unbloglike length with descriptions of the horrors committed by the shah and his cohorts, defenses of the revolution of 1979, paeans to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and denunciations of the Great Satan USA and its partners in evil. Except for the autobiographical bits, it could have been written by any competent antiglobalist or Western jihadi manqué.

No, that's not quite so. The document has the charm of so many translated works in its, shall we say, imaginative use of English. Perhaps you recall that Chinese motto of many years ago, intended apparently to guide and inspire the Maoist masses to greater political correctness:

Stoutly oppose right deviationist wind.

Stirring words I'm sure those are in Chinese. In English they are intelligible only to an area specialist, but they are a delight to any lover of language. Swinburne might have written such a line, though he'd have worked in an alliteration somewhere.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's translator has gifted us with one utterly fine phrase:

the unreal and outward of upswing

If that's not e.e. cummings, it's Wallace Stevens.

Mr. Ahmadinejad begins his story thus:

During the era that nobility was a prestige and living in a city was perfection, I was born in a poor family in a remote village....

I think we are meant to understand the word "perfection" as irony, though there's precious little of that luxury to be found elsewhere in the piece. This foundation is par for a political autobiography, reminiscent in its way of the log-cabin tradition in American politics.

The Shah's program of westernization and urbanization was a direct attack on the life of poor but devout and happy villagers: "[T]hey were deceived by the dazzling look and the misleading features of the cities and became suburban and lived in ghettos." Still, if you can make it in Tehran, you can make it anywhere. The log-cabin story continues: Poor but bright and ambitious boy gets a little schooling, does a lot of hard work (in air conditioning, it seems), performs brilliantly on his university entrance exam ("I had nose bleeding during the test, but I became 132nd student among over 400 thousand participants." More information there than we needed, perhaps), and...well, that's about where this installment ends, leaving us eager for the triumphs we know will come. As for the Revolution, "I was involved in certain activities." From excess medical detail to, er, modesty. But, then, I'm sure many of us would prefer to remain vague about what we did at 24.

Throughout his retelling of those turbulent times, Mr. Ahmadinejad refers repeatedly to Iran's ruler and "the extinct shah." I think he means "late," but I can't be certain. It is, anyhow, the nicest thing he has to say about Mr. Pahlavi.

Another passage gives us a clue to the answer to a question recently explored on the blog Scrappleface: Why do Muslims hate airplanes? Mr. Ahmadinejad remembers 1971, when the Shah celebrated 2,500 years of the Persian-Iranian monarchy by staging an elaborate, some said decadent, three-day party:

The imposition of the cost and the expenditure of these festivals and ceremonies and also the crapulence of shah's debauched clan and their foreign companies, broke the people's back. All necessary materials and supplies of the illegitimate functions were brought to Iran from Europe by the exclusive and specific airplanes.

So we have sort of reverse cargo cult going on here. And word-of-the-day.

While confessing to "certain activities" during the revolution, Mr. Ahmadinejad is still more reticent about his role in the war with Iraq:

At the beginning of war, I was 25 years of age. My mother and wife and all the mothers and wives of the Iranian nation, whose youths and their wives participated in war and defended their country, patiently trained and educated the next generation....The sacred defense in the universities was related to teaching human values. Side by side, the experience of life and detah during war made this life like a heaven on earth....

As best I can interpret this, his wife -- and perhaps his mother -- went to the front while he, like any good graduate student, stayed on campus to lead teach-ins. Again, to a degree, this is familiar territory. It would appear that the Shah's Americanization of Iran was more thoroughgoing than it is credited with.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's inaugural posting takes us down to the end of the war with Iraq in 1988. He says he will pick up his story later on and says he "will try to make it shorter and simpler."

"With hope in God," he concludes, "I intend to wholeheartedly complete my talk with allotted fifteen minutes." Can it be that the Andy Warhol rule applies even in Iran? We can only hope.

Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief, the Encyclopædia Britannica, and author of How to Know (, 2004). He is a TCS Contributing Editor.



Is he afraid to say where he was?
This guy is willing to tell us that he wants to wipe Israel off the map while denying the Holocaust, but he is afraid to admit that when he was 24 he was involved in hostage-takings at the American Embassy in Tehran? This guy either has male reproductive attachments made of brass, or is a couple of beers short of a six-pack...

"Former hostages Dr. William Daugherty (who worked for the CIA in Iran), Kevin Hermening, David Roeder, US Army Col. Charles Scott (Ret.), and US Navy Capt. Donald Sharer (Ret.) have alleged that Iran's later president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (elected 2005) was among the hostage takers. All of them have claimed that they are certain that Ahmadinejad is the man whom they remember from their captivity. A photograph taken during the crisis shows a blindfolded hostage being escorted by a man who resembles Ahmadinejad, but other former hostages and the CIA have expressed uncertainty regarding whether Ahmadinejad was actually involved."

Iranian hatred for airplanes
Iranians hate airplanes because they have no air force. They have some reported civilian liners which have been used by Ayatollahs to board with dead bodies and send into American patrolled and UN designated fly zones, but they are not safe and healthy, affordable vehicles for transportation, and they have no famous, heroic air men like Wrongway Doolittle, let alone the patriotic Tuskeegee Airmen, or the brave but not quite heroic pilots of the Bengasi raid in 1986 which allowed "Colonel" Muammar Gaddaffi to live his non-shariah compliant lifestyle and carry on his anti-Arab diatribes which embarrass the Ummah.
Perhaps the Farsi engineering text books will show how good American airliners are in the future, so liberal revisionists will do something better than bad mouth the Founding Fathers,Judaism, Christianity, pro-lifers, capitalists and all the other pillars of Western Civilization.

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