Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Letter from Iran

If Charles Manson said, "Don't be a psychopathic serial killer, that would be bad," would you say, "That's hypocritical, coming from a psychopathic serial killer, so I don't have to listen to that advice"? No, you should listen to that advice because it's true, even though it comes from a hypocrite.

Is there anything true in Monday's letter from Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadi-Najad to President Bush?

Ahmadinejad writes to Bush with this understanding:
I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him).
Bush once said his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ, although White House Christmas I mean Holiday Cards did not mention The Philosopher by name. Bush has never come right out and said he is "born again," but his campaign staff allows Christians to believe he is. Ahmadinejad is willing to concede the claim, but then asks some probing questions, which could be directed to Bush's followers as much as to the President himself:
Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ ... But at the same time,

Have countries attacked? The lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed and on the slight chance of the presence of a few criminals in a village, city, or convoy for example, the entire village, city or convoy set ablaze?

Or because of the possibility of the existence of WMDs in one country, it is occupied, around 100,000 people killed, its water sources, agriculture and industry destroyed, close to 180,000 foreign troops put on the ground, sanctity of private homes of citizens broken, and the country pushed back perhaps 50 years. At what price? Hundreds of billions of dollars spent from the treasury of one country and certain other countries and tens of thousands of young men and women -- as occupation troops -- put in harms way, taken away from family and loved ones, their hands stained with the blood of others, subjected to so much psychological pressure that everyday some commit suicide and those returning home suffer depression, become sickly and grapple with all sorts of ailments; while some are killed and their bodies handed to their families.
These rhetorical questions are as obvious as "Don't be a psychopathic serial killer, that would be bad." The fact that they come from a certified nut-case does not reduce their truthfulness.

Ahmadinejad was also on target when he said:
I point out that throughout the many years of the imposed war on Iran, Saddam was supported by the West.
U.S. policy toward Saddam in the 1980's was one of "Shaking Hands with Tyranny." More discussion of prior U.S. support for Saddam is found on my Iraq webpage.

The U.S. federal government is probably the greatest source of war and military conflict on the planet. Ahmadinejad wants to know if this is a mark of "a Christian nation":
You might know that I am a teacher. My students ask me how can theses actions be reconciled with the values outlined at the beginning of this letter and duty to the tradition of Jesus Christ (Peace Be Upon Him), the Messenger of peace and forgiveness.
No reconciliation is possible.

Ahmadinejad also raised the issue of prisoners being held without regard for Constitutional rights:
There are prisoners in Guantanamo Bay that have not been tried, have no legal representation, their families cannot see them and are obviously kept in a strange land outside their own country. There is no international monitoring of their conditions and fate. No one knows whether they are prisoners, POWs, accused or criminals.

European investigators have confirmed the existence of secret prisons in Europe too. I could not correlate the abduction of a person, and him or her being kept in secret prisons, with the provisions of any judicial system. For that matter, I fail to understand how such actions correspond to the values outlined in the beginning of this letter, i.e. the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH), human rights and liberal values.
The actions of the U.S. Security State are far worse than the government actions listed in the Declaration of Independence that gave rise to the American Revolution.

Ahmadinejad also pointed out U.S. intervention in Iran:
The brave and faithful people of Iran too have many questions and grievances, including: the coup d’etat of 1953 and the subsequent toppling of the legal government of the day, opposition to the Islamic revolution, transformation of an Embassy into a headquarters supporting, the activities of those opposing the Islamic Republic (many thousands of pages of documents corroborates this claim), support for Saddam in the war waged against Iran, the shooting down of the Iranian passenger plane, freezing the assets of the Iranian nation, increasing threats, anger and displeasure vis-à-vis the scientific and nuclear progress of the Iranian nation (just when all Iranians are jubilant and collaborating their country’s progress), and many other grievances that I will not refer to in this letter.
Amadinejad asks all-too-pertinent questions about 9-11. Only a nut-case would suggest that the federal government could have prevented 9-11. So call me a nut-case:
September eleven was not a simple operation. Could it be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services – or their extensive infiltration? Of course this is just an educated guess. Why have the various aspects of the attacks been kept secret? Why are we not told who botched their responsibilities? And, why aren’t those responsible and the guilty parties identified and put on trial?
As I ask on my terrorism webpage, if you hired an exterminator and a month later your entire house collapsed from termites, would you not fire the exterminator?

Far from protecting America, the federal government has been creating enemies around the world for decades. U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century has been completely un-American. America's Founding Fathers did not believe in this kind of perpetual foreign intervention:
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible."
— Washington, Farewell Address (1796) [Washington’s emphasis]

I deem [one of] the essential principles of our government, and consequently [one] which ought to shape its administration,…peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.
— Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1801)
Amadinejad goes on to raise some stock liberal arguments, but there is a valid point:
If billions of dollars spent on security, military campaigns and troop movement were instead spent on investment and assistance for poor countries, promotion of health, combating different diseases, education and improvement of mental and physical fitness, assistance to the victims of natural disasters, creation of employment opportunities and production, development projects and poverty alleviation, establishment of peace, mediation between disputing states and distinguishing the flames of racial, ethnic and other conflicts were would the world be today? Would not your government, and people be justifiably proud?

Would not your administration’s political and economic standing have been stronger? And I am most sorry to say, would there have been an ever increasing global hatred of the American governments?

Mr. President, it is not my intention to distress anyone. If prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (PBUH) were with us today, how would they have judged such behaviour?
It is wrong to say that the government should have spend our money on social concerns rather than on military ventures on behalf of oil companies. The government should not have taken the money in the first place, and should be funding neither social projects or military ventures. But if the government were going to confiscate my money, I would rather have the money spent on widows and orphans than on bombs and dictators. How can Christians support such extraordinary expenditures on "regime change?"

Ahmadinejad sounds like a preacher, quoting the Koran profusely in ways that parallel the Christian Scriptures, and inviting Bush to repent:
Do you not think that if all of us come to believe in and abide by these principles, that is, monotheism, worship of God, justice, respect for the dignity of man, belief in the Last Day, we can overcome the present problems of the world – that are the result of disobedience to the Almighty and the teachings of prophets – and improve our performance? Do you not think that belief in these principles promotes and guarantees peace, friendship and justice? Do you not think that the aforementioned written or unwritten principles are universally respected? Will you not accept this invitation? That is, a genuine return to the teachings of prophets, to monotheism and justice, to preserve human dignity and obedience to the Almighty and His prophets?
Bush will go down in history as being far less a Christian than Thomas Jefferson. Andrew M. Allison, in Thomas Jefferson: Champion of History, writes:
It was partly because of his reticence on the subject of religion that Jefferson's political enemies had been able in earlier years to convince some voters that he was an atheist who would endanger their God-fearing republic. But his references to "our Savior" in his private letters prove that he was no atheist.[note 12: For example, see his letter to Martin Van Buren (29 June 1824)] This fact is further evidenced in a personal statement he had written to Dr. Benjamin Rush during his presidency:
My views of [the Christian religion] are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be—sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others. [TJ to Dr. Benjamin Rush (21 Apr. 1803)]
On another occasion he wrote, "I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man." [TJ to Jared Sparks (4 Nov. 1820)]
The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

  1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
  2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
  3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.
"Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips," Jefferson believed, "the whole civilized world would now have been Christian." [TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse (26 June 1822)]

Sharing a hope nurtured by many Americans in the early nineteenth century, Jefferson anticipated a re-establishment of the Christian religion in its "original purity" in the United States. Although he believed it would not take place until after his death, he had no doubt that it would eventually be accomplished. "Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity," he said, "I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages."[TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse (19 July 1822)
If the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by law in theory can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.[TJ to Jared Sparks (4 Nov. 1820)]
The "future state of rewards and punishments" that Jefferson spoke of does not bode well for Bush. And in line with Paul's words to Timothy ("godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" 1 Timothy 4:8), Amadinejad rightly warns Bush about the more immediate future:
Mr. President,
History tells us that repressive and cruel governments do not survive. Many things have happened contrary to the wishes and plans of governments.
As Jefferson put it:

Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.

If America is a Christian nation, she deserves better leadership than the Republicans have given us.

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