To: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President
Islamic Republic of Iran
Dear Mr. President,
I’m writing to you about death, one of your favorite themes. Your adult life has revolved around it. You’re from the Revolutionary Guards, the military organization that was created in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in the 1970s. The then-incipient Revolutionary Guards were trained there by the expert terrorists of al Fatah, Yasser Arafat’s gang of killers (Sunnis, by the way, as you well know). One day, the camp was bombed by the Israelis, and a considerable number of your men were killed. Later on, the graduates entered Iran, and killed members of the shah’s security forces. Today, Revolutionary Guardsmen crush Iranian dissent at home, and they are on the prowl all over the world, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Buenos Aires, Argentina. So you’ve been around death for 30 years or more. Training for it, training others for it, and participating in it.
You glorify it. You think it’s beautiful. “Art reaches perfection when it portrays the best life and best death,” you’ve said. After all, art tells you how to live. That is the essence of art. Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity.
Interestingly, you talk about “independence” and “national security,” rather than the interests of Islam, or the Muslim community, or even the Shiites, your sect. I’ll come back to this odd language shortly.
You’re a veteran of one of the bloodiest wars of recent times, the Iran-Iraq conflict that probably cost your country more than a million dead and maimed. You extol that sacrifice, as any patriotic Persian would; Iran was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s armies, and the Iranian people defended their country, bravely and desperately.
But your praise of Iranian fighters isn’t limited to men shot down on the battlefield in that bloody war; you celebrate cases of what you call — and extol — “martyrdom.” I call it the deliberate, criminal slaughter of many tens of thousands of young children. Some of those kids were only 12 years old. They were sent across the battlefields into Iraqi territory, as human mine-detectors. They walked across the minefields, and got blown up. The Iraqi soldiers were so horrified that they shouted at the children to stop, to go back. But they didn’t; you’d indoctrinated or hypnotized them, and you wanted them to die. Indeed, you were so certain they would be killed, that these little children were provided with plastic keys that were said to open the gates to paradise.
That’s not martyrdom; that’s mass murder of your own people. You indoctrinated those kids and sent them to their doom. And it didn’t stop with the war. Afterwards, you sent other children to walk across areas you suspected were mined, and many of them were sacrificed in the same way.
This barbarous campaign, of which you are so proud, and which you acclaim as a work of art, produced some particularly gruesome technical problems: according to one of your leading newspapers, many of those children were vaporized by the land mines, while others were blown to pieces, their body parts scattered over the earth. Your religious leaders insisted that everything be done to keep the bodies intact, and so at a certain point the children were sent to the mine fields wrapped tightly in blankets. Instead of charging bravely to eternity, they rolled across the ground. That way, their cadavers were more likely to hold together, and their families could be given the remains, wrapped in a bloody blanket, for burial.
Sending fighters into battles in which their leaders know many, or even most of them, are going to die is hardly new. The Russians did it in the First World War, for example, when the second ranks were not armed, but were told that there would be plenty of weapons available; they could just pry them from the hands of their dead comrades. But your massacre of the innocents is something uniquely dreadful.
Ironically, the notion that Muslims love death, thereby gaining an advantage against their life-loving adversaries, was first directed against your very own country, Iran itself, during the famous battle at Qadisiyya in 636, between the Muslim armies of Caliph Abu Bakr and the Persians. The Caliph sent a message to the Persians, calling upon them to conver t to Islam or pay onerous taxes and accept Muslim rule. Otherwise, he said, “you should know that I have come to you with an army of men that love death, as you love life.” (The Muslims won the battle, which marked the end of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia).
Such language during war is, so to speak, normal, but your deliberate mass sacrifice of your young, along with your ode to martyrdom, is different. It’s what the great Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno called “necrophilous” thinking, a pathological love of death.
Unamuno used that word in a face-to-face confrontation at the University of Salamanca, where he was the rector, with the famous Spanish general Millan Astray. The Spanish Civil War had just begun, and the general was celebrated in nationalistic circles for his motto, viva la muerte, Long Live Death. The general was a cripple, and Unamuno noted that the great Spanish writer, Cervantes, was also handicapped, and then he continued, “it pains me to think that General Milan Astray should dictate the pattern of mass psychology. A cripple who lacks the spiritual greatness of a Cervantes is wont to seek ominous relief in causing mutilation around him.” Unamuno denounced “Long Live Death” as a “necrophilous and senseless cry.”
Today, you are in the same position as General Milan Astray. Although you have not been wounded, your celebration of death is as necrophilous as the general’s. This is not a philosophical matter, despite your efforts to elevate it to the stature of aesthetics. It’s a disease, with well-known symptoms and consequences. People like you, who are fascinated by death are terribly destructive, of others and of themselves. You’re a textbook case.
Necrophilia is defined as:
The passionate attraction to all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction… It is the passion to tear apart living structures.
That is the language you use, especially about the Jews, the Israelis, and the Americans. It’s all about the rot of death, and the stink of death, as when you said that Israel is a “rotten and stinking corpse” that is destined to disappear, and you went on to proclaim that Israel “has reached the end like a dead rat.”