Published: Monday November 19, 2007–One of the countryâ€™s most prominent neoconservative pundits has been accused of using a fabricated quote from Iranâ€™s supreme religious leader in pushing his argument that a US invasion is the only recourse to deter that countryâ€™s nuclear ambitions.
Norman Podhoretz is among the most vocal in urging President Bush to bomb Iran, and he has predicted the president will launch an attack before his term is up. Podhoretzâ€™s argument is based on his belief that a nuclear-armed Iran would not be deterred from launching its missiles because its leaders do not fear their countryâ€™s destruction.
The Economist has called into question an oft-cited statement Podhoretz attributes to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, saying it is likely â€œbogus.â€
Podhoretz, a prominent adviser to Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, is unbowed in his push for war, and he says he accurately quoted Khomeini saying the following:
We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.
The Economist quotes Shaul Bakhash, a Middle East scholar at George Mason University, who thoroughly researched the alleged quotation, which was first cited by Iranian journalist Amir Taheri. Bakhash could find no evidence that those words ever crossed the Ayatollahâ€™s lips.
â€œThis research, I think, clearly establishes that the alleged quotation is a fabrication,â€ Bakhash writes in a private newsletter for Gulf experts. The scholar searched the Library of Congress, a database of Farsi-language holdings at libraries worldwide, books published in Iran and a â€œpresumably comprehensiveâ€ database of Khomeiniâ€™s â€œstatements, speeches, fatwas, etc.â€ and could not find the quotation Podhoretz and other Iran hawks are so fond of.
Andrew Sullivan, blogging at The Atlantic, jumps at the chance to undercut Podhoretzâ€™s apparent misquotation.
â€œOne should not expect intellectual honesty from Norman Podhoretz. â€¦ So I have no hope he will respond to this post at the Economist,â€ Sullivan writes.
Podhoretz shoots back, accusing Sullivan of â€œshrill hysteriaâ€ and relying on his original source to back up the quoteâ€™s validity. Taheri tells Podhoretz that the quote appeared in â€œPaymaha va Sokhanraniyha-yi Imam Khomeini (â€œMessages and Speeches of Imam Khomeiniâ€) published by Nur Research and Publication Institute (Tehran, 1981).â€
â€œThe quote, along with many other passages, disappeared from several subsequent editions as the Islamic Republic tried to mobilize nationalistic feelings against Iraq, which had invaded Iran in 1980,â€ Taheri writes. â€œThe practice of editing and even censoring Khomeini to suit the circumstances is widely known by Iranian scholars.â€
To Podhoretz, this is all the proof he needs that the Khomeini quote is accurate; he further pushes back against claims from the Economist that another quote from former Iranian President Rafsanjani is inaccurate. But even the quotes are inaccurate the case for war against Iran remains, he argues.
â€œSince the case I make â€¦ rests on much more than the two quotations from Khomeini and Rafsanjani,â€ he says, â€œit would still stand even if those quotations were in fact â€˜bogusâ€™ or â€˜fabricated.â€™â€