“On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere rode to every Middlesex village and farm warning his countrymen that the British were coming.
In his new book, imparting a message no less important than Revere’s, Michael Ledeen warns us not that the Iranian mullahs are coming, but that they’re already here, making war on the United States and killing Americans for nearly thirty years.
In his recent review of The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction, National Review Online columnist Andrew C. McCarthy characterizes Dr. Ledeen’s book as an “indictment” not only of the post-Shah mullahocracy, but also of five American presidents and their administrations.
Mr. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, knowingly used exactly the correct word: indictment. Actually, The Iranian Time Bomb is more than an indictment. Dr. Ledeen’s book offers irrefutable proof of the charges, easily convicting the mullah regime and five successive American administrations.
In The Iranian Time Bomb, Dr. Ledeen divides his case into five parts: a lengthy introduction, four chapters, and an epilogue.
In the introduction, the author exposes the nature of the theocratic state founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It is not a pretty picture: medieval mystical tenets as the guiding philosophy; governance by unaccountable clergy; primitive Sharia strictures replacing the rule of law; outlawry of most modern culture; shelving Sunni and Shi’ite differences in its war against common enemies; ambition for Middle East hegemony; destruction of the United States of America.
Chapter 1 describes how Khomeini quickly consolidated power after the Shah’s fall in early 1979. Again, not a pretty picture: mobilization of the masses and appeals to martyrdom; pandering to the impoverished and making the well-to-do sweat about their future; “total, uncompromising war against anything having to do with the West”; “use of the judicial system as an instrument of terror.” The author’s elaboration of these totalitarian techniques is chilling and leaves no doubt that from the beginning Khomeini intended to create a theofascist state.
More chilling than what Khomeini and his followers intended for Iran is what they intended for the Middle East, the United States, and the world.
Dr. Ledeen’s second chapter, “The Iranian War Plan” offers unique insights into how Iran has had its hand in virtually all the terrorist activity of the last thirty years: seizing the American embassy (literally, land of the United States); attacking the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia; arming Islamic radicals in Bosnia; establishing terrorist training camps; hijacking aircraft; taking hostages; killing American military personnel and intelligence agents; kidnapping and murdering political opponents; blowing up American embassies in Africa, Marines in Lebanon, civilians in New York, Jews in Argentina. And more!
Dr. Ledeen writes: “But even if the auguries were overwhelming [for the Iranian state], the leaders of the Islamic Republic would continue to wage its unholy war against us, as it had for twenty-eight years.
“The question for the United States was not whether war with Iran was inevitable; it was already waging. The question was whether the United States was prepared to fight back effectively, and on the full battlefield.” (My emphasis.)
Following this question — which appears as the last sentence in Chapter 2 — the next chapter, “The American Response,” begins with this quotation: “America can not do a damn thing.” The statement is ascribed to “Ayatolla Khomeini, following the hostage seizure, 1979.”
But for one word Khomeini had wrong — instead of “can” Khomeini should have said “will” — sadly, he was correct: The United States will not do a damn thing.
It was bad enough that the post-Shah Iranian theofascist regime descended to the dark ages to pollute the world with its hatred-driven terror.
It was arguably worse, however, that the freest, most civilized nation in the world stood by, willingly impotent to defend itself and its western values. Lest anyone doubt that America’s leaders at best ignored, and at worst enabled, the Iranian theofascists in their worldwide terror campaign, Dr. Ledeen definitively proves otherwise.
The author calls the nearly three-decade-long lack of response from the United States “a triumph of hope over all available evidence, and insistence that, no matter how bad things look, patient diplomacy will eventually yield a ‘solution,’ and that the Iranian regime, like all regimes, is interested in advancing the interests of the state and would therefore be amenable to reason combined with moderate pressure.”
This “triumph of hope over all available evidence” has been a phenomenon crossing party lines and can be said about both Democrat and Republican presidents and their administrations.
For example — and there are many, too many, more — Carter allowed American citizens, including diplomats, to be held hostage and American property to be occupied for 444 days by terrorists.
Reagan allowed Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist surrogate, to murder American diplomats and Marines, and he sold arms to the mullahs.
Bush the Father enabled the theofascists to fund terrorist activities by allowing the United States to be the “largest single market for Iranian crude” oil.
Clinton allowed the Iranians to arm the Bosnians and infiltrate every important level of that government, and to kill yet more Americans, this time in Saudi Arabia.
Bush the Son, despite tough albeit empty talk about the “Axis of Evil,” has, among other derelictions of his commander-in-chief constitutional duty, allowed the Iranian theofascists to kill Americans by the hundreds in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere with impunity — as cemeteries and hospitals throughout our land silently attest.
Against this background of indictment and proof, Dr. Ledeen goes one step further. He suggests that it may not be too late to neuter (my word) the mad murdering mullahs. In essence, he views Iran today as a house of cards, with a suppressed populace ready to topple the mullahs by pulling out any one of several supports holding up the tottering regime.
This can occur, he argues, if the Iranian people receive three things from the United States: “hope, information, and some material support” — which, he further argues, will render the military option unnecessary. Dr. Ledeen understands, though, that if the situation becomes desperate, military force will be necessary.
But what reason do we have to expect that our benighted president and his fawning Secretary of State — let alone the politicians at the Department of Defense or the risk-averse Central Intelligence Agency — are capable of reversing thirty years of sloth, stupidity, pragmatism, and/or cowardice?
This question — rhetorically intended — raises yet another interesting point, one suggested but not fully developed in The Iranian Time Bomb.
Although not the central thesis of his book, Dr. Ledeen tantalizes the reader with allusions to an irresistible question that necessarily arises from his indictment and conviction of five American presidents and their administrations for what can legitimately be described as criminal negligence. That question is: Why have they allowed us to cringe before the schoolyard bully?
In the second sentence of The Iranian Time Bomb, Dr. Ledeen writes that “[f]uture historians will have to unravel the mystery of our remarkable refusal to fight back against an enemy that never hid its intention to destroy or dominate us, and impose a clerical fascism that is the antithesis of freedom.”With all respect to my old friend Mike Ledeen, I hold that we cannot afford to wait that long.
Indeed, in Dr. Ledeen’s introduction he writes that no matter “how much evidence of Iran’s determination to destroy or dominate us, no matter how many times Khamenei or Ahmadinejad lead the chant of ‘Death to America’ or ‘Death to the Infidels,’ [Secretary of State Rice] and other wishful diplomats of this world continue to convince themselves that the Iranian leaders share our goals for peace (or, to use one of their favorite words, ‘stability’) in the region, and that if we make only one more generous offer or hold one more private schmooze, the whole unpleasant situation will work out for the best.” (My emphasis.)
Unless this virtually pacifist mind-set is understood now, and purged from our leaders’ attitudes now, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to deal with the mortal threat the Iranian theofascists pose to the United States and to Western civilization.
Why, then, do these people “continue to convince themselves”?
Is there a common denominator, uniting the thirty-year attitude toward Iran of Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and scores of apparatchiks at the Department of State, Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Council?
Why did Carter the liberal and Reagan the conservative sell arms to the mullahs?
Why did Clinton the Democrat and Bush II the Republican stand idly by while Iranians and their surrogates murdered Americans?
The answer does not come easily, both because it implicates complex considerations of the actors’ worldviews and, in turn, because ultimately it rests on their philosophical and psychological premises.
It is too facile to attribute our leaders’ seemingly Pollyannaish naiveté — manifested in three decades of appeasing a murderous regime expressly dedicated to our destruction — to stupidity, inattention, venality, preoccupation, intelligence failures, or a mystical faith in diplomacy. Even cowardice is too superficial an explanation.
No, there is a deeper explanation. It is rooted in the essence of appeasement, which is defined as “the political strategy of pacifying a potentially hostile nation in the hope of avoiding war, often by granting concessions.” Note the word “pacify.” Why would we want to pacify someone trying to kill us? The obvious answer is, so he wouldn’t do it.
Ultimately, appeasement is based on fear of harm, serious injury, or death.
Sad to say, our leaders for the last thirty years — who are not stupid people, whatever their many other shortcomings — have apparently lived in abject fear of what the crazy, yet crafty, Iranian mullahs might do to us if they “really got angry.” Never mind that we could have crushed them, and can now, by fostering internal revolt, as Dr. Ledeen proposes, and/or by military force, which he sees potentially as the last option.
Because of fear, five Presidents of the United States and their minions have lacked the fortitude to stand up to the schoolyard bully, with its assassins, plastic explosives, and legions of fanatics, and forcefully to make it known to the theofascists that they are not going to eat America’s lunch.
These five men and their enablers have forgotten whatever lesson they should have learned in the schoolyard: that one must leave a bully with his nose broken and his shirt covered with blood, and that fear-driven appeasement will bring only more bullying and eventual subservience.
In light of our leaders’ three-decade appeasement of the mad murderous mullahs of the Iranian fascist theocracy, and their continuing murder of Americans in Iraq, it would serve us well to remember the “the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five...”
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
In The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots' Quest for Destruction, Dr. Michael Ledeen has brought us a message no less important than Paul Revere’s.
Our ancestors heeded that early American’s call to arms. If our leaders continue to ignore Dr. Ledeen’s impassioned plea, they will be responsible for the destruction of the American Republic.
Henry Mark Holzer is a professor emeritus at Brooklyn Law School and a constitutional and appellate lawyer. He provided legal representation to Ayn Rand on a variety of matters in the 1960s. His latest book is Keeper of the Flame: The Supreme Court Jurisprudence of Justice Clarence Thomas.