Thank you for your letter. I have read it carefully. I believe it reveals that we have much in common, and encourages me in the thought that it may be possible for us to make common cause in the service of Almighty God.
Mr. President, I think that you would be the first to agree that we live in an imperfect world, where it is not possible for any man, even with the help of Almighty God, to live without error or to achieve an optimal outcome from anything he attempts. Our holy book contains the words ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Of these facts I am acutely conscious. Thus I know we should not be hasty in attributing evil motives to those who seem to oppose us, for they, like ourselves, may only be attempting to do the best they can, using imperfect instruments and acting upon imperfect information. In this spirit I intend to respond to your letter.
Before addressing each of your points, it is necessary for me to explain one thing. The more powerful a person or nation is, the greater the consequences of their actions, whether for good or evil. This applies not only to what they do, but to what they fail to do. The consequences of actions (or inaction) taken by a medium-sized nation such as Iran are not likely to be as great as those of a large nation such as Russia or the United States. While smaller nations are free to stand on principle, knowing that the consequences both for them and for the world are unlikely to be grave, large nations do not have this freedom: whatever they chose to do or not do, there will be consequences throughout the world. Your refer to the Second World War in your letter, so I am sure you recall the history of that tragedy. At the onset of the conflict, both Iran and the United States tried to stand aloof from the quarrels of other nations: the consequences of Iran’s inaction were small, but the consequences of our inaction were disasterous. As a consequence of this our nation played a major role in setting up the postwar world order of the victors, the international order embodied in the United Nations. The ineffectiveness of this instrument is a source of sorrow to me. For many years this ineffectiveness was one of many tragic consequences of the division of the world into the two camps of the democratic West and the totalitarian atheists of the East. Following the collapse of the godless, did the United Nations become an effective instrument for promoting justice and liberal values? It did not. Even in the case of a tyrant like Saddam Hussein, who had attacked without provocation four neighbouring states, causing a million deaths among your countrymen, the United Nations could only issue futile resolutions and impose a regime of sanctions that led to many civilian deaths among his subjects.
Mr. President, can a man who is working towards a unified international community, who feels obliged to respect human rights, believes in liberalism as a civilisational model, and is opposed to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, allow such a situation to continue? Remember that it was soldiers and civilians of the Islamic Republic of Iran who were the main victims of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s. Remember the cries of your widows and orphans in that war, and recall that the losses of human lives and destruction of infrastructure then were far greater than have been lost in the present conflict. Iran was forced to defend itself from this tyrant, and was unable to remove him from power. If Iran had held the power to do so, would not this have been a great boon for the people of Iraq? Would not this have benefited the people of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, who were attacked by Saddam Hussein in subsequent wars? Would not Iran have, in this war, killed many people, destroyed water sources, industry, and agriculture, violated the sanctity of private homes, spent many billions of dollars, and placed many of its own young men in grave physical and psychological danger? I believe that you know both that it would have, and that these sacrifices would have been justified. However, Iran did not have the power to act, so was never forced to make the choice between two grave moral dangers: action, or inaction.
You ask if a follower of Jesus Christ, who I believe to be God incarnate on earth, would lead an attack on another nation with all of its attendant horrors. In the millennia that have passed many professed followers of Jesus Christ have led many such attacks. The main institutions which continue to interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ to the world are agreed that there can be such things as just wars for the casting down of tyrants. Can we consider that they are in error? Can all the leaders professing to be followers of Jesus Christ who led their nations into war be dismissed as criminals or hypocrites? I believe not. However, such an action would have to be weighed up carefully and compared with the horrors attendant on leaving a tyrannical regime in power.
Saddam Hussein was a totalitarian marxist dictator- and hence a professed enemy of Almighty God. He had murdered many of his own subjects, had waged unprovoked war on four neighbouring nations, and had used weapons of mass destruction against both his own subjects and citizens of these nations. The crimes of his regime were an affront to Almighty God. The war was waged to topple him, to remove him from power, punish him for his crimes and leave the people of Iraq and neighbouring nations in a position to determine their own destiny without his malign presence. This was the main goal of the war. You say that the announced goal of the war was otherwise: to an extent, this is true. The subsidiary goal of finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction was stressed in the prelude to the war. This was a tactical maneuver designed to gain the support of other nations unsympathetic to the major aim, because the resolutions of the United Nations had condemned Saddam Hussein only on these grounds. On many occasions I publicly pointed out the many reasons for removing Saddam Hussein from power, and never claimed that his possession of weapons of mass destruction was the sole reason for doing so.
You point out that through the many years of the imposed war on Iran Saddam was supported by the West. This is a source of shame to me. Supporting such a man would certainly seem to be a more difficult choice for a follower of Jesus Christ and a supporter of liberalism than the choice to actively oppose him. I was not active in the government of the United States at the time and can only speculate on the reasons for such an action. It must be remembered that at the time of the imposed war on Iran the United States was in the final years of a long struggle with totalitarian atheists whose avowed goal was the domination of the world and the eradication of religion. All conflicts in the world were seen, not as individual struggles in which the merits of the combatants should be compared, but in so far as they contributed to the overall struggle against this great enemy. As the professed enemy of the United States, the Islamic Republic of Iran was seen at that time as the unwitting agent of godlessness.
You are correct to condemn me for the imprisonment of many men, doubtless sincere in their devotion to Almighty God, without trial or legal representation at Guantanamo Bay. I cannot in good conscience reconcile this action with the teachings of Jesus Christ and liberal values. I have been afraid, and have shown insufficient trust in the established legal institutions of liberal democracy. For explanation, though not excuse, I can only say that these legal institutions have in my country often been subverted by the enemies of Almighty God to bring about outcomes repugnant to me and repugnant to the majority of the citizens of my country who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.1
You speak of the human rights violations that were attendant in the establishment of the state of Israel, and of ongoing human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. I agree that these violations are real and serious. Yet you do not condemn the murders of the inhabitants of Israel, which are equally repugnant to Almighty God. You do not mention that many, almost half, of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel are not Europeans, but have lived in the Middle East for many generations. These are people who were forced from their homes in Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and other Muslim countries- including the current president of Israel, who was born in Iran. Should you not offer to return to these people their property, if you wish to restore to the displaced Muslim and Christian inhabitants of Palestine their property? As a follower of Jesus Christ I believe, with many of my fellow citizens, that the Jews of the world have a right to dwell in the land of their ancestors if they so wish. A full discussion of my position on Israel, and the reasons for my government’s support of the Israeli regime, I wish to postpone for a later letter. I hope you will be patient. I feel that this is an area where our backgrounds and education are fundamentally different, and it will be difficult for us to find any common ground: it will be more productive for us to concentrate our discussions in more fertile areas.
You ask why any scientific and technological achievement in the Middle East is portrayed as a threat to the state of Israel. I take this as a reference to your nation’s nuclear program, since as a general statement it is not true: the many scientific achievements of Middle Eastern nations in medicine, chemistry, engineering, and other scientific fields are no threat to the state of Israel, and are not considered to be so by Israelis of my acquaintance. As far as your nation’s nuclear program goes, do you deny that you have many times made rhetorical statements concerning the state of Israel that could well be interpreted as threats? These statements are numerous and have been reported by your own state news agency as well as third parties. It is reasonable and prudent for the state of Israel to fear your intentions, given your own words. It is disingenuous of you to claim a general conspiracy to stifle scientific and technological achievements in the Middle East on the basis of reasonable fears about your nuclear program. The goal first professed by the late Shah, to use nuclear power to make better use of Iran’s abundant natural gas resources, is a laudable one and one that no reasonable nation would discourage Iran from pursuing. If this is your goal, why did you not accept the offer of Russia to provide enriched uranium for your civilian nuclear program? There is no pressing reason why Iran should requires its own enrichment program in order to run nuclear reactors for electricity generation. You must realise that in rejecting such an offer you are only causing unnecessary fear among neighbouring nations.
I concur with what you say regarding Latin America and Africa. My government supports humanitarian initiatives in Africa, more so than any previous government of the United States, and seeks to advance economic development and liberal democracy in Latin America: for example, I have sought the expansion of the North American Free Trade Association to include the states of Central America, so that they may share in the economic development which has transformed Mexico and brought new prosperity to many of its citizens. You ask why Latin Americans must be constantly threatened and live in fear. They are not, and they do not. We have expressed our disapproval of the rhetoric and actions of Hugo Chavez, of Evo Morales, and other Latin American leaders opposed to the United States, but we have taken no action, secretly or openly, to remove them from power. They are very far from being wicked tyrants such as Saddam Hussein was. This may be difficult for you to believe, given the past actions of United States governments at the time of the struggle with atheist totalitarianism, but I assure you that it is the truth.
You ennumerate many complaints that the brave and faithful people of Iran could justly make against the United States. Most of these are are crimes committed at the great struggle of which I have spoken several times already. Unfortunately at that time Iran was not considered by the United States in the light of the legitimate interests of the Iranian people, but in the light of the interests of the entire ‘free world’, which was locked in a mortal struggle with a godless entity rightly described as an evil empire. The destruction of an Iranian civilian airliner was a tragic accident for which my predecessors have already apologised. For the other sufferings of the Iranian people caused by the actions of the United States, both by comission and omission, I apologise on behalf of my nation.
Mr. President, you must realise that the brave and faithful people of Iran have many other complaints they could make. Many movements were involved in the overthrow of the Shah, an overthrow which was done with the acquiescence of the United States government at the time. These movements sought, for example, the introduction of liberal democracy in Iran. How can you justify the destruction of these movements and the imposition of the Islamic Republic by force? How can you justify the barbarous treatment of the workers at the American embassy in Teheran, in opposition to all norms of relations between states, whether or not it was used for activities opposing the Islamic Republic? Is it not true than many thousands of Baha’is and other persons who, while worshipping the same one Almighty God, differed from the orthodox views of Islam, have been murdered or driven from Iran? Is it not true that the groups funded and actively supported by Iran in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories have carried out many murderous attacks on unarmed civilians? Is it not true that many people, including juveniles, are executed in Iran for acts which, though they might place their souls in peril, are not considered capital crimes in other nations of the world? There are other things that I could add, but this does not seem a productive line of discussion to pursue.
I assure you that the United States greatly appreciated the condolences of Iran following the events of September 11th, 2001. I know that many worse things have happened in the world- that more people died in a single air raid on Teheran during the imposed war on Iran, for instance- but these particular events were very traumatic for my nation. My government has investigated the circumstances surrounding these events and have found many occasions of carelessness in the actions of security and intelligence services, but nothing to suggest criminal negligence or worse, the infiltration of these services. Nor have we found any evidence to suggest the direct involvement of the intelligence service of any other nation.
You ask about the role the media has played in instilling fear in the American people and providing a climate favourable to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Under our form of government, the media is not directly answerable to the government. Such control is incompatible with the principles of liberal democracy. I believe that, despite the excesses of the media, the benefits of this arrangement greatly outweigh the risks.
I believe that the truth known to Almighty God will never be lost, and that one day it will be known: on the day of judgment you and I will both have to appear before Almighty God and give an account of all we have done, all we have said, and all we have left unsaid. On that day it will not be possible to hide from the truth. We should both remember this. I believe in what you say, that our names will be recorded in history and will be constantly judged in the immediate and more distant futures, but I think you will agree with me if I say that the only judgment of any consequence is the judgment of Almighty God. Even if every generation to come curses our names, we must still do here and now what appears to us to be right in the sight of Almighty God.
You ask, what have the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the Iraq war produced for the citizens of the United States. I ask you, is it not better to ask what that expenditure has produced for all the people of the world? Our responsibilities are not only to our own citizens, but to all the people of the world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have removed two dangerous neighbours from Iran: you no longer have to support such vast number of Afghan refugees, and neither is a resistance movement dedicated to the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran maintained on your western border. The Salafists who consider all Shi’a doomed to perdition no longer govern on your eastern border, and you have a free hand to exert direct and indirect influence over the Shi’a majority in Iraq to ensure that an enemy like Saddam Hussein cannot arise there again. Mr President, the people of Iran have benefited greatly from the expenditure of the United States in this war.
My informants in Iraq tell me that everything is better now than under Saddam, except for security. They are united in considering the security situation a terrible problem. They consider that the United States is attempting to improve security in Iraq, while Iran is attempting to exacerbate the security problems for its own ends.2 Mr President, are they correct?
All of what you say is very true about our vocations as leaders.
There can be no lasting peace, security, or prosperity without justice. I would hope that we will both be remembered as men who strived to establish justice, who defended the rights of all people, who were on the side of the oppressed rather than the oppressors, who sought to serve the people and remain true to the teachings of Almighty God. We both fall short of this ideal in many ways: I recognise this. As I said at the beginning, all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of Almighty God.
I regret that I have spent so much money on security, weaponry, and military campaigns rather than the many laudable activities which you list, but I have done so only in the hope that this will forestall more military expenditures in the future, allowing funds to be used for such activities. I note that our two nations spend a roughly similar amount on defence as a percentage of gross domestic product, and assume that you also hope to be able to reduce military expenditures in the future?3
I agree with you when you say that a return to the teachings of the divine prophets is the only way for the salvation of the earth. I hope that you are right when you say ‘the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over these things.’ In my acceptance of the teachings of the divine prophets I am opposed by many in my own country, who have put their trust in the empty lies of godless materialism. I am opposed also by the majority of the governments of Europe, who scorned to included any mention of the teachings of Jesus Christ in their ‘European Constitution’ and pursue the same nihilistic vision. These people hold in scorn all the divine prophets, and speak respectfully of Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) only through fear. They are blind guides and those who listen to them go down into the pit, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Mr President, we should join together, as leaders of what are probably the most prominent nations in the world today to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) respectively. All the differences between us appear as nought when you consider that we both place our faith in the one undivided Almighty God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Let us work together to lift up the name of God and to destroy the works of these unbelievers. What do you think? I cordially invite you to come to my ranch in Texas sometime to discuss these matters further.4
(GWB to sign here)
1: I really can’t think of a single defensible reason for the whole Guantanamo Bay thing, but have had a go to come up with something.
2: I don’t know what Dubya’s informants in Iraq say, so I have gone by mine. They are not numerous, and quite possibly not representative, but I have tried to be careful not to prime them by giving any hint of my own views.
3: Military Expenditure as % of GDP: 4.1% USA, 3.3% Iran (CIA World Factbook 2005, admittedly)
4: I was tempted to throw in an ‘immanentising the eschaton’ here, but refrained...