The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recently wrote a long open letter to his counterpart in the United States urging him to “return to the teachings of prophets, to monotheism and justice, [and] to preserve human dignity and obedience to the Almighty and His prophets” by renouncing aggression, Western style democracy and support for Israel. Robert Reilly has drafted a reply on George W. Bush’s behalf.
Dear President Ahmadinejad,
Please forgive this tardy response to your letter of early May. We did not reply at first because we doubted the letter’s authenticity. We suspected that someone was trying to play a trick on you. The discourse, you must admit, is unusual for a communication between heads of state. However, now that you have openly admitted that the letter is yours, I will respond.
Thank you for your invitation to accept Islam. As you know, I am a Christian. Throughout your letter you accuse me of being a bad Christian, which leaves me puzzled as to why you think I might make a good Muslim. However, before you proselytise outside your own country, you might want to address the condition of the Islamic faith in Iran.
I am genuinely sorry to hear that so many Iranians, especially the young, have lost their faith because of their profound disillusionment with theocratic clerical rule. Apparently, there is no way for them to distinguish between their religion and your rule. That is understandable since you claim there is none, that your authority comes directly from God and you are ruling in his name. It is no wonder you disdain “liberalism and Western style democracy”. Under it, you would be answerable not only to God, but to the Iranian people, to whom God gave certain “unalienable rights” that you and the mullahs have chosen to ignore. How ironic that, in the name of God, you deny your people’s God-given rights.
When young Iranians survey the way in which the clerical regime has enriched itself and impoverished the country, and enforced its rule with such harshness, what are they to think of this “God” who rules over them in this way? As a result, they abandon their religion and, unfortunately, many turn to drugs.
Your answer to the abuses under which the Iranian people live is nuclear “power.” Since your country is so richly endowed in oil and natural gas reserves, this is a strange answer. In fact, you so often denounce “lies” in your letter, I am surprised you would engage in such a whopper yourself. No country has conducted a 20-year clandestine program to develop nuclear power for peaceful domestic uses. The reason is that it is perfectly legal to do so in the open. In fact, we would support your nuclear power program, if that is what it was. However, as everyone outside of Cuba, Syria and Belarus knows, you are developing nuclear weapons.
You know that we know you are doing this. In fact, you deliberately exacerbate the free world’s worries with your continued exhortations about wiping Israel off the map. I understand that your policy of confrontation helps you to consolidate your domestic power and that is why you generate so much tension. The more likely you can make it seem that Iran will be attacked from the West, the more Iranians will rally around you. You provoke us. We respond. You get stronger. Since the Iranian people will soon realise we have no intention of attacking them, they will soon weary of this artificial hysteria and begin to wonder why your government fails to provide even the most basic necessities.
We also understand the real reason you want nuclear weapons. Of course, you have the dream of being the regional hegemon, and the prospect of your having nuclear weapons already terrifies your neighbours. But you also want them for the same reason as North Korea. Once you possess nuclear weapons, you believe you will be immune, as is North Korea, from external pressure for domestic political reform. You can tell the world to take a hike and to leave you in peace to oppress your own people. This is why Iranians who wish to see a return to genuine democratic, constitutional order despair at the thought of your succeeding. They know they will be finished, that no one will then dare speak up on their behalf.
So this is not really about nuclear weapons; it is about the rights of the Iranian people – your desire to take them away, and our desire to see them respected. We don’t worry about Great Britain, or France, or now India, having nuclear weapons, because they are democracies; they are founded on the “unalienable rights” of their peoples. People who are free to exercise those rights seldom seek to take them from others. We, and the rest of the world, are worried because of the nature of your regime, because you deny you own people its rights. Therefore, we take you seriously when you say you will take rights from others – most especially their unalienable right to life – by “wiping them off the map,” and we see you seeking to obtain the means to do this.
We do not think the Iranian people are going to let you get away with this. They see their religion prostituted to power and their great culture traduced by fanatic ideologues. We are on their side.
Thanks for writing.
George W. Bush
P.S. I attach a copy of the Declaration of Independence.