Ahmadinejad and the Propaganda War
When Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad took the unprecedented step to write to American President George W. Bush I was eager to read its full content which now, thanks to Mathaba, has been made available. There are no large surprises with regard to the points raised in the letter, but it is nonetheless most revealing in other respects, most importantly its style. I shall share with you my disappointment.
As to be expected, the Iranian president raises the issue of Western double standards including American support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, points to the dishonesty in the justification of the illegal attack against Iraq whilst applauding the departure of Saddam Hussein, argues for the right to scientific, including nuclear, development for peaceful ends, hints at possible American government collusion over the 9/11 hijacks and derides America for their lack of human rights, citing Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition flights as examples.
During much of the lengthy letter the Iranian president refers to Christian values and the teachings of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad. Given that George Bush sees himself closely in touch with the Almighty such references to religious morals are not entirely out of place, but the repeated rallying cry to unite upon the common values of the monotheistic faiths misses the secular nature of Western society. From a Muslim viewpoint, of course, it seems that Ahmadinejad wants to cast himself into the role of continuing the tradition of the prophet of Islam himself, who also wrote letters of invitation to accept the truth to the rulers of his era.
If only Ahmadinejad had also copied the brevity of the messages from prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, instead of delivering what the American administration called a "lengthy lecture". This is what the prophet wrote to Heraclius, ruler of Byzantine, for example:
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This letter is from Muhammad the slave of Allah and his Apostle to Heraclius, the ruler of the Byzantines. Peace be upon him who follows the right path. Furthermore, I invite you to Islam and if you become a Muslim you will be safe, and Allah will double your reward, and if you reject this invitation of Islam you will be committing a sin by misguiding your subjects. And I recite to you Allah's statement: “O People of the Scriptures! Come to a word common to you and us that we worship none but Allah and that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others as Lords beside Allah. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims (those who have surrendered to Allah)."
It is brief and to the point. The Iranian president's message, on the other hand, runs into more than a dozen pages.
I have great respect for Mahmood Ahmadinejad for not being cowed into subservience to Western demands, for daring to point out the inconsistencies in the American rhetoric instead of simply being defensive, for speaking up for the Palestinians and putting publicly on record that 9/11 would not have been possible without prior knowledge by the American security services. In its lengthy and flowery style, however, the letter loses its effect and becomes almost unquotable.
In this regard the letter tells us much about Iran's inability to understand the nature of Western propaganda. The Iranian president remarks in his letter that he is a teacher. As a teacher he would need to deliver his message with clarity and in such a way that the recipients can grasp it. In this he fails utterly. The English text of the letter appears to be a straight translation from the Persian. More appropriately the text should have been rewritten to express the intended meaning in a language and style suitable for the targeted audience. In its crudeness it lacks the sophistication you would expect at the highest level of a country's administration.
What the letter tells us, and the Americans, is that Iran lacks competent advisors familiar with the Western mindset. The end product indicates a lack of expertise to draft refined wording with powerful effect which has become the hallmark of British diplomacy and that of other English speaking countries. Whilst the warmongers are spending weeks in formulating a UN draft resolution designed to open the doors for future military action without explicitly having to say so, the Iranian president sends a letter not much different from what one might expect to receive from a colleague or relative writing back from a trip around the world.
Let's hope for Iran that their military preparations for an American attack are not as dilettantish as their diplomatic efforts. If American planners were to judge Iran on the merits of this letter they would think it a walk-over. The importance of the propaganda war cannot be understated. Long before the first shot is fired a steady stream of disinformation ensures that both sides to the conflict are cast in a particular light in the eyes of the public. This is not a small matter. To deal with this verbal onslaught as much skill should be employed as in the defence of a country's physical borders. A high level message from the Iranian president, bound to get the media's attention due to its unprecedented nature, should have been fired with as much precision as a missile in order to send an unmistakeable message to the other side whilst at the same time forcing the media to take note of its salient points.
Maybe Iran needs to divert some funds from its defence budget into hiring competent communications experts familiar with the workings of modern media and advertising. The Iranian president's letter to George Bush has been yet another missed opportunity of which there are so many due to the lack of effort being made to understand one's opponents before attempting to talk to them. If he wants to save his nation from destruction Ahmadinejad needs better advisors. I wonder whether I should offer him my consultancy services.