The following is an image from an internal CIA report on the successful 1953 coup in Iran that ousted Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and put the Shah back on his throne. I provide it for you here because I want you to note that the CIA quite actively sought to enlist the support of the “powerfully influential clergy.”

Of course, twenty-six years later that same “powerfully influential clergy” came to power in their own right during Ayatollah Khomeini’s glorious revolution. You should keep that in mind when you are reading the alarmists who are convinced (or, at least, trying to convince you) that the Iranian clergy is completely intent on destroying Israel and America.

It’s disturbing that Jay Nordlinger is willing to detail numerous examples where Iranian clergy, military figures, or politicians have threatened Israel or America but he can’t be bothered to provide a single link or even a reliable translation for any of his sources. How are we supposed to know if he’s mischaracterizing what these people have said? How do we know that they even said it?

And if they did say these things, how seriously should we take their threats? Should we take them as seriously as presidential candidate John McCain’s joking rendition of the Beach Boys classic, “Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran”? Should we take them as seriously as Rep. Louie Gohmert’s threats that he made just this week?

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said he thinks it’s time to take drastic measures against Iran.

“It’s time to bomb Iran,” Gohmert said in an interview Wednesday with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on the radio show “Washington Watch,” according to Right Wing Watch.

“We need to make clear to Iran: You can play these silly games with our president that buys into them and our secretary of state, but the American people aren’t buying it and you’re going to pay a price,” Gohmert added. “We have got to get that message across.”

Speaking of McCain, should the Iranians be afraid when he argues on the Senate floor that Israel should go rogue and bomb them even if they come to an agreement with the international community on their nuclear program?

Nordlinger doesn’t mince around; he goes Full Holocaust right out of the box.

An Iranian general said, “Israel’s destruction is non-negotiable.” Don’t you think President Obama should take note of that? Don’t you think he should say something like, “I understand why the Israelis are a teensy bit worried”?

You may remember what the survivor of Auschwitz said when asked, “What’s the biggest lesson you have learned?” He said, “When someone says he’s going to kill you, believe him.”

There’s no link for those quotes, either.

What’s clear here is that you can find people on both sides making bellicose threats that are really quite frightening if taken at face value. If you have trouble finding something scary enough for your purposes, you can always paraphrase, put the worst light on something, or simply invent the words that you imagine will advance your argument for war. Some publications won’t even demand that you provide credible citations, or any citations at all.

What these folks never do is take any personal responsibility for the series of events that have led us to this place. Nordlinger jokes that President Obama will soon be providing nursing care in the Lincoln Bedroom to Fidel Castro, and that’s really about how seriously we should take him, but these drumbeats for war are cumulative. And they send a message to Iran that is probably even more threatening to them than their threats are to us, because we have the means not just to blackmail them but, as Hillary Clinton said in 2008, to “totally obliterate them.”

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel),” Clinton said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,” she said.

“That’s a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic,” Clinton said.

Iran doesn’t really need Hillary Clinton to tell them what our nuclear weapons can do to them. If we’re this scared at the mere prospect of Iran getting one 1940’s era nuclear weapon, imagine how they feel when such a wide swath of the American political scene routinely demonizes them and promises their destruction. This tough talk might deter them from doing something reckless, foolish and tragic, but it could also be their main incentive for pushing ahead for a bomb that will give them a measure of deterrence of their own.

I don’t want to make it “look like if the campus Left came to power” in this country, but John Lennon was on to something when he urged us to “give peace a chance.” I think it was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

We don’t have to assign benign intent to the Iranian clergy or think that it would be a good idea for them to get a nuclear weapon. But we shouldn’t magnify the threat out of all proportion or give up on finding a way to resolve our differences without killing each other.

I don’t know if President Obama will be called a child of God, but I’m pretty sure those that thirst for war will not be remembered fondly.

Also, someone has to remember our history. Things have a nasty way of not turning out as planned.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at