Iranian Scholar Shaul Bakhash did some digging about a quote ostensibly by Khomeini and used by neoconservative extremist Norman Podhoretz to base his claim that Iran is undeterrable—and therefore, should be bombed—to discover that the quote is a falsehood from infamous fabricator, Amir Taheri.
Norman Podhoretz, among others, believes that Iran is undeterrable, and this is a cornerstone of his case that George Bush should be sure to bomb Iran’s nuclear works before leaving office. Mr Podhoretz produces two primary sources for this. The first is a quote from the Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary founder whose words are considered authoritative still in Iran:
“We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world”
It now appears likely that this quote is bogus. Iran scholars have investigated the claim—which strikes the nose as odd right away, since Khomeini had shown streaks of Iranian nationalism many times elsewhere. The furthest back the source could be clearly traced was a book by Amir Taheri, an Iranian-born journalist, who has repeatedly and credibly been accused of falsifying or exaggerating information.
Regarding this revelation, Shaul Bakhash writes:
I would like to share with Gulf2000 members the result of further research by colleagues and friends regarding the quotation attributed to Ayatollah Khomeini by Amir Taheri and which has been repeatedly cited by Norman Podhoretz and others. This research, I think, clearly establishes that the alleged quotation is a fabrication.
First, a data search by the Iranian World Reference Librarian at the Library of Congress of the LC’s own holdings shows no book of the title that Taheri cites; more significantly, his search of the www.worldcat.com data base, which lists Farsi language holdings of most important libraries worldwide, has turned up no volume or volumes with the title that Taheri cites.
Second, a search by a book dealer in Tehran of books published in Iran turned up no book with Taheri’s title.
Third, a selective search in a number of published collections of Khomeini’s statements and speeches (not Taheri’s non-existent volume but other books) for the year Taheri alleges Khomeini made these remarks turned up nothing even approximating Taheri’s “quotation”.
Finally, a friend in Tehran had a search conducted of the huge and presumably comprehensive data base of all of Khomeini’s statements, speeches, fatwas, etc. Again the results were negative. Someone should inform Mr. Podhoretz he is citing a non-existent statement.
The full “quotation” Taheri gives in his book, “Nest of Spies,” follows; even on cursory examination it appears implausible that Khomeini would have said such a thing.
“What is Iran? Iran is nothing but some mountains and some plains, some earth and some water. A true Muslim cannot love a country–any country. For his love is reserved only for his Creator. We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”
The story has been picked up by several bloggers including Andrew Sullivan who points to another time where Podhoretz used an April Fools joke as impetus for his argument.
One should not expect intellectual honesty from Norman Podhoretz. After being informed that a quote he attributed to a British minister was actually an April Fool’s joke, NPod, despite having access to Google, refused to acknowledge it was inaccurate. So I have no hope he will respond to this post at the Economist raising questions about a quote by the Ayatollah Khomeini that Podhoretz has been using in his campaign to attack Iran as soon as possible. The quote came from Amir Taheri, a man whose reliability has scorched me in the past as well. But at least I concede an error when I make one, however innocently.
Irancove @ November 17, 2007