Cassandra Unheeded

If you do not know who Cassandra was, allow me to introduce her to you. She was loved by Apollo who gave her the power to foretell the future. He later turned against her because she refused his love. Angered by unrequited love, he wanted to revoke his gift. However, once a divine gift was given it could not be taken back. But the gods had a way of getting around problems like that. Since he could not deny her the gift of prophesy, he made it worthless: no one would ever believe her. Among her unheeded prophesies was her warning that Greek warriors were hidden in the wooden horse.

I think a lot about Cassandra these days. I think about her when her prophetic voice is muffled by the din of goose-stepping men pounding asphalt in robotic unison. I think of her when I see aggressive military parades in Iran and North Korea reminiscent of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But mostly, I think of her when I hear apologists for Ahmadinejad (including himself) provide us with convoluted interpretations of what he meant to say about the holocaust and the fate of Israel. He and his apologists now claim that the Jews were merely one of many groups that were targeted by Nazi Germany and that there is no proof of a holocaust, i.e., concentration camps, genocide, and so on. Regarding the fate of Israel, the official word is that Ahmadinejad has been misquoted because of a misleading translation of his words from Farsi to English (see below). The word from Iran is that he is not advocating the literal destruction of Israel but is simply restating the position of the Ayatolla Khomeini who said:

The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.

More to the point, Ahmadinejad states:

Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.

That sounds literal to me. Whatever the difficulties in translation, there can be no doubt that Ahmadinejad is not referring to a regime. His provisionary prediction clearly implies the literal destruction of Israel.

But wait! His apologists provide us with an alternative explanation for the Iranian president’s threatening words, especially those that were first published by The Islamic Republic News Agency (!), wherein the published quote was, “[Israel] will be wiped off the map.” The IRNA happens to be the official propaganda agency of Iran. It is also the agency that escalated the word ‘map’ to ‘the face of the earth’ and then ‘the surface of earth,’ thereby exacerbating the world’s indignation. According to Ahmadinejad’s apologists, the IRNA seriously misquoted their leader because of a language barrier. Observing the enormous disparity between ‘regime’ and ‘map’ (let alone, ‘the face of the earth’), I think it’s quite a stretch to accept the claim that the misquoted words are purely a matter of translation.

But…okay, suppose I believe them; suppose I thoroughly accept their version of what happened. After all, I don’t know Farsi. But there is a problem. This is a time when worldwide communication is rapid and largely expressed in concise headlines. If Ahmadinejad means something other than what the world is hearing from him, he can easily clear any misunderstanding about his alleged misquotes. The whole world will listen.

Instead, when he is asked by major news agencies whether or not he literally wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, he never answers the question. Instead, he pointedly evades a direct response and provides the interviewer with political ‘talking points.’

The Iranian leadership states its policies and grievances quite clearly to the rest of the world in fine detail. No one is in a better position than Ahmadinejad himself to clear any questions about what he meant by the inflammatory quotes attributed to him. He has only to call a press conference attended by fine bilingual translators. If he were to disavow those translations himself rather than rely on obscure websites like mine, he would put to rest the alleged unfairness of Western journalism.

I cannot help but think that despite the good intentions of his apologists to clear the issue online, the Iranian leadership, along with Ahmadinejad as Iran’s secular head, may tacitly be taking advantage of the alleged misleading quotes in order to keep Ahmadinejad’s threats alive. In effect, he is predicting the annihilation of Israel. I mention this only because he repeatedly dodges the crucial question.

On the other hand, there is no question about Netenyahu’s meaning when he tells the world that he will not allow Israel to be destroyed. There is no doubt that he is predicting a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.

The only thing the two men have in common is that most of the world doesn’t believe them. 

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