When purple prose can be deadly
The most vicious dictators in the nations of the religion of peace aren’t very competent military commanders. They nearly always wind up with destroyed armies and acres of widows, orphans and rubble. But they usually have imaginative writers to feed large egos and big mouths. Theirs is purple prose written in blood.
Saddam Hussein promised “the mother of all battles,” and delivered something he might have sent to his favorite mother-in-law for her birthday. The rattle and bang of the mother of all battles turned out to be barely the squeal of a pig. His army, led by the Republican Guard, raced back to Baghdad with Norman Schwarzkopf in hot pursuit and only Christian mercy saved the army from massacre.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ridiculously eccentric president of Iran, is an honor student of the Saddam Hussein School of Hyperbole. Goofy though he is, he will soon preside over a nuclear weapon if someone doesn’t stop him. When he promises to “wipe Israel off the map” only fools, like many of our European cousins, treat his threat as merely the taunt of the schoolyard bully, and then it’s back to stuffing their faces with cheeses and sausages.
Mr. Ahmadinejad sets himself up as a clown, dispensing hyperbole as if it were cotton candy. “Hezbollah destroyed at least half of Israel in the Lebanon war,” he told the Tehran newspaper Keyhan. “Now only half the path [to its destruction] remains. It was proven that, by means of an offensive operation that need not be equal to Israel’s moves, it is possible to neutralize the Zionist navy.
“Just as in one 33-day war more than 50 percent of Israel was destroyed, and the hope of its supporters for the continued life of this regime was broken, it is likely in the next battle the second half will also collapse.
“On that day [. . .] Jordan will not be able to prevent the Jordanian Islamists from operating through the long JordanPalestine border and the millions of Egyptian Islamists [. . .] will not let the Sinai-Israel border remain quiet, and the Syrian Golan Heights will not remain as a [mere] observer of the battle. That day is not so far off.”
If “ifs” and “buts” were candy and nuts, as someone’s wise old granny once said, we would all have a Merry Christmas (or a Happy Hanukkah, a kickin’ Kwanzaa or even a riotous Ramadan), and Mr. Ahmadinejad provokes bitter mirth with every pronouncement. But so did Saddam Hussein, with his vainglorious boast about mothers and battles, and the hundreds of thousands of corpses that littered the Iraqi (and Kuwaiti) landscape were grim enough testimony that just as the devil can quote Scripture, so can a vain despot inflict great harm to unwary innocents.
“The great war is ahead of us,” the Iranian president told another Tehran newspaper, Resalat (as translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute). “It will break out perhaps tomorrow, or in another few days, or in a few months, or even a few years. [. . .] Israel must collapse. For the first time in 60 years of its disgraceful life the Zionist regime — the West’s beloved in the Middle East — tasted the taste of defeat, and the citizens of this regime trembled at the menace of Hezbollah’s mischief. The nation of Muslims must prepare for this great war so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime, and remove his cancerous growth.”
Once upon a time the West could treat this kind of Islamic boilerplate as the amusing rant of a dork, president or not, a dork who gets messages from Muhammad in paradise, as broadcast to a bicuspid. But Mr. Ahmadinejad is not as dumb as he sounds and is only half as dumb as he looks. Iran, though afflicted with large pockets of grinding poverty, is a firstworld country with competent chemists, physicists and even rocket scientists, all devoted to joining soon as nations with the Islamic bomb.
Once developed by Iran, nuclear weapons will spread quickly to Bangladesh, Syria, Egypt and throughout the Middle East. That’s why the Europeans who are still up and awake, having returned from having their wives fitted for their first burqas, are counting on America or Israel dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. Everybody knows the Jews can do it, and they have the manly orbs to get it done. Does anybody else?
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.