Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Pull up a chair, open a beer, sit back and relax for a splendid little foreign policy cat fight!

Norman Podhoretz vs. the Economist (but not really).

Great stuff!

The editors at Democracy in America got the ball rolling by calling out Podhoretz, providing readers with evidence from an Iranian Scholar at George Mason University by the name of Shaul Bakhash that a quotation attributed to the late Ayatollah Khomeini (this guy, remember?) and frequently noted by N-Pod and his neocon fellow travel Amir Taheri is absolute bullshit.

Andrew Sullivan picks up on the story and posts it on his blog.

Podhoretz reads said post and then strikes back with a little background help from Taheri.

Finally, the Economist senses its mission has been accomplished and leaves the Iranian scholars to duke it out themselves:

Mr Podhoretz entitles his post "A response to Andrew Sullivan", since Mr Sullivan linked to and popularised our posting. But that is a misleading title, as would be "A response to The Economist". Our posting relied mainly on Mr Bakhash's research.

So this is now between Mr Bakhash and Mr Taheri, two Farsi-speaking Iran experts. Readers should read both their original claims in their own words, any follow-ups, and Mr Podhoretz's case for bombing Iran themselves. This blog is not going to settle the argument for or against war with Iran. The point is that the truth matters. There is plenty of good evidence against Iran; using bad evidence should not be necessary if the case is strong. But if Mr Taheri's quotation holds up, it should be taken into account.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you pick a fight on the internet!

So keep your eyes peeled for a Bakhash-Taheri cage match in the future ...

MORE: One of N-Pod's/Taheri's explanations for the lack of circulation the quotation in question has these days is that the Iranian revolutionary government has done a damn good job of censoring it. Julian Sanchez makes the very good point that if what the Ayatollah said is now suppressed by his successors, then it must not really be all that important to them these days and is probably not very good evidence that the Iranian leadership is, as Podhoretz says, "suicidal."

On a very visceral level it seems ridiculous to be having to argue this point.

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