An analysis of media rhetoric on its way to war against Iran - Commenting on the alleged statements of Iran's President Ahmadinejad .
By Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann
Translation to English: Erik Appleby
04/19/06 "Kein Krieg!" -- -- - "But now that I'm on Iran, the threat to Iran, of course -- (applause) -- the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace; it's a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel, and -- (applause.)" George W. Bush, US-President, 2006-03-20 in Cleveland (Ohio) in an off-the-cuff speech (source: www.whitehouse.gov) But why does Bush speak of Iran's objective to destroy Israel?
Does Iran's President wants Israel wiped off the map?
To raze Israel to the ground, to batter down, to destroy, to annihilate, to liquidate, to erase Israel, to wipe it off the map - this is what Iran's President demanded - at least this is what we read about or heard of at the end of October 2005. Spreading the news was very effective. This is a declaration of war they said. Obviously government and media were at one with their indignation. It goes around the world.
But let's take a closer look at what Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said. It is a merit of the 'New York Times' that they placed the complete speech at our disposal. Here's an excerpt from the publication dated 2005-10-30:
"They say it is not possible to have a world without the United States and Zionism. But you know that this is a possible goal and slogan. Let's take a step back. [[[We had a hostile regime in this country which was undemocratic, armed to the teeth and, with SAVAK, its security apparatus of SAVAK [the intelligence bureau of the Shah of Iran's government] watched everyone. An environment of terror existed.]]] When our dear Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian revolution] said that the regime must be removed, many of those who claimed to be politically well-informed said it was not possible. All the corrupt governments were in support of the regime when Imam Khomeini started his movement. [[[All the Western and Eastern countries supported the regime even after the massacre of September 7  ]]] and said the removal of the regime was not possible. But our people resisted and it is 27 years now that we have survived without a regime dependent on the United States. The tyranny of the East and the West over the world should have to end, but weak people who can see only what lies in front of them cannot believe this. Who would believe that one day we could witness the collapse of the Eastern Empire? But we could watch its fall in our lifetime. And it collapsed in a way that we have to refer to libraries because no trace of it is left. Imam [Khomeini] said Saddam must go and he said he would grow weaker than anyone could imagine. Now you see the man who spoke with such arrogance ten years ago that one would have thought he was immortal, is being tried in his own country in handcuffs and shackles [[[by those who he believed supported him and with whose backing he committed his crimes]]]. Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine. Is it possible to create a new front in the heart of an old front. This would be a defeat and whoever accepts the legitimacy of this regime [Israel] has in fact, signed the defeat of the Islamic world. Our dear Imam targeted the heart of the world oppressor in his struggle, meaning the occupying regime. I have no doubt that the new wave that has started in Palestine, and we witness it in the Islamic world too, will eliminate this disgraceful stain from the Islamic world."
(source: www.nytimes.com, based on a publication of 'Iranian Students News Agency' (ISNA) -- insertions by the New York Times in squared brackets -- passages in triple squared brackets will be left blank in the MEMRI version printed below)
It's becoming clear. The statements of the Iranian President have been reflected by the media in a manipulated way. Iran's President betokens the removal of the regimes, that are in power in Israel and in the USA, to be possible aim for the future. This is correct. But he never demands the elimination or annihilation of Israel. He reveals that changes are potential. The Shah-Regime being supported by the USA in its own country has been vanquished. The eastern governance of the Soviet Union collapsed. Saddam Hussein's dominion drew to a close. Referring to this he voices his aspiration that changes will also be feasible in Israel respectively in Palestine. He adduces Ayatollah Khomeini referring to the Shah-Regime who in this context said that the regime (meaning the Shah-Regime) should be removed.
Certainly, Ahmadinejad translates this quotation about a change of regime into the occupied Palestine. This has to be legitimate. To long for modified political conditions in a country is a world-wide day-to-day business by all means. But to commute a demand for removal of a 'regime' into a demand for removal of a state is serious deception and dangerous demagogy.
This is one chapter of the war against Iran that has already begun with the words of Georg Meggle, professor of philosophy at the university of Leipzig - namely with the probably most important phase, the phase of propaganda.
Marginally we want to mention that it was the former US Vice-Minister of Defence and current President of the World Bank, Paul D. Wolfowitz, who in Sept. 2001 talked about ending states in public and without any kind of awe. And it was the father of George W. Bush who started the discussion about a winnable nuclear war if only the survival of an elite is assured.
Let's pick an example: the German online-news-magazine tagesschau.de writes the following about Iran's president on 2005-10-27: "There is no doubt: the new wave of assaults in Palestine will erase the stigma in countenance of the Islamic world." Instead of using the original word 'wave' they write 'wave of assaults'. This replacement of the original text is what we call disinformation. E.g. it would be correct to say: "The new movement in Palestine will erase the stain of disgrace from the Islamic world." Additionally this statement refers to the occupation regime mentioned in the previous sentence.
As a precaution we will examine a different translation of the speech - a version prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), located in Washington:
"They [ask]: 'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved. [[[...]]] "'When the dear Imam [Khomeini] said that [the Shah's] regime must go, and that we demand a world without dependent governments, many people who claimed to have political and other knowledge [asked], 'Is it possible [that the Shah's regime can be toppled]?' That day, when Imam [Khomeini] began his movement, all the powers supported [the Shah's] corrupt regime [[[...]]] and said it was not possible. However, our nation stood firm, and by now we have, for 27 years, been living without a government dependent on America. Imam [Khomeni] said: 'The rule of the East [U.S.S.R.] and of the West [U.S.] should be ended.' But the weak people who saw only the tiny world near them did not believe it. Nobody believed that we would one day witness the collapse of the Eastern Imperialism [i.e. the U.S.S.R], and said it was an iron regime. But in our short lifetime we have witnessed how this regime collapsed in such a way that we must look for it in libraries, and we can find no literature about it. Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would be humiliated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? A man who, 10 years ago, spoke as proudly as if he would live for eternity is today chained by the feet, and is now being tried in his own country [[[...]]] Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise. Is it possible that an [Islamic] front allows another front [i.e. country] to arise in its [own] heart? This means defeat, and he who accepts the existence of this regime [i.e. Israel] in fact signs the defeat of the Islamic world. In his battle against the World of Arrogance, our dear Imam [Khomeini] set the regime occupying Qods [Jerusalem] as the target of his fight. I do not doubt that the new wave which has begun in our dear Palestine and which today we are also witnessing in the Islamic world is a wave of morality which has spread all over the Islamic world. Very soon, this stain of disgrace [i.e. Israel] will vanish from the center of the Islamic world - and this is attainable."
(source: http://memri.org, based on the publication of 'Iranian Students News Agency' (ISNA) -- insertions by MEMRI in squared brackets -- missing passages compared to the 'New York Times' in triple squared brackets)
The term 'map' to which the media refer at length does not even appear. Whereas the 'New York Times' said: "Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map" the version by MEMRI is: "Imam [Khomeini] said: This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history."
MEMRI added the following prefixed formulation to their translation as a kind of title: "Very Soon, This Stain of Disgrace [i.e. Israel] Will Be Purged From the Center of the Islamic World - and This is Attainable". Thereby they take it out of context by using the insertion 'i.e. Israel' they distort the meaning on purpose. The temporal tapering 'very soon' does not appear in the NY-Times-translation either. Besides it is striking that MEMRI deleted all passages in their translation which characterize the US-supported Shah-Regime as a regime of terror and at the same time show the true character of US-American policy.
An independent translation of the original (like the version published by ISNA) yields that Ahmadinejad does not use the term 'map'. He quotes Ayatollah Khomeini's assertion that the occupation regime must vanish from this world - literally translated: from the arena of times. Correspondingly: there is no space for an occupation regime in this world respectively in this time. The formulation 'wipe off the map' used by the 'New York Times' is a very free and aggravating interpretation which is equivalent to 'razing something to the ground' or 'annihilating something'. The downwelling translation, first into English ('wipe off the map'), then from English to German - and all literally ('von der Landkarte löschen') - makes us stride away from the original more and more. The perfidious thing about this translation is that the expression 'map' can only be used in one (intentional) way: a state can be removed from a map but not a regime, about which Ahmadinejad is actually speaking.
Again following the independent translation: "I have no doubt that the new movement taking place in our dear Palestine is a spiritual movement which is spanning the entire Islamic world and which will soon remove this stain of disgrace from the Islamic world".
It must be allowed to ask how it is possible that 'spirtual movement' resp. 'wave of morality' (as translated by MEMRI) and 'wave of assaults' can be equated and translated (like e.g tagesschau.de published it).