If you want to keep up with what's happening in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Michael Rubin performs a public service in National Review Online's Corner by offering periodic updates. This morning's post contains, among others, these items:
-- Ahmadinejad tells war veterans and families of martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war: "Development of this country is dependent on us showing the ethos and principles of the martyrs." . . . "Pressing need for martyrdom culture."
-- Filmmaker held in Iran after stumbling upon mass grave of prisoners executed by regime.
-- Interior Minister: "Our nation resists imported ideas . . . such as liberalism and moral decay . . . Japan and China have lost their traditional values and have become Westoxifated . . . but Iranian women resist the ugly temptations of liberalism."
-- Madrasa, a quarterly journal reflecting views of moderate religious intellectuals such as Mojtahed Shabestari and Abdol Karim Soroush, banned.
It happens that just after glancing at one of Rubin's dispatches the other morning, my sixth-grader drew my attention to his homework assignment. He was to read an article about Iran in Junior Scholastic magazine and answer questions about it. You surely recall Junior Scholastic from your own school days. It's been around for 85 years and reaches about 25 million children.
The Oct. 1, 2007, issue featured a cover story titled "Iran: The Other Side of the World?" The piece begins by introducing Mohammad Reza Moqaddam, a 15-year-old resident of Qom, who "speaks quietly and respectfully" and prays five times a day. "A lot of young people these days have distanced themselves from religion," he relates. "I would like them to be much closer to it." Mohammad pays close attention to the news though, and offers the view that "Even if Iran wants nuclear weapons, it's none of the other countries' business. Some of them have nuclear weapons themselves."
Okay, so when do we get to the part where it is explained that even if young Mohammad wants a neutral take on the news, he cannot get it in Iran where the press is rigidly controlled by the regime? Nowhere. Where does it explain that Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil supplier and therefore scarcely in need of "peaceful nuclear power"? You won't find that either.
The article (written by Roxana Saberi, a reporter for National Public Radio) explains that Iran has been "at odds" with America since the revolution of 1979, which forced out the "U.S.-backed Shah" and brought to power a government "based on strict Islamic principles." But she doesn't mention that Ayatollah Khomeini and his mobs denounced the United States as the "great Satan" and chanted "Death to America." The hostage crisis, in which armed militants, possibly including the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held 52 American diplomats for 444 days, goes unmentioned until a glancing reference at the end of the article under Iranian history.
Omitting the nature of the revolution and vehement America hatred of its leaders, the article then instructs students that "the war in Iraq has further increased those tensions" because the U.S. commanders "claim" that Iran is supporting militias but the Iranian defense minister has labeled these accusations a "sheer lie."
There's much more along these lines. "Some members of the Bush Administration want to take military action against Iran." But nary a word on Ahmadinejad's threat to annihilate Israel or to see a world "without the United States." Nor is there any mention of the thousands of casualties of the revolution, the public stonings or the virtue police. We meet more Iranian youngsters who defend their regime: "The U.S. thinks we are dangerous. Why shouldn't we think the U.S. is dangerous?" asks a pretty, scarf-clad 13-year-old. Tania "is devoted to her country. Her wish for her people is that they become wise and well-educated." She "hopes to help" her nation someday "by becoming a lawyer."
We get the point. Only xenophobes would find this country hostile or frightening. The more we get together the happier we'll be.
I'm not urging that Junior Scholastic gird our kids for war with Iran. But this happy patter is insipid and unworthy of them.