With the 24/7 demonization of Iran by our political elite, and the complicity of the media, it’s easy to believe that Iran is a state bordering on malice and evil. The brother of neocon apologist, steadfast proponent of the Iraq war and staunch critic of Iran, Christopher Hitchens, shares a different perspective after having visited. As Peter explains, he is no dove and is a self confessed Zionist, so his revelation is all the more significant.
It concerns me now as I write about a recent visit to Iran, the country that has been designated as the next official enemy of what is still called “The West.” I came away so completely opposed to this silly hostility that I fear I am in danger of stirring up apathy, like the people who spread the myth of the cardboard Panzers. I am a Cold War veteran who believes in deterrence and accepts that there was a genuine Soviet threat. I am an incorrigible Zionist. I think my own country has allowed its armed forces to become lamentably weak. But I think the difference between the official account of Iran as sinister menace and the Iran I experienced is so great that it is a sort of duty to draw attention to it.
This general fear is so strong that members of my own family, used to my traveling to many curious corners of the world and much-traveled themselves, were apprehensive about my going to Tehran. Feelings were a little high at the time. A group of Royal Navy bluejackets and Marines had just been seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the waters off Basra and released after alleged ill treatment. These trained warriors spoke of their experiences as if they had been held in the dungeons of man-eating pirates, claiming to have been scared of torture and, in the case of the one woman involved, of rape. So terror-stricken had they been that they allowed themselves to be filmed more or less admitting to losing their way and rambling into Iranian waters. One had been persuaded to pen a letter denouncing Britain’s military presence in Iraq. Their subsequent fate—sudden release after an apparent deal, the sale by some of them of their pathetic memoirs to mass-circulation newspapers, a national revulsion against them for their general feebleness—is interesting in itself, but it is not part of my story.
It will be interesting to see how Hitchens’ experience compares with Antony’s.