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Dear Mahmoud


Jon Gagas
April 5, 2007

Dear Mahmoud,

Listen, we gotta talk.

MahmoudYou have your good qualities, sure.  You’re not even close to being as downright barbaric as Saddam Hussein, who was presented at his trial with the Joseph Stalin “Paranoid Leadership and Contempt for One’s Own People That Directly Results in the Death of Such an Astronomically High Number of Innocent People that Any Unfortunate Saps Who Try to Write About You Have no Choice But to Turn to Absurdism, Which is a Terribly Difficult Genre in Which to Write” Award, a plaque, a semiformal dinner which featured a choice between chicken parmesan, roast beef, and a questionable “vegetarian option,” and a quick and dirty hanging.  Good for you, Ahmadinejad – I’ve heard the chicken parm is terribly dry.

The white suits: love ‘em.  It’s a bold, even risky fashion move, but you make it work.  Nice.  You’ve got a photogenic smile, and you must tell me what you do to your beard: I try to keep mine trimmed, but sometimes I feel like it’s a losing battle.

Then there’s the Salman Rushdie thing – that’s still going on, right?  I haven’t read much of him, but Shalimar the Clown is pretty high on my list.  Granted, I’m very much against the idea of putting out a religious hit on someone because you’re offended by his novel (I know, I know, it was Khomeini, not you), but books are expensive these days: if an angry fundamentalist Muslim kills Rushdie for the reward money, Penguin will probably put out a cheap edition of his collected works, which will save me both money and time spent waiting in line at Borders behind white kids with stupid patches on their bags.  But would you mind putting a hold on the fatwa until after his talk in Philadelphia next year?  I hear he’s speaking at the Kimmel Center, which is a great venue, and I’d kind of like to see him.  Thanks.

Sadly, Mahmoud, our relationship is less a match made in heaven and more like sleeping with a hooker in Amsterdam: it’s great at first, but it leaves you feeling really skeezy and worrying for weeks about whether you’ve contracted the clap or some foreign STD you’ve never even heard of.

First, there’s your letter to our own illustrious leader, George W. Bush.  Granted, it proves that you’re a far better writer than he is, even when translated from Farsi.  Score one (admittedly, easy) point for you.  You made some valid points quite eloquently, like that perhaps it’s wrong to throw people in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without trial to see whether they belong there or not, that the war in Iraq was waged on false pretenses and has caused and continues to cause incalculable suffering to the people of the Middle East, that western media failed the American people and the world by allowing themselves to be turned into fear-mongering propaganda tools after September 11 instead of questioning the government like they’re supposed to, and that supporting dictators in Latin America isn’t a very nice thing to do (I’m looking at you, Elliott Abrams).  And yet, at the end of the letter you start talking Bush’s language, except stripped of the whole “freedom” and “democracy” ruse which he’s so fond of using: “Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems.  We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point -- that is the Almighty God . . . Mr. President, whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.”  I’m not trying to cramp your style or anything, Mahmoud, but that is some scary, scary shit.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that this lovely materialistic, postmodern society we’ve got going on doesn’t have a whole lot to offer people in the way of meaning and value and all that, as evidenced by so many people over here turning to fundamentalist Christianity to fill the void with cheap, easy spirituality, a literal reading of the Bible (except, of course, for passages like “Go, sell your possessions and give them to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven” (Matthew 19:21) – which are of course figurative) and those awful Left Behind books, but the damn Enlightenment happened, here we are, and like it or not, there’s no going back now.  Maybe a theocracy is better than a plutocracy, but I’d be in jail in the former, plus the music would probably suck, and the place I grew up in (the defunct ex-coalmining town of Carbondale, PA) has been used up and left to rot by the latter, so I can’t say I’m a big fan of either.  Sorry Mahmoud.       

Second, you just had to host your infamous International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, didn’t you?  Last year, the Iraq Study Group recommends that talking to you about working together to improve the bloodbath that is Iraq might be more helpful than the poking-you-with-a-stick-from-afar policy our government currently practices or even dismissing you altogether because you are, I think I’m quoting the president correctly here, “Evil.”  So if we pretend that the president actually gives a crap about what the Iraq Study Group has to say, which he doesn’t (In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s not much for anything with the word “Study” in it, unless it also contains the word “Bible”), then it looks like relations between your country and ours are on their way to improvement.  Then you’ve gotta go and host that goddamn holocaust deniers’ conference: it’s like Magneto calling the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants back together on his satellite fortress right after Professor X has offered to talk things out.  You botched that one, that’s for sure.

And then most recently, there’s the British sailors thing.  You gave them some nice gray suits (What is it with you guys and the nice suits?), told them a few jokes, and sent them home safely, sure, but you just couldn’t resist parading them on TV apologizing to the Iranian people, denouncing the war in Iraq , etc. etc.  Now, I understand you’ve got a Ph.D., which probably means you’ve read some history, which probably means you’re a bit peeved about your country being shat upon by Britain and the U.S. for the past couple decades, and by shat I do mean shat: We’ve perpetrated and been accomplices to atrocities against your country far worse than September 11th [To anyone offended by this claim, let’s talk:  Read a history book, you jingoistic, Ronald Reagan-worshipping troglodyte.  Your ignorance is unbecoming].  You’ve been bullied for a while, I know, and you probably feel emasculated.  It must have been tempting to pretend you’ve turned the tables for a little while by, say, capturing 15 British sailors, telling them they’ve entered your waters, making them apologize on national TV, and displaying your great “magnanimity” by letting them go.  Makes you feel big, doesn’t it?  I understand: in your own small way, for just a little while, you get to be the one kicking sand in people’s faces, rather than the other way around.  But listen, I have no doubt that as soon as the story about the sailors’ capture broke, Dick Cheney started getting a hard-on at the prospect of bombing you, so please, for your own benefit, you’ve gotta cut that shit out.

Speaking of bombs, the nuclear thing: I’d think about quitting that, too.  I know, I know – Britain has nuclear weapons, America has nuclear weapons, Russia has nuclear weapons, China has nuclear weapons, so why not Iran, right?  Well, I’ll tell you.  As my good buddy Charles Krauthammer says, “We're now at the dawn of an era in which an extreme and fanatical religious ideology, undeterred by the usual calculations of prudence and self-preservation, is wielding state power and will soon be wielding nuclear power.”  He’s talking about you guys, of course.  But the world already has a leader who subscribes to an extreme and fanatical religious ideology and wields state and nuclear power, a leader whose “eschatology is preceded by worldwide upheaval and chaos,” to borrow a few more words from dear Krauthammer, and that leader leads… us.  So please, Mahmoud, chill out with the whole nuclear thing: we already have one fanatical nuclear-armed leader eagerly awaiting the apocalypse.  And one’s enough.

Jon Gagas is pursuing a career in so-whatting and yes-butting.  He doesn’t anticipate being very popular.


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