An open letter of apology to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
the President of Iran, and to the Iranian people.

Dear Mr. President:

     The small but distinguished Christian sect known as the
Society of Friends has a centuries-long record of attracting
worthy, dedicated souls.  But let us be realistic about this, as
is the case with any organization, it attracts its fair share of
duds as well, a fact that needs taking into account.

     Among those I would place in the worthy, fair-minded
category is David Culp, a representative of the Friends
Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).  Along with
forty-four other religious leaders, he was present for
the meeting held last September in New York City with
Iran's President.  He came away so favorably impressed
that subsequently he penned an article titled: "Iran: Calls
for Dialogue with the United States" (09/21/06), in which
he made the following claims and observations:
I left the hour-long meeting convinced, as did
many, if not all, of my colleagues, that the
Iranian leader [President Ahmadinejad] is a
deeply religious person who approaches the
issue of nuclear weapons from a moral perspective.

... I've been a lobbyist working for the abolition
of nuclear weapons for more than a decade, and
I've talked about these issues with a lot of people.
Ahmadinejad impressed me as someone who had
thought about these issues a lot.  He's a former
engineer, who is thinking through the arguments
from a number of different perspectives.

... As a former engineer, he believes that nuclear
fuel is the cleanest fuel there is and he explained
that this energy source is critical for the future
development of his country.

... But how do we get beyond the current impasse,
we asked him?  Ahmadinejad suggested that the
UN's Committee on Disarmament, based in
Geneva, might be one forum where these
discussions should take place.

He then offered a proposal: Iran will open all of
its nuclear facilities to inspections, if the United
States will also open its facilities to inspections.

...  The day I left Washington to go to New York
for this meeting, I attended a hearing of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.  The contrast was
striking.  Nicholas Burns, the number three
official at the State Department, spent most of
that hearing lobing what I can only describe as
rhetorical hand grenades at Iran.

...  But what is even more striking is the pride
U.S. officials take in insisting they will not even
talk to Iran.  Nicholas Burns, in his testimony this
week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
made a point of saying he has never met with an
Iranian government official.  Now here is a man
who has been part of the U.S. foreign service for
decades, and he made a point of pride that he had
never met with any Iranian official.  If the U.S.
continues to insist that no dialogue is possible
with Iran, then war is the likely alternative.
     Another voice of reason, I believe, is Joe Volk's.  
As Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on
National Legislation (FCNL), he took a forthright
stand in defense of Iranian sovereignty.  In a letter
circulated to every US Senator and Representative
(01/18/06), he sounded this alarm:
I write to call your attention to troubling
indications that President Bush and his advisors
are planning some form of military action
against Iran in 2006.

...  FCNL urges you to speak out against any
administration effort to justify military action
against Iran and to vote against any measure
that could be construed as an authorization to
use military force.
     Along with eleven other religious leaders, both Volk
and Culp accepted President Ahmadinejad's invitation to
tour Iran which tour took place February 17th through the
25th, 2007.  Not all, however, are so kindly disposed as

     Of a diffrent stripe altogether, was tour participant,
the Reverend, Doctor Shanta Premawardhana, Associate
General Secretary for Interfaith Relations of the National
Council of Churches USA.  Before departing for Iran, he
delivered this blast:
Tomorrow (Saturday) I will leave for Iran with a
delegation of Christian leaders. ... The group is of
one mind about its condemnation of president
Ahmadinejad's denial of the holocaust and his
remarks about Israel.  Some have questioned the
wisdom of meeting with the president, since there
is the danger that he might use it as a means to
legitimize his views and bolster his image.  While
acknowledging this risk, I want to assure everyone
that we are very carefully preparing to minimize
that risk.

I want to also assure my Christian colleagues who
have expressed concern about our relations with
our Jewish colleagues that I have personally talked
to several key Jewish colleagues to give them a
"heads up" and offer them the above mentioned
     Still another tour participant was Mary Ellen McNish,
the General Secretary of the American Friends Service
Committee.  Chiming in with the Rev. Dr., she said:
As we did at the meeting in New York, we intend to
continue to engage the president on his statements
regarding the Holocaust. ... [Ahmadinejad’s]
statements make it difficult for Americans to
believe that a constructive dialogue is possible.
     In this regard at least, they were as good as their word,
for in a marathon meeting between the Christian delegation
and President Ahmadinejad lasting three hours, this rancorous
exchange of views occurred:

Dr. Premawardhana:
"Mr. President, you were quoted in the US Media
as saying Israel must be wiped off the map.  I
want to know if you really said that, and if so,
what did you mean?  Also, following earlier
comments you made denying the reality of the
Holocaust, you held a conference in Teheran in
December that questioned one of the most
horrible events in human history."
Replied Ahmadinejad:
"I answered this question in our meeting in New
York, on CNN, Time and Newsweek.  Why do
you ask the question again?  Let me ask you a
question, what is it with Zionists and America?  
Anytime anyone says anything against the Zionists,
it creates problems in the US.  Are Zionists ruling
America?  I refuse to believe that Zionists have
so much power that you have to ask this again.  
Perhaps this is due to the sensationalizing efforts
of the media."
     Had President Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust as
has been repeated over and over again in the mass media
or had he not?  This, then, is what he actually said:
"In the name of the Holocaust they [the Zionists]
have created a myth and regard it to be worthier
than God, religion and the prophets."
     The focus of President Ahmadinejad's concern was
not the Holocaust, per se, but an exaggerated version of
it blown up to mythical proportions.  His point was that,
whatever its dimensions, responsibility for it lay not
with the Palestinians or Muslims generally but with
those Europeans who actually carried it out.

     Another point raised by Dr. Premawardhana was whether
President Ahmadinejad had claimed that "Israel must be
wiped off the map"?  This, then, in Farsi is Ahmadinejad's
actual words:
"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad
az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.
     The word "rezhim-e" is similar to our word "regime,"
only having an extra "eh" sound at the end.  Ahmadinejad's
reference, therefore, was to the regime, not to land mass or
people.  In fact "Israel" is not mentioned at all.  He said
"rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods," meaning "the regime
occupying Jerusalem."  Moreover, he did not say "wiped
from the map" for the word "map" (in Farsi "nagsheh") is
absent altogether.  Nor did he say "wipe out."  In a word-
for-word translation, this is what he said:
"Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e
(regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem)
bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of
time) mahv shavad (vanish from)."  
That is to say, he said:
"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem
must vanish from the page of time."
     Purportedly this was a Christian delegation whose mission
was that of going to Iran so as to lessen tensions and the risk of
war.  So why was it acting as a water carrier for the Holocaust?  
Iran had absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust.  Is it
possible that within the delegation there were Zionist plants
whose purpose was to counter Iran's President for saying to the
UN General Assembly:
These Zionists I want to tell you are not Jews.  That
is the biggest deception we have ever faced.  They
are not Jews, they are not Christians, they are not
Muslims.  They are a power group, a power party.
     Is it possible that the delegation harbored certain members
whose real purpose is to advance a new religion called
... the Holocaust religion embodies the essence of
the liberal democratic worldview.  It is there to
offer a new form of worshiping.  It made self loving
into a dogmatic belief in which the observant
follower worships himself.  In the new religion it
is 'the Jew' whom the Jews worship.  It is all about
'me', the subject of endless suffering who makes it
into redemption.

The Holocaust is far more than historical narrative,
it indeed contains most of the essential religious
elements : it has its priests (Simon Wiesenthal, Elie
Wiesel, Deborah Lipstadt, etc.) and prophets
(Simon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and those who
warn about the Iranian Judeocide to come).  It has
its commandments and dogmas ('never again', 'six
million', etc.)  It has its rituals (memorial days,
Pilgrimages to Aushwitz etc.)  It establishes an
esoteric symbolic order (kapo, gas chambers,
chimneys, dust, Musselmann, etc.).  It has its shrines
and temples (Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum
and now the UN).   Most interestingly, the Holocaust
religion is coherent enough to define the new
'antichrist' (the Deniers) and it is powerful enough
to persecute them (Holocaust denial laws).
                                               (Gilad Atzmon)
     Note McNish's way of framing the purpose of her
junket, that of advancing "dialogue," pretending that it
was President Ahmadinejab's fault all along for its
absence.  More than a dialogue, what is needed is an
accounting: an accounting for all the depleted uranium
(DU) that was used in Iraq, some significant portion of
which drifted into Iranian territory.  (Over 375 tons was
released into Iraq's environment during Gulf War I and
another 2000 tons of DU has been expended in Gulf War
 An accounting needs to be made of the poison gas
the US gave Saddam Hussein in the 1980's to use on
Iran.  Indeed, we have a wonderful photograph from that
era of Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad lauding Saddam
Hussein.  An accounting needs to be made of the overthrow
of Iran's duly elected government by the CIA in 1953.  
An accounting needs to be made for Savak, the Shah's
feared, secret police which was formed under the guidance
of United States and Israeli intelligence officers in 1957,
organization terrorized and tortured Iranians by the
thousands.   An accounting needs to be made and Christians
should be the first to say so.

     Before returning stateside, the Christian delegation's
13 members signed a communique containing this list
of recommendations:
As additional steps in building bridges between
our nations, we call upon both the U.S. and Iranian
governments to:

> immediately engage in direct, face-to-face talks;

> cease using language that defines the other using
"enemy" images; and

> promote more people-to-people exchanges
including religious leaders, members of Parliament/
Congress, and civil society.
     It's fatuous to call upon the Iranian government to
engage in direct talks when the US.  Iran has tried this
repeatedly and been rebuffed.  By the way, what's wrong
with Iran's government calling a spade a spade?  Are the
Zionists their mortal enemy or not?  As for promoting
"people-to-people exchanges," how fatuous can you get?  
The people in Iran reside under immediate threat of
nuclear immolation.  This isn't the time to contemplate
long-term projects when near-term catastrophe is

     Neither McNish nor Premawardhana availed
themselves of the occasion of their trip to Iran to express
the least concern whatsoever for the current American
build-up of a huge, nuclear-armed armada in the
Persian Gulf off Iran's coast; nor have they expressed
concern for incursions of Iranian airspace by the US
Air Force, nor have they expressed concern that covert
US funding is going to terrorist groups conducting
attacks on Iranian soil, nor have they protested the
implicit ("all options are on the table") threats of
nuclear war.  If these two birds had any real concern
about holocaust, they would have spoken up about the
nuclear holocaust the Bush administration is threatening
to unleash against the Iranian people but that they
did not do.  Instead, they prattled on in a mealy-
mouthed sort of way about a "failed diplomacy
between our government and the government of Iran,"
simulating a fake even-handedness.  Said McNish:
"We want both sides to forgive each other," the clear
implication being that Iran has ought for which it
needs apologize.

     What is needed are genuine expressions of
solidarity with those who are being threatened; as well,
a call for the aggressors to stand down.  Let's be real
about this, if a thief breaks into your home at midnight,
he's not there to hold a symposium; he's there to rob you.
Likewise, if Uncle Sugar parks a flotilla of ships just
outside your territorial waters loaded with nuclear
bombs, he's not there to initiate a negotiation, he's there
to threaten you and to kill you.

     Madame McNish, do you know who is the real holocaust
denier?  Look in a mirror.  In a Friend's Service Committee
press release, dated September 11, 2007, for the record you
"We are encouraged that President Bush's plan for
$1 billion in reconstruction projects over the next
year in Iraq."
     Light years ahead of McNish are the American people
who, I dare say, are not the least "encouraged" by the
thought of the US spending another year, another month,
or another week, or another day in Iraq for any purpose

     There was a time before the American Revolutionary
War when about 10% of America's European population
were associated with the Society of Friends.  At one time
during the Civil War, this Society was the driving force
behind the Underground Railway which carried Blacks
on their way to Canada and to freedom.  The Society has
always ben associated with prison reform.  Even as
recently as the Vietnam War era, the Society's principled
stance was an important component of the peace movement.
Given this honorable history, it would be far better if the
Society disbanded then to be the plaything of insincere
compromisers and of warmongering Zionists.  May it not
be said:
When Iranian children under the altar wept
Then the Friends' Society its silence kept!
     A venerable institution, the Society of Friends, if it
is again to be in the vanguard and not bring up the rear,
then it needs to bestir itself and clean house.  For openers,
the act of hiring McNish was in itself a grievous error.  
Previously in charge of America's premier abortion mill,
Planned Parenthood, McNish's values are diametrically
opposed to those of historical Christianity.

     As for the Society squandering $249,000 annually on
McNish's salary while she gallivants about the countryside
advocating for the poor, I can only see that as symptomatic
of a sad lack of imagination regarding how such a
munificent sum could best be spent.  At the present, when
most Americans have turned against the war, people should
be flocking to Friends' meetings but are they?  Or has the
Society under McNish's tenure over the last seven years
continued to shrivel up and decline?

     The Society has deep Christian roots and needs to
reconnect with them, lest the light of its moral authority
be extinguished, or the truth of its testimony be forever

     I extend to President Ahmadinejad, as well as to the
Iranian people, my sincere apologies for the criminal acts
directed toward you by President George W. Bush and
his Zionist supporters.

     May I further assure Iran's President, McNish's
unhelpful comments and cold-hearted attitude are not
in keeping with the spirit of the Society of Friends'
founders, George Fox, William Barclay, or Margaret
Fell, nor does her behavior comport with sound religion
in general.  Thus, for the reasons enumerated above, as
a Quaker and fellow human being, I apologize.  
     As for the Society of Friends, should it fail to rise to
its responsibilities, let it be known that Quakerism itself
will continue on without it, just as it did before there was
such a society, for there has always been and, we trust,
there will always be, a remnant who quake before a just
and loving God.  Quakerism is not dependent on the
Society of Friends; to the contrary, the Society of Friends
is wholly dependent on Quakerism; always was and always
will be.
Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!


Harvey Kailin