Death to Israel…Death to Traffic

After prayer service at the mosque, a proud dad grabs a photo of his children with his cell phone.
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Thirty years later, the former American embassy is still lined with political posters struggling to provide Iranians with an enemy.
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Being an American makes you the most popular kid in the village.
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Iranians see a world dominated by the USA and are told not to like it.
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“Death to Traffic!”
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I’m working in Iran, part of the “axis of evil” (as defined by my president) in a land whose own president leads chants of “Death to America.” This has me thinking about bombast and history.

Of course the word “axis” conjures up images of the alliance of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito that our fathers and grandfathers fought in WWII. Many locals in each country believe that each president maintains his power only by his ability to stir the simplistic side of his electorate with such bombast.

Bombast hogs the headlines, skewing understanding between the mainstream in each country. If the typical American knows anything about the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad (whose name I cannot pronounce), it’s his recent comments about gays and the Holocaust (which, I would imagine, was designed to shore up his political base). The buzz lately in Iran about the American election is what McCain (who famously rewrote the lyrics of the Beach Boys classic song, “Barbara Ann,” to become “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”) or Hillary (who recently said she would annihilate Iran if it attacked Israel) would do if elected president.

And as I explore and experience this country, I can’t avoid the hateful images and slogans. Like our children start each school day pledging “allegiance to one nation under God,” Iranian kids chant hateful slogans against the Great Satan and its 51st state, Israel. Rather than marketing products to consume, billboards sell a political/military/religious ideology. They glorify heroes who died as martyrs, taunt the US, show the stars and stripes of Old Glory made of Stars of David and falling bombs, and so on.

I try to make sense of the fearmongering and billboard hate, which mixes with huge smiles and welcomes. People greet me with a smile. Invariably, they ask where I’m from. I often say, “You tell me.” They guess and guess, running through 9–10 countries before giving up. Finally I say “America” and they are momentarily shocked, thinking, “I thought Americans hate us. Why would one be here like this?” Their smile leaves their face. Then a bigger smile comes back as they say “Welcome!” or “I love America.”

In a hundred such interactions in ten days in Iran, never once has my saying “I am an American” resulted in anything less than a smile or a kind of “Ohhh, you are rich and strong,” or “People and people together no problem, but I don’t like your president.” It’s clear to me that Iranians like our president as much as Americans like Iran’s.

It’s ironic that in most countries these days, Americans find they’re better off keeping a low profile. But here, in a country I’m told hates me, my nationality has been a real plus — absolutely everywhere I’ve gone. By the way, our government guide has not stopped me from going anywhere or talking to anyone. We haven’t been able to film just anywhere, but I’ve been free to roam about on my own without him and have fun connecting with locals. And I have absolutely never traveled to a place where I had such an easy and enjoyable time connecting with people. Young, educated people speak English. Locals were as confused about and fascinated by me as I was about them.

I think that, from an Iranian perspective, Iran is to Hezbollah as the US was to the Contras. (Supporters of Israel and the Sandinistas would find both Hezbollah and the Contras evil.) Everyone here understands that the Iranian president is more extreme than their supreme leader, Khamenei (the Ayatollah Khomeini’s successor). However, the supreme leader is more powerful than the president. All over town, you see posters and quotes from Khamenei…never the president.

The Iranian president has a kind of Hugo Chavez notoriety around the West for his wild ideas: “Death to Israel,” and “The Holocaust didn’t happen,” and “We have no homosexuals” and so on. He is an ideologue. His ideas make sense to him as does his bombast. He believes that since Germany killed the Jews, Germany should now house them. He doesn’t see the rationale of displacing Palestinians to provide Israel a homeland because of Germany’s genocide against the Jews.

In our hotel last night, I saw a short news documentary on Al Jazeera. Even without understanding the language, the images spoke powerfully. They showed the towering American-funded wall being built today in Palestine concrete block by concrete block…literally blocking the sunshine from Palestinian communities and making them look and feel like corralled animals. Anyone watching this with an empathy for Palestinians (i.e. the entire Muslim world — a billion people) would be charged with angry emotions.

While the Iranian president solidifies his political base by saying “Death to Israel,” his unwavering policy is that when Palestine accepts the existence of Israel, Iran will too.

We stop at the former US Embassy, which hosted the 444-day-long hostage crisis still so profound in the minds of many Americans. (For many who are angry with me for visiting our “arch enemy,” that 30-year-old media circus remains the defining event in their mindset toward Iran. It seems that because of this national humiliation, they consider it unpatriotic for a citizen like me to come here as an ambassador of understanding and goodwill.)

Our guide is almost proud to let us walk the long wall of anti-American murals. He encourages us to film it, making sure we know when the light is best for the camera.

As a gang of revolutionary students captured the world’s attention by insulting the US, this was a great moment for Iran. But that was 30 years ago — and today, most Iranians weren’t even born yet, and they seem happy to let the murals fade in the sun.

As we were struggling to drive away in a horribly congested street, our guide made a telling aside. He declared, “Death to traffic.” Then he said, “Because we can do nothing about this traffic, we can all say ‘Death to Traffic’.” Did he mean kill all those drivers that were in our way? Does Iran really mean death to the US and Israel? Or is it a mix of international road rage, fear, frustration — and the seductive clarity of a catchy slogan? This quirky cultural trait might be worth looking into and trying to understand.

All I’ve got to say is, “Death to hatred and militarism based on misunderstanding, fear and national pride.”

(By the way, I was in Iran for ten days earlier this month and have so many ideas to report on that my entries are lasting longer than my trip. While I will continue reporting my Iranian experiences for a few more days, I am no longer there. From Iran, I flew to Italy to continue my research trip, which will be followed by Germany and Paris before flying home in mid-June. Thanks for traveling with me via this blog. — Rick)

Comments

126 Replies to “Death to Israel…Death to Traffic”

  1. Way to go. I am happy that you are having a great time unraveling the mysteries of travel and politics. I will soon be 68 years old, and have seen all of the pontificating of world leaders since WWII. All I can say is that they (political leaders) should all do more traveling, mellow out a bit, and stop watching so many John Wayne reruns on late night TV. Not only is travel broadening, it is also necessary for an enlightened view of how governments don’t always represent the minds and hearts of a nations citizens.

  2. And I repeat — these are the two most important words that describe a country — BORDER AND CULTURE. When the United Nations was created, it was my hope, and belief, that their main job would be to define and protect borders, and protect Cultures from being changed by members of other Cultures. If home-born members of a Culture want to change it, that’s fine, if people from other countries want to change a Culture, that is not permitted. Rick, I haven’t noticed at any time in your writing that you intend to make Iran change any of their Culture and that is the way it should be. And all people from Iran (and any other country) who could not stand their home Culture, and came here and try to change ours, must be sent back to their homeland. If this would happen, Miami would be half empty, but Cuba would thrive. I don’t really care what the Government in another country thinks of us, and I don’t want them to care what I think of them. Remember, if you think your home country is so wonderful, why aren’t you living there, and if you think our culture is best, you must go home and help your neighbors improve that home-country culture. And I do like to read what Rick is writing, and look forward to seeing what Rick is filming.

  3. Fantastic entry. I hope that some of your more close minded readers (how can you be close minded and a fan of Rick’s? It doesn’t make sense to me) will understand that there is major difference between the government and the people in so many countries – ours included. I applaud your efforts to help open eyes to the good people of Iran without ignoring the bad.

  4. Rick, I thank you for this Blog. You are helping us to have a better understanding of Iranian people today. I like knowing that you are having a good experience meeting Iranian people. We appreciate the photographs that are with your blogs from Iran. We thank you for being an ambassador of understanding and good will from the United States of America to Iran. Did you know that the State department of the U.S.A. sent (and paid salaries to) American musicians who were embassadors of good will, entertaining people in troubled countries in Africa and southeast Asia, in the year 1963. The American folk music duet Steve Adiss and Bill Crofut did that. (They made a few phonograph LP records in the U.S.A. in the 1960s). When will your video of Iran be on PBS Television ? When will a DVD of your video of Iran be for sale to the American public ?

  5. Hey Rick: did you ever get a good meal? :-) There were lots of posters with great ideas for meals that I ended up going to a local Persian restaurant last week. Yummy! The blogging on all sides has been extremely interesting. Thanks for opening up to your readers about your experiences, knowing I’m sure as you did that not everyone would have a positive reflection on them.

  6. Rick, you’re absolutely right: Death to ignorance and intolerance. The only way to eradicate those evils is by opening one’s mind and getting to know people from all over the world. Travel, immersing onself in a culture, is the best way to understand that the people are not the rhetoric/bombast from government sources and the national media. Learn other languages, wear a smile, and it will soon become apparent that mistrust and dislike of the people of other countries is misdirected. Thank you Rick, for being a people-to-people ambassador doing your best to dispel hatred.

  7. Rick, Kudos to you and your crew on thus far offering unbiased cultural and local insight into a fasinating subject. Echoing the sentiments of a previous entry, It is important to recognize that many Americans have different views and beliefs from our government. Many everyday Iranians have different views of their governement. As there will always extremists in every country, we need to focus and learn of people and cultures as a whole. Can’t wait to read further blogs and to see the shows

  8. This whole blog has been an enlightening and amazing look inside a country that I know little about. Rick has a fabulous writing style that makes everything come alive. Can’t wait to see the program in the fall.

  9. These are just amazing posts from any political point of view. Whoever wins the next election should nominate you for an Undersecretary of State position or ambassadorship. With your skills, Iran could become a tourist hotspot and Tehran the next Prague by 2010! Henry Rollins paid a similar visit to Iran and came to similar conclusions about “us and them”. Why can’t our official diplomats to the same and publicize it as well as you do?

  10. Dear Rick, I am so glad you are reporting from Iran. You have a wonderful ability to accept the differences of culture in a positive fashion. After 28 years of marriage to an Iranian I can say the culture is ancient, thoughtful, warm, and loyal to family and friends. We have tried to focus on the best of both cultures. I deeply appreciate your travels that shine the light on darkness, and help to counter the spin we are bombarded by in our media. Marlee from Seattle

  11. I totally agree that a country’s citizens more than often do not mirror its government. I still find it troubling though, that Iran’s president advocates for the destruction of Israel on a daily basis. I have no answers… just questions and concerns.

  12. Bravo to Rick. A great effort to pierce the political and jingoistic nonsense that divides the world. I can’t wait for the program to air. Geary who traveled to Tehran in 1968 and now maybe will revisit the country.

  13. Hi, Rick! Sounds like you and crew are doing fine in Iran. Thanks for the fresh prespective into the country and it’s people. Safe, happy travels to you all.

  14. Fantastic BLOG! This is what the Internet should enable, communication between people and cultures. The only way we will survive is if we keep on talking! Safe journey Rick!

  15. The point about our views of a country as being simplistic from what we are given through the news is soooo true. I remember going to my first and only Iranian movie, a romantic comedy called “Through the Olive Trees” and being surprised that the characters in the movie had a sense of humor. Tell me, when have you ever seen an Iranian on American TV displaying a sense of humor? That was a fun movie be the way.

  16. All of those war-mongering “hawks” in the USA who might refer to the Iranian president as “Umm I Need a Jihad”; they all need to get a living breathing clue! Me, as an American born in USA: I truly believe that the best solution to solve this endless hatred of America by our friends in the Middle East is to suspend all financial aid to the country Israel, period. Israel is already so rich and advanced in defence, they do not need any help from USA anymore. Seriously…! Israel, you’re on your own now. God bless you on your continued voyage, Rick. The worst thing Americans can do is support John McCain, he is just an evil cancer that will destroy the US. Oh yeah I’m not supposed to be talking politics! How are the delicious Persian Shish-Kebabs? Thanks again, Armen of Seattle :)

  17. Rick – OUR GOVERNMENT ARMED SADDAM WITH CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO USE AGAINST IRAN. The Iranians suffered 60,000 casualties from chemical weapons use by Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. That’s 20 times more than our 9/11. IS IT ANY WONDER if they have anti-US billboards? Considering the facts, it is amazing that they so gracefully accept you there. I shudder to think what would we have done if the we were in their shoes?

  18. Just a tip of the hat to Ron of Missouri, he just reminded me of that there was a Pavilion of Iran at EXPO ’74 in Spokane, Washington, I was only 5 years old, but I have always had a very positive experience with Persian people. Even when I got into high school, there was a pretty girl from Tehran that somehow made it to the Seattle area. That was way back in 1985. But she was crying on the phone, because her parents in Iran told her that she could never return to the mother country. (Because of the tension between Iran and US in “19-Reagan-5”) Pretty Faranak moved to Los Angeles and I never saw her again. But I know she will see her parents again (in my heart).

  19. Reading the comments of Laex, Armen,and others I wonder if they even read your blogs or just want to vent their political pus. Oh well. Rick have you been able to visit a Christian church? Have you met any Christians there in Iran? I understand they exist but are under severe restrictions. The president Ack…jad proposed law for a death sentance for any muslum that converts to Christanity. It would be interesting to actually talk to some Christians and see how well they are treated. Have you talked to anyone about their atomic energy projects? Do the ordinary people support building an atomic bomb? Stay safe Rick.

  20. Rick, you’re America’s best-loved world traveler! It bothers me that you can’t pronounce Ahmadinejad. Equal accent on each syllable: Ah-ma-din-ah-shaad. Easy.

  21. Sorry Rick, but when I hear “Death to the US” I don’t care to speculate on whether or not it’s a catchy slogan. If you say you want to kill me, I am going to believe you. I want our leaders to make it clear to them that if they want to encourage hate in their citizens and keep their people living in a religious police state and call it a different non-western “culture” then go for it, but if you take your hateful religious idiology beyond your borders you will be in Hillary’s words “annihilated”

  22. Please do not be so naive. The people are wonderful but the government is evil. They control the weapons not the people. This is what is scarey.

  23. Rick, thank you again for your work. You use your craft for the cause of peace, and inspire others to do the same. I know that understanding always comes from the bottom up, and not the top down. People have the power!

  24. Ahmadinejad (whose name I cannot pronounce) Read your comments, Rick! Remember “I’m a dinner jacket”. Am a Dina Jad. If it’s good enough for that pseudo-journalist Katie Couric, it should work for you.

  25. Rick, As a fellow Seattleite I’d love to know if you have any public presentations on your Iran trip planned when you’re back home. I’m a graphic designer who went to Iran in December & found the people to be incredibly warm & welcoming to Americans. Through contacts made while there I’m assembling a Seattle-Tehran poster exhibit for this year’s Bumbershoot. Site under construction at: http://www.seattletehran.com. Photos from my trip to Iran are posted at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seattletehran

  26. There’s a difference between approving of what another country does and understanding why they think they have to do it. Everyone should keep that in mind when looking at world affairs.

  27. Thanks for doing this. Anything that helps to bridge the chasm of misunderstanding between our countries is worth doing. (It would be nice if they would stop hanging gay teenagers, though.)

  28. I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts and travels on Iran, Rick. You’ve brought nuance to a subject on which unfortunately all too many people have a simplified, black-and-white perspective. Regardless of who the next president is, I hope we have four years of more diplomacy and fewer bombs!

  29. Rick, I am so jealous. What a way to break down silly walls. I am glad to see you traveling outside of Europe again. I can’t wait to see the video. Tim Frakes

  30. Rick Keep on traveling and pushing the envelope! You are serving as a missionary on a quest for understanding. As long as people want to see evil- it will be seen in everything that does not fall in one’s acceptable beliefs. I am not minamizing the dangers that exist between the US and Iran, but it will take efforts like yours to reduce it. many thanks! Stew in Va.

  31. Rick, thank you for allowing the readers of your blog to go with you to a place that the majority of us will never visit. It is fascinating reading and a testament to your willingness to do things differently than everybody else. With your extensive research and fantastic writings and shows, you have opened up doors and minds to many places throughout Europe that most of us wouldn’t have found otherwise. You are providing that same service now about a country which our government wants us to hate. Thank you for going “Through the back door” of Iran and giving us a brief look inside a society and culture that is only different than ours, not better or worse than ours. You continue to break down the walls of ignorance and shed light on what is important in ANY country, its people. Thanks again! Safe travels.

  32. >>not better or worse than ours. We must be living in a different country. Become a citizen of Iran, then criticize the rulers in public and you will experience the difference.

  33. Thank you for a wonderfully enlightening series of blogs. Each day I have looked forward to reading your next entry. I totally agree with the comments posted by Armen and Laex. I am not Muslim but I feel for the Palestinians. They did not deserve to have their lands taken from them. Germany was responsible for the Halocast and as such, it would have made sense to have made them relinquish their lands. However,these decisions were made by post WWII leaders and whether we agree with them or not, at some point we need to move on for the better good of greater population. I would also have more respect for Israel if they were to return the lands which they seized in the 1967 war. Thanks again Rick. If you ever start conducting tours to Iran, my husband and I will be excited to sign up.

  34. I applaud your courage in trying to open our minds. The only way to neutralize the costic atmosphere that exists between our two countries is through the people, certainly not through our leaders. Thank you!

  35. Rick, I consider you to be one of the greatest kinds of citizens a country can have; tolerant, open, honest, and inquisitive. I’m sure some fellow Americans may think different, but be sure to know that this type of negative thinking is due, primarily, to ignorance. They don’t understand Iran, and they don’t want to understand Iran. They’re too bothered with finding the best deals at the local strip malls to fill thier McMansions while driving their Suburbans. Anyone who knows anything knows that you are doing your part (and more) to make a better world for the rest of us. Thanks!

  36. Enjoying the information but surely you do not seriously equate “Like our children start each school day pledging “allegiance to one nation under God,” with “Iranian kids chant hateful slogans against the Great Satan and its 51st state, Israel.” Speaking allegiance to our country is in no way similar to the lies being used to indoctrinate an entire generation to hate the US and Israel. To be fair and balanced in your spin would warrant the reminder that the wall around Palestine was built to protect Israel from homicide bombers. They stop the attacks and the wall comes down. Your paragraph “Because we can do nothing about this traffic, we can all say ‘Death to Traffic’ is also naive in light of 9/11

  37. I’ll use my 2nd allotted comment in this string to make 2 more additional statements. I was at a liver study conference in Boston last November and encountered a female doctor from Tehran that came by my company’s booth and spoke with us for a short while. She was very interesting and afterward I felt so glad that she had come all the way to America to distribute her business card and try to learn about the latest treatments for her patients back home. 2nd point is Iranian politics: for those who don’t realize that the Iranian president really doesn’t have very much clout: one of his political arch-rivals has just been elected speaker of Parlaiment so he is under fire at home. And what do politicians across the ages and across the ideological spectrum do when cornered? They come out swinging, trying to play to their base and trying to make headlines. I have a feeling that Iranians are not so easily fooled into going lock-step behind him even if they have so few public outlets to say so. Lastly I have a question for the posters: has anyone seen that Iranian animated film(Persepolis I believe it was) that was nominated for awards this year and how was it? I’ve got it on my Netflix list and am hoping it will be good. Cheers from Raleigh.

  38. Rick: As a long time fan of your shows, I congratulate you for going to Iran. People talking to each other is much better than fighting. About 40 years ago two college students worked for me and they were very nice people. Often wander what happened to them.

  39. Just good for you Rick. We need to combine our national defense with communication and attempts at understanding and coming to terms with others. Whether we like them or not we all share the same world. Better to just not like each other without war, than to not like each other and kill each other. Now, when’s your next trip to Italy so I can sneak in your suitcase?

  40. Oh Rick, you disappoint me. Of all the places outside Europe you could choose to travel to and comment on, you end up…in Iran? Make no mistake, you are in a viciously oppressive, aggressive, fascist police state with the same apparent regional ambitions as Nazi Germany. At least you seem to be seeing that side, and not just looking for nicey individuals to praise. There may be a lot of those, but keep on keeping the context in mind. I doubt you can get away from it there.

  41. I have been following your comments and enjoying them. Looking forward to the film. By the way, I remember how to say Ahmadinajad by thinking, “I’m a dinner jacket.” I think I heard that on Air America. No disrespect intended toward anyone, but I hate mispronouncing a state leader’s name! I’ll leave that sort of mispronunciation to . . .well. . .OUR state leader.

  42. This has been a fantastic voyage and I hope this style of blogging continues for many years to come. How about Afghanistan next year? It’s been very nice just sitting back and following along the past few weeks. My main complaint of other commenter’s has been the spewing of “Talking Point” propaganda others pass off as their own. Really. Did you think of this stuff yourself? Nope. I bet not. I see nothing wrong with galvanizing opinions and things set in historical context but just some of the more radical ideas, which I am not opposed, sound robotic and plageristic. Just my 4 cents.

  43. Kudos to Rick – as an experienced traveler, I commend your effort to see beyond the distorted rhetoric of both countries. I hope to hear you speak on your Iran trip at the next ETBD travel event. Thanks for your insights.

  44. Hey Rick, Now that you are done in Iran, it might be interesting for those of us who are still trying shake off our right-wing programming……and do a series on the USA. You could show the hate/contention that some Christian groups have for each other. You could show the hate some have for gays, blacks, Mexicans, Jews, Liberals. You could show the vast wealth and those who live in cardboard boxes. You could show off our weapons industry…the largest in the world. You could talk about democracy….and how we are rated 17th in the world. You could talk about 40 million who have no health care, yet we have a military presence in 145 countries of the world. You know, a little show to help “us bulls” who charge every red cape that our president…I mean the matador waves at us.

  45. We have been to Europe three times in the past two years(Germany,Austria,Netherlands, Belgium,Switzerland and France). Never have we been treated poorly because we were Americans.

  46. I hope to see you in Armenia and Georgia sometime (I’m talking Tbilisi, not Atlanta :) But in the mean time, have fun in Italy!

  47. Sorry, Rick, you’re a great travel writer, but your propaganda is 100% transparent. Hezbollah is NOT the same as the freedom-fighting Contras, Bush is not at all like Ahmadinejad, and Muslims are not at all like Christians. Further, the ONLY reason Muslims are upset at watching that wonderful WALL being built between Israel and Palestine is because they know it will make it much harder to kill Jews. The Wall is working! Suicide bombings are way down! God bless that wall! It’s a good sign for our own southern border.

  48. Hi Rick, Glad your trip was a success! I really wish that the general public could see more information from people like you, because right now it is hard to listen to the media, it is so awful! Judy

  49. Rick, thank you for sharing your experiences in Iran. As plentifully evident in the comments of each blog entry, the flywheel of jingoism and fear is spinning full throttle in America and you have quite sadly been vilified by the same variety of fear/hate mongers screeching in wide-eyed panic over, for example, Rachael Ray’s scarf in a Dunkin Donuts ad looking to Arab-ish. That’s what it has come to. God bless you, God bless EVERYONE reading this, and God help America.

  50. I was very curious as to how Rick was going to handle the “death to Israel” issue, as he is loathe to say anything negative about Muslims and their religion. I wondered how our resident Islamophile was going to escape this dilemma, but I was confident that he would be able to put a positive spin on Islamic extremism. Rick did not disappoint me. “Death to Israel” is not a problem, because………. THEY DON’T REALLY MEAN IT. Its just a little meaningless saying, you know, like complaining about traffic. Makes you wonder if there is anything, and I do mean anything, that would shake Rick’s belief that there is nothing at all to fear from Islamic extremism, or that Islamic extremism even exists. You have to give Rick credit. When he makes up his mind about something, such as the totally passivist nature of Islam, he’s not going to let anything (not even reality), change his mind. Brilliant.

  51. Thank you, Rick and crew. I agree with all the positive comments made by previous posters. Please continue your good works all over the world. I look forward to seeing the video of this trip.

  52. Patty: What about Jewish extremism? Have seen “exterminate Arabs” signs in the Jewish settlements? Take a look at the World Map and see how an ancient name like Palestine has been wipped off the map thanks to propaganda and war.

  53. I’ve enjoyed this series of posts. Do Iranians really say “Death to Traffic”? What else do they say “Death to”? “Death to hangnails”? “Death to bad hair days”? “Death to Disco”? If so, are they gently mocking their government’s ham-fisted sloganiering? Or… looking at it another way, if it turns out that “Iran” has been saying “Death to soggy cereal” and 1,000 other things for generations, well, it would put “death to Israel” and “death to America” in a different perspective. It’s still a stupid thing to say (not very PC) but it would put it in context. Any Iranians out there care to weigh in? Is this a common phrase? Or maybe we can simply say “Death to people who say death to people who say death to people who say….” Cute, huh?

  54. Ah, I am late to this party and see that your latest entries ar now being hijacked by trolls (idealogues, fantatics, whatever you want to call them). This is a beautiful post and thank you for your courage in posting your own thoughts and opinions.

  55. Rick, My wife and I have backpacked the world for 6 months and very much enjoyed your travel style and tips, you are probably the best travel writer there is! However, you seem to have almost a blind ignorance rooted in your love of other peoples and cultures (which we share) that colors your ability to discern danger and evil. First off, no one in the US thinks that average everyday Iranians are crazed nut jobs looking to kill Jews and Americans. It is their gov’t that is this way and our beef is with the Gov’t, not the people. Just like our beef is with Castro for oppressing his people for 50 years, not the Cubans, etc, etc. Like you, we believe that if given enough time, people will choose to live in peace and prosperity rather then a theocracy, but unfortunately for the people of Iran, that time is not yet here and they have to live with the daily oppression of a gov’t that uses them as pawns in their war with the west. What if one day, Iran decides to try and strike Israel or the US or some other country? Will you still wonder if they really mean Death to Israel? I’m not too interested in finding out because we have already tried your way in history. His name was Neville Chamberlain and his appeasement to Hitler gave Hitler the encouragement to think that he could take over Europe unopposed. If someone had stood up and done something earlier, then 10’s of millions of people would not have died…

  56. Chris, let’s take a calm look at exactly what Rick wrote: As we were struggling to drive away in a horribly congested street, our guide made a telling aside. He declared, “Death to traffic.” Then he said, “Because we can do nothing about this traffic, we can all say ‘Death to Traffic’.” Did he mean kill all those drivers that were in our way? Does Iran really mean death to the US and Israel? Or is it a mix of international road rage, fear, frustration — and the seductive clarity of a catchy slogan? This quirky cultural trait might be worth looking into and trying to understand. So Rick reported a surprising comment made in his presence and asked questions aloud to the reader on the subject. Is this worth all the rancor?

  57. The 444 day hostage taking of the U. S. Embassy was more than a ‘media circus’. It was a forced, hostile kidnapping. Those embassy employees were beaten and brutalized. And we don’t remember it because it was a ‘national humiliation’. It is remembered because it was an outrage. While Rick was in Iran there was an article in the L. A. Times about women who are being imprisoned in Iran for signing a petition to give more rights to women. I would no sooner spend my tourist dollars in such a place than I would give donations to the KKK.

  58. Dr. T, Patty and Kath: RIGHT ON TARGET! If anyone took the time to read the Quran/Koran, you’d see that any practicing Muslim is expected to kill “non-believers” and is praised for doing so. That is, everyone but Muslims has to go. That’s truly a simplified statement, but that’s the foundation of all this Islamic hate for the West. It’s not all peaches and cream.

  59. I try to buy American made products. I try to buy products that are green, that aren’t made in sweat shops, that don’t have unnecessary packaging. In other words, I try to be a responsible consumer. The same goes for travel dollars. There are places where one has to draw the line. Iran is supporting the groups who are killing Americans in Iraq. Iran represses its dissidents. Iranian leaders put out fatwas on authors. Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons to use against Israel. I don’t wish to help prop up those leaders with my travel dollars. It’s a matter of conscience.

  60. Here’s the latest out of Iran: ” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad predicted on Monday that Muslims would uproot “satanic powers” and repeated his controversial belief that Israel will soon disappear, the Mehr news agency reported. “I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene,” he said. ” Link: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080602124328.f6eyi8y1&show_article=1 I like it better when they stick to “Death to Traffic”. I hope we find a way to understand them better before the eraser comes.

  61. I’ll try to stay out of the political cat fight. Let me just say: I have an Iranian on my staff. I asked her: Do Iranians really say “Death to a lot of things.” I mentioned the Rick Steves example. She laughed and said “Yes, it is true.” This doesn’t change things one way or the other. But it is a cultural quirk worth note; and I never heard of it before reading Rick’s blog.

  62. At least you nearly picked up one thing. While the Arab world nearly unanimously hates our president, the real source of their hatred is our perversion as displayed nightly on our news and primetime programming. We tend not to notice until we look at it from a different viewpoint. Personally, I stopped watching a lot of TV because I was too busy. After months with almost no TV, I turned it on and was shocked by how bad it really is. The fact that this is the lens the world sees us through is particularly disturbing.

  63. All I’ve got to say is, “Death to hatred and militarism based on misunderstanding, fear and national pride.” Does that translate to “Death to Iran”? Probably not, but you’ve got to admit the shoe fits pretty well. You probably meant it more as an echo of “Death to America”. At least in America you are allowed to question/disagree with the government openly. In Iran, the government isn’t as tolerant.

  64. thanks Rick for a refreshing reflection and personal point of view on a location that is scarcely a travel destination for Americans yet continues to occupy our imagination- and not favorably so. As an Iranian- American who had a chance to revisit Iran after two decades of exile, I find your observations expressed in this blog entry very close to my own impression. For your courage to resist the allure of vilifying an easy political target, I salute you.

  65. How ignorant to think that the muslim people are peaceful. They hate Christians, they hate America and Americans..anyone who doubts that is totally and completely ignorant. People our military is in the “middle east” to prevent wars on our soil. I am sick to death of the new media skewing the real “Truth” and reality of jihad. Yes, Mikey they DO mean death to America, get a clue people

  66. Rick, Thank you so much! I thought your comment regarding road rage was quite perceptive…so here’s to bicyles and low carbon footprints. Since you in Italy now, I can’t help but recall one of the postcards I bought that had been created by a Reggio Emilia child. The caption under under a bike rider read, “In Reggio everyone has a bike.” And from p. 50 of “Reggio Tutta” the quotation continues: the men, the mothers, the children, the grandparents, but they’re the ones that are really used to it because they they’ve been riding bikes for a long, long time.

  67. How ignorant to think that the one billion muslims in the world are all violent would-be murderers of anyone of any other faith. It should be obvious that if any one billion people in the world were so, they could act upon it much more than almost any muslim ever does. But in fact, almost all of the muslims in the world are peaceable people who are concerned with treating others as well as possible, and with living and raising their families just as we all are, but whose lives and faith are hijacked to violent ends by a tiny minority of terrorists or politicians, just as ours all are, no matter what our religion. Iran is a country of 70 million people, and to speak casually of bombing it into oblivion, as Hillary Clinton or John McCain did, is a deeply evil thing. These are human beings. To claim that they do not deserve consideration as such, just because of their religion, does not make anyone a “realist.” It makes them inhuman, and it makes them a hypocrite if they invoke Nazism. Thank you for putting a human face on a human people, Rick. People will always say that you’re a “pollyanna,” but you are only showing a people held hostage against their will by idiotic politicians, just as we are.

  68. Rick, I have a good friend who once lived in Iran and fled during the revolution, eventually to the U.S. Only recently was she able to return and visit her homeland and extended family. I am baffled by you observation that the Iran president’s, “unwavering policy is that when Palestine accepts the existence of Israel, Iran will too.” I guess it depends on which Palestine – the one controlled by the pragmatic Fatah, who has recognized Israel’s right to exist, or the extremists Hezbollah and Hamas. It seems thr Iran president is hedging his bets that violence will win over peace.

  69. I think Terry and Duh are trying to convince us and themselves that Americans and President Bush are evil, and the Iranians are all non violent angels. If President Bush was an evil dictator as some of you claim, then all of those who trashed him would either be dead or in a prison, or would have fled the country. However, I notice the Bush critics are all alive and well and still live in this country. I guess they don’t believe their own propaganda. I was in England in January,and all of the people I talked to were pro Bush and America. However, most of the people I talked to were from eastern Europe. Most people in eastern Europe like President Bush and Americans. Israel is not going to go away The Israelis are telling the UN and the rest of the world, either you stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or we will.

  70. Great work as always Rick. If more americans like you travelled to places like Iran, the people of these countries would see that everyday americans don’t even dislike their citizens let alone hate them, but as you said, would dislike their president….this would weaken these extremist politicians. I am a christian and I have a soft spot in my heart for the state of Israel. I love that country, but that doesn’t mean that I have to hate every day TRUE muslims….the ones who oppose terrorism. I find it intriguing that, as big as this planet the good lord gave us is, we can’t come up with enough land to give the Palestinians their own country. For crying out loud, Iran has plenty they could donate. I keep thinking, with the Olympics coming up, they don’t even have a true Palestinian home to support. They have to support the nation in which they are refugees. I realise they probably want to have the Holy Land, which is Israel. I know for a fact that Israel keeps giving up more and more land to these people in the cause of peace and the extremists keep ruining the entire process. Keep up the good work Rick, and like you say we are 6 billion equally precious people. God bless!!!

  71. Please let’s not forget how this trip transpired for Rick. A friend of Rick’s who works for OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT asked Rick what he could do to help bridge the gap between the 2 nations. Rick, Simon, and Karel interrupted their work to go to a completely unfamiliar culture on RICKS’ dime. And president Bush is NOT evil. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Chris

  72. This is my last post. I think that you people who are capable should put yourselves in the shoes of every-day arabs. I just read an extensive article on Iraqis who were forced to go to Lebanon from their homes in Baghdad. When they heard we were sending 30,000 more troops into Baghdad, some of them came home. One said, “No one can stand up against the US military, we will be safe now.” Read all of the accounts of our troops who are warmly welcomed when they arrive, and the stories of Iraqis who are praying for McCain to win the election so they will still feel safe. One Iraqi actually referred to our troops as Superman. I understand it isn’t our job to protect EVERYONE and we can’t stay here forever, but these people need and desperately desire our help.

  73. It’s good to be reminded the Iranian people are very much like Americans. Mostly generous and kind. And I believe that. However, the issue is our president is only able to maintain power by stiring up simple minded Americans similar to Iran’s president. The outrageous statement “axis of evil” of Iran, Saddam’s Iraq and N.Korea, “(as defined by my president)” clearly demonstrates America’s policies are equivalent to Iran. President Ahmadinejad is only playing politics when he says again and again that he wants to destroy America, the Zionist state and the Holocaust never happened. Who would really believe that? Making sense of the “fearmongering and billboard hate” is impossible. The problem is our president and their president. Just two people. Someone told you the Iranian people hates you, yet their “government guide” didn’t stop you from talking to anyone on the street or dissidents in prison. And of course, Hezbollah really is just like the Contras. The Contras wanted freedom for all Nicaraguans rather than a communist dictatorship and Hezbollah wants a theocracy controlled by the Ayatollah (who everyone understands is not as extreme as the Iranian president). Lebanon, the only predominently Christian country in the Middle-east, will soon be controled by Hezbollah as Christians are murdered or flee. And imagine building a wall to protect themselves? Don’t they know the Iranian presidents “unwavering policy is that when Palestine accepts the existence of Isreal, Iran will too”. That should be comforting. And “this quirky cultural trait” of shouting “death to the US and Isreal”? It’s just a catchy phrase, they don’t really mean it. Finally, I’m also for “Death to hatred and militarism based on misunderstanding, fear and national pride.” Nice words. However, mocking our president who carries a grave responsibility to defend us while you travel as an “abassador of understanding and goodwill” is not exactly the same.

  74. Perhaps the most telling, and interesting thing Rick reported was the children praying before school and adding the equivalent ‘thumbs down’ to Israel and anyone/thing not loved by their leaders. Contrast that to children here who attend Catholic school who pray for world peace and brotherhood among all people. What values do those actions reflect? How difficult will it be to change the mindset of the Iranian children…who grow up to become adults with unquestioning acceptance of certain mindsets? I know, because I was one of those Catholic children many years ago.

  75. Great photos all helping us to better understand another group of people that are all trying to live day-to-day, raising their children so that their children have better lives. Travel is precious and the only way to understand others. All the leaders of the world should be required to visit 25 other countries before they take office. As John Lennon wrote: “Imagine”.

  76. I think travel to Iran to see all the ancient ruins would be a great experience, however, being an American Jew, I really would be afraid for my life. See the problem isn’t the average Joe, or (Yosef). Most people on a one to one basis are friendly or at the least curious, the problem is state sponsored hate against me! I wonder if Rick would take responsibility for my safety on a tour, or would his common sense take over and he would advise to stay home. Ofcourse someone could mow me down anywhere (I understand that), but they wouldn’t be treated as a hero!

  77. Kudos for provoking dialogue at a timely juncture for both nations. Rather be arguing here — even if vehemently or sometimes in poor spirit — than hurling bombs, sanctions, or hate-filled slogans across political boundaries.

  78. Rick, folks don’t consider you “unpatriotic” because you travel to places like Iran. They consider you unpatriotic because you are unpatriotic simpliciter. I believe you do love some place called “America”, but that place doesn’t exist. The one I live in does. This Iranian government is an enemy of the America I live in. Attempting to shift attention from the addled mullahs in Teheran by showing us pictures of cute little kids is either disingenuous or naive. Rich white people read this blog, not the teeming millions in Iran who deserve better. I can only assume your words are for us, and not for them. Are you so elitist as to believe that people in my America are somehow against the Iranian people? But people are not the issue, governments are! If they were not, you would not exert such effort as you do bashing ours. Would you have done the same kind of blog entry, all other things being equal, about Nazi Germany in Summer, 1939? The Biergartens are wonderful that time of year.

  79. I am delighted to read of your trip as it once again proves that the common people are usually kind and loving folks, while the nut jobs in power create the tensions….I look forward to someday seeing the video if if comes out!! God bless!!

  80. Some facts here. Is regime in Tehran against US interest in the region? Yes and no, depending how you define US interest that is people of US or the special interests. Is regime in Tehran a treat to US soil? Definitely not. Is the regime in Tehran serves Iranian people? Definitely not, but in some respect is better than other regional countries we support except Iranian regime is not our friends for historical reasons. It is amazing to me that some people compare Iranian regime to Nazi Germany. I guess the propaganda machine has been very successful in creating such a dangerous parallel. Yes, there are criminal acts being done by regime in Tehran to the opposition groups and some religious minorities, but to what scale? Let’s keep things in perspective otherwise we will be manipulated to another war.

  81. Yes, Kav… George W Bush through his puppet master Dick Cheney ordered me to liken Iran to Nazi Germany. I appreciate being able to do my little bit to bring on the next war. Some facts here. Yes, there were criminal acts being done by the regime in Berlin to the opposition groups and some religious minorities, but to what scale? You leftists really slay me … Perhaps you ought to go read the “rise” part of Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (91 Jews killed in Krystallnacht – no big deal, right?). Usually, little acorns grow into mighty oaks, which is why I stand opposed to rotten little acorns like the government in Teheran, especially when they like to play with uranium.

  82. I admire your position on traveling being one important way to connect with other citizens of the world. Your trip, I am sure, has made us some friends that we did not previously have. Every time that happens it creates a powerful energy that builds on itself. Thank you.

  83. There is much evidence that Iran is training radical guerilla groups who are killing/maiming U.S. men and women in Iraq. The insurgents are well-trained, leading many to realize an organized government is not only training them, but also equipping them. We get rid of their arch enemy, Hussein, and this is how they repay us. The Iranian government’s treachery/evil is well-documented. In Afghanistan, which also borders Iran, entire police forces/mayors are under the payroll of Tehran…with the requisite human rights violations, kangaroo courts, and violence. It is simplistic to say that any criticizm of Iran is equivalent to a desire to go to war. However, why should our citizens reward a government’s behavior by encouraging tourism? (Cuba). I am hoping Rick Steves’ photo of him with Iranian soldiers won’t be used against him in the future…Jane Fonda looking through the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in the early 1970s is an example.

  84. Kevin Dennehy, Are you threatening Rick with the Jane Fonda treatment? For trying to be an ambassador of peace and friendship? Shame on you! If it’s true what you say — that “there is much evidence that Iran is training radical guerilla groups who are killing/maiming U.S. men and women in Iraq” — then how come none of that evidence has been publicly disclosed? That “intelligence” is just as reliable as the lies that got us into the Iraq war. If you’re still counting the change from the last time you got scammed, open your eyes so you won’t fall for the same exact scam again! (That last statement assumes you’re an American citizen and taxpayer; if you’re not, you can be forgiven for being careless with our money and our future.)

  85. If I may paraphrase Albert Einstein: what Steves is saying here is not merely nonsense, it is offensive nonsense. OF COURSE the Iranian people are nice. So are the people of (fill in the blank). And, for that matter, If you could have met the German soldiers guarding the Normandy beaches on June 5, 1944, you would have found them a nice group of guys. It is the governments that are the source of all the trouble. And the nuclear program of the Iranian government is the most important issue at the moment. Really, it is the only issue. As soon as they get bombs our world will be totally changed. Health care, global warming and so on will seem totally unimportant. The Iranians will use the bomb to blackmail us and it is highly likely that they will detonate at least one bomb in an American city. I find it frightening to think that there are many who will read this and pass it off as some right wing, or whatever, fearmongering. How can anyone doubt that the Iranian government is serious?

  86. Since Americans do not believe another country has the right to invade us to impose their form of government upon us, it follows that other countries resent an invasion to do exactly that to them. I have found that the Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Iranians,that I have met have been wonderfully friendly folks. Barack Obama has it right. We must be willing to talk and make friends, not enemies. And enough of the adolescent namecalling. Traveling to foreign countries certainly changes one’s outlook and respect for one another. Thank you for going on this trip. I look forward to seeing it on Public Television. Barbara Russell

  87. .We stop at the former US Embassy, which hosted the 444-day-long hostage crisis still so profound in the minds of many Americans. (For many who are angry with me for visiting our “arch enemy,” that 30-year-old media circus remains the defining event in their mindset toward Iran. It seems that because of this national humiliation, they consider it unpatriotic for a citizen like me to come here as an ambassador of understanding and goodwill.) A national humiliation?? How about a repugnant crime?? I wonder if Terry Anderson sees you as an ambassador of understanding? The tone from Rick’s blog entry reeks of arrogance and contempt that I might still remember those traumatic days and the perpetrators that committed them. No more Rick Steves for me. The level of liberalism has just gone too far.

  88. Just wondering, during the Bush bashing conversations with these loving wonderful people, when Rick won new friends and counted those who hated our president, did he also poll all the Iranian folks who were willing to say they hated theirs? and hey Rick! Love the photo with the Republican Guard. Didn’t ya think about how you put their lives in danger being a photo with you, did ya? Guarantee you ended their careers, and they’ll be lucky if that’s all that happens to them.

  89. I am appalled by the level of mis information by average american about Iran as an Iranian American who has lived in States for more than 37 years and visits Iran every few years. The picture that Rick is providing you may not be the entire story, but fairly accurate of life in Iran. In regards to politics, most Iranians do not care for their government, but they do not want a foriegn power to interfere under the slogan of democracy. And the best way to protect our interests in the region is to sit down and talk rather than threat.

  90. A huge KUDOS to Rick for his courage and his work. To the ‘critic’ paraphrasing Einstein, why don’t you quote him when he said that he, Einstein ‘feared that the Zionists would do to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews’. To put this controversy in real context, all of you may want to visit the site http://www.jewsnotzionists.org.

  91. Thank you, Rick Steves for an open mind in your travels to Iran. To Mary from Kansas who would like to “travel to Iran to see all the ancient ruins would be a great experience, however, being an American Jew, I really would be afraid for my life.” Please, realize that is the AIPAC propaganda, they want you to believe. There has been and still IS a thriving Jewish community in Tehran today. Check out http://www.iranjewish.com/. They only have a problem with the Zionists but have NOTHING against Jews.

  92. critic, how on earth do you figure it’s “highly likely” that a nuclear Iran will detonate a bomb in an American city? Some facts: Number one, yes, Iran has supported Hezbollah, which has bombed civilians in Israel, and this is detestable. Number two, yes, Iran took American hostages for 444 days, and this is detestable. However, fact three is that Iran has done next to nothing to provoke the United States since that time (over a quarter-century ago), save for steering motorized dinghies in the direction of a few US warships in the Gulf. Fact four is that those US warships were only in the Gulf in support of their second invasion of one country, Iraq, which is far from the only country that we’ve invaded and bombed to smithereens. Fact five is that, although many Iraqis support our action against Saddam Hussein, it was an idiotic diversion from the war which almost all of us, right and left, supported, which was the war on Afghanistan to catch the perpetrators of 9/11, and Osama bin Laden (you do know the difference between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, don’t you? Many Americans don’t, but no, that doesn’t mean I’m bashing America, just pointing out the simple fact that a lot of us are uninformed even about the worst terrorist attack ever on our soil, and which response–Afghanistan–was sensible, and which–Iraq, and Iran, if we bomb them too–is stupid). Fact number six is that while we’ve invaded and/or bombed countries from southeast Asia to the Middle East to Africa, do you know how many countries Iran has invaded in the last several centuries? That’s right–none. Again, for the extremely stupid (like the person who claimed I was Bush-bashing, even though I only–Fact seven–mentioned Mrs. Clinton and McCain in my post), I am not bashing America or Americans; only pointing out that there are millions upon millions of decent Iranians, as there are so many decent Americans. Kudos and respect to the rightist who acknowledged that.

  93. Rick, I always enjoy your posts (and your shows). You paint with awfully broad stokes though in saying “[the hostage crisis] remains the defining event in their mindset toward Iran. It seems that because of this national humiliation, they consider it unpatriotic for a citizen like me to come here as an ambassador of understanding and goodwill.” I believe most of us are more concerned about their 30-year state sponsorship of terrorism. It is the revolutionary guard training bored iraqi teens in the tactics of murder. It is the the Iranian Rials paid directly to Hezbollah thugs and their families (should they become martyrs). Is is the plight of Father Jenco. It is Islamic Jihad. It is (as you mention) the forceful suppression of any deviation from their radically conservative religious preachings. It is their disregard of the rights of women and minorities. Getting back to you, though. I appreciate your engagement with their people. I recall doing the same in the Soviet Union with my dad and those connections have survived through the ebbs and flows of politics between our nations. No regrets … I’m sure you feel the same way! nik-o-laus.blogspot.com

  94. For the folks that constantly need “evidence” (Yashar) in order to realize Iran is no friend of the world. If they can get a nuke…the photos of Rick yukking it up with their soldiers will bite him hard…and though he doesn’t want to admit this, in his wallet. Rick’s communist-era mantra of “people of the world unite” will seem very naive, and even sinister if he really believes it, once the first Iranian nuke goes off. Some countries are just plain evil. From the NY Times: European Leaders Back Bush on Iran By STEVEN LEE MYERS and NAZILA FATHI June 11, 2008 KRANJ, Slovenia — Opening a farewell tour of Europe, President Bush won European support on Tuesday to consider additional punitive sanctions against Iran, including restrictions on its banks, if Iran rejects a package of incentives to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Iran has begun transferring billions of dollars from European banks to Iranian and Asian banks, and buying gold and equities, according to reports in the Iranian news media, apparently to protect its windfall oil revenue from any new sanctions. Mr. Bush arrived in Slovenia at the start of a European tour that will take him to Berlin, Rome, Paris, London and Belfast, Northern Ireland. A summit meeting with European Union leaders here was part of an effort to persuade them to adopt a stronger line toward Iran.

  95. Duh, I’m not here to defend the detestible things the US government has done over the last quarter centur. However, your comment that “….fact three is that Iran has done next to nothing to provoke the United States since that time (over a quarter-century ago), save for steering motorized dinghies in the direction of a few US warships in the Gulf.” is inaccurate. The Hezbollah bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut (1983) was done w/ the blessing/support of Khoemini -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1983_Beirut_barracks_bombing. As you noted, Iran has also been conducting a brutal proxy war in Lebanaon for the last 25 years against perceived enemies (Christian and Sunni).

  96. The way to measure whether Iran’s “Death to Israel” is mere bombast, is simple: look at their actions. They have multiplied the number of Hizbollah rockets pointed at Israel from 13,000 to over 40,000 in two years. On the side of Hamas, the Iranians have supplied the 4,000 (that’s FOUR THOUSAND) short-range rockets that have rained death and terror on small Israeli communities in the past year, and just begun to supply longer-range missiles that can now reach into major cities in Israel. At Iran’s urging, Hamas categorically refuses to recognize Israel, and has dedicated itself to wiping Israel off the map. They teach their children in school and on television that they should hate, and kill, Jews (not just Israelis; all Jews. Oh, yes, and Americans, other kinds of Muslims, and heathen Christians). That is not bombast. That is death. The big question is why Iran would prefer to foment war than to allow the Palestinians to make peace. Or, ask why any Palestinian “moderate” enough to say out loud that he wants peace is publicly executed and left to rot in the street. That’s not just bombast either. Since you bring Hitler up anyway…or look at Rwanda…or Sudan today. It’s pretty important that we finally learn that when people plainly say they want to commit genocide, we should take their word for it. As for the wall–sad to both Israelis and Palestinians–well, if YOU were afraid you’d be blown to smithereens anytime you go on a bus or walked into a shop, you’d want to stop the suicide bombers from coming into your neighborhood, too. And, sad as that wall may be, a wall is better than guns, and it has been mercifully successful in cutting down on suicide bombings. I think it’s hard to imagine from the outside how very tiny Israel is, and how huge an impact this has.

  97. Steve, point well taken–I would also blame the Islamic Republic’s support of Hezbollah for that, and that act was also detestable. That was, though, still a quarter century ago. Their support of Hezbollah since then is also something I object strongly to, and I couldn’t disagree if Israel viewed it as an act of war, but I would disagree if the United States viewed it as an act of war against us. It’s hard on these comment threads, because there are many who understandably view acts like these, or the prospects of a nuclear Iran, with great concern, just as I do. My main rebuke here is of those who either trot out a completely inaccurate (and hackneyed, given that they tried the same nonsense with the Iraq War) portrayal of Iran as another Nazi Germany, as if they’re likely to begin a war of conquest when they’ve never invaded another country for several centuries; and of those who would, with such comment, sanction the bombing of 70 million mostly innocent Iranian people for the atrocious acts of a few of their leaders.

  98. Clarification: Iraq did, of course, invade Kuwait, so I wasn’t lumping that part of my statement in with the “Iran/Iraq is Nazi” argument that was trotted out for the Iraq War, as for the impending Iran war. But Iran hasn’t invaded another country for centuries, and is in fact of a very conservative mind when it comes to doing so. The Sunni Taliban slaughtered several diplomats from Shi’a Iran, when the former still ruled Afghanistan and were massacring their opponents; Iran massed tens of thousands of troops, but even against their Sunni adversaries, and even after they’d killed 9 Iranian diplomats.

  99. Yes Duh, To be honest w/ you I supported the Iraq invasion initially. I thought “surely were there’s smoke there’s fire”. …but alas no. Actually it was the writings of Pat Buchanan – of all people – that changed my mind. I wish we could get back to a non-interventionist mindset.

  100. Heh! Yes, that’s funny, I have always been caught up short that Pat Buchanan has been the one advocate for isolationism. Not that I’m always isolationist, since World War II was good for us to have participated in (“good” in quotes, I guess, since war is never good); and Afghanistan was done in self-defense against the 9/11 terrorists. If only we’d continued against the 9/11 terrorists instead of being diverted to Saddam Hussein (and now Iran? Hope not!).

  101. First class political commentary, Rick! Iran has given numerous signals to the US that it would accept Israel within its pre-1967 borders, if Israel ended the occupation and the Palestinians agreed to this settlement. The American war machine has ripped Iraq to pieces, as part of a foolish effort to “protect” Israel by knocking off any regime in the area that continued to pose a threat.

  102. This is a travel site and not political site. Has that occured to most of you posting your garbage here? Stop your biased and nonsense politics.

  103. Hi Rick! I finally realized you were the visitor to Iran. Your account of your reception by ordinary Iranians was welcome though I do wonder if an ordinary US person could expect the same reception. Your comments make me wonder if you, or perhaps some of your readers might have a response to this: It always struck me that Ahmadinejad declared that Israel shoule be “wiped off the map.” While it is understandable that the words would be interpreed as meaning “Destroy Israel” I have wondered if the words might simply mean that the nation of Israel should not exist on the map as a separate national entity from Palestine, not that all Israelis should be killed. For many they might seem to amount to the same thing but I think a literal interpretation is possible. Perhaps the strong feelings of incensed people on either side can’t see a difference.

  104. Chris, June 02, you really need to do some homework about Hitler, World War Two, and killing people. World War Two was promoted and Hitler was a puppet that was used by the powers that be. American has killed millions and millions of people. America adopted all of Hitlers war techniques and lifestyle. America spends over 50% of the world military budget and is 6% of the world. America really has dropped nukes on civilians. Iran has not. I salute Rick Steves for busting the Israeli, Zionist, Globalist propaganda. Rick is saying, “Go and see for yourself”. I have used Rick’s books and they are excellent. I agree with Rick. Get out from under the propaganda America. We are drowning in propaganda as the most misinformed, uninformed, people on Earth. We are not served well by our Hebrew dominated and owned propaganda media. The Israelis, Zionists, Hebrews, and Jews have far too much power in America and it’s time for Hebrew Affirmative action to protect Hebrews from them self. Where are the limits for race quotas? America is sliding toward communism. Seems like few people care. We will pay the price. Keep up the good work Rick. Thank you for your shows.

  105. The insight on the “Death to…” idiom is quite interesting. I think an analogy might be the use of a particular bit of mild profanity in American and British culture. If I slam down the phone and say “D–n those telemarketers, always calling during dinner,” I probably don’t literally mean “those telemarketers should be condemned to eternal torture in the flames of a hell that which I don’t actually believe in.”

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