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Home/Daniel Larison/Iran Hawks and the Persistent “Martyr-State” Lie

Iran Hawks and the Persistent “Martyr-State” Lie

Rick Santorum speaks for many Iran hawks when he made this delusional statement last week:

Iran with a nuclear weapon, in my opinion, is the end….I have no doubt that Iran will use a nuclear weapon in any way possible to destroy the United States, to destroy Europe, to destroy Israel or any other country that is in their way. They don’t care about dying.

This is a lunatic thing to say about any nation, and it is a measure of how warped and biased our Iran debate is that presidential candidates can make assertions like this about another nation without causing an uproar. No government exists or has ever existed that didn’t “care” whether it was destroyed or not, and no people has ever been indifferent to its own annihilation. To believe this ridiculous claim, one has to view Iranians as something less than fully human. The idea that Iran’s government is a suicidal “martyr-state” is entirely unfounded. Indeed, it is nothing more than a lie, but it is one that hard-line fanatics including Santorum spread to sow distrust and fear in order to make the public more receptive to their aggressive policies. It is regrettable to say the least that Santorum is more likely to benefit politically by making these nonsensical and irresponsible statements than he is likely to be discredited by them.

The even more unhinged part of this is Santorum’s fervent belief that a regime that doesn’t possess nuclear weapons, hasn’t been seeking them, has just recommitted not to pursue them, and has accepted restrictions that prevent it from building them will ever have the ability to “destroy” any other country, much less the entire Western world. It is unlikely that Iran will ever actually build a nuclear weapon, and it just became more unlikely thanks to the deal that Santorum opposes. It is absurd to think that their government would use such weapons to launch an attack that would result in their annihilation. Voters should understand that candidates that promote the “martyr-state” myth are seeking to deceive them, and journalists should be holding these candidates accountable for these falsehoods.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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