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A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind: Iran Literacy Quiz

07/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from the jackboot of British imperialism, consider a phrase in the Declaration that should surely vex some purported American patriots today: "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind."

The text seems to indicate that the signers of the Declaration believed some level of respect for the opinions of mankind should be considered decent. This would seem to suggest that they actually gave a rat's behind what people in other countries thought of American actions. How different is Washington today from Philadelphia in 1776!

Americans are often criticized for their ignorance of world affairs. But maybe if our government were not constantly screwing up world affairs, the rest of the world would cut us a bit more slack on the whole "knowledge of world affairs" thing. On the other hand, maybe if we knew a bit more about world affairs, our government would not be screwing them up so much.

They say bombing other countries is our government's way of teaching Americans geography. (If it's not what they say, it's what they should say.) But the more our government goes around bombing other countries, the more the rest of the world kvetches and moans about how Americans ought to learn a little something about these countries before our government starts bombing them. It's hard to make progress this way. The more we learn about the world by destroying other people's countries, the higher our foreign critics raise the bar for our knowledge.

Since it doesn't look like Washington has any intention of swearing off its bombing addiction anytime soon, in the spirit of '76, and with a decent respect for the levity with which the anniversary is now generally celebrated, I offer the following "conflict with Iran literacy quiz" for the edification of the General Public. The questions start out easy -- and they remain so.

Iran Conflict Literacy Quiz

1. Iran's leaders have declared their intention to acquire nuclear weapons.
True
False

2. Iran is training, arming, financing, and politically supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.
True
False

3. Iran's leaders have declared that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would be contrary to Islam.
True
False

4. On May 13, the Iranian government sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations. In this letter, Iran
a) demanded that God not inscribe the Zionist entity occupying Jerusalem in the Book of Life
b) offered comprehensive negotiations on all issues in dispute with the West, including Iran's nuclear program.

5. In Iran's May 13 proposal for comprehensive negotiations, Iran indicated its willingness to negotiate on a proposal for international enrichment of uranium in Iran with Iranian participation. In March, a similar proposal was put forward in an article in the New York Review of Books co-authored by a prominent member of Washington's foreign policy establishment. Who was that former US government official?

a) Ramsey Clark, Attorney General in the Johnson Administration
b) Andrew Young, Ambassador to the United Nations in the Carter Administration
c) Thomas Pickering, Ambassador to the United Nations in the first Bush Administration, and Ambassador to Israel during the Reagan Administration.

6. President Bush has said that the United States has no dispute with the Iranian people. According to a recent poll by the Program in International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, about what proportion of Iranians believe that it is "very important" that Iran master the nuclear fuel cycle?

a) 1%
b) 2%
c) 3%
d) 81%

7. According to the same poll, about what proportion of the Iranian population think that Iran should pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons?
a) 100%
b) 99%
c) 98%
d) 20%

8. Iran's leaders have pledged to destroy Israel.
a) Yes, this pledge is chanted in unison each morning in the Iranian parliament, while the Iran Army Orchestra whistles Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries."
b) No, Iran's leaders have never threatened to attack Israel if Iran is not attacked first.

9. In Iran's government system, the Leader with Supreme authority over the government, especially foreign and military affairs and the country's nuclear program, is
a) Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
b) President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad

10. In 1953, the democratic government of Iran was overthrown in a coup organized by the US Central Intelligence Agency, after Iran's parliament voted to nationalize the country's oil sector, angering the British (cf. "jackboot," above) who responded to the Iranian parliament's action by imposing a naval blockade of the country to prevent it from exporting oil; just as today Representative Ackerman's House Concurrent Resolution 362 seeks to prevent Iran from importing gas by "imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran," suggesting a blockade, an act of war.
True
False

11. Representative Ackerman's resolution has been co-sponsored by nine Members of Congress who earlier co-sponsored a resolution to impeach Vice-President Cheney on the grounds that (among other crimes) he "openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran absent any real threat to the United States":
True
False

Answers:
1) False. But President Bush claimed it was true. When reporters challenged Bush Administration on this, they insisted President Bush had done nothing wrong.

2) False, as far as we know; and the claim is extremely implausible. Senator McCain claimed it was true three times before he finally corrected himself.

3) True. This fact is not generally acknowledged in the U.S. It's not obvious why this should be so. Presumably, leaders of an "Islamic theocratic regime" would not make such statements lightly.

4) They offered comprehensive negotiations on all issues in dispute. But you might well have missed that under-reported fact, unless you happened to be reading the Boston Globe, which published an interview with Iran's UN Ambassador on May 31.

5) Pickering's article appeared on March 20, and you can find it here.

6) 81%. The poll is here.

7) 20%. Again, the poll is here.

8) No. The claim that President Ahmedinejad threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" was a media canard that has been thoroughly discredited by Middle East scholar Juan Cole, among others. One doesn't see this claim in mainstream media in the U.S. nearly as much as one used to, but it still pops up occasionally, usually in lower-tier media.

9) Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is top banana.

10) True. On the US role in the coup, see, among others, the book by Stephen Kinzer; a short video tells the story here. The text of Ackerman's resolution can be found here. You can ask your Representative to oppose it here.

11) True. The nine impeachment poseurs, at least as far as Iran is concerned, are: Robert Wexler, [FL-19]; Jan Schakowsky, [IL-9]; Bob Filner, [CA-51]; Danny Davis, [IL-7]; Robert Brady [PA-1]; Wm. Lacy Clay, [MO-1], Steve Cohen, [TN-9]; Hank Johnson, [GA-4]; Edolphus Towns, [NY-10]. The Cheney impeachment co-sponsors are here and the Iran gas embargo co-sponsors are here.