Do Iranians Really Hate America?
“Marg bar Amrika! Marg bar Amrika!” Death to America! has been the rallying cry of Iran’s Islamic Revolution since its earliest days. Images of Persian crowds chanting the regime’s favorite slogan have made a permanent impression on American minds.
Though this may be puzzling to some, it’s not hard to see why they might hate us. Our government orchestrated a succesful coup in Iran to control the nation’s oil in 1953, the very act which led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979. A few years later we were aiding Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war. Even today there are still thousands suffering from chronic illness resulting from the use of chemical and biological weapons against Iran, adding to the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives. But ironically, today’s Iranian young people have either forgotten about this or chosen to disregard it. For most, hatred of their own government is all-consuming, and anyone who hates the current regime as much as they do must be an ally. And so yet another paradox presents itself in this land of bountiful contradictions: Iranian young people actually love the United States of America.
This strange phenomenon has not gone without international notice, and the Islamic regime is struggling to know what to do about it. Time magazine reports in an article entitled, “How the Great Satan Became Just Great,”
“While elsewhere in the Middle East consumers are boycotting American goods to protest U.S. foreign policy, Iranians can’t get enough of them. Coca-Cola’s exports to Iran have increased nearly threefold this year. Toy stores are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for Barbie dolls.”
The government’s response to this was typical: they issued a doll series of their own—Sara and Dara, clad in good Muslim garb. But the public would have nothing to do with the proselyte Barbies.
The government has warned that American dolls and toys, which are being illegally smuggled into the country in mass quantities, are doing “irreparable damage” to Iranian children. Such dire warnings seem to only fan the flame. If the government says its bad, it must be good. The Mullahs have become the best marketing campaign for American products and culture there has ever been. And what the public can’t smuggle in, they manufacture. Ever entrepreneurial, Persians have begun tapping into their Western obsession by counterfeiting everything American—from franchise restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and KFC), to clothing lines (Victoria’s Secret), to food products (Baskin Robin’s Peanut-butter Chocolate Ice-Cream). The moment you slap an American brand label on something, it becomes an overnight sensation.
Although American readers may chuckle over this demand for our iconic brands, it is actually rather strange when you think about it. Anti-Americanism is on the rise all over the Middle East and the Muslim world with one exception. If you had to guess the exception, Iran would probably be the last country to come to mind. But there it is, an island of goodwill towards the Great Satan in a vast sea of anger and frustration. What we choose to do with it could be very significant, though we should keep in mind that good-will in the Middle East is a very tenuous affair. If our government decides to disable nuclear facilities in the country, Iran experts predict this goodwill could vanish overnight. One young Iranian put it this way to an American journalist, “As much as I hate this regime, I love my country more. If America were to attack Iran, I would be the first to lay down my life. Ask anyone and they will tell you the same.” Another reporter was told, “If even one U.S. soldier comes to Iran all of this [love of America] will end.” We would do well to remind ourselves that we are dealing with a worldview far different from our own. What seem like paradoxes and contradictions to us make perfect sense to them.
The Mullahs are praying for a miracle, and perhaps the West will send them one in the form of bunker busters, stamped “Made in America.” It would be the ultimate irony. Indeed the verdict is still out on which way the pendulum will swing. But at the end of the day, our most powerful weapons seem to be cultural and material. Hollywood, MTV, and Victoria’s Secret are proving much more potent satellite-guided missiles than anything the Navy or the Marines possess. So choose your poison. It’s no wonder the Mullahs think we’re in league with the Devil.