Ledeen makes incredible factual assertion; questioned on it, he cuts off correspondence

I had carried on an occasional e-mail correspondence with Michael Ledeen starting in December 2001, when I wrote to him disagreeing with his promotion of global democratic revolution. While our views were miles apart on that central issue, I found his Terror Masters thesis worthwhile and felt that at least he was trying to get the administration to see a larger, regional strategic picture rather than just Iraq, and on numerous occasions I quoted him approvingly at VFR and also defended him from war critics posting at this site. In 2003, I defended him at length from Samuel Francis’s attack on him, which I described as blood libel.

However, my continuous criticisms of democratism, both in my articles and in e-mails to him, took their toll, and the correspondence wound down. Then this past January Ledeen wrote something that struck me as so amazing I had to ask him about it.

LA to Micheal Ledeen
January 11, 2006

Hello, Michael.

You write something at NR that comes as a complete shock to me:

… during the Iran-Iraq war, millions (I say millions) of Iraqi Shiites took the Iranian side, and went to Iran, where they remained for the better part of twenty years. During that time a large number of them were recruited by Iranian intelligence, folded into the terror network of the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence ministry, and placed under the command of the Badr Brigade of the SCIRI (“Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) or other radical Shiite groups.

When we liberated Iraq, many of them returned. What are they? Iraqis or Iranians? It’s a surprisingly tough question. If, as is often the case, they show up as suicide terrorists or sharpshooters or IED manufacturers or spooks working for “insurgent” or “terrorist” groups …

This is a first. All along we’ve been told that it’s Al Qaeda, Sunni types who do suicide bombing . I’ve never heard of Shi’ites doing this. Especially as all the suicide bombing in Iraq has been against mainly Shi’ite Iraqis. So what’s going on? Are Iranian trained Iraqi Shi’ites blowing up Shi’ite Iraqis? Please explain.

In reply, Mr. Ledeen talked about Iranians recruiting Sunnis, he mentioned that Zarqawi operates from Iran, and that bin Laden lived in Iran. He told me I shouldn’t get gulled by the Sunni-Shi’ite thing.

I wrote back to him:


But you haven’t addressed my question. What about the Iraqi Shi’ites trained in Iran who, as you say in your article, have re-entered Iraq as suicide terrorists? Is it your understanding that Iraqi Shi’ites are carrying out suicide attacks now in Iraq, including against Iraqi Shi’ites?


I didn’t hear from him for a day, so I wrote again:


Still hoping to get some clarification on the below. If Iraqi Shi’ites are now committing suicide bombings against other Iraqi Shi’ites, that is extraordinary news, yet your failure to respond to me on that point leaves me in doubt as to whether this is actually the case and whether this is what you really meant to say.


He wrote back saying “yup.” And then went on to tell me that the distinction between Iraqis and Iranians were problematic. He said that what I was asking about was not extraordinary but had been going on ever since the overthrow of Hussein

I wrote back:

I asked you,

Is it your understanding that Iraqi Shi’ites are carrying out suicide attacks now in Iraq, including against Iraqi Shi’ites?

To which you replied,


Without any further explanation, you then go on to say that the issue is not Sunni/Shi’ite, but Iraqi/Iranian. I understand that that was the topic of your article. But it was not what I was asking you about. I was asking you whether Shi’ites trained in Iran (whether they are native Iraqis OR native Iranians) are committing suicide bombings against Shi’ites in Iraq, which no one has ever said before to my knowledge, and now you are treating this amazing revelation as though it were a well known thing that’s been going on for years.

So please explain this to me. There are many suicide attacks that have been done in Iraq. Which one of these have been done by Shi’ites trained in Iran?

For example, there was the recent massive suicide attack on Shi’ite pilgrims at Karbala. Was this mass slaughter of Shi’ites done by Shi’ites?

There have been numerous suicide attacks on ordinary Iraqis, many of them Shi’ites, in neighborhoods or outside police stations where men were applying to be policemen. Were those attacks on mostly Shi’ite victims done by Shi’ites?

Ledeen then returned yet once again to the question of whether the terrorists were Iranians or Iraqis, which of course was not my question, and he told me it was not an easy question to answer. He referred to thousands of Iranians signing up to commit acts of suicide terrorism against Americans and other infidels around the world, and said that it would be no surprise if some of them attacked people in Iraq, especially as Iranians Shi’ites do not like the Iraqi version of Shi’ism. He mentioned attempts by these Iranian-based Shi’ites to assassinate Sistani. He asked me why I considered the suggestion that Iranian Shi’ites commit acts of suicide terrorism against Iraqi Shi’ites to be “extraordinary.” He said he just didn’t get it.

I wrote back:

Now, if I understand what you’re saying, you seem to be saying that because some Iran-based Shi’ites sought to assassinate rival Shi’ite leaders such as Sistani, that therefore they are also mass-slaughtering regular Iraqi Shi’ites. Is this a fair characterization of what you are saying?

Furthermore, you are also insisting that this terrorist slaughter of Iraqi Shi’ites by Iran-based Shi’ites is a long-existing and well-known phenomenon, and so you “don’t get it” why I should feel that it is extraordinary.

But if it is true that Iran-based Shi’ites (whether they are native Iranians or native Iraqis) are mass-murdering Iraqi Shi’ites, can you send me a single news story reporting such an incident? Can you point to a single statement by Iranian based Shi’ites taking responsibility for such mass bombings, much as Al Qaeda takes responsibility for its mass murders?

I will grant that Iran-based Shi’ites have killed or tried to kill individual rival Shi’ite leaders in Iraq and have deployed explosive devices against US troops in Iraq. But it is incredible that they would mass-kill by suicide bombing their fellow Shi’ites in Iraq. In the absence of any proof that such mass slaughters of Iraqi Shi’ites have been committed by Iran-based Shi’ites, I will assume that it is not true.

At that point Mr. Ledeen said that I was saying he was a liar, and he asked me not to ask him again.

I wrote back:

I said that in the absence of evidence I must assume that this incredible-seeming story is not true. To conclude that someone must be mistaken is not the same as assuming that he is lying. Are you not aware of the difference? How could people discuss any issue together, if any statement that the other person is wrong is taken as an accusation that he is lying?

I’ve been assiduously attempting to draw out your thoughts and your evidence on this story, which has not been easy, because you have consistently failed to address my questions, and keep changing the subject away from my question about whether Shi’ites are mass-murdering Shi’ites, to other questions, such as whether Iranians are attacking Iraqis or whether Iranians have attempted to assassinate Sistani.

Not only have you failed to address my questions, but you complain that I’m being unfriendly and ungenerous by asking you these questions, then you say that I’m calling you a liar because I keep asking you these questions, and finally, you cut off the discussion.

I didn’t hear back from him. He never sent me a news story establishing that Shi’ites based in Iran had ever carried out suicide bombing of Iraqi Shi’ites, which of course was my one and only question from the start. My theory is that Ledeen, in pursuing his usual single-minded goal of making Iran the main focus of the war on terror, made claims about Iranian-based suicide bombers attacking Iraqi Shi’ites that, when he was challenged, he couldn’t back up with facts. Instead of admitting that he had said something incorrect, he answered with repeated evasions. When I persisted in trying to get a straight answer from him, he ended our correspondence.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 11, 2006 02:02 PM | Send

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