A Modest Proposal Concerning the Rights of the Inhabitants of Persia

by Peter Jenkins

In 1729, two years after the publication of Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, wrote a scathing satire on the English elite’s indifference to the plight of Ireland’s rural poor.

The “modest proposal” that he put forward was that each year 120,000 Irish infants should be slaughtered upon reaching their first birthday and offered as a delicacy for the nourishment of Ireland’s Anglo-Irish land-owners and administrators as well as for export to England.

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout,” Swift wrote.

If Swift were alive today, what, I wonder, would he make of the indifference of US Congressmen and women to the hardship that Iran’s poorer classes are experiencing as a result of US-inspired commercial and financial sanctions, and the loss of income those sanctions have inflicted on commercial and financial enterprises in countries that have been trading partners of Iran but also think of themselves as allies of the US?

Perhaps Swift would be tempted to offer the good members of Congress an updated modest proposal, along the following lines.

I am deeply impressed by the honest desire of the noble members of the Congress of the United States of America to secure respect for the rights of the benighted inhabitants of Persia, as demonstrated in a Bill (H.R. 850) “to impose additional human rights and economic and financial sanctions with respect to Iran, and for other purposes”.

I humbly suggest to their Honours that the sanctions proposed in this Bill are too mild to admit the probability that they will achieve improvement in the conduct of the rulers of Persia which is thereby sought.

I therefore venture to propose that the measures contemplated in this Bill be complemented in the following ways.

Congress shall require the President of the United States of America to take advantage of the manifest truth that Persia constitutes a threat to the peace and safety of the entire globe and to secure the passage of a United Nations resolution which will require members of that institution to surrender to the United States jurisdiction over any offspring of Persian parents below the age of 12 years who are resident in their land.

These children shall be despatched to the United States where they will be interned at the expense of those members of the North Atlantic Alliance which have failed to make an adequate contribution to the wars fought by the United States to bring freedom and democracy to the inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Afghanistan.

The internment of these children will serve to induce the inhabitants of Persia, whose rights are so generously cherished by the honourable Congressmen, to expel their rulers and introduce a government that is ready to respect the wishes of Congress in all regards.

Should any member of the United Nations refuse to comply with the aforesaid resolution, the President is to be required to execute the confiscation of such monies as that state may have deposited in the vaults of American banks, by way of retribution. Confiscated monies shall be transferred to Congress to defray the expense of enacting this measure and to ensure that members of Congress have the wherewithal to achieve re-election.

The offspring of Persian parents resident in the United States shall be exempt from this measure except insofar as one of the Persian parents, or both, is a vendor of used motor conveyances. Experience has shown that vendors of used motor conveyances who are of Persian origin constitute a mortal threat to the survival of a great nation. Their good conduct must be obtained by holding their children as guarantors.

I submit that this measure will bring upon the noble representatives of the American people renown more lasting than bronze.

Peter Jenkins

Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06) was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna). Since 2006 he has represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, The Ambassador Partnership llp, with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute resolution and solutions to cross-border problems. He was an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from 2010 to 2012. He writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues.