Now, what did Mr. Bush say that authorized the "sulfur-sensitive" Mr. Chavez to call him "the devil"? Here is what he said about me and my people:
"To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we respect your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom -- and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace."
These words reflect the sentiments shared by many of my compatriats, though they may not express them as clearly as Bush does. The pursuit of liberty, prosperity, and peace has been the theme of my generation's lives. Many have been forced to take this pursuit abroad, where they have a realistic chance, in their lifetimes, of achieving these objectives: Every year 180,000 university-educated Iranians leave Iran in search of a better life in the free world. This is more than half the number entering universities annually.
If a Venezuelan military showman labels these remarks as those of the devil, at the same time aligning himself with those who oppress the millions of people whose lives and aspirations the same remarks describe, he must know that he is not only their and my enemy, but the enemy of humanity at large and freedom itself.
The comment about sulfur was a mistranslation of the word "brimstone." That's an old-fashioned word for sulfur. The only time we use it now is in the context "fire and brimstone," or divine judgement. Chavez was accusing Bush of trying to bring about the Apocalypse. It would be funny if it weren't so damned frightening.