Iraqi fighter jets, called migs and supplied by the USSR, bomb the Iranian capital of Tehran. Upon hearing the news on the radio while at his office, Marjane’s father yells, “No! The bastards!” Following her father’s lead, Marjane screams even louder, “Those assholes!” On the drive home, Marjane asks her father if he will fight in the war. “We have to teach those Iraqis a lesson,” she says. Marjane’s father only responds with confusion and wonders why he should fight. Marjane explains, “the Iraqis have always been our enemies” but her father only brushes this off, joking, “and worse, they drive like maniacs.” He places the blame not on the Iraqis but on their own government. When they come home, Marjane’s mother has been in the shower, oblivious to the bombing. “War always takes you by surprise,” Marjane explicates.
Marjane becomes increasingly nationalistic. Still young and driven by love of her country (despite who leads it), she sees the enemy as pure evil, though her father sees them as people, too, making fun of their driving. Her father employs the same kind of ironic laughter, a defense mechanism in the face of much stress, that he did when he saw the two corpses being led out of the hospital, but once again Marjane cannot fully comprehend this reaction. Marjane’s father also pins the blame for the war on what he perceives is the source, the Islamic Republic. He recognizes that the nationalistic pride that Marjane (and even he himself) feels in the war against Iraq is exactly what the regime wants them to feel, because by uniting all of Iran against Iraq the regime protects itself from the Iranian’s who disagree with it. Still, normal life must continue somehow, as exemplified by the fact that Marjane’s mother did not even know the bombings had happened.
Marjane proclaims that Iran must bomb the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, though her father remarks that without the generals and fighter pilots, who were jailed after an earlier failed coup d’état, the country cannot do anything. Marjane complains that her father is a “defeatist” and “no patriot.” Still, when the family hears the Iranian National Anthem, which has been outlawed for a year, they are “overwhelmed” with emotion. When they hear on the radio that 140 Iranian bombers, F-14s, bombed Baghdad today, Marjane and her father celebrate, and she concludes, “he loved his country as much as I did.”
In line with his opinion that it is really Iran itself that caused the war with Iraq, he also blames the country’s inability to fight back on the new government. It turns out, however, that just as the political prisoners were released when it was convenient, so, too, were the generals and fighter pilots. Just as Marjane was upset her father was no hero, she is also upset about his supposed lack of nationalistic fervor. Still, it turns out that he can be both supportive and critical of his country. That Marjane can understand this seeming contradiction is a mark of her continued growing up.
Still, the news is bad at the end of the military mission, as half of the pilots did not return alive to Iran. Marjane worries the father of her friend, Paradisse, died, since he was one of the pilots freed from jail in order to attack Baghdad. At school Marjane intuits by Paradisse’s face that her father died. When the teacher asks the students to write a report about the war, Paradisse writes about how she will protect her mother and her little brother after her father’s death. Marjane tries to console her during recess, telling her that her father is a hero, but Paradisse dismisses Marjane outright, saying, “I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero.”
As has been her tendency throughout the book so far, Marjane romanticizes most of her strong feelings, and so she sees the death of her friends father in combat in romantic, heroic terms rather than in human terms. She doesn’t get that, to his daughter, the man’s death is still death, no matter how he died. With the death of her friends father, Marjane must start to confront these human costs.