Thirst for freedom takes root in dust
By Janet Albrechtsen, an Australian commentator
As adults wonder aloud and in print about the finer details of what is happening in Iran, whether opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi is truly a moderate given his history as a member of the political establishment; whether a leadership change would change Iran’s poisonous relations with the West; whether US President Barack Obama struck the correct cautionary note in responding to a rigged election and violent militias operating under the nose of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without stoking stories of a US-led coup, Australian children should hear - and understand - the simpler, more basic yearnings of Iranians for democracy.
I want our children to see how a green democracy takes roots, not just through a technology that is their own - Facebook and Twitter - but the old-fashioned way, in the hearts and minds of Iranians from all walks of life, finally ready to march in the streets. I want them to see the human dignity in people who have the courage to confront a leader who described them as “dirt and dust”, a leader who condones the killing and imprisonment of people whose only crime it is to want to control their own destiny.
Newspapers here in Europe devote page after page to the hunger for democracy among millions of Iranians. That hunger ought to be mandatory reading for all in the West, young and old. Especially the young, those who may be most inclined to take democracy for granted. But also for the old - or older, those who are daily following the battles normal in an established, functioning democracy - arguing over debts and deficits, over ute-gate and political lobbying. Compared to our political debates, there is nothing grander than listening to the first murmurs of democracy from those who have been silenced and manipulated, repressed and ignored by their leaders.
No one can explain why this is happening now. As Michael McFaul from the US National Security Council said: “In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable. Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible.” For years we were told that a slim hope of a reformed Iran lay among the pro-Western educated Iranian middle classes. But we were also told they were outnumbered by the poorer rural voters who supported Ahmadinejad’s anti-West tirades.
Then, after days of demonstrations, tens of thousands of protesters gathered last Thursday in 35C heat, filling Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Square in the poorer south-central part of Tehran, voicing passions that cross class. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper carried some of those voices.
Frustrated by the ruling party’s more recent blockade of mobile phone and internet reception, Morteza Amani, a 25-year-old, said: “They can block SMS and emails, but how can they block hearts? Nearly a million (people) have gathered here in Imam Khomeini Square, although they didn’t have any source of information except for people distributing the news on the streets to each other ... One of the good consequences of these protests is that the world now sees the true Iran and how strong they are to injustice.”
And 29-year-old secretary Somayeh Bahari, who told The Guardian that “For years this regime wanted to hide the real Iran from the world. Today the world is witnessing the real Iran.”
And 60-year-old retiree Hashem Riazi, who dispelled the myth that opposition is only among the educated while Ahmadinejad has the support of the rural poor. “You see the real Iran today in this square; you see rich, poor, young, old, tight hijab, bad hijab, all kind of people. They are not just a specific class of people in our society, they are from all classes.”
As Eric Hoogland, editor of the journal Middle East Critique, wrote: “Is it possible that rural Iran, where less than 35percent of the country’s population lives, provided Ahmadinejad the 63percent of the vote he claims to have won?” The answer is no as he detailed how villagers from towns such as Bagh-e Iman in the Zagros Mountains, most of them under the age of 18, were outraged at the rigged election.
The young wear T-shirts and headbands demanding to know “where is my vote?” They chant slogans such as “we are not dirt and dust, we are Iran’s nation”. Writing from Tehran for the International Herald Tribune, Roger Cohen comes across a four-year-old boy publicly mocking the Iranian President. In the streets where people gather to protest, a man asks the reporter “Where are you from?” When Cohen tells him he is from the US the man says, “Please give our regards to freedom.”
These are the voices I want school students in the West to hear if only to remind them that democracy is a universal aspiration. Could it be that history will now record George W. Bush more kindly than his critics would prefer? What is happening in Iran cannot be separated from what has happened in Iraq. This year, during provincial elections in Iraq, Iraqis came to polling booths in their millions to vote, by an overwhelming margin, for national, secularist parties. Iraqi security forces - not coalition troops - ensured Iraqis could vote safely and securely. There were no suicide bombers endangering polling stations. People turned up with their children to cast their vote.
As Winston Churchill said, “at the bottom of all the high-sounding tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly palliate the overwhelming importance of that point.” Lambasted for speaking about exporting “Western values” to the Muslim world, it turns out the former US president was right to remind us that people, whatever their religion, class or creed, will ultimately seek out and embrace democracy. That yearning, now unfolding in Iran, will one day be written up as one of the finer lessons of history.
Obama and the Ayatollahs
As between freedom and dictatorship, in principle Obama is fine with dictatorship — we are seeing less and less freedom in our own country, and I believe Obama (who is dirigiste by nature) values stability over the rambunctiousness of a free society. He has certain values, and while he'd be delighted to have a free society arrive at them, he'd rather see them imposed if the alternative was a free society likely to shun them.
As for "anti-American," I think Obama's sense of the term is different from yours and mine. Obama agrees with a lot of the anti-Americanism that we hear from both apologists for radical Islam and the Left (many of whom are the same people). While the mullahs may be "anti-American" as we understand that term, Obama doesn't think they would be resolutely anti the America that he intends to shape. I think he sincerely believes he could deal with the mullahs and make them less anti-American than they now are, once they realize how he is reversing a lot of what offends them (and him) about America.
I'm not suggesting that Obama loves the mullahs or that he wants to turn America into Iran. I am not saying Obama wants the mullahs to abuse their own people — I'm sure he'd prefer this all to end without (further) bloodshed. I am merely saying that (a) the president does not think the mullahs are evil, (b) he thinks they have a point, (c) he thinks he can forge a rapprochement and deal effectively with them (though he is under no illusions about stopping their nuclear ambitions), (d) he is not a big believer in freedom, and (e) he thinks the world would be more stable and easier for him to navigate if the mullahs win.
First, if you look at the sweeping changes that have occurred in the past five months, I think what I argued before the election about the significance of Obama's Leftist background and radical connections was on the mark. Second, I am saying what I am saying because I respect the president. As I said in the last post, I don't think he is weak at all. To the contrary, I think he has strategic goals that he pursues in highly disciplined, tactical pragmatism. He is a force to be reckoned with, and I don't think you reckon with him by hopefully assuming that, on some level, he shares our ideas about what's best for the country and the world. I credit him for wanting what's best — but only as he sees it.
Iran: Military charges family of dead son “bullet fee”: “The family of Kaveh Alipour, a 19-year-old Iranian killed amidst protests in Tehran, was allegedly charged a ‘bullet fee’ by Iranian security forces, according to a report Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal. ‘Upon learning of his son’s death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a ‘bullet fee’ (a fee for the bullet used by security forces) before taking the body back,’ relatives purportedly told the Journal. Details of Alipour’s death remain unclear — he was apparently not part of the protests and may have been killed in crossfire.”
Ten days that shook Tehran: “Given its monopoly of guns, bet on the Iranian regime. But, in the long run, the ayatollahs have to see the handwriting on the wall. Let us assume what they insist upon — that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the June 12 election; that, even if fraud occurred, it did not decide the outcome. As Ayatollah Khamenei said to loud laughter in his Friday sermon declaring the election valid, ‘Perhaps 100,000, or 500,000, but how can anyone tamper with 11 million votes?’ Still, the ayatollah and Ahmadinejad must hear the roar of the rapids ahead. Millions of Iranians, perhaps a majority of the professional class and educated young, who shouted, ‘Death to the Dictatorship,’ oppose or detest them. How can the regime maintain its present domestic course or foreign policy with its people so visibly divided? Where do the ayatollah and Ahmadinejad go from here?”
A dangerous precedent: "Here's a political thought experiment: Imagine that terrorists stage an attack on U.S. soil in the next four years. In the recriminations afterward, Administration officials are sued by families of the victims for having advised in legal memos that Guantanamo be closed and that interrogations of al Qaeda detainees be limited. Should those officials be personally liable for the advice they gave President Obama? We'd say no, but that's exactly the kind of lawsuit that the political left, including State Department nominee Harold Koh, has encouraged against Bush Administration officials. This month a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that a civil suit filed by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla can proceed against former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo for violating the terrorist's rights. Mr. Yoo is one of those who wrote memos laying out the legal parameters for aggressive interrogation of al Qaeda captives. If Mr. Yoo can be sued, why couldn't Obama officials also be held liable for their advice if there's an attack on their watch?"
AZ: County feud costs taxpayers $1.1 million : "Disputes among Maricopa County officials over the past 11 months have cost taxpayers $1.1 million in fees, according to an analysis released Monday by the Office of Management and Budget. The fees include billings to date for six legal actions, cases in which Sheriff Joe Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, County Treasurer Charles Hoskins and the Board of Supervisors have fought each other in court. The money includes costs associated with a grand-jury proceeding focused on the $340 million court-tower project. Like all government in the current economy, the county’s budget is tight. On Monday, the supervisors adopted a $2.1 billion budget for fiscal 2010, reflecting a $122 million reduction from 2009. Administrators expect that 200 employees will lose their jobs during the early part of the fiscal year. According to County Manager David Smith, that $1.1 million in legal fees could fund 20 low-level county jobs. Officials on all sides agree that the money spent fighting each other is a waste, but no one sees a way to stop it.”
US, Kyrgyzstan reach deal on air base use: “The former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan tentatively approved a deal on Tuesday that should allow the U.S. to continue shipping military hardware and troops crucial to operations in Afghanistan through an air base in the Central Asian state. U.S. forces had in February been ordered out of the Manas air base by a presidential decree that stunned Washington and drew suspicion that Kyrgyzstan was acting under the influence of Russia, which staunchly opposes Western military presence near its borders. Russia also has a base in Kyrgyzstan.”
FL: Tea party organizers plan Independence Day protests: “More than two months after the nationwide tax day protests, anti-tax tea party groups are planning to again take to the streets. They will again be protesting, but this time they also intend to mark the nation’s birth. Plans are being crafted between the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County tea party groups, as well as others in Florida and across the nation, to hold protests on July 2 outside the offices of congressional members who support President Barack Obama’s health care plans.”
Census, ACORN and other fertilizer: “Greetings fellow prisoners! Live from inside the Blue Curtain! It’s almost time for the 2010 Census. Says here that if you refuse to answer any questions you can be fined $5000 per refusal and imprisoned! I intend to answer every question like this: How many people in your home? 2 (me and my cat) (this is the only question they’re supposed to ask) How much money do you make? All of it, but my printer is broken right now. … You get the idea. There is absolutely nothing in the census law that says they have to like the answers you give.”
Bid to expand knife ban doesn't cut it with critics: "Hunters, whittlers and Boy Scouts, beware - your knives may soon be on the government's chopping block. The Obama administration wants to expand the 50-year-old ban on importing "switchblades" to include folding knives that can be opened with one hand, stirring fears the government may on the path to outlawing most pocket knives. Critics, including U.S. knife manufacturers and collectors, the National Rifle Association, sportsmen's groups and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, say the rule change proposed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would rewrite U.S. law defining what constitutes a switchblade and potentially make de facto criminals of the estimated 35 million Americans who use folding knives. "Boy Scout knives, Swiss Army knives - the most basic of knives can be opened one-handed if you know what you are doing," said Doug Ritter, executive director of Knife Rights, an advocacy group fighting to defeat the measure. "The outrage is gaining steam," he said."
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)