May 04, 2006

Death to Iran, the 2nd: Boxer did it too!

I'm happy because my post yesterday got at least one friend of mine to call Sen. Cantwell's office and express their disapproval over the egregiously named Iran Freedom Support Act, or as I've come to think of it, the 'Death to Iran' bill. But there the happy stops. I'm told that one of the first things out of the mouth of the Cantwell staffer, ready and waiting with a response after what it's safe to assume were earlier calls, was the defense that Sen. Boxer co-sponsored the bill, too. And dang if I haven't used that excuse with a straight face since I was a teen.

Tell me, Sen. Cantwell, if Sen. Boxer jumped off a bridge would you do it too?

Oh wait, that's right, you wouldn't. Because Sen. Boxer voted for the Alito filibuster, and you didn't. Sen. Boxer voted against the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, and you didn't. Sen. Boxer voted against the Iraq war, like your colleague and my other Senator, Patty Murray. You didn't. Even though it would have been a lot less painful or dangerous than a long fall with a sudden stop.

Does any of that make me any less ticked that Sen. Boxer is, in my opinion, on the wrong side in this? No. But she doesn't represent me in the Senate. You do.

Juan Cole outlined the wrongness and hysteria of the Death to Iran crowd the other day, noting that Ahmedinejad, this new Hitler, isn't even in command of the armed forces. He doesn't have the power to declare war and he has never even called for military action to be taken against Israel, as Cole details, merely quoted a speech of Khomeini's suggesting that the Israeli government wouldn't last forever, like every other government on the planet. Ahmedinejad's opponent in the last election, Rafsanjani, is head of the Expediency Council (see diagram). That's a group that mediates between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, holding the power to overrule the decision of any elected body or official, though elected officials there do shape policy. But let me say that again:

President Ahmedinejad's opponent in the last election holds a position from which he could overrule any decision Ahmedinejad makes.

Being president in Iran isn't like being president in America, definitely unlike the imperial Bush presidency. The Death to Iran lobby are trying to get this country quaking in their boots over a man who couldn't unilaterally order a military parade. And every single motion by public figures in the U.S., well-meaning or not, that lends even the tiniest shred of credence to these warmongers demonstrates that a) they're not paying attention and b) learned very little from the experiences of the last four years. This does not endear people to me. I don't care if they're in the Progressive Caucus, card-carrying members of the ACLU, Greenpeace sustainers, members of the Human Rights Coalition or human shields for cute, little baby seals. Because this is a serious matter and a lot of people could die over it.

As Oui pointed out in a MLW diary about the latest outbreak of new Hitlers, 48% of the American public would currently support strikes against Iran. Can there be any doubt that it's because our politicians and media have been doing their best to scare the hell out of them? Could there either be any doubt that if the rhetoric ramps up without a counterbalance, there aren't a lot of percentage points between this and majority public approval?

We are seeing now the early stages of another bum's rush to war. This country can ill-afford it and has no moral or credible excuse for such. Whether the efforts succeed or not, I consider it the duty of everyone who doesn't want another war to protest as loudly and shrilly as possible everytime they hear the propaganda machine heat up. When you don't have power, when you are in the opposition, the only moral statement you may be able to make is to oppose bad decisions and evil deeds, no matter the beauty of the words in which they are wrapped.

Because as sure as I'm sitting here typing this, this administration doesn't give a hoot about the freedom of the Iranian people. They don't care if Iran were to sever all their questionable ties tomorrow, or swear to give up nuclear enrichment forever. I can even prove it.

In 2003, the Bush administration, pushed by Dick Cheney rejected an Iranian offer to negotiate regarding their nuclear program, long before this current, manufactured crisis. Iran offered to sever ties with the Palestinian groups that have been such a point of contention. Those were their starting offers, approved at all levels of government, in return for discussions about easing trade restrictions.

If what our government really wanted was for Iran to address its security concerns, the chance to explore that peacefully was volunteered to them.

Going back to 2002, a man named Hashem Aghajari gave a speech suggesting that perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider the idea of a religious state. An Iranian court sentenced him to death. Two members of parliament resigned in protest. Students protested. And then they protested some more. Pretty soon, the streets were flooded with peacefully protesting Iranians of every description. Observers were talking about a possible revolt against the government, which was so nervous that they started hemming and hawing about Aghajari's sentence. And then, within a space of days in December of 2002, the sustained and massive protests dried up and vanished.

But it wasn't magic, just as the protests themselves weren't the result of thousands of people suddenly waking up one morning and saying, 'hey, the weather is lovely, looks like a fine day to take to the streets.' As I wrote in 2003:

...[A]nyone who attended the recent peace marches is aware that a lot of organizing is involved in getting even one protest off the ground, letting people know when, where, what, etc. How were they pulling it off? Courtesy of a US sponsored radio station called Radio Freedom, which had a live DJ who suspended regular programming for the occasion. Students ard organizers would call in on their cellphones from the demonstrations, have live reporting and discussion, and feeling so generally bold that people were giving their full names over the radio.

But three weeks into the protests, Radio Freedom was shut down. Two weeks later, it was replaced with 24/7 American pop music and a few minutes of canned news every hour. The White House hailed it as a triumph of information access for the Iranian people. The demonstrations continued gamely for a while, but as the numbers thinned out, the hardline Basij marchers were finally able to intimidate everyone into staying away. ...

If this administration cared at all about the self-determination of the Iranian people, they would have let Radio Freedom stand, because all those people needed at the time was a means to freely communicate with each other during a time of national unity. Such a simple thing, already in place, already paid for. So bloody easy to just let things develop their own way. Bush gave them Britney Spears, silenced their own calls for justice and has continued to turn a deaf ear to their internal human rights community

Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need, warning that mere announcement of the U.S. program endangers human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents.

In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days.

The workshops, conducted by groups based in the United States, were held last April, but Iranian investigators did not summon the participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million "to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year."

"We are under pressure here both from hard-liners in the judiciary and that stupid George Bush," human rights activist Emad Baghi said as he waited anxiously for his wife and daughter to emerge from interrogation last week. "When he says he wants to promote democracy in Iran, he gives money to these outside groups and we're in here suffering."

... "It seems to me the United States is not studying the history of Iran very carefully," Pourostad said. "Whenever they came and supported an idea publicly, the public has done the opposite." ...

If members of the Congress of this country could fail to be aware of these facts, of even this recent history in our relations with Iran, they have no business voting yes to any legislation regarding that country. And they certainly have no business voting yes at a time when the drums are starting up again and Bush is aching to get people's attention away from his tanking popularity, his legislative failures and the potential crimes of members of his administration. And anyone who had knowingly supported this measure in spite of being well aware of all these things, though I'm not a mind reader to divine such, would be as guilty of reckless warmongering as the murder-minded lunatics who drafted it.

And yes, I spoke intemperately the other day. But if you can't get angry over watching good people sign up to be accomplices in the possible death of thousands, what can you get angry about?

BTW - Cantwell's opponent, the McGavick idiot, thinks that the solution to all our problems with Iran is to deny them soccer. If the threat posed was serious, that response would lack ... how can I put this delicately ... mettle. Because it isn't, it serves the double function of exposing him as another willing participant in the propaganda machine and also, how Dear Deity did this man maintain so many years of gainful employment, dumb as a bag of hammers. I think we can all tell who was the dead wood in his office.

Update: Corrected the time stamp.

Posted by natasha at May 4, 2006 10:15 PM | Iran | Technorati links |

As you know I'm a Cantwell supporter, at least a supporter of the seat Cantwell occupies, and this news when I first read it a couple of weeks ago at Washblog had me firing off a nastygram to the Senator about it.

It is indeed an upsetting piece of legislation and one she should not support without modification, particularly striking the clauses giving Bush the final say as to whether Iran would be in compliance or not.

Posted by: Daniel K at May 4, 2006 09:15 PM

Just linked this article and the first one on this topic to comments on Washblog on DWE's article on the Cantwell Editorial.

Natasha has hit the nail ib rgw gws. Ms. Cantwell dances dangerously close to a point where we might out of necessity start to look for an alternative or simply refuse to give her the vote - since it transfers directly to Republican supported causes.

Posted by: Arthur at May 4, 2006 09:58 PM

The broad support Democrats gave the Iran "Freedom" Support Act in the House, and the Senators who have jumped to co-sponsor it cause me to question being active in electoral politics as an antidote to the War Party. While I think most Washington State Democrats are more amenable to my viewpoints, in the matter of foreign policy and war, the War Party prevails. In that caucus, Cantwell and Ted Stevens, Boxer and Mike DeWine are interchangable from the standpoint of their willingness to spend trillions and kill millions in ever more evil confrontations.

If we continue to mortgage future generations to embark on these misadventures, when will items on the progressive agenda be attended to?

Will a Democratic Congress and President actually bring back a balance?

Posted by: Rupert Aegis at May 4, 2006 11:23 PM

natasha -- You invoke the authority of Prof. Juan Cole. He comments prolifically on related subjects.

The legislation in question here was introduced over a year ago.

To the best of your knowledge, Prof. Cole has never raised any objection to S. 333 or H.R. 282 ... has he?

Posted by: RonK, Seattle at May 5, 2006 09:19 PM

I invoke Juan Cole only inasmuch as he rightly points out the depths to which the active propagandists in favor of going to war with Iran will go.

What I'm saying about this bill is that it provides them cover, aiding and abetting an intended crime. When the United States supported the Contras, the government said it was about democracy, but the truth was the opposite. You've suggested elsewhere that I have more of a problem with Cantwell than with this bill, but I think you have more of a problem with my criticism of her than any point I'm trying to make here.

I know you haven't been asleep through the descriptions of our actions in Iraq as a 'democratizing' mission. It is obvious that Bush cares no more for genuine democracy in Iran than in Iraq, and just as obvious that those pushing this war could give a damn. This bill provides a foundation, like the U.N. resolutions against Saddam that didn't really say what Bush kept insisting they said, for war apologists to stand on later proclaiming that 'even the Democrats' agreed Iran needed a change.

It is not fitting to be supporting such legislation against a country rhetorically targeted by this administration in much the way Iraq was before the bombs started falling. I don't care what the excuses are, I don't care who's making them. Particularly, I don't need Juan Cole's knowledge of farsi and Mideast politics to interpret the actions of my own hell-bent-for-murder government or its enablers, both the intentional and the apathetic.

Posted by: natasha at May 6, 2006 02:00 AM