The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama

Why hold back on Iran? Here’s why.

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A good friend of mine asks an important question regarding President Obama’s low-key response to the Iranian election crisis:

…if things go back to normal isn’t all of the bloodshed-the woman bleeding out in the street for all to see in streaming video-all for nothing? [...]

I am trying to be a lover of peace…but it is so hard when people are being killed at the hand of a dictator and watching the most influential man in the free world be silent.

I’m truly glad he asked.  Here is my response:

Barack Obama

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1. Though perhaps not well covered by all news sources, Obama has been far from silent. Here are excerpts from his statement on Saturday:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

See the whole statement at Obama statement on Iran violence.

2. Those who understand Iran well are begging the USA not to go further than that. Even conservative Morning Joe agrees:

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 19:  Former Congressman J...

SCARBOROUGH: All we would do is undermine those people in the street, who the second that they are attached to the United States of America, the country after all that’s been known in Iran as the great Satan since 1979, we will undermine their cause … It’s so shortsighted I find it stunning. […]

What would John McCain and Lindsey Graham specifically have the president say? All of those people that are emailing in and telling me that I’m being liberal? Oh really? I’m being liberal? No I think it’s called restraint. Showing a little bit of restraint. Looking at the battlefield in front of you and not just running up Pickett’s Charge and getting gunned down. If you want to feel good about yourself — and you can only feel good about yourself by screaming about the evils of Iran — fine do that. But our leaders in Washington don’t need to do that because people will be routed in the street the second they are identified with the United States of America.

3. Here’s the core issue: American support is the kiss of death for reform movements in countries like Iran. Ever since the CIA took down the Iranian democracy in 1953, the parties in power now have seen anything American as a threat to national security. If the President says one word that can be construed to suggest that the USA is behind the reformers, the Iranian government will believe it has a national security reason for radical, brutal action against them. It will give them an excuse to a) annihilate the movement (the killing could become far worse than it is now), and b) ignore the reformer’s issues and write them off as foreign-inspired nonsense.

Here’s how the President said it on CBS’s Early Show yesterday:

In an interview with CBS’ Early Show this morning, Obama responded similarly to Scarborough, saying the U.S. has to guard against being used as a scapegoat by the Iranian regime:

“The last thing that I want to do,” the president said, “is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we’ve already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that. There should be no distractions from the fact that the — Iranian people are seeking to — let their voices be heard.”

McCain and Graham are growing increasingly isolated, as Republicans in Congress and conservatives in the media endorse Obama’s measured response.

4. It’s a deadly game. Obama could win himself a lot of public support by really giving it to Iran. But, thank God, he knows the world well enough to resist the temptation to do that.

For some reason, American foreign policy has often been tone-deaf, and almost intentionally so. Those who ridicule Obama for the hugely positive receptions he gets in Europe often say, “Who cares what other nations think?” And that becomes an excuse for deep ignorance of the impact of our actions on other nations. We get starry-eyed about our own goodness, and our foreign policy becomes one of doing what feels good to us.

As a result, we often make situations worse rather than better. In this case, understanding Iran means walking more softly rather than letting it all hang out. Here are some historical reasons why:

5. The Bush Administration accidentally torpedoed the reform movement in 2005. A reformer, either Rafsanjani, was the president before Ahmadinejad. He offered to open up relations with the USA, and to try to work together on Iraq, even writing a letter to Bush to propose it.

Bush, ever un-aware of the impact of his actions, saw Iran as an enemy and snubbed the letter (not even responding, I believe). Iranians knew it, blamed their President for having no clout with the West, and replaced the reform-minded President with hard-liner Ahmadinejad. Bye-bye reform, thank you USA.

6. And that is typical of the history of US policy toward Iran. Heavy-handed moves toward control, starting even prior to 1953 (in a move to force Iran to sell us oil at, perhaps, 10% of its value), are what Iranians expect from us. “Here they go again” is what they guard against. We’ve made that bed, and now we lie in it, having virtually disabled ourselves.

uk66.jpeg

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

We see America as good. They see America as the country that robbed them of democracy and set up a corrupt puppet dictatorship and trained merciless, dreaded secret police who killed thousands, and is likely waiting for a chance to do it again.  Freedom and democracy, to the revolutionaries of just 30 years ago, meant getting rid of US influence.

The only way to improve that is to allow Iranians to make their own way until they can trust the USA again. It will take a long time and a lot of patience, for we’ve spent half a century degrading ourselves there.  But I think we might be surprised what a little worldwide credibility could accomplish.

Thanks for asking!

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How to help Iran – an Iranian view

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My friend Naj, who writes an excellent blog at iranfacts.blogspot.com, is certain that pro-reform statements or actions taken by American politicians can have only negative impact on Iranians. She urges us to ask our politicians to hold back:


How to Help Iran?

Tell your elected representatives, especially the American ones, Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative to “SHUT THE HELL UP!”

Obama’s handled this PERFECTLY well so far!

Make him know that on behalf of your Iranian friend, Naj.

The slightest American meddling will throw all that spilled blood out of the window! Let us accomplish our own deed. Then, all we ask of your government, is to respect whatever government becomes official in Iran, even if it may be Ahmadinejad.

An American friend of mine just sent this to her congresswoman:

Dear Congresswoman Tsongas,

I am writing to you as a concerned American citizen who is an active member of the international community. With the recent electoral upheaval in Iran, there are many people, many friends of mine, who are caught between a rock and a hard place. They do not necessarily still live in Iran, but love for their family, country, and heritage is a huge part of their identity.

The main fear they have is that anything other than a course of neutrality by individual countries could very easily foment further bloodshed against civilians in an attempt to control protests, display power, and cultivate fear. President Obama has so far done an excellent job of maintaining neutrality, but it is concerning that various members of congress want to take a more hard-line stance, and are haranguing the president for not having done so.

As your constituent, Congresswoman Tsongas, I am asking you to please do what you can to maintain official US neutrality toward the current situation in Iran, and please do not support any bills that would involve US interests directly in this matter.

Sincerely,
[name preserved]

Posted by Naj at Sunday, June 21, 2009


If only we could learn this lesson! For many reform movements, American support is the kiss of death, marking them as a threat by foreign enemy rather than an expression of the people.

You can contact your Senators and Representative by using the contact form in the right sidebar. Go for it!

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Obama’s quiet gains against poverty

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Apparently, progress being made against poverty may prove to be the greatest gains in 40 years.
clipped from www.thenation.com

At a the forum “Obama at 100: A Progress Report from The Nation” held on April 21, 2009 Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director, Center for Community Change, lauded the early progress the Obama administration has made in reversing forty years of neglect for the poor.

While Bhargava, an editorial board member at The Nation, made clear that the devastating scope of the recession has mitigated the impact of the reforms, he concluded that, “Boy, it is a new day in Washington.”

Corbin Hiar

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That’s “the least, first.” And I believe it is what government exists to do.

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Bishop of Chicago: Immigration Raids ‘Immoral’

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Jim Wallis tells of a nationwide tour urging immigration reform that stopped in Chicago:
clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

La Conscience (d'après Victor Hugo)

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Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops … used the occasion to call on the Obama administration to stop immigration raids and urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform [...]
[T]he cardinal

“… sought to cast the issue in moral terms, calling it “a matter of conscience” and an important step to creating a more peaceful society. ‘We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day,’ [...]

The continuing raids around the country [are] indeed a matter of conscience. We are taking parents from their children; we are separating families. This is not what in our tradition we should do. Protecting and supporting families and those relationships is crucial. The immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but it must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to “welcome the stranger.”

While I applaud President Obama for repeating his commitment to immigration reform last week, I join Cardinal George in also urging an immediate end to raids.

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It’s an excellent thought. Wrenching families apart is not only cruel, but unwise, even in practical terms. Hurt people hurt people. Strengthening families is, indeed, “an important step to creating a more peaceful society.”

If we’re kind – or even just smart – minimizing trauma will be part of immigration reform.


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NYT: ‘Taking on critics, Obama sets aside talk of unity’

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I never thought I’d feel good about “set[ting] aside talk of unity,” but this is hopeful.

clipped from www.nytimes.com

photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Three weeks into his tenure, Mr. Obama acknowledged that his effort to change the political climate in Washington had yielded little. He made clear that he had all but given up hope of securing a bipartisan consensus behind his $800 billion economic recovery package, arguing that the urgency of the economic crisis had at least for now outweighed the need for unity.
“I’m happy to get good ideas from across the political spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans,” he said at the Monday night news conference. “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place, because those theories have been tested and they have failed. And that’s part of what the election in November was all about.”
“It’s a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they presided over a doubling of the national debt,”
“I’m not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility.”
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White House Press Se...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This could be called a “reality check” tour.

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, decried what he called a “myopic viewpoint in Washington,” disconnected from the troubles of the country. “…there’s a whole different conversation in Washington than there is out here,” said David Axelrod… “If I had listened to the conversation in Washington during the campaign for president, I would have jumped off a building about a year and a half ago.”

There comes a time when obstructionism simply has to be out-voted. As the saying goes, “You can lead horses to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.”  You sure can’t let them keep others thirsty.

Follow the Times link for the whole story.


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Written by Monte

February 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

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