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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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That scary socialism

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Those who make their living by exaggerating have been on a tear lately. Socialism is the threat.  Talker Sean Hannity is especially apoplectic.

Columnist Bob Cesca has a brilliant idea: Hannity should spark a revolution—with right-wing pundits as co-revolutionaries—that casts off socialism’s tainted fruit.

Here’s the Cesca war plan:

clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

Social Security Poster: old man
A Victim of Pernicious Socialism
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I’m calling upon Sean Hannity to […] end American socialism now!

Refuse to send your kids to socialized public schools and universities; refuse to use socialized roads and highways; refuse to call upon socialized police and fire departments; shut down the socialized air traffic control; refuse to visit socialized national parks; tell grandma that her Social Security and Medicare checks will have to be sent back; demand the immediate dismantling of our socialized American military.

Sarah Palin and her supporters in Alaska should refuse all forms of “redistributed wealth” by sending back their checks from the socialized oil program there.

Send it all back. I’m sure the entire roster of [pundits] — Limbaugh, Scarborough, Hannity and the like — have already forgone their usage of these socialist services […]

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Uh-huh!

Was Joe McCarthy fifty years ahead of his time?


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Written by Monte

February 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Is it honest to call it “socialism?”

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Morning Joe

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The S-word is back.

For example, watch Morning Joe get exercised about the stimulus proposal’s tax refund to people of low income, followed by analysis from ThinkProgress:

clipped from thinkprogress.org

Joe Scarborough: Obama’s Trying To ‘Buy Off People’ With ‘Pure, Straight Socialism’»

SCARBOROUGH: “You’re not going to get Republicans to line up and support tax cuts for people who don’t pay taxes […] It’s not even welfare. […] If you want pure straight socialism, if you want to buy off people, do that.”
There are enormous problems with this analysis. First, Americans benefiting from the tax cut do pay taxes — sales taxes, payroll taxes, social security taxes — even if they don’t pay income tax. In fact, those in the lowest income bracket pay about 4.3 percent of their income to federal taxes. […]The tax credit isn’t some kind of charity; it’s one of the most effective kinds of tax cuts in terms of stimulating the economy. Moody’s chief ecomomist Mark Zandi showed that the refundable tax credit gives the economy a far greater “bang for the buck” than non-refundable tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, or making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, the “solutions” proposed by conservatives:
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Follow the link for Zandi’s numbers.

Meanwhile, if the tax refund plan is indeed a refund, and if can be shown to be among the most quickly effective tax changes for stimulating the economy, isn’t it what we’re looking for?

And didn’t they teach us in high school that socialism was when the government owns the means of production?  Just how is it that tax refunds accomplish that?

I don’t recall learning that when poor people spend tax refunds at American businesses, capitalism is on the way out.  It would seem just to have just the opposite effect.


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Pat Buchanan: McCain would be a War President

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clipped from www.globalresearch.ca

McCain win would mean war with Iran

McCainMSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked old-line conservative Pat Buchanan about McCain’s remarks, saying, “He talked about promising that more wars were coming. … Is he so desperate to get off the economic issue?

Pat Buchanan replied that McCain never used the word “promise” but simply said there would be more wars, and that from McCain’s point of view, “that is straight talk. … You get John McCain in the White House, and I do believe we will be at war with Iran.”

“That’s one of the things that makes me very nervous about him,” Buchanan went on.

“There’s no doubt John McCain is going to be a war president. … His whole career is wrapped up in the military, national security. He’s in Putin’s face, he’s threatening the Iranians, we’re going to be in Iraq a hundred years.”

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Me too, Pat.

Look, has this war been a good thing?

Do we want more? More dead soldiers? More traumatized children? More PTSD? More amputations? More brain injuries? More divorces? More suicides? More billions for bombs? More arming the world? More Abu Ghraibs? More international hatred? More world dominance?

McCain, if so, is apparently our choice. And unfortunately, most of the remaining candidates seem more preoccupied with talking tough than with calculating—à la Colin Powell—the human cost of Round 2.

For too long, Americans have said, “Presidents know things that we can’t know; if they think we must go to war, we should support them.” But presidents have taken us to combat dozens of times in the last fifty years. How many conflicts can you name that Americans would have supported, had they known the whole story? Precious few.

Perhaps we should refuse to elect people who assume war is inevitable. Why see suffering as a done deal?


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Written by Monte

January 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm