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CIVIC ACTIVISM: Exercise Your American Civil Rights!

By David Rahni, New York


The article, White House to Lobby Lawmakers on Iraq by the AP writer Anne Flaherty, that followed the marathon overnight senate failing debate to yield the 60 votes necessary for the possible passage of a bill requiring the immediate withdrawal of our 130,000 from Iraq, prompted me to write this passage. The classified National Intelligence Report as shared with the 200 invited congressional lawmakers to the White House, despite it being trumpeted, is said to give mixed signals at best on "progress in Iraq". Sidney Blumenthal referred to the NIE report as Cooking the Intelligence Again, referring to similar circumstances that led to the military intervention in Iraq of 2003. The ordinary citizen in the interim and while once again kept in the dark, is in a quandary as to whether the military and elected legislative leaderships remain independent, or are increasingly in collusion with the Bush administration. Indications are that the same politically charged intelligentsia machine that dragged us into Iraq may once again push the U.S. Into waging yet another war of aggression against Iran, while referring to it as redeployment to save face. It is only through direct, unconditional negotiation that we might possibly be able to curtail another possible human and ecosystem calamity at the 1100 hour under our name in the region. As the good ole American "Yogi Bear" would say, "It is the OIL stupid!"
Regardless of how one assesses our progress in Iraq, every indications point to an intensifying disaster for all sides concerned as the otherwise good intention of  battling "terrorism" was misguided. A recent report has demonstrated that the insurgency in Iraq, who primarily arrived there after our invasion, is comprised of Saudi, Jordanian and Pakistani Nationals; the insurgency mixed with the disgruntled Iraqi Sunnis, is only getting more sophisticated in terms of attacking our troops and the fragile Iraqi government by the day. The Iraq fiasco has thus far cost the U.S. Nearly 4000 Americans dead, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties, hundreds of thousands of veterans to take care of for decades, and a financial burden to the American tax payer that is fast approaching half a trillion dollars. There are some within the administration or the policy think-tanks who speak of the strategic need for our long-term presence in the region that goes far beyond Iraq or Afghanistan, and extends beyond a decade costing trillions of dollars.
A strong nation as exemplified by the U.S. Must assess its operational and policy effectiveness in the international scene, scoop losses and reposition its strategies when warranted. That may inevitably necessitate our orderly troop withdrawal from Iraq and the region, nonetheless, in the long-run it helps heal our nation, and its relationship with others while restoring our credibility as a strong, but fair nation.


As an excerpt of this passage was accepted to appear in the Journal News, the Daily paper in the New York Lower Hudson Valley in which I have regularly written monthly for years, it prompted me to contemplate the notion of civic activism and how each of us recent Americans could articulate our conscientious ethical values when it comes to speaking out for what's best for the U.S., and the humanity at-large. This prose, therefore, is preceded with a series of articles I have written in various venues over the years under "Volunteerism, Altruism and Philanthropy in the Iranian-American Community."


In a society, most citizens prefer to remain on the sidelines and only act as convoluted spectators when it comes to welfare issues of prime relevance and crucial merit. This by no means should be misconstrued as lack of conscience or understanding, but rather a quasi degree of comfort to remain in one's own cocoon, attending solely to personal needs. Even the few in a society, especially those belonging to recent immigrant communities such as the ours, who may actively engage in assessing the societal ills and the stride to propose solutions, tend to congregate with their own, thereby preaching to the converted or singing to the choir. It may feel much more convenient for the members of an immigrant community to internalize, whisper their grievances or opine concerns among themselves, rather than taking their unique grassroots message out to the regional and national audience to effectuate policy change.


The dilemma is further exacerbated in the recent immigrant communities, particularly if and when one like the Iranian-American Community finds itself in a precarious circumstance. As they struggle to fully acclimate into their adopted homeland, and while nostalgically reminiscing about their motherland and "home-grown" ways and means by which Iran could over time fully join the modern world in its own reformed cultural context, they feel the heat from all political forces in every direction. Paradoxically, some even keep their motherland's inadequacies and inefficiencies to a much higher standard when compared to their aspired expectations of their adopted land. The silent majority in the Iranian-American Community, who mostly remain ambivalently apathetic, then give themselves the inalienable right to make judgment on a few gratis community activists in the U.S. Resorting to rhetorical innuendo, a dangerous game that falls in the realm of defamation of characters and slander, prosecutable under the code of law.  By the same token, the Community as a whole feels the pressure, especially after the passage of the Patriot Act and the post-September 11 incidents in which they not only had any role, but that they strongly condemned. Discriminations driven by xenophobic profiling and guilt by alleged ethnic associations is strongly felt whereby aspirations are involuntarily curtailed. 


 As much as we remain vigilant with respect to the fundamental interests of Iran and Iranians in the motherland, simply because we have at one juncture, opted to become American citizens irrespective of the personal reasons, we can NOT, therefore, act as "more catholic than the Pope".  In other words, although the role of Iranians in Diaspora, irrespective of what led to their transplantations, remains crucial in terms of serving as watchdogs to ensure what's best for both nations prevails, and perhaps, provides an educational outlook from outside the Havoc, the Iranian-Americans can not and should not set unilateral goals for the 70 millions compatriots in Iran. This is supported by one estimate that the majority of Iranian American will continue to remain in the U.S. permanently regardless of the possible political changes or reformation in Iran. If anything, our primary goal, therefore, must be to ensure that the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Civil Rights statues in the US, and an ethically inclined humanitarian and robust foreign policy is upheld here in our adopted Country, the U.S.
To that end, we must each continue far more resiliently and resolutely than before, to fully participate in the political process. This may include contacting our elected representatives (Congressmen and Senators), contacting the three CSPAN and other TV and radio stations especially during their live shows,  and writing to media in order to present our perspectives on the current affairs and propose alternative solutions that places high value on the interests of an American Citizen and Society, albeit the Iranian-Americans'. The goal of impacting policy through media and political actions is realistic as there is an increasing cohort of compatriots, who have successfully endeavored to tackle it for years, which, in turn, has impacted the court of the public opinion. So, let us each set a goal to successfully reach out to the "unconverted", i.e., misinformed, ignorant, or those mainstreamers wishing to listen, once a week, through media.
And as to the four Americans held incommunicado in Iran, or its comparison to Gitmo or the Abu Gharib in Iraq, two wrongs do not make it right, does it?! The hypocritical stance, Do what I say and not do what I do has not been valid for quite sometime in the community of modern civilized nations.


I have personally seen inside Evin Prison; I have indeed seen inside both "Hotel Evins", the actual Hotel Evin now almost demolished, and the Evin prison, which I entered it on Bahman 20 1358 when the gate of the notorious prison was forced open. We really taught it would either be demolished or used as a museum of crimes against humanity (I lived next to Hotel Evins!). So, gullible, I once was- drowned in my own pool of youth.  Due process and habeas corpus, the right for legal representation and the right for an expeditious, de-politicized fair trial, is embedded into the Universal Human Rights Declaration afforded to a human in the U.S., Iraq, or Iran.


Notwithstanding, many believe that the arrest of these four scholar compatriots, condemned while asking for their immediate unconditional release, is the result of an internal power struggle to reinvigorate a religious revolutionary fervor of the early 80's in Iran; others surmise the recent arrests in Iran is the result of the reaction of melancholy on the part of nervous organs within the government to use the four as sacrificial lambs to come to terms with the U.S. while consolidating power grip.
Let me close this passage with the following "modified" historical statement:


-First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
-Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
-Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
-Then came for the Mennonite Protestants, and  I did not speak out-
because I was not a Protestant;
-Then came for the Moslems, and I did not speak out-
because I was not truly a Moslem;
-Then they came for the political prisoners of conscience, and I did not speak out-because I was not a political prisoner;
-Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
-Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.


    -Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945


... Payvand News - 7/24/07 ... --

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