By Karla Hansen, Clive Iowa U.S.A.
Americans have been conditioned to think in stark contrasts: good versus bad, righteous versus evil, and the just versus the unjust. As a result, beliefs are fostered that permit the United States to wallow in self righteousness and to justify its aggression around the globe. U.S. foreign policy makers, in concert with mainstream media, routinely portray any government or national leader that does not accept our imperial dictates as rogue, undemocratic or evil.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been one of the most frequently demonized national leaders. As an American Iranian, who plans to visit Iran in the near future, I have been keenly aware of the repeated charges hurled at President Ahmadinejad. Foremost among these charges are the claims that Ahmadinejad wants to "wipe Israel off the map," or that he has denied the authenticity of the Holocaust.
Since 2005, when these statements were first attributed to Ahmadinejad, the American public has incessantly been fed distortions of what he really said. The accurate translation of what he actually said is, "the Zionist regime is doomed to fall off the pages of history, following the path of all oppressive regimes before it," not that Iran or Ahmadinejad would "wipe Israel off the map."
Two important points, almost never mentioned in the mainstream U.S. media, need to be highlighted here: (1) Ahmadinejad says the "Zionist regime," not Israel or the Jewish people, and (2) he uses the passive voice, referring to the historical imperative, not the active voice purporting a military action to overthrow Israel.
The "Holocaust is a myth" charge should actually read as "In the name of the Holocaust they created a myth." Ahmadinejad then doles out criticism against imperial powers as follows: "If you have burned the Jews why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel. Why should the oppressed people of Palestine be punished for it?"
Despite Ahmadinejad's unambiguous views, the rallying cry portraying him as a raging anti-semite has mushroomed across America, materializing in every corner from small town barbershop conversations to the televised U.S. Presidential campaigns.
As one who needs to see it to believe it, I jumped at the opportunity to meet President Ahmadinejad when he was in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly last month. My husband and I attended two events sponsored by various religious, peace and social justice organizations that were held "in order to introduce President Ahmadinejad to the peace community in the United States and to illustrate how this sector of civil society works to oppose war and the use of violence to resolve differences." Hope was expressed that "the exchange of views will enable us to explore faith perspectives for dealing with global issues such as poverty, war and prejudice"-plagues that approximate what Martin Luther King Jr. aptly called the axis of evil: racism, poverty and militarism.
While the organizing sponsors should be commended for the monumental effort involved in pulling together events of this magnitude, and for their sincere search for peaceful relations with Iran, the questions and comments directed to President Ahmadinejad echoed the routinely propagandized biases that the majority of Americans have come to treat as gospel. Most questions were indistinguishable from those posed by Larry King the night before in an interview with the Iranian President.
Absent were questions or acknowledgements of imperialistic U.S. offences committed against Iran: orchestrating the 1953 coup against the Democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosadeq and appointing the dictatorial Shah in his place; imposing 29 years of economic sanctions against Iran after the Iranian people overthrew the Shah; orchestrating and supporting the eight-year Iraq war against Iran; the downing of Iranian passenger Flight 655 by U.S. missiles, killing all 290 passengers and crew, including 66 children; and sponsoring ongoing covert operations inside Iran and across its borders through allocation of hundreds of millions dollars, euphemistically called Democracy Fund, designed to destabilize the Iranian government.
Unwittingly, the organizers of the meeting with President Ahmadinejad harmed their goal of building bridges between our two nations when they missed the opportunity to apologize for, or even acknowledge, these acts of aggression. Just think what might be achieved for peace if squaring off with other countries began with a sincere "I'm sorry," the first lesson instilled in us as children, when our parents wanted to exact remorse after we pinched our baby sister.
After listening to President Ahmadinejad, I came to believe that the purported Iranian "threat" to the United States is rooted in Ahmadinejad's straight talk. He freely spoke of the plight of more than 5 million Palestinians whose lives and land have been illegally besieged for over 60 years in the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation that gnaws away at prospects for peaceful coexistence. President Ahmadinejad proposed that lasting peace will only be achieved through a free referendum where all the peoples of Palestine (including Jews, Muslims and Christians) determine their own fate, complying with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.
More simple truth that most American leaders and the powerful Israeli lobby are loath to face is Ahmadinejad's view, shared increasingly worldwide, of who really poses a nuclear threat. His forthright approach takes on new meaning when we own up to the plain facts: the United States has an arsenal of over 10,000 nuclear warheads and we are the only country to have used nuclear weapons twice, killing and maiming an estimated 199,000 civilians, innocent men, women and children.
Israel, decidedly the most influential U.S. ally, currently has approximately 200 nuclear warheads, funded largely by U.S. taxpayers. Given this indisputable evidence of our own government's culpability, I was embarrassed when a spokesperson posited to Ahmadinejad, "our government is concerned with Iran becoming a nuclear power."
Ahmadinejad responded magnanimously: "The U.S. government is not concerned of Iran becoming a nuclear power. That's the truth. If they were concerned about proliferation, they should have disarmed Israel. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and others know that all our activities are peaceful. We've had the highest volume of cooperation with the agency than any other county. We think the time for the atomic bomb has come to an end. The bomb is not effective. We have passed that time. We have entered a new era, the era of thought, humanity and culture. Those who have atomic bomb arsenals, or want to build a new generation of them, in my opinion, are people who are politically backward, period."
Hmmm...we've passed time for the bomb to be effective.... if I were a billionaire in the military-industrial-complex club planning to build a new generation of atomic bombs, I would be squirming in my seat.
The other queries posed in an attempt to 'normalize' relationships between our two nations poked into the domestic affairs of Iran, including treatment of women, youth and homosexuals, all reinforcing America's propensity to view its own self through rose colored lenses.
Of course, human rights and civil liberties are universal rights that need to be defended unconditionally. However, the U.S. is in no position to criticize Iran's domestic affairs while it turns a blind eye to its pliant "allies" in the region whose record of human rights violations far exceed Iran's.
Furthermore, left alone, the Iranian people have proven to be quite capable of challenging their rulers and defending their rights. The peacemakers' well-intentioned questions regarding human rights in Iran buys into the imperialist strategy of using that nation's domestic affairs as a pretext to avoid unconditional dialogue.
The tipping point came for me as I watched Ahmadinejad respond. Faced with the absurdity of tumbling these one-sided accusations around ad nauseam, many of us might have rolled our eyes, thrown up our hands and walked off the stage. Instead, the Iranian President listened intently, took notes and responded respectfully to each person, by name, apologizing if he mispronounced their names.
Even more interesting, given the routine flip-flopping of our own elected leaders, is the evidence showing that Ahmadinejad's message does not waiver-evidence that is readily available in official transcripts online, covering appearances at the U.N. General Assembly, Columbia University and Larry King Live. The remarkable consistency of Ahmadinejad's remarks brings to mind the sage advice imparted by a Midwest farmer to his teenager (denying the cigarette butts behind the barn), "Son, you'll never have to memorize a thing...if you just don't tell a lie in the first place."
Imagine for a moment, that President Bush, or any other elected official, was willing to face an audience outside the United States and explain why does the U.S. maintain over 700 permanent military bases in over 60 countries worldwide? Why have hundreds of alleged enemy combatants been held in Guantanamo and other 'black hole' prisons around the world and denied the right to trial for over six years? Why did the U.S. invade Iraq, which has resulted in over one million Iraqi casualties, largely women and children, and over 4 million displaced Iraqis? Why is the U.S. Defense budget greater than all other nations' military budgets combined? And, why were Wall Street gamblers allowed to stage an uncontested coup that will rob over a trillion dollars from U.S. citizen's pockets and destabilize global economies?
"Preventive measures," recently used to justify the current Wall Street bailout, is also being pitched around the nation's Capitol for another diabolical purpose: justification for a military strike against Iran. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" innocuously touts prevention, but this militaristic application may well lead to more devastation than preemptive, the last 'P' word that duped us into an illegal, immoral war in Iraq.
The next President of the United States is being primed for military action against Iran by a number of Neocon-controlled think tanks, including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Earlier this year, Donald Kerr, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, shared with WINEP a, "notional view of some of the issues that will be raised in the Oval office PDB (Presidents Daily Brief) on January 21, 2009," training the spotlight on the "threat of nuclear Iran." The nuclear alarm concerning Iran has been thoroughly debunked by international watchdog agencies and all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies (including the CIA) that issued the National Intelligence Estimate, clearly indicating that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Yet, WINEP's 2008 Presidential Study Group asserts that Iran's nuclear capability "hovers above all other items on the U.S.-Israel agenda." I have a nagging sense that while America wrestles with the Wall Street debacle, the alarm ringing to strike Iran has merely been postponed by the powerful forces in control of the snooze button.
I have been impatiently waiting for America to grow another Martin Luther King, Jr., someone who could prod our collective conscience with courageous truths; someone who, as Kipling writes, would not relent even IF..."If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools."
I'm looking to newly elected leaders and foreign policy makers to change direction soon and begin talking 'untwisted' and directly to Iranian leaders in a bold effort to defeat the true axis of evil: militarism, racism and poverty. Observing first hand President Ahmadinejad's resolute diplomacy, I no longer find it's an impossible dream.
... Payvand News - 10/30/08 ... --