Iranian Cold Warriors in Sheep’s Clothing

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Erik C. Nisbet & James Shanahan, “MSRG Special Report: Restrictions on Civil Liberties, Views of Islam, & Muslim Americans,” Media & Society Research Group, Cornell University, December 2004

Actual mass murderers are higher on my watch list than those who just think or shout hateful beliefs.  But you would be mistaken if you thought the leading lights among Iranian defectors — the type who boycotted Iran’s elections last summer — feel the same way.  These proponents of “tolerance” frighten the Western public about Islamist fanatics amongst us who allegedly do not appreciate freedom.  (And for their tireless effort to save civilization from the Muslim hordes, Western punditocracy celebrates the defectors as “brave.”  Brave like Fouad Ajami or Christopher Hitchens!)  In contrast, the defectors do not similarly panic about actual trained killers on the loose on North American soil.  Hostile thoughts bad, organized murder OK?  How could that be, you ask.

Well, it is like the West’s propaganda against Iran.  The superpower that stockpiles thousands of nuclear weapons and dropped two of them on Japanese cities is keeping the world sleepless over a nuclear weapons program that Iran could possibly be contemplating.  This despite the fact that Iran has not attacked any country in at least 250 years while the accuser, Washington, regularly bombs, invades, kidnaps, and tortures on every continent.

Most Iranian defectors rant against Muslim fundamentalist threat to what George W. Bush calls “our way of life,” but never about the officially sanctioned immigration of Nazis to the US.  The leaders among these fascists are known activists in the Republican Party’s so-called Heritage Groups Council.

Iranian defectors also remain calm about hateful and violent Cuban Americans roaming the streets of South Florida, cheered on by many local radio stations and politicians.  Funded and trained by the CIA and tightly allied with the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, the known terrorists have boasted of bombing multiple civilian targets in Cuba, Latin America, and south Florida.

Proven criminals of this sort do not worry most of my fellow Iranian dissidents.  But Florida’s Islamist professor Sami al-Arian, now that’s something to lose sleep over.  Neither the Florida edition nor the Toronto edition of North America’s most widely circulated Farsi-language weekly, Shahrvand, has protested the politically motivated trial of al-Arian and others on bogus terrorism charges.  Although there are good Muslims who deserve to be left alone, the thinking goes, Islamist activists must be stopped before they impose censorship on Western press.

This is the message conveyed in a warning published recently in the Canadian daily Toronto Star by two Iranian intellectuals, Shahrzad Mojab and Saeed Rahnema, and a few “Muslim” cohorts.  The group has been active in the Islamophobic opposition to proposed improvements to Ontario’s family law arbitration.  Despairng of the electoral victories of Islamists in Turkey, Palestine, Lebanon, and Iran, they resort to a McCarthy-style warning about the Muslim enemy lurking among us in North America.  Beware!  Beware!  The “international communist conspiracy” to overrun the West has resurfaced as the threat of bearded men and veiled women.  Never mind that the fanatics are not dotting the landscape here with their own military bases.

The authors of the alert assure us that they are not against all Muslims, only the “fundamentalist” ones.  But not one of them protested when American and Canadian politicians publicly returned campaign contribution checks they received from all known Arabs.  They contest assertions that they are helping anti-Muslim bigotry and hate speech.  But let us remember that, although the Red Scare claimed to target only the “dangerous” agitators in American workplaces who “threatened” freedom, in reality it succeeded in smashing the labor movement and, with it, democracy.  Wal-Mart couldn’t be happier, as the 1.6 million exploited female workers who have filed a class-action lawsuit against the conglomerate attest.

Samuel Huntington would be proud!  Just when the White House desperately needs to explain its jihad on what remains of constitutionalism in this land, just when Bush’s allies are gaining ground north of the border, come expatriate crusaders for freedom to finger the foreign infiltrators.  Just when abortion rights enemies need to deflect attention from their historic control of the Supreme Court, the righteous Iranian dissidents oblige.  The anti-communist émigrés who helped sell the ever ballooning “defense” budget to the American public in decades past could not be more pleased.  No wonder Azar Nafisi, the defector who authored Reading Lolita in Tehran, has dinner with them at the White House.

We are supposed to forget that, as long as the anti-Islamist modernizers that these defectors personify were in charge, Iranian universities were inaccessible to millions of women in Islamic cover.  Saeed Rahnema should know, as his father was the Shah’s minister of higher education.  The authors of the Toronto Star alert are clearly not bothered that in secular Turkey women in Islamic dress are barred from universities and government employment.  Their defense of global sisterhood does not extend to the scarf-clad wife of Turkey’s current prime minister, who has to stay home when her husband attends state functions.  They rightly condemn the subjugation of Iran’s elected parliament and presidency to unelected ayatollahs.  But they never utter a word against Turkey, a close ally of Israel and the US, where the unelected generals similarly lord over the elected government.

The last time “enlightened” intellectuals on these shores campaigned to defend freedom of expression against enemies of “Western values,” they founded the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which funneled CIA funds to hundreds of them during the 1950s and 1960s.  The former leftists then went on to establish the cabal that is known today as the neo-conservatives, including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  Two other luminaries among these Israel apologists, William Bennet and Alan Dershowitz, recently defended the controversial Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammad for “freedom of expression,” as the Shahrzad Mojab and Saeed Rahnema did soon after in the Toronto Star.  Neither party so much as mentioned that, while they were busy shoring up Western values against presumed fundamentalist censorship, David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for doubting the Holocaust!  As I have argued elsewhere, the campaign to defend the offensive cartoons is a fraud.

It is now common knowledge that the neo-conservative empire builders raised funds for El Salvador’s death squads, derailed the Oslo Accords, and were behind the push to double the US military build-up and the invasion of Iraq.  In 2001, a number of the Cold Warriors, including an Israeli Embassy staff publicist named Nir Boms, formed the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington.  It was FDD’s close allies in the Committee on the Present Danger that previously sabotaged détente with the Soviet Union with massive lies about the latter’s military strength.  FDD’s top priorities coincide with campaigns spearheaded by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Those priorities begin with support for Israel’s apartheid wall and the discrediting of Muslim American civil rights groups.

One of FDD’s growing projects sends dozens of professors and students from American colleges every summer to be indoctrinated in Israel about “the threat of Islamic terrorism.”  The returning students establish campus groups that obtain college funds under names like “Students Defending Democracy,” whose priority at the present is to demonize Iran.  To lend such groups an air of legitimacy, the indoctrinated students often get better-known national groups — usually the Hillel Center, College Republicans, and College Democrats — to co-sponsor their “nonpartisan, educational” events.  The University of South Carolina is emerging as a hotbed of these extremists, followed closely by the University of Chicago, Brandeis University, and George Washington University.  FDD activists were also behind the Iran Freedom Concert last March at Harvard University.

A favorite speaker at FDD’s campus events is Akbar Atri, a defector who describes himself as a former “leader” of the student movement in Iran.  He was brought to the United States in 2005 by the Committee on the Present Danger.  Another self-styled “persecuted student leader,” Amir Abbas Fakhravar, was brought to the US this year by FDD associate Richard Perle and is being groomed for a similar purpose.  That purpose seems to be to deflect attention from the US and Israeli occupations and war crimes in the so-called war on terror, which George Bush is now describing as a repeat Cold War.  During the first Cold War, similarly, Eastern Bloc defectors succeeded in erasing from memories the leading role of communists in the fight against Fascism and for Jewish lives.  Not coincidentally, they were a hot commodity in Western capitals.  The imperialist fraud that played out as the American “movement to free Soviet Jews” in the 1980s has now mutated into the campaign to shield Western innocence from Muslim “totalitarianism.” Welcome to the Orwellian 21st Century world of Iranian defectors.

Based in Washington, DC, Rostam Pourzal writes about the politics of human rights for Iranian expatriate journals. MRZine has published his “Market Fundamentalists Lose in Iran (For Now)” (3 Aug. 2005); “Open Letter to Iran’s Nobel Laureate” (27 Feb. 2006); and “Open Letter to Iran’s Nobel Laureate: Part 2” (9 Mar. 2006).