Message to US Peace Groups: A Little Humility Please

(This missive is directed at the non-Iranian “peace organizations” who are presently issuing “statements” on the Iran events for whatever organizational purposes they have in mind.  It is not at all intended to be critical of most of the excellent analysis and information exchange occurring, particularly within the Iranian communities.)

We Americans love to shoot our mouths off over matters we know next to nothing about.  It’s something that we are hardwired to do.  We have utmost faith in the power of words.  “Speaking truth to power” is one of our favorite phrases, even when some of the “truth” is actually nonsense.

Case in point.  In recent days a number of US peace organizations have issued sternly-worded statements on the recent events in Iran, including Peace Action and the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.  While these groups laudably encourage continued nuclear negotiations and seemingly eschew interventionism, they are quick to denounce the elections as “massively fraudulent” and generally subscribe to the “mad mullah” stereotype of the current political system in Iran.   There is a remarkable convergence between the tone of these statements and the American right who are hypocritically beating their chests over Iran’s “stolen” election.  After all, they do have some firsthand experience on the subject.

Such “statements” by New York or Washington-based peace groups are profoundly misguided on many levels.  This is not the time or place, and these groups have little standing to hold forth on the internal dynamics of Iranian politics.  A similar problem came up in the 1990s when Clinton intervened in the Balkans for “humanitarian” reasons.  Perhaps, but he also violated international law and paved the way for 2003.  (God, is he really comparing us to Bill Clinton? — Yup.)

One of the chronic failings of the American peace movement is forgetting history.  We overthrew a democratic government in 1953 and replaced it with a totalitarian monarchy.  Carter supported the Shah to nearly the bitter end, and IBM sold the computers to help Savak track down dissidents.  In the Iran-Iraq War we patted Hussein’s head while he gassed Iranian teenage soldiers by the thousands (Iran, by the way, never used WMD).  We attacked Iran and shot down an Iranian airliner.  In 2002, ignoring the reformists, Bush drops Iran into the “axis of evil.”  But now — after all that — we have found time to be outraged.

SO, to all you underpaid, overstimulated college interns in Washington and New York, try closing shop for a day, toss your Lolitas in the trash can and read some real history, like Dabashi and Said.  Yeah, I know — you have a friend in Tehran and he/she emails “blah, blah, blah..”  That sounds to me too much like, “I have a gay/Hispanic/black friend” and it makes you an expert on gay/Hispanic/black issues.  It does not.  Now, I could say, I marched in anti-Shah demonstrations in the mid-1970s before some of you young twerps were born and that makes me an “expert.”  No, it only makes me just another garrulous old geezer, the kind we’ll let march with the “Friends of the Russo-Japanese War Veterans” contingent with the red flags on their oxygen bottles.

I work in sun-addled California.  It should therefore not surprise anyone that I sometimes try to fall back on some Buddhist concepts such as “watchful waiting” and “not knowing.”  Incredible mischief can result from actions in a state of agitated ignorance.  A liberating concept is knowing that you don’t have to have an instant opinion about everything, especially with information force-fed by CNN.

What do you have to lose?  Do you seriously think that Peace Action is so powerful that you will single-handedly avert a war or preside over triumph of Iranian democracy?  Maybe your liberal foundations love you for mouthing off.  And don’t use that Holocaust analogy with me (everyone was silent, etc, etc.).  There is plenty of talking going around.  And as for inside Iran, if you continue making these kind of “statements,” you will only confirm that government’s worst (and understandable) fears about the unchangeable perfidy of Americans.

Michael Veiluva, Counsel, Western States Legal Foundation.  These opinions are NOT organizational but individual, possibly heretical.