President Bush likes to divide the world in good and evil. The free, democratic and peace loving world versus the totalitarian, aggressive barbaric world, that is out to destroy us and turn the whole world into terror and despair. This is not new: before Bush, Reagan did the same, and of course, all countries that were communist or had friendly relations with the Soviet Union or China, were evil. Leftists and liberals opposed this one-dimensional worldview and pointed to the many shortcomings of the West and the good features of the 'East'. Although only a few of them were really communists, the view that the USA is an imperialistic and aggressive country was quite common. In the Netherlands, there was a large peace movement against the nuclear arms race, and especially the US/Western part of it. I don't remember that we ever demonstrated against the Soviet SS20, hundreds of which were aimed at Europe. We shouted 'better red than dead' and 'better to have a Russian in the kitchen than a rocket in the garden'. What drove me especially was the madness of this arms race, and I still think that it was good to raise our voices against that. What does civilization mean if we can destroy the Earth 20 or 30 times and at the same time millions of people starve for lack of food and medicines? What I don't understand in retrospect, is why we blamed only the West for this madness, and especially the USA. We knew about the treatment of dissidents in communist countries, we knew of the Gulag, we had seen what happened in Hungary, and Czechoslovakia when they protested against the system and demanded freedom. O.K. I was very young, and I hadn't seen this 'live' on TV. But nevertheless, I knew. For some reason, what the USA did to Allende, in Vietnam, in El Salvador, angered us much more than what the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan or Hungary. We replaced the one-dimensional worldview of the USA by a similar one in which the USA could do no good at all.
The same happens today: the USA calls Iran, Syria and North Korea 'axis of evil' and the left says the opposite. If Bush, the big liar, says so, it cannot be true. These countries have a right to defend themselves against imperialism. A nuclear bomb? Why not, the US, and Israel also have the Bomb. Supporting terrorism? Is what the USA does in Iraq or Israel in the Palestinian territories no terrorism? Suppressing minorities? Look at how native Americans or blacks in the USA or Arabs in Israel are treated. So morally there is no difference.
I vehemently oppose such 'relativist' thinking. Sure, there is a lot to be improved in the West, in the USA, in Israel and also in my own little country, that turned into a country with a very harsh policy towards asylum seekers in the last decade, to give just one example. But this is in no way comparable to Iran or Syria. I bet, if one asks some peace-activists 'where would you prefer to live, in Iran or in the USA?', nobody would prefer Iran. Iran is not evil because Bush says so, but it is neither good because Bush says it is evil. Iran is one out of a few countries whose political system and society is based on religion, or, more accurately, a specific interpretation of Islam. That makes it a totalitarian state, based on one ideology, like former communist states. Like the latter, the Islamic political system came to power after a revolution. The army is called the Revolutionary Guard. Propaganda, a cultivation of outside enemies and extremist patriotism are ingredients to hold the country together. Also, children are taught an insane willingness to sacrifice themselves. Some disturbing quotes from a long article by Matthias KŁntzel
, political scientist in Hamburg, Germany:
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started in order to supplement his beleaguered army. The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."
The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence. They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the presidency.
The article goes on to explain that the Iranian Army first tried to clear the minefields with donkeys, but that didn't work: after a few were blown up, the rest ran away in fear. Why did the children run towards a certain death without any fear? That is the work of propaganda, religious propaganda in this case. In Shia Islam, the violent death of imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed, plays a crucial role. His death - by 33 lance punctures and 34 blows of the sword, is commemorated on the annual Ashura Festival. At some times and places, the ritual grew extremely violent, through people imitating the death - and martyrdom - of Hussein. Khomeini politicized this ritual and directed the violence and the willingness to sacrifice to an external enemy. Additionally, he had a disdain for life and glorified the dead:
According to Khomeini, life is worthless and death is the beginning of genuine existence. "The natural world," he explained in October 1980, "is the lowest element, the scum of creation. "What is decisive is the beyond: The "divine world, that is eternal." This latter world is accessible to martyrs. Their death is no death, but merely the transition from this world to the world beyond, where they will live on eternally and in splendor. Whether the warrior wins the battle or loses it and dies a Martyr--in both cases, his victory is assured: either a mundane or a spiritual one.
About Achmadinejad the article says:
We do know that, after the war's end (the war against Iraq, RP) , he served as the governor of Ardebil Province and as an organizer of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a radical gang of violent Islamic vigilantes. After becoming mayor of Tehran in April 2003, Ahmadinejad used his position to build up a strong network of radical Islamic fundamentalists known as Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami, or Developers of an Islamic Iran. It was in that role that he won his reputation--and popularity--as a hardliner devoted to rolling back the liberal reforms of then-President Muhammad Khatami. Ahmadinejad positioned himself as the leader of a "second revolution" to eradicate corruption and Western influences from Iranian society. And the Basiji, whose numbers had grown dramatically since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, embraced him. Recruited from the more conservative and impoverished parts of the population, the Basiji fall under the direction of--and swear absolute loyalty to--the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, Khomeini's successor. During Ahmadinejad's run for the presidency in 2005, the millions of Basiji--in every Iranian town, neighborhood, and mosque--became his unofficial campaign workers.
More about the Basiji and martyrdom:
At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010. The elite special units are supposed to comprise some 150,000 people by then. Accordingly, the Basiji have received new powers in their function as an unofficial division of the police. What this means in practice became clear in February 2006, when the Basiji attacked the leader of the bus-drivers' union, Massoud Osanlou. They held Osanlou prisoner in his apartment, and they cut off the tip of his tongue in order to convince him to keep quiet. No Basiji needs to fear prosecution for such terrorists tactics before a court of law. During this year's Ashura Festival, school classes were taken on excursions to a "Martyrs' Cemetery." "They wear headbands painted with the name Hussein," The New York Times reported, "and march beneath banners that read: 'Remembering the Martyrs today is as important as becoming a Martyr' and 'The Nation for whom Martyrdom means happiness, will always be Victorious.' " Since 2004, the mobilization of Iranians for suicide brigades has intensified, with recruits being trained for foreign missions. Thus, a special military unit has been created bearing the name "Commando of Voluntary Martyrs. "According to its own statistics, this force has so far recruited some 52,000 Iranians to the suicidal cause. It aims to form a "martyrdom unit" in every Iranian province.
The article concludes that, in the light of such an ideology, it is extremely dangerous that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, and cites former Iranian President Rafsanjani as saying in 2001:
"the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it "will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."
Achmadinejad said, shortly after being elected:
"Is there an art that is more beautiful, more divine, more eternal than the art of the martyr's death?" In September 2005, he concluded his first speech before the United Nations by imploring God to bring about the return of the Twelfth Imam. He finances a research institute in Tehran whose sole purpose is to study, and, if possible, accelerate the coming of the imam. And, at a theology conference in November 2005, he stressed, "The most important task of our Revolution is to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam."
The article concludes:
A politics pursued in alliance with a supernatural force is necessarily unpredictable. Why should an Iranian president engage in pragmatic politics when his assumption is that, in three or four years, the savior will appear? If the messiah is coming, why compromise? That is why, up to now, Ahmadinejad has pursued confrontational policies with evident pleasure.
Even if this article paints the situation blacker than it is, and only half of it were true, we would have to be VERY worried about Iran and its nuclear program. Achmadinejad and others in charge have a worldview that is hard for us to imagine, and he will not act by the same rules and logic as western states, however bad these too may be sometimes. If there is a culture of glorifying death, and human life can easily be sacrificed for some holy purpose, and there is no freedom of speech or the possibility to organize a meaningful opposition against the regime and it's ideology, then yes, a regime is evil.
Another matter is how to deal with evil and dangerous regimes like this. The examples of Afghanistan and Iraq show that war - aside from the tremendous costs - does not necessarily bring the results we wish forÖRatna Pelle
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Replies: 1 Comment
This is a great article for style and content. I linked to it at Israpundit.
Ted Belman, Saturday, April 22nd
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