History Repeats Itself

As I admitted below, I don’t know much about Iran, but I suppose exiled Iranian journalist and filmaker Lila Ghobady does. She says:

There has been no real election. Candidates are all hand-picked and cleared by a central religious committee. It is a farcical imitation of the free nomination/ election process that we have pictured in the free world. There is no possibility that a secular, pluralistic, freedom-loving democratic person who loves his or her country can become a candidate to run for president (or any other office) in Iran.

Twelve years ago, we went through the same process. Mohamad Khatami became the favorite of the western media, which called him a “reformist” who spoke beautifully about freedom of speech, civil rights and dialogue between cultures. But when he became president there was a crack down on a student uprising – a crackdown against the same students who voted for him. Many were killed, many disappeared, and many were tortured. Artists, authors and intellectuals disappeared and were found “mysteriously” murdered. The smooth-talking president Khatami, whom westerners loved, never tried to stop the violence and never showed sympathy to his supporters. Instead, he openly avowed that his responsibility was to respect the wishes of the supreme leader, Ayotollah Khameni, and to protect the security of the Islamic regime.

Now, the passionate and oppressed young generation of Iranians are going through exact same situation. They are supporting Khatami’s friend, Mousavi. It is sad that history repeats itself so quickly in my beloved country of birth. The people of Iran were fed up with poverty, injustice, corruption and international embarrassment with the knuckle-dragging, anti-Semitic, war-mongering cretin who was President Ahmadinejad. They chose to support a bad choice – Mousavi – rather than the worse choice, Ahmadinejad. However, when an election is really a selection, choice is an illusion. Mousavi is from the Islamic regime; he is inseparable from it, and all its abuses and cruelties.

The reality is that Iran has not had a democratic, free election for the past 30 years. Mr Mousavi, if elected, will not make any changes, not because he is powerless to do so (as Khatami’s supporters claimed during his presidency), but because he doesn’t believe in a democratic state as his background shows. He belongs to the fanatic dictatorial era of Ayotollah Khomeini and he believes in the same command-and-control system of government. We should not forget Khomeini’s statement in one of his speeches after the revolution about democracy. He said that “if all people of Iran say ‘yes” I would say no to something that I would believe is not right for the Islamic Nation”.

Let us not forget that Mousavi was Prime Minister of Iran in the 1980s when more than ten thousand political prisoners were executed after three-minute sham trials. He has been a part of the Iranian dictatorship system for the past 30 years. If he had not been, he would not be allowed to be a candidate in the first place.

Do you have any reason to think she’s wrong?

Ghobady observes that no matter who comes out on top, he would stone her for her many “crimes” against Islam. This is not the situation I prefer, but it does seem to be the situation we have.

Advertisements

38 thoughts on “History Repeats Itself

  1. By the same logic, Gorbachev could never have opened up the Soviet Union.That Mousavi is not the Western darling he is made out to be is a fair point. But as you say, we don't *know* what's going on in Iran, we don't know the ongoing power games, or what's going on in Mousavi's head.He may use his newfound power to reform the regime; he may clamp down. Looking at history for guidance is fine, but it's just as hubristic to say that Mousavi couldn't possibly change things as it is to say that he's a messiah.

  2. I haven't said he can't possibly change things. I'm just saying the odds appear to be against it. That's no reason not to hope. But as I said in the last post, it's reason to hope colorlessly.

  3. I think she is right. And yet, a tyrant like Mousavi is much better than a tyrant like Ahmadinejad.Of course, as I mentioned previously, the reason to support the Green Revolution has little to do with the personalities involved and much to do with principles that are involved.In the end though, I think that even if people do not give a shit about Iranians, they should hope for Ahmadinejad's defeat for one simple reason. It reduces the probability that Iran will suffer a military attack. The fallout from such an attack would be severe. We should want to avoid that.

  4. What is interesting is that Khamenehi absolutely could have prevented Mousavi from changing things if he had simply allowed the people to elect the puppet of their choice. Ironically, this confrontation makes it more likely that Mousavi will have power to effect real change against the wishes of the Supreme Leader.

  5. I guess I'm not sure what difference her claims make to how we ought to view things. It's uncontroversial that the selection process winnows out anyone completely unacceptable to the GC, but the fact that the regime committed election fraud in such a hamhanded fashion is solid evidence for the fact that Khamanei thought it very important indeed to keep Mousavi from office. Even if it was a matter of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a popular protest movement that succeeds in reversing a stolen election might make quite a difference in the internal dynamics of institutional power going forward; if Khamanei gives in at this point, it looks like he would be seriously weakened relative to the Presidency. Which would be a good thing, no?I'm sure Ghobady's right that no “secular, pluralistic, freedom-loving democratic person” could pass the GC's screening, but it seems like her concerns speak more to how much we ought to have cared who won the election, *conditional on* an orderly transfer of power occurring. But it didn't.(There's also the fact that illiberal theocratic politicians can differ on other dimensions, and these dimensions matter too.)

  6. I do wish people in America would give some thought to Ghobady's concerns about the filtering process that generates the list of candidates before so quickly equating representative gov't with democracy, though. Aristocracy or oligarchy, more like. We need more use of statistical sampling!

  7. All excellent points. The difference her claims make is to help people see what they are and are not supporting. I agree that there are better and worse theocratic politicians, and that we should prefer the better. But I really would like to know the real story. What's problem with Mousavi? Maybe that, aligned with Rafsanjani, he could very well succeed in lawfully electing a new supreme leader? Who would that be? Rafs? When it seems like Mousavi could possibly win, Khameni panicked? I wanna know!

  8. Well, you did approvingly quote someone who said “Mr Mousavi, if elected, will not make any changes.”History is filled with examples of implausible changes–the reforms in China and India were both started by members of the establishment. Nixon went to China, while Bush became a neocon. This leads me to suspect that it's tough to predict of what leaders, even in our own country, will do, and that even discussing “odds” is a little pointless.We do know, however, that the establishment has tried all it can to prevent Mousavi from taking power. If I were in his place, I would not look too kindly on the clerics.

  9. What. The. Fuck. What the FUCK is this shit? Look – this is a nation who's identity, whose differentiation from the nations to the south and west has to do with the murder of some bint 800 years ago. REALLY. This is a nation that's basically one gigantic Vatican from 500 years ago. This is a nation for whom a magic ju-ju man in the sky is the point and purpose of human existence. All actual … like … evidence and reality to the contrary. Within such a system you will get no growth. No change. No development. Ultimately the system's capacity to organize itself will be outstripped by it's magical thinking. What will happen? Rot. And collapse. What should “we” do? Shine the bright fricken light of reason and freedom on the entire exposed maggot heap. What does this mean? Point out, loudly, that Twitter, Tear Gas, the plastics in the riot policeman's uniform – NONE of these are mentioned in the Koran, and therefore the bearded frauds whose sole claim to authority derives from that book are nothing more than self-deluded, pitiable fools. If you are a “mullah”, you have neither the right, nor the authority, to use words that are not in your perfect, eternal text.

  10. This is not the most intelligent response, but it is the most entertaining. And yet, I suspect I mostly still agree …

  11. “They chose to support a bad choice – Mousavi – rather than the worse choice, Ahmadinejad.”Sure sounds like a democracy to me! *rimshot*

  12. Reza Aslan tore into Eli Lake in their recent diavlog when the latter pooh-poohed Iran's previous elections. I have earlier declared Aslan a putz. However, I loathe Lake just a bit less than Jamie Kirchick. I feel so conflicted!

  13. Pingback: History Repeats Itself | Museum And Art

  14. I think somehow we need to get people to understand that nobody really understands foreign policy at the level that the neocons claim to. The most useful thing I learned in the IR class I took in college is that if you count up the number of bilateral relationships that exist in the world it is a very large number and therefor the world is more too complicated for anybody to truly understand it. I liked it when Clinton admitted in her confirmation hearing that she had no wisdom on how to deal with Somalia. We need more of that. Nobody really understands Iran and this is important for people to know.

  15. This is generally true. This, indeed, was Daniel Pipes's claim before and since the Iranian election. So you're agreeing with (one set) of neocons, then.All the candidates were pre-selected, and he believed that, even if (which he doubted) someone who wanted real reform would be elected, then that person wouldn't be able to do anything. For that reason he favored the “honesty” of Ahmadinejad to a reform candidate who would not be able to make any changes at all but who would attract Western media sympathy. He finds the result of an Ahmadinejad victory that appears stolen and arouses outrage in Iran even better, though.Of course, Daniel Pipes, whom you've just largely agreed with, is also accused of being a neocon who wants a war with Iran. This just goes to show that nearly any position you can take can be claimed to be a “useful idiot” for those who want a war with Iran. To me, that means that your claim, already suspect from attacking motives, isn't that useful as a guideline at all.

  16. Daniel Pipes accused Obama of being a former Muslim. He supported the Iraq war. He claimed that Iraq was a imminent threat to the US. I would say he is a neocon, but more importantly I would say you shouldn't take his views seriously.

  17. Indeed, her claims are essentially identical to the ones that necons were making contra liberal internationalists before the election. People who hear the facts as Lila Ghobady has described them might actually be more likely to adopt the neocon recommendation that people who thought that the elections could bring about real change.There are many positions on Iran. They include:1) (Many liberal internationalists) Iran is an Islamic Republic, the elections are relatively fair even if the candidates have to be approved, reformers are popular (Ahmadinejad elected only because of boycotts), might be elected, and could make a real difference. Attacking the regime is counter-productive, because it's a real republic. The right sort of outreach could get people to vote for the reformer.2) (Other liberal internationalists, some realists) Iran is an Islamic Republic. Ahmadinejad and the regime have real majority support. The dream of reforms being elected is mostly a fantasy, but because the regime has popular support, we have to deal with it. Attacking the regime, rhetorically or literally, only upsets the people of Iran.3) (Neocons) Iran's regime does not have popular support. The election will be a sham; even if a “reformer” is elected, that reformer was prescreened by the Guardian Council and isn't all that different. Even if the reformer wanted reforms, the regime's structure will prevent it. Our only choice is to support revolts. Attacking the regime, whether rhetorically, economically, or even perhaps militarily, will have the support of its people.4) (Other realists and non-interventionists) Any of the other premises could be true, but I'm sure that doing nothing is the right decision, so the facts don't matter all that much to me.There are others, to be sure.Your problem is not the facts as Lila Ghobady has stated them. Your problem is that there were people who agreed with your preferred policy, but not for the same reasons, or who agreed with your preferred policy but had different premises and beliefs about the facts on the ground. With some of their comfortable premises exploded (there is a possibility for reform with the election, so we shouldn't rock the boat, or Ahmadinejad and the regime are really popular, so there's no hope for a revolution and we should engage), they face a decision about whether or not to switch preferred policies.Yes, things are lining up well for the neocons– but only because liberal internationalists and others who might agree that there's a time and a place for intervention or support were previously, for tactical reasons, supporting engagement, but have had their tactical reasons and hopes dashed. Support for engaging the Iranian regime was not built solely on realist and non-interventionist grounds, but on tactical ones.

    I wanna know!

    Do you? What if knowing gives supports to the necons? Would you still want to know? It seems to me that you know your preferred policy regardless of the background facts. As I said, spreading Lila Ghobady's comments around might actually make more people agree with Eli Lake, Daniel Pipes, and other neocons who were saying exactly that before the election, and less with people like Robert Cohen who were arguing that the elections would be fair.

  18. You are right accused may be the wrong word. Nothing wrong with being a muslim, but I do think that Pipes was trying to harm Obama politically by spreading doubts about his religion.

  19. More specifically, Pipes said that Obama would be considered an apostate Muslim by traditionalists. I don't think he ever said Obama was secretly Muslim, or otherwise disguising his personal beliefs. Personally, I took Pipes argument as a reason to vote for Obama. Radical and intolerant Muslims would agree with Pipes and refuse to deal with Obama. Moderates, or at least pragmatists, would accept Obama as he was and deal with him. Obama's ancestry is useful for sorting out the Muslim lunatics from the Muslim pragmatists. A'jad, by the way, is in the lunatic camp.

  20. Pingback: One never expects the hangover, despite all the evidence « The Edge of the American West

  21. Nothing wrong with being a muslim, but I do think that Pipes was trying to harm Obama politically by spreading doubts about his religion.

    Pipes' column said that Muslim extremists would consider Obama an apostate because his father was a Muslim, even if lapsed. I find that factual argument plausible, even if I don't care particularly if the idiots have another reason to hate America.Of course, Obama himself referenced this background in his speech in Cairo, and indeed, some people thought it should help Obama politically that he has some sort of connection to the Muslim world through his background and raising. I understand that people are very concerned with the idea of the intent and motive underlying factual arguments. At some point, though, it can seem kind of absurd how the same factual statement can be condemned or praised depending on, for example, whether it's designed to help or harm someone politically.For example, Lila Ghobady's arguments about the facts on the ground are indeed identical to those made by neocons. I'm somewhat surprised that Will would resist turning his avatar green on Twitter for fear it might aid neocons, and yet give air to Ghobady's arguments– which, being the same as the ones the neocons made when arguing with liberal internationalists, might be likely to persuade people to the neocon position.Ghobady's arguments are exactly the sort that might persuade someone who supported engagement and waiting for the elections not for absolute reasons of non-intervention, but for tactical reasons of thinking that the elections were legitimate and a possible means of change, to agree with the neocons.

  22. Again, it's more than support for Mousavi at this point. The green is being worn/shown as an expression of disgust against the manipulation of the sham election and solidarity with the Iranian people who want more freedom and less repression.If you really think everyone in the streets in Iran is a Mousavi supporter and if you think people are turning their avatars green to support Mousavi, then you really aren't paying attention.

  23. Pingback: What Green Means «  Modeled Behavior

  24. The point here in all of this (speaking not specifically of green symbolism, but broadly of seeing that the government come to a modus vivendi with the protesters rather than beating the $#!^ out of them or shooting them) is not remotely that Mousavi is a great guy. I suspect the new boss will be the same as the old boss, with perhaps, a 30% reduction in lunatic, spittle intensive speeches targeted at America, Britain, Jews, and small kittens.The point is to alter the way in which the regime interacts with its citizens. As John Mueller points out in Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, the key feature of a democracy is not elections, universal suffrage, or attractive July 4th bunting, but rather that the government be responsive to the deeply held opinions and desires of the people. An Iran in which 99% of the time, the people grumble about the clerics, but let them do what they want, but 1% of the time, get to exercise some sort of public veto is a very different Iran than an Iran in which 99% of the time, the people grumble about the clerics, but let them do what they want, but 1% of the time, they say something and get shot. The second kind of Iran is an Iran that is susceptible to the eroding forces of public opinion, globalization, international flow of ideas, attitudes, and mores, and, yes, soul-less capitalist consumerism. The second kind of Iran's veil gets a little more transparent every year; the first kind…looks the same. Year, after year, after year.

  25. The astute reader will notice that I doinked up first and second in that concluding paragraph. As Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka would say, “Strike that; reverse it.”

  26. Pingback: History Repeats Itself

  27. Pingback: History Repeats Itself

  28. You can go on believing that Pipes talked about Obama's supposed muslim background purely because it had foreign policy implications. In the real world he was trying to hurt Obama politically by questioning his Christianity. Now actually I find his claim that Iraq as an imminent threat more troubling because the truth about Obama's religion matters less than stupidly going to war in Iraq.

  29. Two hundred years ago in this country human beings were held in bondage, women weren't allowed to vote, and the government regularly undertook questionable military action for the sole purpose of territorial expansion. None of that changed as the result of a single election. It changed because of a political process that allowed for incremental improvements. why should Iran be any different?

  30. I appreciated rimfax's pedantic correction, that Iran hasn't had a free election in 56 years, and I don't think it's entirely pedantic. After all, few in the US cared about the lack of freedom in Iran while the Shah was in power, and he was one ruthless, murderous SOB. The US has happily supported all kinds of nasty dictators, who constituted most of the “free world” Ghobady invokes, supporting their armies and secret police and training their torturers … oops, enhanced interrogators. This is why the American spluttering about people like Hugo Chavez, or even Ahmadinejad, is so entertaintaining: even if they were dictators, that wouldn't bother our government or most citizens, so something else has to be the problem.As for that bit about the “farcical imitation of the free nomination/ election process that we have pictured in the free world”, maybe “pictured” is the key word there. We also have a filtering system in the US, in which the corporate media, the corporate corporations, pro-corporate party elites, and religious leaders vet Presidential candidates and ensure that no “secular, pluralistic, freedom-loving democratic person who loves his or her country can become a candidate to run for president (or any other office) in” the US. I hope Ghobady knows more about Iran than she does about the “free world.”

  31. She may be right about the rest, but whatever you think of Ahmadinejad, is it at all accurate to call him a “warmonger”? Which wars has he started?

  32. Mousavi's importance is symbolic, which in politics can be as real as gold: as long as he remains the probably winner of a lawful election and the government refuses to inaugurate him, he and his followers force the assessment of the government as completely illegitimate even by its own standards. And that, and only that, make the prospect of revolution something other than completely impossible. Assessment of what he would do as president is utterly beside the point, because he will never be president, and his greatest impact has so far and will continue to stem from that fact.

  33. But most European countries are ones whose identity arises from the arbitrariness of who married who (eg the ascension of the Scottish King James VI to be King of England as well was the result of his grandmother being English royalty) or who managed to win a war at the right time. And why is Canada a different country to the USA? Why is Texas part of the USA and not Mexico? The magic ju-ju man in the sky has a surprising tendency to change his beliefs when the people on the ground want him to change, so that doesn't strike me as reason to believe in no growth. Morocco is changing and developing.I will also note that the bearded blokes do not derive their sole claim to authority from the Koran, not as long as the police and the army follow their instructions. Guns are a pretty strong claim on authority, even without any religious backing at all. And what right do you have to assert what words the mullahs may use, with or without authority? If I was a mullah I'd cock a snock at you and go on using whatever words I thought were right.

  34. cardy ugg boots On sale,Find newest Ugg Collection there. cardy uggs Special sale,Order now,Save 38% immediately cardy uggs boots This season hit the store,Only $99Would you like a pair of classic short ugg home,make this winter warm,let you feet keep comfort every day. Newest classic short uggs is in stock now,Save more off,Win lucky coupon code.women's bailey button UGG this season hottest Short style UGG Boots,you should never miss it. Bailey Button UGGs keep your feet amazing comfort,Special sale time is limited this week,Order nowUGGs Bailey Button Boots can't find?You can go our shop,Will save more 25%.UGG Bailey Button Sale Come in stock,win more discount now.Chestnut Bailey Button Boot this season hottest Ugg boots,every one is talk about that,Take them home now. bailey button leopard Ugg boots let the fashion on your feet now,A pair of this will give you all.<H3>Leopard Uggs New version of Ugg Bailey Button hit the store</H3><H3>UGG Australia Highkoo 2009-2010 this winter a new rasie trendy along with bailey button button.</H3><H3>UGG Women's Highkoo Will the best gift for christmas,for your girlfriend,your family member</H3><H3 jQuery1250860456437=”26″>UGG Grey Women's Highkoo keep rising,don's miss this opportunity to get them home with cheapest price you never imagin.</H3><H3> </H3><H3> </H3>   

  35. cardy ugg boots On sale,Find newest Ugg Collection there. cardy uggs Special sale,Order now,Save 38% immediately cardy uggs boots This season hit the store,Only $99Would you like a pair of classic short ugg home,make this winter warm,let you feet keep comfort every day. Newest classic short uggs is in stock now,Save more off,Win lucky coupon code.women's bailey button UGG this season hottest Short style UGG Boots,you should never miss it. Bailey Button UGGs keep your feet amazing comfort,Special sale time is limited this week,Order nowUGGs Bailey Button Boots can't find?You can go our shop,Will save more 25%.UGG Bailey Button Sale Come in stock,win more discount now.Chestnut Bailey Button Boot this season hottest Ugg boots,every one is talk about that,Take them home now. bailey button leopard Ugg boots let the fashion on your feet now,A pair of this will give you all.<H3>Leopard Uggs New version of Ugg Bailey Button hit the store</H3><H3>UGG Australia Highkoo 2009-2010 this winter a new rasie trendy along with bailey button button.</H3><H3>UGG Women's Highkoo Will the best gift for christmas,for your girlfriend,your family member</H3><H3 jQuery1250860456437=”26″>UGG Grey Women's Highkoo keep rising,don's miss this opportunity to get them home with cheapest price you never imagin.</H3><H3> </H3><H3> </H3>   

Comments are closed.