The US media almost entirely ignores news regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran. As Tony Snow of the Fox News Network has put it, this is probably the most under-reported news story of the year. Most Americans are unaware that the Islamic Republic of Iran is NOT supported by the masses of Iranians today. Modern Iranians are among the most pro-American in the Middle East.
There is a popular revolt against the Iranian regime brewing in Iran today. I began these daily threads June 10th 2003. On that date Iranians once again began taking to the streets to express their desire for a regime change. Today in Iran, most want to replace the regime with a secular democracy.
The regime is working hard to keep the news about the protest movement in Iran from being reported. Unfortunately, the regime has successfully prohibited western news reporters from covering the demonstrations. The voices of discontent within Iran are sometime murdered, more often imprisoned. Still the people continue to take to the streets to demonstrate against the regime.
In support of this revolt, Iranians in America have been broadcasting news stories by satellite into Iran. This 21st century news link has greatly encouraged these protests. The regime has been attempting to jam the signals, and locate the satellite dishes. Still the people violate the law and listen to these broadcasts. Iranians also use the Internet and the regime attempts to block their access to news against the regime. In spite of this, many Iranians inside of Iran read these posts daily to keep informed of the events in their own country.
This daily thread contains nearly all of the English news reports on Iran. It is thorough. If you follow this thread you will witness, I believe, the transformation of a nation. This daily thread provides a central place where those interested in the events in Iran can find the best news and commentary. The news stories and commentary will from time to time include material from the regime itself. But if you read the post you will discover for yourself, the real story of what is occurring in Iran and its effects on the war on terror.
I am not of Iranian heritage. I am an American committed to supporting the efforts of those in Iran seeking to replace their government with a secular democracy. I am in contact with leaders of the Iranian community here in the United States and in Iran itself.
If you read the daily posts you will gain a better understanding of the US war on terrorism, the Middle East and why we need to support a change of regime in Iran. Feel free to ask your questions and post news stories you discover in the weeks to come.
If all goes well Iran will be free soon and I am convinced become a major ally in the war on terrorism. The regime will fall. Iran will be free. It is just a matter of time.
The Treatment "a Great Tragedy"
May 11, 2004
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami on Tuesday condemned the alleged torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers, the official Irna news agency reported.
"The painful torture inflicted by the occupying forces on iraqisis a great tragedy," the reformist president said in a joint press conference with a visiting member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, Sulejman Tihic.
"Today Iraq has become the focal point of chaos and terrorism and we are witnessing one of the worst human rights violations by the occupying forces."
Iran va Jahan - Editor's note - During 10 days in July and August of 1988, more than 30,000 helpless political prisoners were exectued in Iranian prisons. The following is a testimony of one of the survivors, given at a conference organized by MEHR:
Mr. Hossein Mokhtars Testimony
at the September 1 Conference Organized by MEHR
He is one of the survivors of the massacre of 1988 by the Islamic Regime of Iran.
Dear ladies and Gentlemen
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for attending this conference, I also would like to thank my friends for their efforts that made it possible for me to be here.
Although it is sad for me to talk about the most horrible nightmare of my life, I owe it to all who lost their lives or are now suffering in prisons, to disclose the real face of Mullahs regime of Iran.
Because of the interest of time, I will restrict my talk to the massacre of 1988. I will first give you some basic information about myself.
All together, I have spent more than 6 years of my life in the political prisons and detentions of Irans Islamic regime, all of it in Evin prison in Tehran. During that time, I suffered savage tortures by interrogators of regimes Intelligent Agency. Later, I was able to leave Iran and was accepted as a political refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, through their office in Ankara/Turkey.
Between Jan 26, 2000, the date of my arrival to the United States, and last month, I have had 24 surgeries to treat the injuries and broken parts of my body, which were the results of tortures in Evin prison. I have become disabled with ongoing medical treatments, and have also lost part of my hearing.
In 1981 when the Islamic regime of Iran executed my father, Mr. Ali Mokhtar Zibaii, he was only 40 years old, the same age that I am now. He was an officer of the Air Force in the First Fighters Base in Mehrabad Tehran. At that time I was almost 18 years old.
From 1981 the date of my fathers execution until 1986, the regime was searching for me, and in hiding I was unable to be with my family during that time.
In 1986 I was arrested, and was kept in prison until 1991. During those years I suffered the most savage tortures such that when they released me in 1991, the left side of my body was paralyzed. When I came out I was alien to my family because while I was in prison, my family were rarely allowed to visit me. This was one of the common ways of torturing political prisoners by the Islamic regime.
I am one of about 900 survivors of the massacres of almost 30,000 helpless political prisoners, whom were executed by the Islamic regime. Most of these victims were killed in a time period less than 10 days in July and August of 1988. These killings were done by shooting, hanging or even by grenade and TNT explosives. The executions were done in the hills around Evin.
It is interesting to know that those who are running the government today are the same people responsible for that massacre. This is because they all cooperated with each other in executing that horrible crime.
Khatami, Rafsanjani and Khamenei were among the masterminds of the massacre and should be brought to Justice, as Iranian people are eventually going to do that.
In addition to my personal experiences, I have been a witness to the Mental and physically tortures of other political prisoners by this Regime.
I have witnessed Kids who watched their parents getting tortured. I have also witnessed kids who watched their parents bodies hanging on the cranes. This sad story continues even now almost every day in streets of the Tehran and other cities.
There were many occasions where children lived for years with their mothers in prison cells. These children were denied the very basic needs for survival. I knew of mothers in prison making a substitute for milk by dissolving cheese and sugar in hot water, as their stressed and tortured bodies could not produce milk. Nobody knows what happened to so many of those kids after massacres of the 1988?
The Islamic regime was working on the massacre of all political prisoners for some years. Khomeini had ordered to get rid of all those political prisoners, no reasons were needed. It was decided to kill them all. There were situations when the guards would ask the so-called death committee if they should bring the next wave of prisoners for interrogation. And the answer was no need, just kill them.
On January.11th .1988, they put all prisoners in closed-door rooms and allowed no more visits by their families.
In fact on the first days of January the speakers in prison announced to all prisoners we are not going to give this opportunity to people to save you from prison and treat you as their heroes.
We all knew what is coming up and everybody was ready to die, because there is no other ways for those who disagree with the mullahs of Iran.
From January until July 1988 no newspapers, no TV, no Radio, no shower, no visiting of the families and many times, even no food.
In each room (about 24 square meter, equivalent to about 220 square feet), there were more than 45 prisoners. Finally on July 29 or 30th they started the massacre. Many of the victims had not eaten for days and were thirsty before their execution.
The massacre continued until October 1988, but they killed more than 90% of prisoners during the first 10 days. So many times we heard the heavy machine guns, which were shooting to the victims in the Shooting Execution hall of the prison. These were in addition to hanging on cranes and other hanging stands.
Hearing the sound of explosion shocks from the hills around Evin, we knew that in addition to shooting and hanging, they were killing prisoners by mass bombing with grenades and the TNT explosives.
In August and September 1988 they took me twice to the death committee. The first time the only question was, What is your opinion about your fathers execution?
I answered: please put yourself in my place, and imagine it is you instead of me whose father is executed. And let me ask you the same question. Whatever your answer is will be my answer to your question.
Before I finished my sentence, Falahian the minister of information and the intelligence agency, said, Kill him.
It was a miracle that I survived that order. One of my fathers friends who was a powerful man in the regime, had found and used a release letter in my file, signed by Montazeri, the successor of Komini at the time.
The second time in September they took me again to the same place: section 209 of Evin. That day I heard the voice of martyred Davood Zargar who was shouting guards what are you waiting for, I am ready to die are you scared?
I also heard the martyred Reza Bahman Abadi who was singing the hymn of freedom inside of his death sells.
But the most emotional scene that I witnessed was weeping of some children who were crying for their mothers, the women who were going to give their lives because of their political and ideological beliefs.
Even after I was out of prison for a while, none of my friends had any knowledge about what happened to most of those kids.
In 1990, the representative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights came to Iran for the first time, to visit and examine prisons of Iran. The Islamic regime hid all of us, the 900 survivors, and substituted the guards and others as the real political prisoners.
Fortunately, the United Nations delegation had some names and pictures of prisoners, and especially there was one prisoner that the representative of the Human Rights was looking for, and therefore, the regime was unable to substitute him with someone else. Through this one prisoner, the delegation of the human rights found all of us, prepared photo ID, and made the necessary case for all 900 survivors to save their lives.
And this was and still is the story of all other survivors. Even right now there are many of them inside prisons of the Islamic regime. Some of them are killed by the secret agents of the regime, making it look like car or other types of accidents.
My crying today is just a small reflection of those kids tears, and my shouts are small echo of the roar of the oppressed Iranian people.
My only and final appeal is to American people. Those who believe in kindness and freedom, and those who value human life. I appeal to you that for the sake of all humanity, and for the sake of millions of suffering human beings in Iran, ask your government to stop supporting this terrorist, fascist, and anti-human regime. And in doing so, support the struggle of Iranian people for democracy and freedom.
Down with the Iranian Islamic regime and all its supporters around the world.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, once again thank you for all your attention and your kindness.
God bless you
P.O. Box 2037
P.V.P., CA 90274
Tel: 310 - 377 - 4590
Fax: 310 - 377 -3103
URL: http://mehr.org http://www.iribnews.ir/Full_en.asp?news_id=203964
The Wages of Appeasement
May 11, 2004
The Wall Street Journal
Victor Davis Hanson
Imagine a different Nov. 4, 1979, in Tehran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American Embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Tehran's leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response.
When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran's assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the U.N., Mr. Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini might well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there might well have been the sort of chaos in Tehran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979--and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.
The 20th century should have taught the citizens of liberal democracies the catastrophic consequences of placating tyrants. British and French restraint over the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the absorption of the Czech Sudetenland, and the incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia did not win gratitude but rather Hitler's contempt for their weakness. Fifty million dead, the Holocaust and the near destruction of European civilization were the wages of "appeasement"--a term that early-1930s liberals proudly embraced as far more enlightened than the old idea of "deterrence" and "military readiness."
So too did Western excuses for the Russians' violation of guarantees of free elections in postwar Eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia only embolden the Soviet Union. What eventually contained Stalinism was the Truman Doctrine, NATO and nuclear deterrence--not the United Nations--and what destroyed its legacy was Ronald Reagan's assertiveness, not Jimmy Carter's accommodation or Richard Nixon's détente.
As long ago as the fourth century B.C., Demosthenes warned how complacency and self-delusion among an affluent and free Athenian people allowed a Macedonian thug like Philip II to end some four centuries of Greek liberty--and in a mere 20 years of creeping aggrandizement down the Greek peninsula. Thereafter, these historical lessons should have been clear to citizens of any liberal society: We must neither presume that comfort and security are our birthrights and are guaranteed without constant sacrifice and vigilance, nor expect that peoples outside the purview of bourgeois liberalism share our commitment to reason, tolerance and enlightened self-interest.
Most important, military deterrence and the willingness to use force against evil in its infancy usually end up, in the terrible arithmetic of war, saving more lives than they cost. All this can be a hard lesson to relearn each generation, especially now that we contend with the sirens of the mall, Oprah and latte. Our affluence and leisure are as antithetical to the use of force as rural life and relative poverty once were catalysts for muscular action. The age-old lure of appeasement--perhaps they will cease with this latest concession, perhaps we provoked our enemies, perhaps demonstrations of our future good intentions will win their approval--was never more evident than in the recent Spanish elections, when an affluent European electorate, reeling from the horrific terrorist attack of 3/11, swept from power the pro-U.S. center-right government on the grounds that the mass murders were more the fault of the United States for dragging Spain into the effort to remove fascists and implant democracy in Iraq than of the primordial al Qaedaist culprits, who long ago promised the Western and Christian Iberians ruin for the Crusades and the Reconquista.
What went wrong with the West--and with the United States in particular--when not just the classical but especially the recent antecedents to Sept. 11, from the Iranian hostage-taking to the attack on the USS Cole, were so clear? Though Americans in an election year, legitimately concerned about our war dead, may now be divided over the Iraqi occupation, polls nevertheless show a surprising consensus that the many precursors to the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings were acts of war, not police matters. Roll the tape backward from the USS Cole in 2000, through the bombing of the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the Khobar Towers in 1996, the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the destruction of the American Embassy and annex in Beirut in 1983, the mass murder of 241 U.S. Marine peacekeepers asleep in their Lebanese barracks that same year, and assorted kidnappings and gruesome murders of American citizens and diplomats (including TWA Flight 800, Pan Am 103, William R. Higgins, Leon Klinghoffer, Robert Dean Stethem and CIA operative William Francis Buckley), until we arrive at the Iranian hostage-taking of November 1979: That debacle is where we first saw the strange brew of Islamic fascism, autocracy and Middle East state terrorism--and failed to grasp its menace, condemn it and go to war against it.
That lapse, worth meditating upon in this 25th anniversary year of Khomeinism, then set the precedent that such aggression against the United States was better adjudicated as a matter of law than settled by war. Criminals were to be understood, not punished; and we, not our enemies, were at fault for our past behavior. Whether Mr. Carter's impotence sprang from his deep-seated moral distrust of using American power unilaterally or from real remorse over past American actions in the Cold War or even from his innate pessimism about the military capability of the United States mattered little to the hostage takers in Tehran, who for 444 days humiliated the United States through a variety of public demands for changes in U.S. foreign policy, the return of the exiled shah, and reparations.
But if we know how we failed to respond in the last three decades, do we yet grasp why we were so afraid to act decisively at these earlier junctures, which might have stopped the chain of events that would lead to the al Qaeda terrorist acts of Sept/ 11? Our failure was never due to a lack of the necessary wealth or military resources, but rather to a deeply ingrained assumption that we should not retaliate--a hesitancy al Qaeda perceives and plays upon.
Along that sad succession of provocations, we can look back and see particularly critical turning points that reflected this now-institutionalized state policy of worrying more about what the enemy was going to do to us than we to him, to paraphrase Grant's dictum: not hammering back after the murder of the Marines in Lebanon for fear of ending up like the Israelis in a Lebanese quagmire; not going to Baghdad in 1991 because of paranoia that the "coalition" would collapse and we would polarize the Arabs; pulling abruptly out of Somalia once pictures of American bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu were broadcast around the world; or turning down offers in 1995 from Sudan to place Osama bin Laden into our custody, for fear that U.S. diplomats or citizens might be murdered abroad.
Throughout this tragic quarter-century of appeasement, our response usually consisted of a stern lecture by a Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton about "never giving in to terrorist blackmail" and "not negotiating with terrorists." Even Mr. Reagan's saber-rattling "You can run but not hide" did not preclude trading arms to the Iranian terrorists or abruptly abandoning Lebanon after the horrific Hezbollah attack.
Sometimes a half-baked failed rescue mission, or a battleship salvo, cruise missile or air strike, followed--but always accompanied by a weeklong debate by conservatives over "exit strategies" and "mission creep," while liberals fretted about "consultations with our allies and the United Nations." And remember: these pathetic military responses were the hawkish actions that earned us the resignation of a furious Cyrus Vance, the abrogation of overflight rights by concerned "allies" such as France, and a national debate about what we did to cause such animosity in the first place.
Our enemies and Middle Eastern "friends" alike sneered at our self-flagellation. In 1991, at great risk, the United States freed Kuwait from Iraq and ended its status as the 19th satrapy of Saddam Hussein--only to watch the restored kingdom ethnically cleanse over a third of a million Palestinians. But after the murder of 3,000 Americans in 2001, Kuwaitis, in a February 2002 Gallup poll (and while they lobbied OPEC to reduce output and jack up prices), revealed an overwhelming distaste for Americans--indeed the highest levels of anti-Americanism in the Arab world. And these ethnic cleansers of Palestinians cited America's purportedly unfair treatment of the Palestinians (recipients of accumulated billions in American aid) as a prime cause of their dislike of us.
In the face of such visceral anti-Americanism, the problem may not be real differences over the West Bank, much less that "we are not getting the message out"; rather, in the decade since 1991 the Middle East saw us as a great power that neither could nor would use its strength to advance its ideas--that lacked even the intellectual confidence to argue for our civilization before the likes of a tenth-century monarchy. The autocratic Arab world neither respects nor fears a democratic United States, because it rightly senses that we often talk in principled terms but rarely are willing to invest the time, blood and treasure to match such rhetoric with concrete action. That's why it is crucial for us to stay in Iraq to finish the reconstruction and cement the achievement of our three-week victory over Saddam.
It is easy to cite post-Vietnam guilt and shame as the likely culprit for our paralysis. After all, Jimmy Carter came in when memories of capsizing boat people and of American helicopters lifting swarms of panicked diplomats off the roof of the Saigon embassy were fresh. In 1981, he exited in greater shame: his effusive protestations that Soviet communism wasn't something to fear all that much won him the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, while his heralded "human rights" campaign was answered by the Ortegas in Nicaragua and the creation of a murderous theocracy in Iran. Yet perhaps President Carter was not taking the American people anywhere they didn't want to go. After over a decade of prior social unrest and national humiliation in Vietnam, many Americans believed that the United States either could not or should not do much about things beyond its shores.
As time wore on and the nightmare of Vietnam began to fade, fear of the Soviet Union kept us from crushing the terrorists who killed our diplomats and blew up our citizens. These were no idle fears, given the Russians' record of butchering 30 million of their own, stationing 300 divisions on Europe's borders, and pointing 7,000 nukes at the United States. And fear of their malevolence made eminent sense in the volatile Middle East, where the Russians made direct threats to the Israelis in both the 1967 and 1973 wars, when the Syrian, Egyptian and Iraqi militaries--trained, supplied and advised by Russians--were on the verge of annihilation. Russian support for Nasser's Pan-Arabism and for Baathism in Iraq and Syria rightly worried Cold Warriors, who sensed that the Soviets had their geopolitical eyes on Middle East oil and a stranglehold over Persian Gulf commerce.
Indeed, these twin pillars of the old American Middle East policy--worry over oil and fear of communists--reigned for nearly half a century, between 1945 and 1991. Such realism, however understandable, was counterproductive in the long run, since our tacit support for odious anticommunist governments in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and North Africa did not address the failure of such autocracies to provide prosperity and hope for exploding populations of increasingly poor and angry citizens. We kept Russians out of the oilfields and ensured safe exports of petroleum to Europe, Japan and the U.S.--but at what proved to be the steep price of allowing awful regimes to deflect popular discontent against us.
Nor was Realpolitik always effective. Such illegitimate Arab regimes as the Saudi royal family initiated several oil embargoes, after all. And meanwhile, such a policy did not deter the Soviets from busily selling high-tech weaponry to Libya, Syria and Iraq, while the KGB helped to train and fund almost every Arab terrorist group. And indeed, immediately after the 1991 Iraqi takeover of Kuwait, U.S. intelligence officers discovered that Soviet-trained Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas and Abu Ibrahim had flocked to Baghdad on the invitation of the Baathist Saddam Hussein: though the Soviet Union did not interrupt Western petroleum commerce, its well-supplied surrogates did their fair share of murdering.
Neither thirst for petroleum nor fear of communists, then, adequately explains our inaction for most of the tumultuous late 1980s and 1990s, when groups like Hezbollah and al Qaeda came on to the world scene. Mikhail Gorbachev's tottering empire had little inclination to object too strenuously when the United States hit Libya in 1986, recall, and thanks to the growing diversity and fungibility of the global oil supply, we haven't had a full-fledged Arab embargo since 1979.
Instead, the primary cause for our surprising indifference to the events leading up to Sept. 11 lies within ourselves. Westerners always have had a propensity for complacency because of our wealth and freedom; and Americans in particular have enjoyed a comfortable isolation in being separated from the rest of the world by two oceans. Yet during the last four presidential administrations, laxity about danger on the horizon seems to have become more ingrained than in the days when a more robust United States sought to thwart communist intrusion into Arabia, Asia and Africa.
Americans never viewed terrorist outlaw states with the suspicion they once had toward Soviet communism; they put little pressure on their leaders to crack down on Middle Eastern autocracy and theocracy as a threat to security. At first this indifference was understandable, given the stealthy nature of our enemies and the post-Cold War relief that, having toppled the Soviet Union and freed millions in Eastern Europe, we might be at the end of history. Even the bloodcurdling anti-American shouts from the Beirut street did not seem as scary as a procession of intercontinental missiles and tanks on an average May Day parade in Moscow.
Hezbollah, al Qaeda and the Palestine Liberation Organization were more like fleas on a sleeping dog: bothersome rather than lethal; to be flicked away occasionally rather than systematically eradicated. Few paid attention to Osama bin Laden's infamous February 1998 fatwa: "The rule to kill Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is a sacred duty for any Muslim." Those who noticed thought it just impotent craziness, akin to Sartre's fatuous quip during the Vietnam War that he wished for a nuclear strike against the United States to end its imperial aspirations. No one thought that a raving maniac in an Afghan cave could kill more Americans in a single day than the planes of the Japanese imperial fleet off Pearl Harbor.
But still, how did things as odious to liberal sensibilities as Pan-Arabism, Islamic fundamentalism and Middle Eastern dictatorship--which squashed dissent, mocked religious tolerance, and treated women as chattel--become reinvented into "alternate discourses" deserving a sympathetic pass from the righteous anger of the United States when Americans were murdered overseas? Was it that spokesmen for terrorist regimes mimicked the American left--in everything from dress, vocabulary and appearances on the lecture circuit--and so packaged their extremism in a manner palatable to Americans? Why, after all, were Americans patient with remonstrations from University of Virginia alumna Hanan Ashrawi, rather than asking precisely how such a wealthy Christian PLO apparatchik really felt about the Palestinian Authority's endemic corruption, the spendthrift Parisian Suha Arafat, the terrorists around her husband himself, the spate of "honor killings" of women in the West Bank, the censorship of the Palestinian press, suicide-murdering by Arafat affiliates, and the lynching of suspects by Palestinian police?
Rather than springing from Realpolitik, sloth or fear of oil cutoffs, much of our appeasement of Middle Eastern terrorists derived from a new sort of anti-Americanism that thrived in the growing therapeutic society of the 1980s and 1990s. Though the abrupt collapse of communism was a dilemma for the left, it opened as many doors as it shut. To be sure, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, few Marxists could argue for a state-controlled economy or mouth the old romance about a workers' paradise--not with scenes of East German families crammed into smoking clunkers lumbering over potholed roads, like American pioneers of old on their way west. But if the creed of the socialist republics was impossible to take seriously in either economic or political terms, such a collapse of doctrinaire statism did not discredit the gospel of forced egalitarianism and resentment against prosperous capitalists. Far from it.
If Marx receded from economics departments, his spirit re-emerged among our intelligentsia in the novel guises of poststructuralism, new historicism, multiculturalism and all the other dogmas whose fundamental tenet was that white male capitalists had systematically oppressed women, minorities nd Third World people in countless insidious ways. The font of that collective oppression, both at home and abroad, was the rich, corporate, Republican and white United States.
The fall of the Soviet Union enhanced these newer postcolonial and liberation fields of study by immunizing their promulgators from charges of fellow-traveling or being dupes of Russian expansionism. Communism's demise likewise freed these trendy ideologies from having to offer some wooden, unworkable Marxist alternative to the West; thus they could happily remain entirely critical, sarcastic and cynical without any obligation to suggest something better, as witness the nihilist signs at recent protest marches proclaiming: "I Love Iraq, Bomb Texas."
From writers like Arundhati Roy and Michel Foucault (who anointed Khomeini "a kind of mystic saint" who would usher in a new "political spirituality" that would "transfigure" the world) and from old standbys like Frantz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre ("to shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time"), there filtered down a vague notion that the United States and the West in general were responsible for Third World misery in ways that transcended the dull old class struggle. Endemic racism and the legacy of colonialism, the oppressive multinational corporation and the humiliation and erosion of indigenous culture brought on by globalization and a smug, self-important cultural condescension--all this and more explained poverty and despair, whether in Damascus, Tehran or Beirut.
There was victim status for everybody, from gender, race and class at home to colonialism, imperialism and hegemony abroad. Anyone could play in these "area studies" that cobbled together the barrio, the West Bank and the "freedom fighter" into some sloppy global union of the oppressed--a far hipper enterprise than rehashing "Das Kapital" or listening to a six-hour harangue from Fidel.
Of course, pampered Western intellectuals since Diderot have always dreamed up a "noble savage," who lived in harmony with nature precisely because of his distance from the corruption of Western civilization. But now this fuzzy romanticism had an updated, political edge: The bearded killer and wild-eyed savage were not merely better than we because they lived apart in a premodern landscape. No, they had a right to strike back and kill modernizing Westerners who had intruded into and disrupted their better world--whether Jews on Temple Mount, women in Westernized dress in Tehran, Christian missionaries in Kabul, capitalist profiteers in Islamabad, whiskey-drinking oilmen in Riyadh, or miniskirted tourists in Cairo.
An Ayatollah Khomeini who turned back the clock on female emancipation in Iran, who murdered non-Muslims, and who refashioned Iranian state policy to hunt down, torture and kill liberals nevertheless seemed to liberal Western eyes as preferable to the shah--a Western-supported anticommunist, after all, who was engaged in the messy, often corrupt task of bringing Iran from the 10th to the 20th century, down the arduous, dangerous path that, as in Taiwan or South Korea, might eventually lead to a consensual, capitalist society like our own.
Yet in the new world of utopian multiculturalism and knee-jerk anti-Americanism, in which a Noam Chomsky could proclaim Khomeini's gulag to be "independent nationalism," reasoned argument was futile. Indeed, how could critical debate arise for those "committed to social change," when no universal standards were to be applied to those outside the West? Thanks to the doctrine of cultural relativism, "oppressed" peoples either could not be judged by our biased and "constructed" values ("false universals," in Edward Said's infamous term) or were seen as more pristine than ourselves, uncorrupted by the evils of Western capitalism.
Who were we to gainsay Khomeini's butchery and oppression? We had no way of understanding the nuances of his new liberationist and "nationalist" Islam. Now back in the hands of indigenous peoples, Iran might offer the world an alternate path, a different "discourse" about how to organize a society that emphasized native values (of some sort) over mere profit.
So at precisely the time of these increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, the silly gospel of multiculturalism insisted that Westerners have neither earned the right to censure others, nor do they possess the intellectual tools to make judgments about the relative value of different cultures. And if the initial wave of multiculturalist relativism among the elites--coupled with the age-old romantic forbearance for Third World roguery--explained tolerance for early unpunished attacks on Americans, its spread to our popular culture only encouraged more.
This nonjudgmentalism--essentially a form of nihilism--deemed everything from Sudanese female circumcision to honor killings on the West Bank merely "different" rather than odious. Anyone who has taught freshmen at a state university can sense the fuzzy thinking of our undergraduates: Most come to us prepped in high schools not to make "value judgments" about "other" peoples who are often "victims" of American "oppression." Thus, before female-hating psychopath Mohamed Atta piloted a jet into the World Trade Center, neither Western intellectuals nor their students would have taken him to task for what he said or condemned him as hypocritical for his parasitical existence on Western society. Instead, without logic but with plenty of romance, they would more likely have excused him as a victim of globalization or of the biases of American foreign policy. They would have deconstructed Atta's promotion of anti-Semitic, misogynist, Western-hating thought, as well as his conspiracies with Third World criminals, as anything but a danger and a pathology to be remedied by deportation or incarceration.
It was not for nothing that on Nov. 17, 1979--less than two weeks after the militants stormed the American Embassy in Tehran--the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of 13 female and black hostages, singling them out as part of the brotherhood of those oppressed by the United States and cloaking his continuing slaughter of Iranian opponents and attacks on U.S. sovereignty in a self-righteous anti-Americanism. Twenty-five years later, during the antiwar protests of last spring, a group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism sang the same foolish chorus in its call for demonstrations: "Members of the Muslim Community, Antiwar Activists, Latin-American Solidarity Groups and People From All Over the United States Unite to Say: 'We Are All Palestinians!' "
The new cult of romantic victimhood became gospel in most Middle East departments in American universities. Except for the courageous Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes and Fouad Ajami, few scholars offered any analysis that might confirm more astute Americans in their vague sense that in the Middle East, political autocracy, statism, tribalism, anti-intellectualism and gender apartheid accounted for poverty and failure. And if few wished to take on Islamofascism in the 1990s--indeed, Steven Emerson's chilling 1994 documentary "Jihad in America" set off a storm of protest from U.S. Muslim-rights groups and prompted death threats to the producer--almost no one but Samuel Huntington dared even to broach the taboo subject that there might be elements within doctrinaire Islam itself that could easily lead to intolerance and violence and were therefore at the root of any "clash of civilizations."
Instead, most experts explained why violent fanatics might have some half-legitimate grievance behind their deadly harvest each year of a few Americans in the wrong place at the wrong time. These experts cautioned that,instead of bombing and shooting killers abroad who otherwise would eventually reach us at home, Americans should take care not to disturb Iranian terrorists during Ramadan--rather than to remember that Muslims attacked Israel precisely during that holy period. Instead of condemning Wahhabis for the fascists that they were, we were instead apprised that such holy men of the desert and tent provided a rapidly changing and often Western-corrupted Saudi Arabia with a vital tether to the stability of its romantic nomadic past. Rather than recognizing that Yasser Arafat's Tunisia-based Fatah organization was a crime syndicate, expert opinion persuaded us to empower it as an indigenous liberation movement on the West Bank--only to destroy nearly two decades' worth of steady Palestinian economic improvement.
Neither oil-concerned Republicans nor multicultural Democrats were ready to expose the corrupt American relationship with Saudi Arabia. No country is more culpable than that kingdom in funding extremist madrassas and subsidizing terror, or more antithetical to liberal American values from free speech to religious tolerance. But Saudi propagandists learned from the Palestinians the value of constructing their own victimhood as a long-oppressed colonial people. Call a Saudi fundamentalist mullah a fascist, and you can be sure you'll be tarred as an Islamophobe.
Even when Middle Easterners regularly blew us up, the Clinton administration, unwilling to challenge the new myth of Muslim victimhood, transformed Middle Eastern terrorists bent on destroying America into wayward individual criminals who did not spring from a pathological culture. Thus, President Clinton treated the first World Trade Center bombing as only a criminal-justice matter--which of course allowed the U.S. to avoid confronting the issue and taking on the messy and increasingly unpopular business the Bush administration has been engaged in since Sept. 11. Clinton dispatched FBI agents, not soldiers, to Yemen and Saudi Arabia after the attacks on the USS Cole and the Khobar Towers. Yasser Arafat, responsible in the 1970s for the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Sudan, turned out to be the most frequent foreign visitor to the Clinton Oval Office.
If the Clintonian brand of appeasement reflected both a deep-seated tolerance for Middle Eastern extremism and a reluctance to wake comfortable Americans up to the danger of a looming war, he was not the only one naive about the threat of Islamic fascism. Especially culpable was the Democratic Party at large, whose post-Vietnam foreign policy could not sanction the use of American armed force to protect national interests but only to accomplish purely humanitarian ends as in the interventions in Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia.
Indeed, the recent Democratic primaries reveal just how far this disturbing trend has evolved: the foreign-policy positions of John Kerry and Howard Dean on Iraq and the Middle East were far closer to those of extremists like Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich than to current American policy under George W. Bush. Indeed, buffoons or conspiracy theorists like Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Al Franken often turned up on the same stage as would-be presidents. When Mr. Moore, while endorsing Wesley Clark, called an American president at a time of war a "deserter," when the mendacious Mr. Sharpton lectured his smiling fellow candidates on the Bush administration's "lies" about Iraq, and when Al Gore labeled the president's action in Iraq a "betrayal" of America, the surrender of the mainstream Democrats to the sirens of extremism was complete. Again, past decorum and moderation go out the window when the pretext is saving indigenous peoples from American oppression.
The consensus for appeasement that led to Sept. 11, albeit suppressed for nearly two years by outrage over the murder of 3,000, has re-emerged in criticism over the ongoing reconstruction of Iraq and President Bush's prosecution of the War on Terror.
The tired voices that predicted a litany of horrors in October 2001--the impassable peaks of Afghanistan, millions of refugees, endemic starvation, revolution in the Arab street and violations of Ramadan--now complain, incorrectly, that 150,000 looted art treasures were the cost of guarding the Iraqi oil ministry, that Halliburton pipelines and refineries were the sole reason to remove Saddam Hussein, and that Christian fundamentalists and fifth-columnist neoconservatives have fomented a senseless revenge plot against Muslims and Arabs. Whether they complained before March 2003 that America faced death and ruin against Saddam's Republican Guard, or two months later that in bullying fashion we had walked over a suddenly impotent enemy, or three months later still that, through incompetence, we were taking casualties and failing to get the power back on, leftist critics' only constant was their predictable dislike of America.
Military historians might argue that, given the enormity of our task in Iraq--liberating 26 million from a tyrant and implanting democracy in the region--the tragic loss of more than 500 Americans in a year's war and peace was a remarkable sign of our care and expertise in minimizing deaths. Diplomats might argue that our past efforts at humanitarian reconstruction, with some idealistic commitment to consensual government, have a far better track record in Germany, Japan, Korea, Panama and Serbia than our strategy of exiting Germany after World War I, of leaving Iraq to Saddam after 1991, of abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban once the Russians were stopped, of skipping out from Haiti or of fleeing Somalia. Realist students of arms control might argue that the recent confessions of Pakistan's nuclear roguery, the surrender of the Libyan arsenal, and the invitation of the U.N. inspectors into Iran were the dividends of resolute American action in Iraq. Moammar Gadhafi surely came clean not because of Jimmy Carter's peace missions, U.N. resolutions, or European diplomats.
But don't expect any sober discussion of these contentions from the left. Their gloom and doom about Iraq arises precisely from the anti-Americanism and romanticization of the Third World that once led to our appeasement and now seeks its return. When John Kerry talks of mysterious prominent Europeans he has met (but whose names he will not divulge) who, he says, pray for his election in hopes of ending Mr. Bush's Iraqi nightmare, perhaps he has in mind people like the Chamberlainesque European Commission president Romano Prodi, who said in the wake of the recent mass murder in Spain: "Clearly, the conflict with the terrorists is not resolved with force alone." Perhaps he has in mind, also, the Spanish electorate, which believes it can find security from al Qaeda terrorism by refuting all its past support for America's role in the Middle East. But of course if the terrorists understand that, in lieu of resolve, they will find such appeasement a mere 72 hours after a terrorist attack, then all previously resolute Western democracies--Italy, Poland, Britain and the United States--should expect the terrorists to murder their citizens on the election eve in hopes of achieving just such a Spanish-style capitulation.
In contrast, George W. Bush, impervious to such self-deception, has, in a mere 2 1/2 years, reversed the perilous course of a quarter-century. Since Sept. 11, he has removed the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, begun to challenge the Middle East through support for consensual government, isolated Yasser Arafat, pressured the Europeans on everything from anti-Semitism to their largesse to Hamas, removed American troops from Saudi Arabia, shut down fascistic Islamic "charities," scattered al Qaeda, turned Pakistan from a de facto foe to a scrutinized neutral, rounded up terrorists in the United States, pressured Libya, Iran and Pakistan to come clean on clandestine nuclear cheating, so far avoided another Sept. 11--and promises that he is not nearly done yet. If the Spanish example presages further terrorist attacks on European democracies at election time, at least Mr. Bush has made it clear that America--alone if need be--will neither appease nor ignore such killers but in fact finish the terrible war that they started.
As Jimmy Carter also proved in November 1979, one man really can make a difference.
Mr. Hanson is a military historian and author, most recently, of "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming" (Encounter, June 2003). He teaches classics at California State University at Fresno and lives on a family farm in Selma, Calif. This article appears in the Spring issue of City Journal. http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110004952