Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran

More Clashes as Opposition Disputes Vote
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The Iranian authorities detained more than 100 opposition members as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s leading challenger called for the election results to be canceled.

(New York Times online, news item as of 1:00 PM PDST)


Protester in Tehran after assault by riot-baton-wielding police.
(Photo: Copyright Associated Press / Ben Curtis; NYT 6/13/09)
There can be no question that the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election was stolen. Dissident employees of the Interior Ministry, which is under the control of President Ahmadinejad and is responsible for the ... counting of votes, have reportedly issued an open letter saying as much...

(snip)

What is most shocking is not the fraud itself, but that it was brazen... The final figures put Mousavi’s vote below
[35%]... To announce a result this improbable, and to do it while locking down the Interior Ministry, sending squads of Revolutionary Guards into the streets, blacking out internet and cell phone communication and shuttering the headquarters of the rival candidates, sends a chilling message to the people of Iran —- not only that the Islamic Republic does not care about their votes, but that it does not fear their wrath.

Laura Secor, "Iran's Stolen Election",
The New Yorker online, June 13, 2009


Protesters in Tehran face down Revolutionary Guards,
the private army of the nation's fundamentalist clerics.
I don't like the expression on the face of the helmeted
thug in the center; it's a little too expectant.

(Photo: Copyright Associated Press / Ben Curtis; NYT 6/13/09)

The hearts of a large number of people the world over are with those in Tehran, and elsewhere in Iran, protesting the continued rule of a clique of narrow, bigoted and degrading fundamentalists.

I'm not an analyst of Central Asian affairs, and don't know a great deal about Persian culture -- but I know a hawk from a handsaw when the wind is southerly. I also know that there have been a number of commentators in the Western press who have asserted that a victory for Ahmadinejad isn't impossible: The moderate intellectual and student/youth vote was concentrated in Tehran and other cities, only giving the appearance of a national demand for reform. Meanwhile, the Great Silent Majority in rural areas was solidly behind the scruffy little Holocaust denier and the ruling clique of 'revolutionary' Imams, and that they represent the true will of Iran's people.

Right. And, to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I cheerfully say: Götz von Berlichingen *, you freak.

My instincts tell me that this election was stolen. Ahmadinejad, and his bosses, the crew of clerics which run the nation as their private theocratic fiefdom, should remember that they are in power because of revolution -- one definition of which is a high-risk, all-or-nothing attempt to change an intolerable set of circumstances -- and that depending upon unfolding events, the door to that kind of change can swing both ways.

Something to keep in mind in supporting the reformers and the protesters in Iran -- we should hope they succeed, not because we want them to adopt the values of the United States, or become more like Americans. If the majority of the Iranian people rise up and overthrow the Fundamentalist clerics, whatever moderate reformist government replaces them will reflect Iranian values and concerns -- and, not all of them may be amenable to the interests of the U.S. That's as it should be.

What will happen next, while plenty of commentators will hazard a guess, no one knows. Laura Secor, in her piece for the New Yorker above, asks the question: Is this moment in Iran that country's Wenceslas Square -- when the Czechoslovaks in 1989 successfully (and peacefully) overthrew their EastBloc Communist masters in the "Velvet Revolution"? Or will this be their Tienanmen Square, ending in arrests, bloodshed, and more repression?

I have to keep reminding myself of the observation (possibly Mahatma Gandhi's): That the trend in human history, despite the horrors of violence, repression, poverty, intolerance and greed, is always upwards; that love is stronger than hate, and good more lasting than evil -- and that, as Tolkien's Samwise Ganji says, the darkness is necessary so that when light returns, those things that are good shine out the clearer.

Those with a more cynical view might snicker; and I could agree, Utopia isn't around the corner. As a species, we may not ever achieve it -- not in my lifetime; that's certain. But I prefer to believe that the progression of the human spirit is upward, always, and that the tyrants and delusional buffoons and would-be emperors -- the Ahmadinejads, the Mugabes, the Bushes and Berlusconis; the bureaucracies and multinational corporations; and those who believe their hereditary wealth 'entitles' them -- will eventually fall beneath a weight of their own making.

Sadly, without a more fundamental change in human consciousness, I'm afraid that will take a long time. But, there's another quote of Gandhi's, for the protesters in Iran: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you; then they fight you; then you win."

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* Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1652), German knight of the Holy Roman Empire, half robber baron and half Robin Hood,was outnumbered and surrounded in his own castle by troops of the Bishop of Nuremberg, who hated von Berlichingen -- and hoo boy; the feeling was mutual.

Delivered a letter by messenger from the commander of the Bishop's troops, demanding Götz surrender in the name of the Emperor, he replied: "For his Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But as for your commander, tell him he can kiss my ass!" The phrase, "Götz von Berlichingen!" has been synonymous with that request ever since.

But, you know -- Bite my shiny metal ass works, too.]