Thursday, July 16, 2009


Democracy On Their Lips, Destruction In Their Hearts

by Gulamhusein A. Abba

President Obama is a gifted speaker. His speeches soar. They give hope and they inspire. Often he sounds more like a preacher than the President of the USA!

In reacting to the turmoil in Iran, he was restrained and circumspect but did not hesitate to voice strong feelings.

Eager not to give Iranian clerics an opportunity to divert world concern from Iran’s excesses to alleged American meddling in Iran’s internal affairs, initially the White House on June 13 was merely “monitoring” the situation in Iran. On June 14 Vice President Joe Biden said he had “doubts” about the election. By June 15 the US had become “deeply troubled” by events in Iran and Obama spoke out. “I am deeply troubled by the violence that I’ve been seeing on television. I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent – all of those are universal values and need to be respected, and whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I think they are rightfully troubled.”

In an interview taped on June 19 with CBS, Obama said he was very concerned with the “tenor and tone” of Khamenei’s comments. He also said that how Iran’s leaders “approach and deal with people who are, through peaceful means, trying to be heard” will signal “what Iran is and is not.”

On June 20 Obama challenged Iran’s government to halt “violent and unjust” crackdown on dissenters. “We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people,” Obama said in a written statement. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights. …. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. …. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”

By June 23 millions had seen the video of the beautiful, young Neda Agha Soltan laid out on a Tehran street after being shot, blood pouring from her mouth and then across all over her face, eyes rolled upwards.

On June 23, in his news conference Obama strongly condemned the Iranian government’s crackdown and said the US had been “appalled and ouraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonment of the last few days.”

In the US Congress, the House voted 405 – 1 to condemn and protest the governments interference with Internet and cell phone communications. The Senate followed suit later in the day

Senator Joseph Lieberman on June 14 said the Iranian rulers had stolen the election and made a mockery of democracy. He urged Obama to “protest and speak out in defense of silenced Iranian demonstrators.”

Among those condemning the actions of the Iranian clerics and pushing Obama to be more critical of the Iranian government and offer greater praise and support to the demonstrators was Senator McCain.

In Paris, demonstrators held banners saying “Freedom of Expression in Iran” and “Where is my vote” near the Eiffel Tower

In Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu, commenting on the protests in Iran, said, “…..What we see there is a great thirst for freedom among a part of the population.”

No one can take any issue with any of these pronouncements. They are impressive and welcome. It is good to see people and governments around the globe being concerned when human and civil rights are violated brutally.

However, there is a strange disconnect here. One cannot forget that the US repressed even more ruthlessly, violently and persistently the civil rights movement. Baton wielding uniformed police fired not only water cannons and tear gas on the protestors but also let loose on them ferocious dogs.
Equally determinedly and systematically crushed in the US were the mass protests against the Vietnam War, specially the student protests on campuses across America.
And who can forget what the US army personnel did to the helpless prisoners in Abu Gharib?

In Beirut many, many “Nedas”, young men and women sacrificed everything to defend their land, their freedom and their loved ones. They were killed by Israeli bombs and missiles and cannon fire. None can recall any of those so contrite now over the deaths of the Iranian protestors mourning those who died in Beirut.

In Israel young, unarmed men and women protesting the occupation and the theft of their lands – protesting peacefully and non-violently -- are being on a regular basis tear gassed, shot at by rubber coated bullets and killed. One can hear no mourning for them from Obana or the US Congress or Senator Lieberman or Senator McCain. Nor any condemnation of the Israeli violence, suppression and killings.

As for Netanyahu, it is surprising that he can see so clearly “a great thirst for freedom among a part of the (Iranian) population” but is unable to see the unquenched thirst for freedom among the entire population of Palestinian lands that Israel invaded, occupied and is trying to annex – a population that Israel has kept crushed under its boots for more than 40 years. Stranger still that he cares so much for the very people he is so intent on bombing.

He is not the only one. Among those who are presently shedding tears for the Iranian demonstrators and are clamoring about the need to support the Iranian protestors become free from the “tyranny of the mullahs” are the very ones who cannot wait to bomb Iran to smithereens.

It is jarring to hear people like McCain and Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman praise to the skies the freedom loving Iranians demonstrating against their government.

Perhaps most curious is the US and EU “outrage” at Iranian government having “stolen” the election.

Just three years back three and a half million Palestinians held democratic elections under the supervision of international observers who certified them to be fair. Jimmy Carter, ex President of the US described these elections as exemplary. Nevertheless, instead of accepting and honoring the will of the people as expressed in the results of the elections, those who are now clamoring that Iran respect the voice of dissent, refused to accept the results. Instead they put sanctions on the resulting united government composed of Palestinian Authority and Hamas representatives, forced PA president Abbas to dislodge Hamas and ultimately put the whole of Gaza under crippling sanctions, made worse by the Israeli siege of that unfortunate strip of land.

And not so long ago, in the US itself, George W Bush, with help from his brother and the Supreme Court, “stole” the elections, deprived Gore of the crown and became the President of the United States.

Among those condemning the excesses of the Iranian government and lavishing praises on the protestors are people and governments who are itching for a war on Iran. They have welcomed and love the protestors in Iran, not because they care for their freedom or for justice but because the protestors have given them an opportunity to present the Iranian government as being opposed to democratic norms and ruthless in suppressing dissent. They want to bring freedom to the demonstrators by bombing Iran and killing them. They have democracy on their lips and death and destruction in their hearts.

All that one can tell the Iranian dissidents is to beware of such “friends.”

For Obama, people – and I among them – have the greatest respect. He is sincere. But he needs to have moral clarity. He needs to take off the blinkers he seems to have when gazing at Israel and Palestine. He needs to follow up the fine speech he gave in Cairo with a clear stand against the continuing illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel, condemn Israeli stranglehold on Gaza, denounce the gassing and killing of unarmed Palestinians protesting peacefully against the theft of their lands and lead by lifting the sanctions against Gaza.

When one person suffers, we all do. And right now Palestinians hungering for freedom are suffering at the hands of the Israeli government and the IDF far more than the Iranians struggling for reforms are suffering at the hands of the Iranian clerics.

Perhaps these pictures may help him see what the Palestinians are suffering.

Photos: Source and credit

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