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Iranian Showdown June 21, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
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Columnist Roger Cohen, who is in Tehran and likely in some danger, had a penetrating article in the NY Times over the weekend

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, had used his Friday sermon to declare high noon in Tehran, warning of “bloodshed and chaos” if protests over a disputed election persisted.

He got both on Saturday — and saw the hitherto sacrosanct authority of his office challenged as never before since the 1979 revolution birthed the Islamic Republic and conceived for it a leadership post standing at the very flank of the Prophet. A multitude of Iranians took their fight through a holy breach on Saturday from which there appears to be scant turning back.


The issues now go far beyond the vote count. The regime has turned on its own people.

As Juan Cole wrote in responding to Mir Hossein Mousavi’s speech denouncing the supreme leader Ali Khamenei:

Mousavi has thrown down a gauntlet before the Supreme Leader and a battle has been joined. By the rules of the Khomeinist regime, only one of them can now survive. And perhaps neither will.

I don’t see how this does not end in a bloody mess. The only hope is that a sufficiently large portion of the security force decides they don’t want to slaughter their friends and families.

And perhaps there is reason to be hopeful. Via Brian Leiter, an Iranian/American philosopher writes of the utter bankruptcy of the regimes ideology and its loss of legitimacy.

The corruption, the impoverishment, the decline of Iran under the clerics, especially Ahmadinejad is undeniable. With dwindling and poor management of resources, this regime is facing a very young, fairly educated population that wants more. Distractions – like picking fights with Israel and even the Iranian nuclear program in the name of pride and sovereignty – only go so far.  At this point, Iran needs to develop its infrastructure; it must provide for its people, it must meet the demands of its young population, including its need for greater freedom. Regardless of its posturing, it has little credibility left. […]

Had this regime had any actual pull, it would have left Moussavi come to power and be an utter disappointment, while allowing some softening of the international discourse toward Iran.   No longer believing in itself, it resorts to amateurish rigging and violence. Once a government starts shooting at its own people, it is signaling its own eventual end. The clerics should know that; that is how they came to power when the Shah brought his army to quash the protests in 79.

It is to be hoped that such disenchantment is shared by the people with the guns.


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Power and Accountability April 26, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, politics.
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The Washington pundits are falling over themselves trying to explain why there should be no prosecution of Bush Administration officials who authorized torture.

Roger Cohen opined:

I don’t think this recovery would be served by prosecutions, either of C.I.A. operatives or those who gave them legal advice. Such legal action, if initiated, would split the intelligence services and the military in paralyzing ways at a time when two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, are still being fought. The country would be lacerated.

And the erstwhile David Broder, in coming to a similar conclusion, writes:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.

One administration later, a different group of individuals occupying the same offices has — thankfully — made the opposite decision. Do they now go back and investigate or indict their predecessors?

The rush to deflect responsibility is an endlessly repeated exercise these days. The Wall St. bankers who got us into our economic mess resent efforts to curb their outrageous compensation packages despite their failure to do their job.

Although it seems to have fallen from public consciousness, no one high in the Bush Administration has ever been held responsible for the lies that got us into Iraq, the politicization of the Justice Department, the illegal surveillance of American citizens, or the myriad other abuses of power that have come to light.

The same journalists who are demanding that we not seek accountability for the torture policies were key players in covering up the other crimes of the Bush Administration.

It is telling that the only people held responsible for torture were Lynndie England and her merry band of sadistic, low-level recruits at Abu Ghraib, largely hailing from poor or middle-class families.

In this country, we have this strange belief that the wealthy and powerful are just better people because they are wealthy and powerful. Their wrongdoing or incompetence is a forgettable aberration from an otherwise worthy character. After all, they look like us and are kind to their pets. When they break the law or engage in careless or negligent behavior, we should just look the other way.

By contrast, when someone of more modest means makes a bad decision, standing up for personal responsibility means they must suffer the full consequences of their decision, whether that be jail time, or economic devastation. They are the “other” and we need to show them that there are rules and expectations to be upheld.

Our moral framework is upside down. Until we learn to hold the powerful accountable, our democracy will be at best incomplete and at worst the kind of brute, mutant colossus we became under Bush.