By Robert Wallace
Something I’ve been trying to do now and again is to play Devil’s Advocate to my own conservative perspectives as well as to some of the moves that I see Republicans making for politics rather than principle. So here goes with another installment of Devil’s Advocate. — Robert
Iran held its 10th presidential election on June 12, 2009. Polls were kept open four hours past the scheduled closing time in order to accommodate the crowds, and pre-election analysis predicted that the greater the turnout the greater the chances for opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. And yet the official results gave the election to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a 66% to 33% landslide.
Mousavi announced: “I’m warning that I won’t surrender to this charade,” his supporters took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands, and the largest civil unrest Iran has seen since the days of the Islamic Revolution was underway.
All of this must have come as a blow to President Obama, who had viewed Mousavi’s popularity before the election as evidence of the miraculous power of his Cairo speech, and initially he maintained silence. But–as Politico outlined–the increasingly violent crackdowns in Iran forced his hand and two days after the protests had started he issued this statement:
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.
Almost immediately right-wing talk radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh began to spin these events into a narrative that would be appealing to their conservative listeners: Valiant rebels in Iran are fighting for freedom. Democracy hangs in balance! Obama is too weak and indecisive to come to their aid. Oh, if only Reagan were still with us!
The narrative immediately permeated the right-wing blogosphere:
At a time when a United States President should be stating support for demonstrations that are clearly protesting not only the theocratic rule of Iran but the oppressive regime that has been evident under Ahmadinejad, Barack Obama is stating that he wants to make it “very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be.”
– The Liberal Lie, The Conservative Truth
You know, here’s a chance to show a little leadership, call on the ruling mullahs to do a careful investigation, invite in election monitors from around the world and have a run off so the world can see “the democratic process” actually works in Iran.
–Right Wing News
The phone rings at 3:00 A.M. in the White House. It’s a desperate call from the rebels fighting for freedom and liberty in Iran. They want to know if they can count on the U.S.A. for support in their effort to kick out terrorist Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (I’m-a-nutta-job). Ring. Rings again. Third Ring.
“C’mon, c’mon…where are they?” the caller wonders. Then someone picks up and relief settles in. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long.
“You’ve reached the White House. Your call is extremely important to us. We both agree, and disagree with your position strongly. Please leave your name, number and a brief message after the beep and we’ll get back to you only if we feel it will serve our own political interests and 2012 re-election efforts. Thank you very much for calling.”
The caller hangs up without bothering to leave a message. There’s no point. A tear rolls down his pained face. He has the answer he wanted. His question, “will there be any support from the Obama administration?” was clearly answered. No.
– Conservative American
Really? “A tear rolls down his pained face?” These are Iranians, right? Weren’t we all talking about how they were a bunch of genocidal, anti-Semitic, Islamo-fascist terrorists last week? I asked an Iranian-American friend of mine–recently returned from Iran–how he felt about some of these statements. He told me:
“It terrifies me how little the Republicans understand foreign policy. It’s just astounding.”
What’s astounding is that, if we want the opposition to win, then coming out strongly in favor of the opposition is the last thing on earth the president of the United States should do. The last time the U.S. intervened in an Iranian election we were too busy subverting a democratically elected government to pay any attention to the principle of free and fair elections. Up to that point, the Iranians had had a very pro-American viewpoint, but nothing will sour relationships quite like hiring a bunch of thugs, staging a coup, and putting an entire nation under the thumb of an oppressive dictator.
And now we think that what an Iranian election really needs is some more American involvement? Seriously?
My friend went on, echoing this sentiment:
“If America shows any support for the reformist movement, then everyone’s going to think America’s behind it, and you can kiss it goodbye. No one in Iran will ever choose a better life, as provided by America, over their current situation. We promised them that once, and gave them a dictator instead.”
None of these right-wing commentators give a damn for the people of Iran or even for the principle of democracy. They see an opportunity to spin this story for political gain. History? Truth? Reform in Iran? Collateral damage to a PR war on Obama.
I’ve got news for my fellow conservatives: Obama looks bad enough without having to invent things, and international policy is just not that important right now anyway. Spend your time shooting down health care reform, for crying out loud. In any case: right now his actions are correct. If we want to support the opposition in Iran than now would be a good time to shut up.
But are we even so convinced that we want to support the opposition in Iran? Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, is not so sure. According to the Washington Independent, he wrote that he was “rooting for Ahmadinejad” because it would be “better to have a bellicose, apocalyptic, in-your-face Ahmadinejad who scares the world than a sweet-talking Mousavi who again lulls it to sleep.”
Back during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Mousavi worked for the Islamic Republican Party. In case fellow GOP members are confused, their Republicans aren’t like our Republicans. The IPR was founded in 1979 to assist the Iranian Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini in establishing Iran’s theocracy. Why, exactly, would it be such a great thing for America if Mousavi won? No one on the right seems interested in even asking the question, which further illustrates the self-serving and hypocritical nature of the calls for Obama to do more to support the Iranian opposition.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.