Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail of Tears
"I had one vote and I gave it to Mousavi... I have one life, and I'll give it for freedom." - An anonymous Iranian student
By Michael Flannigan, on loan from Ari
There's something more than vaguely despicable about the Republican Party trying to piggyback on Iran's current struggle for democracy.
Over the last six days, the streets of Tehran and other cities have been clogged with Mousavi supporters, so many of them sporting green banners and ribbons that Tehran looks like South Boston on St. Patrick's Day. Paradoxically, the longer foreign journalists are having their press credentials stripped and forbidden from covering the protests, the more attention this '00 US general election redux is getting. Where the press is barred, the people in the streets have taken up the journalistic mantle by fiat with pirate internet connections and whatever Twitter messages they can get out.
Don't think this hasn't been noticed by the Republican Party. With the kind of whiplash opportunism peculiar to politics on both sides of the aisle, Republican democracy vultures who had bitterly and tirelessly fought to subvert the very foundation of our own democracy are now cheering on the very same people whom John McCain wanted to bomb and give lung cancer to.
They couldn't show the proper patriotism and love for democracy for their own country now they're trying to prove their chops by fastening themselves to the Iranian crisis. This is a party, mind you, that has steadfastly opposed reopening diplomatic channels that had been closed since the hostage crisis began in 1979. Yet reopening those same diplomatic channels would be just one out of many in Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi's progressive agenda were a special runoff election authorized by the Council of Guardians that would see him fairly elected.
Prior to this mugging of an election, Republicans never entertained the possibility of engaging in diplomatic talks no matter who the Iranian president was. Just a year and a half ago, instead of calling for the free and fair elections of which he seems to be enamored today, Newt Gingrich was calling for us to covertly blow up their gas pipelines.
Senator John Kerry has the right idea when he defends the Obama administration's refusal to meddle in Iran's affairs by saying, "I think there are serious questions about the election, but I think the Iranians are carrying that message to their own leadership. There is no need for the United States of America to step into the middle of it and make this about America when it is an Iranian moment spurred on by Iranians." Indeed, the GOP's mother-in-law meddling, led by the hilariously irrelevant John McCain, would seem to subvert their very endorsement for democracy in the very act of subverting Iran's sovereignty.
But that's too much to ask, for the Republican Party to have even a passing appreciation for irony. Unlike his predecessor, our current president is not a stupid man. He knows the election was rigged before the first ballot had even been cast. But for now it is more prudent to merely keep a watchful eye on the situation, to not make allegations (however true and justified they'd be) and to respect what for now passes for a democratic process east of Iraq. The Obama administration, which represents the entire American government and not just the Democratic Party, also must not endorse one candidate over another. As with our elected Democratic officials, we progressives and liberals aren't supporting Mousavi as much as we're supporting the abstract ideal of democracy in Iran.
What's especially despicable is the Republican Party's sudden concern for the lives and safety of the protesters, even to the point of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor blasting the administration for not taking a more proactive stance against the brutalizing of Mousavi's supporters.
Where was this concern when news reports began filtering out about Iran's theocracy publicly lynching gay men for the crime of homosexual behavior and where was this concern when Reagan in December 1983 sent Rumsfeld to Iraq as a special envoy to sell Saddam Hussein poison gas with which to kill Iranians as well as his Iraqi political enemies?
Of course, the last thing the Republicans are concerned about is Iranian democracy. They're no more concerned about that than they were Iraqi democracy. In a way, the GOP has almost reverted back to its PNAC roots when they were pressuring Bill Clinton in January of 1998 to invade Iraq and impose regime change. And considering how well democracy has worked out in Iraq so far (especially if you're the head of a foreign oil company or well-connected war profiteer), why not barge into Iran on the pretext of setting up another puppet government whether or not it's led by Mousavi?
Problem: The hundreds of thousands of people thronging the streets of Iran would have a problem with that. They're not looking to overthrow the repressive Supreme Ruling Council. They're not even looking to overthrow the "reelected" President Ahmadinejad. All they're look for is some semblance of democracy, something that starts with a free and fair electoral process.
Something that we ourselves didn't even begin to regain until our own last presidential election.
So unless Republicans are willing to stop endorsing torture and extraordinary rendition, unless they're ready to abolish the USA PATRIOT Act, unless they're willing to stop using all their own slimy, dirty tricks every election, I would respectfully call upon them to shut the fuck up and to take a lesson in real, noninvasive diplomacy as it's being taught to them by President Obama and the Democratic Party.