Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mr. Ganji Won't Go to Washington

Good News From Iran: Time reports that the Iranian people are not a pack of violent drones who support Hezbollah. This may come as a surprise to some, but it should be a matter of no astonishment to most of us here in America, where fully two-thirds of the voting population now rejects any allegiance toward the neocon hegemony and its belief in the divine right of invasion and occupation. Here are some wise words from one such Iranian man-on-the-street; he may as well be a Wal-Mart worker talking about Bush's economic policy:

"I don't think it's right to support them when our own people are hungry," says Mohammad Reza Afshari, 23, a mechanic who works two jobs yet still cannot afford to move out or attend college. The shop where he works abuts a vast mural depicting a female suicide bomber with a baby in her arms, accompanied by the words I LOVE MOTHERHOOD, BUT I LOVE MARTYRDOM MORE. Frustration with such propaganda underpins young people's reactions to the conflict. "Where are the Arabs?" asks Afshari angrily. "They're sitting around, while we're risking our position in the world."

We are seeing another expression of freethinking individualism (remember that?—you know, the foundation upon which this nation was built in the first place) in the refusal of an Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, to an invitation from none other than the White House. His explanation is very simple, and easily understood by most Americans:

He said he rejected the offer because he believed current US policies could not help promote democracy in Iran. In a speech last week in Washington DC, he also criticised US policy in Iraq, saying: "You cannot bring democracy to a country by attacking it".

I find these messages out of Iran extremely encouraging, and in another era or under a wiser and more articulate administration than we have, they would be the meat on a good diplomat's plate. With the technology, resources, and talent we have available to us, both here in America and around the free world, you'd think that this would be the front line of the war on terror: encouraging, supporting, and giving voice to the many people who can clearly express dissent, even in nations governed by tyranny and extremism. A well-organized diplomatic team with capable statesmen could bring such voices to the forefront and allow them to turn the tide on tyranny. They can be found in Lebanon, in Iran, certainly in Iraq, and even among the Israeli people. If you must have heroes in your world, this is where I'd suggest looking for them, not in some jerk in a top gun flight suit standing in front of a Mission Accomplished banner.

But perhaps one of the messages we need to hear in the voice of Mr. Ganji is that we have some work to do in rooting out the tyranny within our own nation. Witness what he wrote from prison just over a year ago; he may as well have been writing from Gitmo:

In authoritarian systems, lying turns from a vice to a virtue. Liars claim: we don't have any political prisoners, any solitary cells, there is no hunger strike in Iran's prisons, prisons are like hotels. They solve their problems by changing the names.

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