Monday, February 12, 2007

Principled Dissent

[posted by Callimachus]

Hossein Bagher Zadeh, an expatriate Iranian human rights activists, advises the Western left how to oppose the coming war with Iran and keep your dignity and your principles at the same time. Short answer: "Don't just blame America."

Slightly longer answer:

The tragedy of the Iranian people is not only that they have become the next target of the American neocon policies, but also that they are being ruled by the most brutal and ideologically backward-looking and fatalist government in their recent history. The Iranian government has managed to concentrate the world opinion on its nuclear policies and as a result to push aside its horrible human rights record off the agenda.

And the Left in the west has been playing into its hands by ignoring the plight of the Iranian people and concentrating solely on the American designs. This is not the way to effectively fight the impending war. An anti-war stand should be combined with a worldwide campaign for democracy and human rights in Iran -- not only to help relieve Iranians of their sufferings, but also as the best means to diminish the tension in the area and remove any excuse for an American/Israeli attack on Iran.

Ahmadinejad should be condemned for the statements he has made about Israel and Holocaust. Calls should be made for free and fair elections in Iran. Iran’s horrible human rights records should be condemned and those implicated of human rights crimes (many of them in the government) should be brought to justice. And of course, war should be opposed in any circumstances. The Left should be in the vanguard of these campaigns -- if it wants to have any credibility in its campaign against the war.

It's not enough (he's saying, I think) to wait till your domestic opponents say these things and accuse you of insensitivity to them, then respond with, "Yes, that's true, but ...." You can't cut it with feeble boilerplate like "Everyone agrees the world is better off without Saddam, but ...." You have to embrace these humanitarian issues, own them, make them central to and coeval with your opposition to war.

Discounting those who have no principles to fret about, this is the kind of situation that confounds a lot of people. Criticism, protest, dissent strike at particular perceived wrongs, but it's a sniper's trick to aim your rhetoric and preaching properly. I think Yeats summed it up most succinctly in a couplet:

Parnell came down the road, he said to a cheering man:
'Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone'.

Labels: , ,