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Can we talk?
Mr. President?

By Jalil Mortazavi
November 7, 2003
The Iranian
 
Dear President Bush,

Before any decision it is customary that  the President of the United States listen to and consult with his advisors.  These advisor's include any one with the ability to offer a convincing argument to persuade the President to make up his mind in time of peace or time of war.

If the consequence of the decision made by the President is favorable, that particular adviser takes credit, and some times even brags about it. But, if the outcome of the decision is tragic, then the adviser simply shrugs his shoulders and says, "After all, it was the Presidents decision."  Now the responsibility and the blame belong to the President.

What would happen if the President of the United listened to ordinary citizens who are not so- called experts but know a great deal about the particular subject based on first hand experience, history, and common sense? 

Mr. President, as an American citizen, believe me, I am not looking for anything for myself, but I must protect and defend the national interest of this country.  From now until the presidential election, our troops who will be in a hundred different countries, and particularly the 170,000 combat troops in Iraq, will be in the media spotlight.

In our fight against terrorism will our policy of preemptive strike reduce or actually increase attacks towards us?  Since some of your hardline advisor's from the Pentagon have been talking about a regime change in Iran, I am wondering, have we fixed Afghanistan?  Isn't Iraq a mess?  Why worry about Iran?
 
Mr. President, there is a Persian expression I would like you to know, which says, "Since you just had one baby, why don't you worry about raising him before advising others on what to do."  Don't you think we all should get together to fix Iraq first?

Before you make up your mind Mr. President, I think you need to be well informed about certain situations in the Middle East.  I have no doubt you know better than anyone else at the moment that America has the best military power and we have the best men and women in uniform to implement and carry out the orders in defense of this country. But we must all remember that it is not enough just to win the war; we must also win the hearts and minds of the people to keep the peace in the region.

In the case of Iraq we know Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who was killing his opponents regardless of the cost.  It is what we don't know that has been causing enormous problems today.  The problem we are facing is lack of knowledge and understanding about the culture, language, and people. 

In Arab culture, grudge and revenge are the number one behavior problems.  Especially, if the following conditions occur: if any member of a person's family is killed, and especially if it is done on purpose, unless they kill one of them, the chapter never closes.  I guess in this country this is commonly known as "eye for an eye." 

There is a Muslim expression which says. "How come you hate this guy, what has he done, kill your father?"  In addition, another commonly known Muslim tradition is that if you violate their honor by looking at, or touching, or making any kind of sexual gesture towards their women, they never forget.  If they find a way to kill or harm the perpetrator, they will.  In the Muslim culture, also, especially when you are dealing with a religious person, if you swear, insult their religion or their prophet, they'll find a way to kill that person. 

Based on what I read in the paper, some of the violent attacks towards the American troops derived from common misconceptions of Iraqis towards Americans.  I am sure there is not enough time to elaborate on this here.  However, the lack of understanding of Iraqi culture and the language contributes to chaos. 

Can we really say that the Iraqi people are liberated when this liberty does not include basic human essentials such as food, water, electricity, and personal safety?  Liberty must also take place in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. 

Mr. President, if any American citizen talks to you on simple terms just like I am, sometimes their loyalty and patriotism are questioned.  Please understand, all I am trying to do is help.

Mr. President, may I have your undivided attention about the situation between Iran and the United States? Let's lead by example. If we cannot fix Iraq, how can we keep talking about a regime change in Iran? Some of our best friends in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, do not have democracy and even their women do not have the right to vote. But we don't go and change those regimes.

Today there are millions of young Iranians who are yearning to change the direction of their country towards reform.  The students are working and fighting to change a theocracy to a democracy.  Young people in Iran are demanding not liberty or democracy, instead they need and want to have a job, affordable housing, education, and training centers. 

Mr. President, if any one tells you that in Iran everybody wants to have political freedom, either they don't know beans about Iran and Iranians or they just simply choose to misinform you.

Conventional wisdom says people from various countries come to America to live because they want freedom. I can tell you many Iranians I have seen in Iran did not tell me they want to come to America because of freedom. Here are some thinngs they told me:
 
"I want to go to the U.S. because even poor people have TVs and microwaves. The money construction workers spend for lunch is two-days work for us.  I want to go to America because even janitors can own cars, and even plumbers and garbage collectors take their families on vacation.  I'm impressed with America -- even poor people are fat.  And jobs are always plentiful."

I would like to participate in an alternative policy to deal with actual conditions in Iranian society. 

Sincerely,

Jalil Mortazavi

PS:  I am including a copy of my latest book, What I Learned In America, for your reading pleasure.  Don Imus, on his radio show, mentioned he enjoyed it.  If you haven't heard, I'm sure your dad has.

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