The Persian-American community has for decades waited for the emergence of a viable Persian-American candidate for Congress. Although many have tried, few have had a reasonable chance of success. Then came Goli Ameri, a Persian-American woman who happened to be at the right place at the right time. What has been unknown to many of us up until recently, however, is that she is also a Persian-American neo-conservative.
We have the CEO of eBay. We have a key engineer at NASA. We have a Nobel Peace prize winner. We even have an Oscar nominee, but still not a Persian-American high profile politician. So it is natural that excitement in our community was considerable when Ameri declared her intention to run for Congress in Oregon– to the extent that we became excessively forgiving about her refusal to address issues close to the heart of the average Persian-American. [See: AmeriForCongress.com]
For months Ameri has toured the country and raised money — considerable amounts of money — from Persian-Americans. Her only argument has been: “You need a Persian-American in Congress.” True. We do need Persian-Americans in Congress, but we also need a Persian-American in Congress that caters to our interest and bring our concerns to the attention of decision makers in Washington.
Just being Persian-American simply isn't enough.
But in times of war — yes, we are at war right now– few have the courage to ask inconvenient questions. With minorities in the US treated increasingly as criminals — or terrorists — until proven innocent, the idea of having a Persian-American in Congress that can challenge the Patriot Act and restore our civil rights is attractive indeed.
But what do you do when that very Persian-American is a supporter of the Patriot Act? What do you do when that Persian-American is a supporter of the Bush agenda of invading as many Middle Eastern countries as possible and imposing pro-US, pro-Israeli semi-dictators there? What do you do when that Persian-American is a neo-conservative?
Aunt Ameri — our community's own Uncle Tom — is a neo-conservative in all but name. She supports the Patriot Act and praises President Bush when he extended the law fingerprinting Iranian grandmothers, amongst others, at our airports. She praises the “War on Terror”, Bush's military escapades in the Middle East, and the White House's disdain for international cooperation. She praises the Department of Homeland Security and its brutal treatment of Iranian immigrants in America.
But her similarities with the neo-conservatives do not end there. Much like them, she has concealed her true face from her constituents, getting their support and campaign contributions by appearing as a moderate with genuine concern for Persian-American interests. As her campaign has progressed, however, and the pool of possible Persian-American contributions to her campaign drained, she has slowly revealed her true positions and intentions. And it hasn't been a pretty sight.
The question Persian-Americans must ask themselves is whether we are better off with Aunt Ameri in Congress or not. Will it be easier to violate our civil rights with a Persian-American in Congress cheerleading the Patriot Act? Will Aunt Ameri in Congress make it easier for neo-con forces to portray Persian-American opponents of the Patriot Act as extremists, or perhaps even terrorists? Will Aunt Ameri become the Persian Ahmed Chalabi, drawing the US into a bloody and seemingly endless military confrontation with Iran?
Ameri may be an American of Iranian origin, but her ideas and goals are of an inherently anti-Iranian and anti-American extraction. Come November, we as a community, must decide whether ethnicity takes precedence over ideas, and whether a Persian neo-con is any better, worse or the same as a non-Persian neo-con.
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