The analysis by John Pilger in “Iran: The war begins” that the war with Iran is going to happen, is not news. Many have already been talking about this, and I, for one, have been writing about the high probability of it happening for the last 2-3 years. And if it happens it would not happen only because of the American/British policies, but also because of the policies adopted by the Iranian government.
While every effort should be made to prevent this catastrophe (even though it may be too late now), it does not help the anti-war movement to concentrate wholly on the US government’s designs and exonerate the Iranian government of what it has been doing — as John Pilger does in his analysis.
Take the notorious statement by President Ahmadinejad that has been vaguely translated in the west as Israel being “wiped off the map”. John makes a lot out of the fact that what Ahmadinejad has said was that “The regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” This is true. But how much difference does that make in real terms?
Indeed, as a Persian scholar I can say with authority that the meaning of what he has said, in the context he used to pronounce it, could be taken as much stronger than just saying that Israel should be wiped off the map. When you express it in terms of “time” (eternity) instead of “place” (map of the world) you are saying, in effect, that not only the regime must vanish “now” but “forever”. This fits well with the apocalyptical philosophy that guides Ahmadinejad’s policies and is manifest in many of his pronunciations, including those he has delivered at the United Nations.
The comparison with the demise of the Soviet Union does not help to dispel the enormity of what Ahmadinejad has said about Israel either. Ahmadinejad knows well that the Soviet Union was not a democratic system, but an oligarchy — like the one he represents himself. It needed only a free election to get rid of the system.
However, no such election would do the same in Israel — except only if it disappears as a State first, and then the election is held in the whole of Palestine as a single country. So the comparison, too, implies that Israel must vanish as a State — something that can only be done by force.
And think of what would have been the reaction of John Pilger and many on the Left in the west if President Reagan had used similar terms in reference to the Soviet Union in early 1980’s — even though he may have defended his position by saying that he didn’t mean the use of force to achieve that end, but only through free elections…
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…
Hossein Bagher Zadeh is a human rights activist and commentator on Iranian political and human rights issues. He is a spokesperson for Manshoor 81 (Charter 2003). His weekly column on Iranian affairs (in Persian) appears in Iran Emrooz and Iranian publications. He lives in England.