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This Foolishness With Iran

How Irrational Religious Fanaticism Will Kill Us All

If This Is A Fight, We Started It

The fact is it is we who harmed Iran, not the other way around. Together with Great Britain, the U.S. forced the abdication of Iran’s King, Reza Shahand, in 1941 and supported Shahand’s son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, for 38 years until he was deposed during the Islamic Revolution. The Shah of Iran was among the most brutal despots who ever lived. He exploited Iran’s natural and human resources, repressed religious freedoms and corrupted its Old World values. Throughout his reign, the Shah enjoyed strong relations with the U.S. and the U.K., which included covert efforts to keep him in power.

It is those covert U.S. actions and foreign policy that is the root of the growing tidal wave of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; a wave broad in scope and growing ever higher in scale with each passing day. Conservatives and fundamentalists on both sides love to paint this as a fight between good and evil, between God and Satan. The truth is there, for anyone willing to lay down their tribalism long enough to do a half-hour’s worth of research: the United States of America—the U.S. or us—started this fight. We enthusiastically supported corrupt, sadistic dictators, especially in the Muslim world. Now we claim innocence and naiveté, vowing “revenge” on those who attacked us.

Which is not to excuse the 444 days Iranian students held U.S. diplomats hostage back in 1979-1980. The hostage taking during the Iranian Islamic Revolution, provoked in part by U.S. President Jimmy Carter granting the Shah asylum in the U.S. to have emergency surgery, painted Ruhollah Khomeini, a powerful Shia cleric who returned to Iran from exile after the Shah’s departure, as America’s arch villain. The Iranian Hostage Crisis is the core of America’s ongoing characterization of Iran—and, by extension Islam —as evil. Ironically, most people under 50 likely don’t even realize that. They’ve simply come of age in a world where Iran has been de facto characterized as evil.

Is Iran actually evil? I suppose it depends upon your perception and your values. Iran routinely supports some very shady activities in the Mideast and across the globe and is considered a state sponsor of global terrorism. Of course, to the Iranian Old Guard, what they are doing is not terrorism but self-defense or jihad—Holy War. American has conducted many Holy Wars—we just call them something else. Islamic terrorists tend to use a corrupted interpretation of the Holy Quran as justification for their atrocities. America has and continues to do exactly the same thing; use a corrupted interpretation of the Holy Bible to justify murder on an epic scale and oppression of our own people. Who’s right? Why, we are, of course. But that all depends on which “we” is saying it.

Look: terrorism is bad. Terrorists, no matter how noble they believe their cause is, no matter how legitimate their gripe is, are evil. Killing innocents in some kind of “Holy” war does not, in any sense, please God, whether you call Him Jesus or Allah. Terrorists are nuts and terrorist leaders, whether their names or Khomeini, bin Laden, Bush or, yes, Obama, will someday have to stand before God and give an account of innocent lives taken, presumably in His name.

The Boogeyman: The Ayotollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Would Jesus Make This Deal?

Conservatives want Obama to run out and kill a bunch of people. I guess that would make them feel better. But, my guess is the president is a student of history. The war hawks, including the underinformed armchair Fox News junkies cheering on Donald Trump from their Barcaloungers, are deeply ignorant people too lazy to read a book. If history has taught us nothing else, it has aptly demonstrated nothing comes from violence but more violence and war is not the answer to anything. President Obama, I presume, understands he’d be throwing good money after bad and losing the lives of young people by the hundreds if not thousands. There simply is no viable military strategy against ISIS and even less of a viable military option against Iran.

Which leaves only our arsenal of nukes. An arsenal that is all but completely useless because we dare not use them without risking our own annihilation. Our biggest fear about Iran is that Iran doesn’t care if Iran is destroyed in return for launching a nuclear attack on Israel or the U.S. I’m not convinced that’s true: I’m quite sure at least *some* Iranians actually do care, actually don’t want nuclear war. But this is where we are headed because, with every incursion it becomes increasingly obvious America simply cannot sustain a conventional war on so many fronts at the same time. This is the actual risk of the president sending troops everywhere the Republican Congress demands: failure. We risk failure, which the Republicans will politicize and use to stop Hillary Clinton. We pride ourselves in being the world’s only remaining super power, but our power is functionally inert. We have a shaky economy, a public that is exhausted from decades of unending war in the Middle East, an overstretched military and, yes, that useless nuclear arsenal whose only real purpose is to prevent us from being nuked by others.

In spite of that, the Republicans want war. They demand war. They fling invectives at the sitting president, calling his policies “feckless,” while not putting forth any actual policies of their own. Conservatives rail against the Iran nuke deal, demanding we reject it while offering absolutely no viable alternative. As with the Affordable Health Care Act—which conservatives—all of whom have health care—continue to insist on repealing: they have no alternate plan. We’re listening; America is a sucker for good ideas and alternative plans. If these incredibly stiff white men had a better solution to this foolishness with Iran, they’d have laid that plan out by now. They have no plan, they just hate this one. And they hate this one mainly because Barack Obama supports it.

Rip It Up, Start Over: They'll be back. The pipe dream Republicans are selling.

The Politics of Delusion

The saddest and most dangerous part of the Iran nuclear treaty debate is that more than half of the American people are naďve enough—are stupid enough—to believe that, should we reject this deal, that we’ll force the Iranians to the bargaining table again. This is the bill of goods the right wing is effectively selling: Tear It Up, Force Them To A Better Deal. Destroying the tepid, half-a-loaf progress we’ve made will only confirm in the minds of Iranian hardliners that America is not trustworthy and, therefore, not worth dealing with.

This treaty can, therefore, either be a first step toward a shaky and uncertain future or it can be the trigger for war. Conservatives, which include most Republicans and, yes, conservative “Christians,” actually prefer the latter, but they are selling this fairy tale that we can reject our own peace plan, impose even harsher punishments on Iran, and start the talks over; something only a child could believe. Going back on our word will make America not only seem feckless but actually be feckless and untrustworthy. No nation will ever take negotiations with the US seriously because they know half of us are simply irrational people out to sabotage any diplomatic effort in service of a grotesquely distorted “Christian” esthetic: these people actually believe that Jesus would prefer war to peace.

The other bill of goods, offered by the president and the liberal left, is that this treaty fixes everything with Iran. It does not. Bottom line: if Iran (or anyone else) is bound and determined to get a nuclear weapon (and, I believe they are), there is little that anyone can do to stop them. It is only a matter of time before some terrorist state or terrorist organization gets its hand on a nuke, and only a matter of time after that before they pack one in a suitcase and set it off in Tel Aviv or, say, Brooklyn. This is the world we ourselves created, our Hiroshima and Nagasaki chickens come home to roost. We, America, invented this horrible thing.

Worse: clearly half of America believes—naively and stupidly—that this problem has a military solution. A great many of us believe our military is the answer to all our problems: just go bomb Isis. Go bomb Iran. Go bomb Russia. This is the response of fat, middle-aged couch potatoes who don’t have to do any of the fighting or clean up the mess. All of America will end up paying the tab, both in blood and treasure, and if the past decade has taught us nothing else, it has aptly demonstrated the limits of American conventional military force. Rather than solve problems, our every incursion, every military escapade, has only further destabilized and further complicated global tensions while further eroding America’s once-shining reputation for integrity, justice and peace. With every bomb dropped, we confirm in the minds of the world what idiots we are, how arrogant we are.

The conservative right demands a Pax Americana—peace enforced by American weapons of war. They literally want World War III: America fighting in virtually every area of the globe except Africa, which they don’t care about because black people live there.

It utterly chills me, and should unnerve you as well, that conservatives seem willing to play politics with absolutely everything. They will, demonstrably, stop at absolutely nothing in order to block and vex this president. They have slowed our economic recovery, blocking every piece of legislation the president had supported—even to the extent of abandoning their own proposals the moment the president agrees to support them—while blaming Obama for literally everything.

The mission of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives most egregiously, has not been to legislate or govern but to practice politics, day and night, since this president was sworn in. They have, repeatedly, put politics ahead of both the public good and the public trust, and they are rewarded for destroying America’s credit rating and nearly crashing the global economy by gaining a majority in both houses of Congress. This phenomena is, as I’ve pointed out many times, largely the consequence of the center and left’s ignorance; that we only seem to show up to vote every four years, ignoring vital midterm elections which is where older and more conservative voters come out and support extremist, reactionary nut jobs. We sit and wonder, our mouths agape at the sheer manipulative ignorance of guys like Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham yet refuse to get off of the couch to go vote these nuts out of a job.

Good Cop, Bad Cops

So, here we are, again, staring into the abyss. On one side, an imperfect agreement that, at the very least, slows Iranian progress toward a nuke. On the other side: irrational people preying on the ignorance of the uninformed conservative right wing. The goal of most who oppose this deal is political: defeat Obama in an effort to put a Republican in the White House in 2016. This strategy assumes there will be a White House left in 2016. They are playing politics with nuclear holocaust, trying to scare ignorant, uninformed people; it’s literally all Republicans do: stir up mass hysteria; lie in an effort to frighten.

The absence of a credible, viable alternative to what I agree is an imperfect deal fraught with problems casts the conservative right’s opposition to the treaty as brazenly and obviously political. Which makes me wonder who the real evil is: the Iranians or the Republican Party; Old Rich White Men more than willing to gamble away a historic first step toward peace in a desperate grab for political power. These truly, desperately evil people, lying to their gullible followers, will politicize absolutely everything.

The God Is In The Details

Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, "Why did you deceive us by saying, 'We live a long way from you,' while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God." So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.

This is the result conservatives seem to be clamoring for: not a reasonable agreement between sovereign nations but total capitulation on the part of Iran or, more obviously, revenge against one of former president Ronald Reagan’s “Axis of Evil” for America’s humiliation during the Islamic Revolution. They don’t just want to win, they want to utterly humiliate Iran—a sovereign nation we exploited for more than a third of a century—in revenge for that nation’s having risen up against us. I imagine most conservative Christians either don’t know or deny America’s history of brutal exploitation of sovereign people (our own Native Americans as the most obvious example). To them, Iran is simply evil and our duty as Christians is to conquer evil [quote: Tony Perkins].

Which is a complete lie. As Christians, we are not here to battle evil, conquer evil or even to destroy evil. That’s God’s job [Romans 12]. Our purpose is not to do God’s job for Him or “help God out” by organizing politically in His name. I imagine it must deeply sadden God to see all of these “Christian” zealots being motivated by hate, led around by their own ignorance and practicing hatred in His name. Claims of being God-led is at the heart of much (if not most) of the opposition to any move toward peace with Iran, which is an utterly twisted, warped interpretation of Christ.

Even worse, in addition to refuting the myth of this being a "Christian" nation, America’s Old Testament racist tribal proclivities—her thirst for vengeance and demand for the utter humiliation of her sworn enemy Iran—misses a most valuable and important lesson of history: that, pressed to extremes, a sovereign people would rather die on their feet than live on their knees.

Christopher J. Priest
2 August 2015