A typically long-winded piece (4500 words) by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson in defense of the Ahmadinejad government has just shown up on MRZine, the 24/7 website for Islamic Republic handouts. Herman and Peterson used to peddle their wares on ZNet but apparently editor Michael Albert either finds their views so out of whack with his own or worries that their inclusion might result in a loss of contributions during annual fundraisers. Unlike ZNet and Counterpunch, MRZine doesn’t have one of those running tabs of reader contributions. Perhaps if they solicited donations on the basis of firing the boneheaded editor Yoshie Furuhashi, I might be enticed to send in a couple of hundred dollars.
The occasion for Herman and Peterson’s latest is a full-page ad in the New York Times sponsored by the Eli Wiesel foundation—unfortunately recovered from the Madoff losses apparently—to call for a military attack on Iran signed by 44 Nobel laureates, a “substantial fraction Jewish”. Nice to see these two nitwits stumbling into James Petras territory.
Once they have made the case for opposing war with Iran, they address “the important question of what the people of Iran really want. ” Given Herman and Peterson’s impeccable credentials as scholars of Iranian society, politics and history and their clear mastery of the Persian language, I could not wait to hear how the two experts would channel the innermost thoughts of the Iranian population. Mostly, their expertise turns out to be an ability to read polls. Since time after time they reveal solid support for Ahmadinejad, how dare we question the results?
They begin by debunking the idea that there was ballot-stuffing of the sort widely reported to have taken place in the last election in Afghanistan since 3 American polls predicted an Ahmadinejad victory:
Then, during the run-up to the 2009 election, an opinion poll completed by three U.S. groups just three weeks before the vote found that, for those Iranians willing to commit themselves, Ahmadinejad would beat Mousavi by better than a 2-to-1 margin (34% – 14%), a slightly higher ratio of victory than the official election results as reported by the Interior Ministry on June 13 (63% – 34%).
In just about every article that relies heavily on polling data to support the notion that Ahmadinejad was the democratic choice of the people, there is not the slightest engagement with the electoral system in Iran, which is patently anti-democratic. Including this latest bon-bon from Herman and Peterson.
If you search the article for a reference to “Guardian Council”, the unelected body that has the real power in Iran, you will find none. Nor will you find a single reference to Ali Khameni, the Supreme Leader of the Guardian Council who enjoys a lifetime tenure thanks to his ability to translate the Quran into political diktat. His brother Hadi Khamenei once said that the Guardian Council’s vetting of candidates was undemocratic. Just to show him that they mean business, the Guardian Council rejected Hadi Khamenei’s candidacy for a seat in the Assembly of Experts for “insufficient theological qualifications.” Brilliant. MRZine’s own Assembly of Experts now defends this system that rules the brother of the Supreme Leader as insufficiently Islamic as sufficiently revolutionary and democratic.
What really galls me, however, is the facile comparison between Sandinista Nicaragua and the Islamic Republic in which the protestors are implicitly compared to the contra:
It is important to keep in mind, however, that economic sanctions, U.S. and NATO-bloc wars in countries to Iran’s east and west, ongoing U.S. and Israeli military threats against Iran, and foreign-organized terrorism and subversion inside Iran, all have proven costly and painful to Iran’s citizens, and had feedback effects on their attitudes towards their government (as was true in Nicaragua while it was under attack by the United States during the Sandinista years, 1979-1990). There have also been significant Western (though mainly U.S.) attempts to “educate” Iranians, including programs that subsidize dissent and “democracy promotion.” The so-called “Green Movement” is particularly notable for its links to foreign support groups and media, and its high degree of orientation towards Western audiences.
Are Herman and Peterson aware that this Islamic Republic whose reputation they are so intent on burnishing was the very same government that invited Ollie North to Tehran to discuss how a deal could be struck that would divert cash to the Nicaraguan contras? The “anti-imperialism” of the Islamic Republic had about as much authenticity as a three dollar bill.
I would also remind our two pinheads that the single most violent and counter-revolutionary intervention in Iran’s modern history has not been from the “civil society” NGO’s whose movements are monitored carefully by Iranian secret police and whose members have been put on trial time and again for espionage.
It was the CIA’s coup against Mossadegh that most Iranians regard as the worst violation of the country’s sovereignty. And guess who backed that plot? Was it an early version of Tehran’s secular elite that MRZine hates so much? No, good readers, it was the Shi’ite clergy, the very same people who now run the Guardian Council.
The Ayatollah Kashani was Iran’s most powerful cleric in the early 1950s and would become a mentor to the Ayatollah Khomenei. After Mossadegh instituted some reforms that would reduce the power of the clerics, Kashani decided to make a pact with the devil in order to thwart Mossadegh. Mossadegh’s decision to give women the right to vote was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back.
In an article titled Mossadegh, Islam and Ayatollahs that appears on a website commemorating the life and career of Iran’s great progressive leader, we learn:
This coalition of oppositional clerics saw their livelihood more threatened within a progressive democratic regime than a monarchial system–even with the foreign presence in the country. To justify their acrimonious actions, they claimed that Mossadegh’s government was anti-Islamic, threatened the legitimacy of the monarchy, and risked the Tudeh (communist) party takeover of the country. The distribution of CIA-provided “Behbehani dollars” among mullahs and knife wielding mobs, in addition to Kashani’s ability to summon in a short time a large contingent of his supporters to the streets, helped to turn the tide against Mossadegh and his government.
Taking off their gloves, the professor emeritus of finance and his obscure writing partner opine:
We are not quite sure what to call this toxic mix of opposing the majority will of a foreign country’s citizens and doing so in the name of “democracy,” while feeding into the regime-change program of the United States and Israel. But strong currents of Orientalism as well as imperialism are clearly running through it.
Well, I don’t know about that. But speaking in terms of toxic mixes, I’d prefer not to make amalgams between these two with their observation about all the Jews who signed Wiesel’s letter and David Duke getting an invite to Iran to discuss whether that many Jews got killed under Nazi rule. Maybe later on, but not now.