In an overwhelming vote of 405 to 1, the United States Congress yesterday voted to condemn the crackdown on the actions of protesters in Iran. They took to the streets in droves to object an election result that most certainly was "rigged". They have been met with brute force from police. Some have been beaten and some have been killed. Even the brave Iranian women are being struck and left bleeding by the police.
In a speech delivered today, the Ayatollah stated that the results were accurate and that the margin was "too wide" for foul play. This remark was met with peals of laughter. Then he began to weep about the protesters which of course, served to inflame the hard-liners to go after them with more fervor. At the end of his speech, the shouts of "Death to America, death to America..." were heard quite loudly, although the Ayatollah had decided in this speech that it was Britain that was the greatest infidel of the day. Apparently, the followers listening to the Ayatollah's speech didn't think that "Death to Britain" sounded as catchy.
This is a very important time in the history of Iran. There is a window of opportunity to bring peace and freedom of choice to a country that has had its culture suppressed, and its arts, its education and its women oppressed. Once again (as I stated in an earlier blog) the issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the radical Muslim clerics who continue to keep this country in the dark ages. It is a violation of basic human rights.
The age of information has arrived in Iran and the Iranians, especially its youth are very aware of what goes on in the outside world through the internet. They want change. They are hungry for freedom. It is obvious in the 80 percent of voters that turned out in record numbers. The clerics who came to power in the late 1970's never had to contend with Google or YouTube or Twitter. It is becoming the greatest tool for freedom and democracy at the moment. The Iranian people are demanding to be heard.
I understand that Obama does not want to appear hawkish like George Bush with his right-wing interventionist policies. I also didn't think we needed to go into Iraq. But now, because of that action, Obama is being quiet at a time when a country in turmoil desperately needs us to stand up and say "We are with you in your struggle". If Obama wants our country to go forward and start anew, then we must act with integrity in international matters, that's true. But there is nothing that says we cannot at least, vocally support what is going on with the protesters in Iran. Ronald Reagan lent support to the Polish Solidarity workers who were fighting for their freedom without arming anyone. And did he not give that impassioned speech in Germany that called to "tear down this wall"? He reminded the world that America was still a country that stood for freedom for all. Reagan held fast to the American ideal and lent support to the cause of liberty in these cases. Reagan was not a saint, but when he spoke, the world did listen. Obama is gifted with the same charismatic presence as the former President and to hear from him at this time would certainly bring hope to the protesters and let the Iranian government know that we are are not supportive of their violence against their own people. We are, at the moment, appearing too soft.
Obama's greatest gift is his eloquence. And yet, he is saying nothing of great significance, nothing to tell the Iranian people "we understand your struggle and we care".
The President's only comment as of today was: "the world is watching Iran."
That's nice, sir. Lots of people are "watching Iran", but no one with the power and the potential to fuel a movement for freedom as you. The United States was founded on the same principles (the right to assemble, the right to protest, the right for freedom of expression and freedom of governance) that the Iraninan people are fighting for now. Believe it or not, the young and educated in Iran, those that are busy studying at Tehran University are being taught with books that were printed in America. They are young and brilliant students who have a desire to move Iran back into the 21st century. Not to support them, even just vocally, would be an international travesty. In these young people is the hope for a peaceful Middle East and the end of the great aggressive push from the hard-liners to demolish Israel.
We need to pick our battles and this one is one that does not need arming with weapons. The people of Iran need us to arm them with words of encouragement because the light of freedom in Iran will surely be snuffed out if we don't. You cannot ignore all the information that is being smuggled out of Iran at this moment. The YouTube videos, the cell phone shots, the blogs. You cannot ignore the violence that is being inflicted on the young students and the women who are being beaten as they make a stand for freedom.
Mousavi was one of the people present when the Ayatollah Khomeini came into power almost three decades ago. He was a supporter of the new regime that deposed the Shah. And he now knows that the Iranians were betrayed. He knows that they have to move into the 21st century to continue as a player in world politics. Let's be honest, he will not push for democracy, because he still is someone who is not liberal to that extent, but he may well be our only hope for a dialogue that may bring about the bridge that is needed to cooperate with the West.
In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote : ‘We can inspire and invite other people to assert their freedoms...we can speak out on behalf of local leaders whose rights are violated; and we can apply economic and diplomatic pressure to those who repeatedly violate the rights of their own people." It's time for the President to put that into practice. It is time to support the "audacious hope" of the Iranian protesters who deserve to be heard and deserve their basic human rights.
Yes, Mr. President, the world may indeed be "watching Iran" as you said. But guess what, sir, the people of Iran, those fighting for their freedom and equality and all the world is more intently watching and waiting to hear from you.