Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post #97 - Engines Astern Full

Lord, grant us eyes to see
Within the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly:
Till taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures Thee,
And hearken for Thy tender word
And hear, “Fear not: it is I.”

(Christina Georgina Rossetti)

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men..." (I Peter, 2:15)

There still is time, in regard to Iran, for us to chart a different course – one that will lead to a better future for both our countries. Dwight D. Eisenhower said: "I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it." Ray Takeyh says, "In dealing with Iran, it is time for not just a policy shift but a paradigm change." Many hoped that the Obama administration would encourage and embrace such a change.

The "33 Bridge" in Isfahan
One of the wonders of the central Iranian city of Isfahan (which has many wonders) is the 300- meter-long Allah Verdi Khan Bridge constructed in 1596. It is most often called See o Seh Pol (or “Thirty-Three Bridge," for its many arches. An old story has an Isfahani explaining its meaning to a foreign antagonist: “Show me your willingness to meet me half-way, and I will go 33 times that far to reach agreement with you.” This recalls the biblical guidance that we should “go the extra mile” in seeking reconciliation with another. Another story has it that the number of arches commemorated Jesus' age when he died. (I suspect that this is the last thing that most American Christians would expect to hear, but no one bats an eyelash at the idea there. The Koran, while it does not see Jesus as God, does revere him as the Word of God who was conveyed into Mary to be born a man, who had the role of holy prophet and apostle, and who was taken up to eternal life by God after his departure from the earth. On the Day of Judgment, Muslims expect to have Jesus, not Mohammad, return to the Earth.)

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing which I attended a few years ago, I heard testimony given by Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, US Marine Corps Ret., and former commander-in-chief of the Central Command (the military’s coordination area in which Iraq, Iran and other countries of the Middle East and Central Asia are located). Hoar said that an attack on Iran would constitute “the most significant blunder we will have committed since World War II.”

Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, former director of the National Security Agency, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who also teaches at Yale University, also testified that day. Though primarily addressing the Iraq War situation, he stressed that the “order of battle” must be seen as including areas beyond the borders of Iraq. He said that very shortly our 160 thousand U.S. troops [the level in Iraq at that time] may have scores of millions of adversaries arrayed against them (insurgents, terrorists, angry Muslim populations of neighboring states, etc.).

Vice President Biden (right; then in the U.S. Senate)
The chairman of the Committee, then-Senator Joseph Biden, interpreted belligerent statements by the then-president mentioning Iran and Syria as being serious indicators of an intention to confront those countries in the near future; he expressed bewilderment at a policy which attempts to collaborate with Shi’ite leaders in Iraq while being belligerent toward Shi’ite Iran, and which woos Sunni allies in the region, while aggressively taking on Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Biden pointed out that U.S. actions in regard to Iranian representatives in Iraq were at odds with the stated foreign policy stance of the Iraqi government we helped at great cost to establish.

In the February 12, 2007 edition of Congressional Quarterly a full-page advertisement was sponsored by an ad hoc coalition of groups, including Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Peace Action Education Fund, Council for a Livable World, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, WAND Education Fund, National Iranian American Council and Just Foreign Policy. Headed with the words “If you like war in Iraq, you’ll love Iran,” the ad read, in part:

"An ominous pattern of provocative words and acts from the White House points to a new war: a 'preventive' strike on Iran.
"Nuclear or not, the fallout from this attack will be catastrophic. Iran is three times larger than Iraq. It has vast resources and intense national pride. It can wreak havoc on oil markets. It can retaliate against Israel or the Gulf States. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 175,000 U.S. soldiers could be the victim of a surge of anger at America.
"The American people want diplomacy, not another war…Congress must make the White House listen to the people."

As much as anything, this was an appeal to Americans’ self-interest. The more concise, and morally more straightforward, message of journalist/blogger Dave Swanson was, “There is never a good time to invade someone else’s country.” Surely, from a biblical point of view, it is not about self-interest; you don’t “turn the other cheek” or “go the extra mile” only when an adversary has you at a disadvantage. You turn the other cheek whenever you know God is watching.

A researcher from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, wrote from Tehran: “The Iranian political scene is dominated by the nuclear issue. Confrontation with the West has made the public more tolerant of authoritarian methods, damaging reformers and making concern for individual rights and civil liberties seem utterly irrelevant.”

Akbar Ganji, after his release from prison
Investigative journalist and human rights activist Akbar Ganji was behind bars in Iran for six years because of his devotion to the truth regarding the assassinations of dissident intellectuals. Yet Ganji says: “We Iranians have to gain our freedom by ourselves.” “What we need, in our fight for freedom“ Ganji wrote in the New York Times (August 1, 2006) “is not foreign aid but conditions that would allow us to focus all of our energies on the domestic struggle and to rest assured that no one is encouraging the regime's oppression. We need to know that no one is providing the regime with new technologies for filtering the Internet, and that no one is making deals with the regime that give it financial support or psychological succor...we need the moral and spiritual support of all the world's forces for peace and freedom. We hope that these forces will be relentless in criticizing any policy that, under the guise of ending the crisis in the region, only fans its flames.” Baquer Namazi, who heads the largest support center for non-governmental groups in Iran, also confirmed the negative impact of the Bush administration's "democracy" funding.

An American reporter, Steven Knipp, traveling in Iran, was told by Iranian college students he met, “Please know this: We are not Saudi Arabia. We are not Iraq. We are not Yemen. Please tell them we are not the same as these places!” The students were asking that Americans open their eyes and ears and find out the truth that lies behind the stereotypes of Islam or of the Middle East. In like fashion, Ganji concluded his op-ed piece by saying, “The best help the world can offer us is to listen to the different voices of our society, and when forming a policy toward Iran or an image of its people, do not reduce our society to the regime that rules it most brutally.”

(To be continued in the next post.)

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