Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Post #397 - Quiz, continued

Iran and the West
Quiz Questions

First, let me say that in selecting the questions, I tried to feature information of which most Americans are not aware. I realize that the points I've made are not always balanced. They are designed to start a conversation with all of you.

1. Which countries have utilized torture to gather intelligence:

A. Israel
B. United States
C. Iran
D. Iraq
E. All of the above

Unfortunately, the answer is E.

I just stepped down from the board of the National Religious Campaign against Torture. This issue is one that threatens to obscure the line between responsible and compassionate governance and the "rogue regimes" that we condemn. I hope we can work harder to stay on the right side of that line.

A question that must be asked is: who is responsible for these decisions? In our country, it was mainly President Bush and Vice President Cheney, aided by their legal advisors who made the case for permissibility. Congress could have passed legislation to stop such practices, but chose not to.

In Iran, it is harder for us to know who calls the shots. The president is in charge of the government, but he clearly is reined in sometimes by the Supreme Leader. The parliament is acting more and more independent of late, even recently summoning the president to testify (something that almost never happens here). The Supreme Leader himself, in turn, can be dismissed by the Assembly of Experts that appointed him. The Assembly, by the way, is elected by the people, but only from those candidates who have been approved by the Supreme Leader. Assessing accountability in Iran is really not a snap. To some extent, though, this is deliberate. "Constructive ambiguity" is the phrase sometimes used to describe the "keep 'em off-guard" approach to both domestic and foreign adversaries.

2. The person who said, "Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth" was:

A. Ayatollah Khomeini
B. Ali Rafsanjani
C. Ayatollah Khamenei
D. Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad
E. None of the above

Almost qualifies as a trick question, but the answer is E.

Let me be clear on two points: I think that questioning the historicity of the Holocaust is an abomination -- Ahmadinezhad is clearly guilty of that; and we must work out a solution to the Middle East situation that assures the possibility of Jews having a homeland where they can feel safe. However: truth does matter.

The press, politicians and pundits are quite fond of saying “President Ahmadinezhad called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.” With slight variations, this has been repeated over and over again, so that virtually everyone in the West believes that the Iranian politician did, in fact, say that. There is one problem, though: he didn't actually say it. Not only did he not say it, but many of those who repeat the quote to such effect know that he didn't say it. It took months for the major news outlets to get their act together on it, and some still haven't issued retractions.

Here is the Persian: امام عزيز ما فرمودند كه اين رژيم اشغالگر قدس بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود (: “Imam-e-aziz-e maa farmoudand keh een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad as safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”) A more faithful rendering into English of what he said on the occasion in question would be: “Our dear Imam [Khomeini] offered that the regime occupying Jerusalem should pass from the pages of history.” I would say that "regime change" is a more reasonable take-away than genocide.

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