Sunday, June 28, 2009

My enemy's enemy is still my enemy.

My enemy's enemy is still my enemy

Just because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thumbs his nose at the US doesn't mean leftists should support his brutal regime

o Ian Williams
o, Thursday 25 June 2009

Allegedly, there are no agnostics in foxholes. Certainly there are few on Fox News, but there are almost as few in the remnants of the hard left. They are all imbued with deep certainty when they take a position, especially on far away countries of which they know little.

In fact, the extremes of both left and right see the world as a spherical Rorschach test, an inkblot in which they can see their primeval hates and desires. It is amazing how symmetrical their views can be.

The Iranian Guardian Council that whittled down the original 400 presidential candidates to four, presumably saw Mir Hossein Mousavi as entirely reliable on nuclear issues, Israel and general disdain for the Great Satan. However here in the US, the right sees him as a potential quisling for the west, and the left see him as a CIA agent.

Despite those shared premises the alternative universes of hard left and right then begin to diverge, since the neocons call for intervention while the left that traditionally approves of anti-imperialist kleptocrats and autocrats thinks intervention is already taking place.

In fact, there is a lot of room for scepticism and agnosticism, not least when you triangulate between those who just "knew" that the replacement of Saddam Hussein would lead to a pro-western Iraq with friendly relations with Israel, and those who admired the murderous Iraqi tyrant's courage, strength and indefatigability.

Ironically, exactly those latter qualities were of course exercised against Iran and their current idol, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with warm applause from Britain and the US.

In reality, it is almost an OJ Simpson moment in Iran. Just as the Los Angeles Police Department framed a guilty man, it is entirely possible that the populist Ahmadinejad stole an election he might have won. I know the prevailing reaction in the US is "But who would vote for such a schmuck?" Well the country that twice elected George Bush might not the best platform from which to launch such a question.

Indeed, if more Iranians had read the Wall Street Journal and saw John Bolton's editorial urging Israel once again to attack Iran just before the election, it could have caused almost as much of a landslide for Ahmadinejad as if Obama followed neocon advice to endorse Mousavi.

And as for the demonstrators, well, if you see a guy in black mask and a big bag skulking away from your house, you can be forgiven for shouting: "Stop thief." When the Guardian Council declares that "Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80 to 170 cities are not accurate – the incident has happened in only 50 cities," there is indeed room for suspicion about the results.

Certainly the response of the regime had all the hallmarks of a heist. From the immediate clampdown on electronic communications of all kinds, the assaults on the opposition by the police, the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij are not the actions of a group confident in their legitimacy and victory.

Regardless of the actual result, shooting down unarmed demonstrators, charging their bereaved families $3,000 "bullet fees" and arresting the opposition is not going to get my support. More to the point, one hopes that the Iranian electorate, even if they had voted for Ahmadinejad, will question the legitimacy of a regime that uses such tactics, no matter how or whether elected.

While I remain agnostic about the numbers, I was sure about one thing, and pretty much proven right. On the hard left, the ghosts of the Comintern and heirs of WH Auden's necessary murderers reflexively and with few if any qualifications support Ahmadinejad, just as they did Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic's bloody trail across the Balkans, or Hugo Chávez's thuggish tactics against any centres of alternative power, or indeed Fidel Castro's robust ways with dissidents. To be bathed in the blood of the Leninist lamb, all a thuggish kleptocrat has to do is to oppose Uncle Sam.

It is unfairly alleged that there is a Middle Eastern aphorism about my enemy's enemy being my friend. It is in fact the hard left's modern position, made all the worse, because we never hear that agnostic qualifier "but" – as in "He opposes US imperialism, but he has reduced his people to poverty, locked up the opposition, tortured and shot dissidents and censored the media."

Luckily most people are less ideological and accept that if we condemn Bush for violating human rights, the same criticism applies to Milosevic, the butcher of Srebrenica; Chávez, the dissolver of opposition local governments; Castro, the imprisoner of independent journalists; or now the theocrats who shoot down demonstrators on the streets.

We did not think that winning elections gave Bush the right to repress all opposition, and anyone who thinks that Ahmadinejad's dubious triumph gives him a license for brutality is guilty of, to put it mildly, moral inconsistency.

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