Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Long on Rhetoric, Short on Memory:
US Media Double-Standard Towards Iran and
By Jim Miles
ccun.org, July 3, 2009
Having watched the situation in Iran now for several years
through to the current protests by the dissident citizens of the country
unsatisfied with the election results, I remain as perplexed as ever.
Not the perplexity of not understanding what is actually going on as there
are enough news sources available outside the control of western corporate
media, but the perplexity of a world that ignores the larger context and the
longer history of the peoples involved.
Iran is about as democratic
as most Middle East countries are. While they do have an autocratic
Supreme Ruler based on an Islamic model, their elections demonstrate the
passions of the people and their beliefs. Iran is not perfect and does
sink into the atrocities of arresting and abusing its own citizens.
The current election by most accounts was delivered fairly with pre-election
polls from accepted international sources indicating that Ahmadinejad would
win with an impressive two to one majority. Official government
reports indicate this is what happened.
The election perhaps was not
as democratic as the one that elected Hamas to office in Palestine (more on
that later), but it was certainly more democratic and open than the fake
elections that Egypt holds. Iraq has a democratically elected
government, but only at the insistence of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in
2004-2005 who outmanoeuvred the U.S. occupation administration in demanding
it under conditions suitable to the Shia majority.
pretends to have a democratic government, duly elected, but consisting of
warlords, drug lords, and profiteers who control very little of the country
and have no control over the U.S. occupation other than subversively.
Pakistan – arguably in the “Middle East” - is again a nominal democracy but
has served as a U.S. puppet in the region since its founding, and is now
suffering under U.S. subversion and attacks while the people of the
different regions have little say in what their mostly powerless politicians
are doing. Other Middle East countries do not even come close to a
democracy, many of who are supported by the U.S. regardless – Saudi Arabia,
the UAE, Qatar.
None of this explains, excuses, or condemns what is
happening in Iran. There is enough information – valid or not,
justifiable or not – for every proponent to have their say...which is where
context and history have their role.
Context – incriminations of
There is a combination of selective memory and selective
interpretation of events when the U.S. looks at its own history.
Either through media manipulation, or through the rhetoric of ‘exceptionalism’,
the western view of Iran lacks perspective on both the history of the United
States, that of Iran, and of the interactions between the two.
President Obama has at least acknowledged that the U.S. interfered with the
Iranian democracy when it, in concert with the British, ran a covert
operation that overturned the Mossadegh government, democratically elected,
in the early 1950s. If that were the sole source of Iranian irritation
with the U.S. it might more readily be overcome, but the longer picture
involves a longer relationship of involvement in Iran and the countries
1979 - a pivotal year.
Soviet Union was drawn into a war in Afghanistan in 1979, a war partly
instigated and supported by the CIA, the Pakistanis ISI, and the main
original source of today’s mujahideen fighters. The results are – or
should be – generally well known, as the Soviets exited ten years later, the
U.S. left, and the various warlords fell to the Taliban under Pakistani
support five years later. The western border of Afghanistan is with
Iran, who at the time assisted the U.S. military in their pursuit of the
Also in 1979, President Carter, much more of a warrior then
than his current older and wiser role as an envoy of peace, had to deal with
one of the long term results of the Mossadegh overthrow, the Iranian
revolution against the Shah. The Shah received U.S. support (and
Israeli support), and operated one of the more severe secret police forces –
the SAVAK – in the region to quell dissent. He was also in process of
establishing a nuclear program. With rising disparities economically
within the country and continued U.S. support internally and continued U.S.
support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the revolution had a
natural adversary, an external enemy that continually threatened.
That threat was only reinforced in 1980, when Iraq attacked Iran. This
bloody, costly lose-lose situation had all countries with military hardware
and information trying their hand at supporting one side or the other,
mainly hoping to bleed them both dry, financially and militarily. The
U.S., Israel, South Africa, Russia and others all contributed to this
Saddam Hussein made 1979 notable as
well. This was the year he consolidated power under himself and the
rule of the Baath party. Hussein was provided with U.S. military
supplies and ‘double use’ materials that could be used for either nuclear
weapons or chemical weapons. When Donald Rumsfeld, then a special
envoy from Reagan, shook his hand in 1983, the fear was that Iraq would
collapse from the war it instigated against Iran, leading to a loss of U.S.
geopolitical strategy that included access to oil, projection of power
(containment of Russia and China) and protection of allies – not much has
Since 1979, more and more
disasters have befallen the Middle East, many taking their time to ferment
and explode, but all with their roots in U.S./CIA/special operations
interference in the region. History would indicate ongoing U.S.
interference, and is supported by information on George Bush’s signing of a
Presidential Advisory in 2007 allowing for CIA interference in Iran – as if
they had not already been there and done that. Other forms of
interference are the oft-referenced sanctions that have hindered the
development of the economy (at the same time being evaded by Halliburton,
the billion dollar war profiteer company now operating U.S. garrisons in
More recently, the U.S. continues to interfere in
Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (working against its own rhetoric about
the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty), Lebanon, and is now trying to work
its way into the Central Asian countries where Russia and China have
established a loose yet increasingly more formal alliance of the Shanghai
Cooperative Organization (SCO). The after effects of events of 1979
are still unravelling around us – the “war on terror” started well before
So whom do I tend to believe? I tend to believe
the history of interference and manipulation that is the centre of U.S.
foreign policy in the Middle East, and a focus of its broader geopolitical
interests. I tend to believe that much of the current activity is
promulgated by the U.S. and its interests in the country. Iranian
nuclear weapons are not the problem; Iranian democracy is not the problem;
the problem is Iranian belligerence towards U.S. hegemony in the area and
its central location within the oil/gas producing areas of the region and
its central location for influencing China, Russia, and Central Asia.
Is Iran without fault in all this? No, as there is plenty of room for
improvement within Iran. Yet again in counterpoint, those problems
might be significantly lessened if the U.S. would stop interfering there and
elsewhere. While Iran may not live up to the United States idealized
image of itself as an exceptional and perfect democracy, the process is long
and hard to even achieve a semblance of democracy as the history of the U.S.
Rhetoric and actions
The U.S. is long
on rhetoric, long on its wonderfulness, yet its actions within its own
history demonstrate the shortcomings of its democracy. The U.S. has
used its own military and private enforcement agencies to quell riots and
disturbances at various mills and mines during the labour protests of the
late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. Anti-war student
demonstrators were killed at Kent State during the Vietnam war. It can
be argued effectively that the U.S. itself is not truly a democracy, with
its arcane voting system, its demands for wealth, and the revolving door
between the politicians, the military, and the corporate world.
President Obama spoke of change, yet to achieve what he did, he must have
somehow fit the image and beliefs of what the establishment – the powers
behind both political parties – were interested in promoting. His
rhetoric is wonderful. He is intelligent, crafty, and popular.
He is not wise. He fits into the establishment pattern very well, and
while he has acted in promoting some superficial changes, the big promises
of change have not come.
Obama has expanded the war into Pakistan –
not that it had not already been there, but it has become his war for
current media coverage. He has disallowed torture at Guantanamo, yet
has allowed renditions to continue and the military courts to continue
without U.S. homeland oversight. His plan of attack for the economy
remains within the hands of Clinton era Democrats, the people who had a
major role in getting the economy to where its current sorry state; the
solution is welfare for the banks and corporations, and the good old rugged
Reaganesque individualism for the masses. He has stopped the jargon
about a “war on terror” yet continually talks about assisting other
countries against terrorism, regardless of the U.S. role in creating it.
He has made a wonderful sounding speech to the Muslim world, yet remained
solidly within the Israeli camp, achieving only another announcement in the
decades long pronouncements about another or revitalized peace plan that
will allow ongoing ‘settlement’ construction in the West Bank.
Democratic Double Standards – Iran and Palestine
newsclips on television tonight reminds me of another situation that looks
eerily similar when viewed through the grainy lenses of amateur videos.
The smoke, the tear gas, the small fires, the protesters throwing rocks back
at the police or military or whoever is trying to prevent their actions are
not uncommon to the Middle East.
Another area where these
pictures have occurred has been in the Palestinian territories, where rock
throwing protesters have fought for decades against an occupation force
consisting of a well equiped modern army who also use tear gas, live
ammunition, helicopters, missiles and other assorted weapons and have killed
well more than the dozen or so reported from Iran.
similarity – yet also the strongest difference – is in the ‘democracy’
aspect of the protests. The Palestinians are denied any democracy that
does not fit the U.S. supported Israeli occupation of the territories – in
other words, no democracy, just keep yourselves under control. The
Hamas government was democratically elected to the Palestinian government
yet was fully denied as a ‘terrorist’ organization and not allowed to try
the workings of power or even the workings of a partnership with Fatah.
The difference in Iran is that the democratic good guys are against the
enemies of the U.S. rather than against a friend of the U.S. as in the
Israeli case. More irony, more double standards are added when it is
known that Mousavi was once a terrorist himself, supporting the U.S. hostage
taking in 1979, and working as an avid anti-U.S. member of the revolutionary
government before returning to civilian life. Turn about again, as the
U.S. and Israel seem to believe that for Hamas a terrorist is always a
terrorist and is not to be dealt with, while in Iran a terrorist seems quite
capable of democratic action.
There are of course other parameters
such that the two situations are not identical, but the overwhelming visual
images are identical, the calls for more democracy are even stronger in
Palestine where thousands have been killed in their actions against the
internationally illegal and non-democratic dictates of the Israeli occupying
forces – yet the U.S. does nothing. They are also doing ‘nothing’ in
Iran, hoping that the CIA covert actions will help carry the day for the
instigation of counter-revolutionary action that will help their grip in the
strategic areas of the Middle East. Obviously, where convenient,
democracy means nothing to the U.S., unless it becomes a pretext for their
wider global strategies.
Iran, media and reality
Obama is trying to appear neutral in his comments towards Iran, a rhetorical
trick that cannot conceal the ongoing U.S. manipulations within the region
and indeed around the globe. Yes, there are problems with Iranian
democracy – yes, the U.S. is a major part of that problem as it is elsewhere
in the world. The domestic western media will continue to condemn
Iranian government actions – and they will continue to do so without taking
in the larger global context of U.S. interference there and elsewhere in the
political and economic lives of global citizens.
of the situation is one of confusion and the requirement of the current
government to establish – or re-establish - its authority and ability to
rule under whatever label. With the ongoing interference and threats
from the U.S. on all sides, it would be difficult to imagine it doing much
differently. With the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the
escalations there and in Pakistan, any threat to stability only gives the
U.S. a stronger grip on the region as it works the different components
against each other. One only needs to look at the drastic security
laws created in the U.S. after 9/11 to know how fears of foreign attack can
be used to strengthen government absolutism.
No, I do not
support any government actions that involve killing its own citizens.
At the same time I do not support any U.S. interference, regardless of
rhetoric, as their actions speak much more towards geopolitical control than
concerns for democracy or nuclear proliferation. My perplexity remains
– how can the U.S. media not be able to see the double standards that exist
within U.S. policy towards Iran, towards Palestine, towards the Middle East,
towards the world?
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular
contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine
Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other
alternative websites and news publications.