by Jerome Grapel…
(4/15) (Note to the reader: On May 1st I leave for my annual 2 month hiatus on an island in the Spanish Mediterranean. As a result, I will not contribute again to this fine publication until I return at the end of June. First and foremost, I must thank Arnaud and Naja for allowing me to vent on a regular basis in their wonderful creation, one that has become the only source of serious news and commentary in Key West. I’m also sincerely thankful for those who’ve given some time to my output and look forward to your input, both good and bad, when I return. Warning: I’ll be back.)
In order for a democracy to function as just that, it must be possessed of something referred to as the “loyal opposition”. This supposes a certain degree of sincerity from those out of power, such that what is best for the country remains more important than political loss or gain. In other words, one should be more concerned for the country’s well being than for one’s political advantage (or, in America’s case, to those mega interests you work for).
Since Barak Obama became President, this fundamental concept of democratic governance has been blown out of the water. His opposition has never given a nano- thought to any of his policy assertions. Right from the opening bell, their strategy has been to obstruct whatever the Great Black Hope put forth, regardless of the quality of the initiative. Obama’s inability to effectively react to this crass sabotage has been the ball and chain of his administration’s possibilities. Even more importantly, this unwillingness of Obama’s rivals to assume their role as the “loyal opposition” has been America’s great tragedy.
Perhaps no issue is more indicative of this than the almost treason-like maneuvers by the Republicans to derail Obama’s overtures with Iran.
Since the fall of the Shah and our proxy regime in Iran, the pure reality of existence has had the United States and Iran playing extremely antagonistic roles in the world. Most of this has been played out in the hot air arena of propaganda vituperation, but Iran’s financial clout has also brought some of this to the realm of actual bellicose activity. Given the faction of Islam that Iran represents, it is almost impossible to find any role for them in 9/11, but they’ve certainly funded many of the elements who have continued to snarl and bite at the ankle of Israeli existence. The question is — does that mean we cannot reach an understanding with them?
For almost ½ a century, the Soviet Union posed a far greater threat, both militarily and emotionally, to the American “idea”. It might even be said that compared to the Soviet Union, Iran’s threat could be seen as microscopic. For all that time, the 2 nations never stopped having diplomatic relations, never stopped having cultural exchanges, never stopped talking or treating each other as equals in the international community. There are many similar examples of this throughout American history.
Later in this essay, I’ll discuss just why the Republicans have been so petulant with regard to these negotiations with Iran, but for now, let’s spout the “party line”.
The thinking is (and I use that word loosely) the Iranians cannot be trusted. They never live up to their agreements and commitments. They are weasels, liars, sneaky worms and vermin from a lower caste of simian life, like Gypsies — or worse. Being that almost all those I see ranting and raving against these negotiations come from a particular part of the United States, I’ll put it like this: “y’cain’t trust’um!”
Anyone with a reasonable desire to use their deductive skills will soon realize the face a great nation presents to the world is never perfectly aligned with its true goals and motives. This is no different for Iran or the United States. Considering the course of human history since the initiation of the new century, anyone speaking in representation of the United States that claims another nation “cain’t be trusted”, becomes the definition of a hypocrite. The United States is the same nation, with not only the consent of those now decrying Iran’s trustworthiness, but with their joy and exuberance, that attacked a sovereign nation at peace with the world for reasons that are easily debunked as willful and premeditated lies. I remind the reader of the horror show this has and continues to impose on the Iraqi people, as well as the general state of chaos this has led to in the region. (It is amazing to ponder what human beings are led to do simply to fuel the consumer society.) For an American to claim the Iranians cannot be trusted is something like Hitler accusing another of anti-Semitism.
It is important to note the negotiations themselves and the agreement put forth — its nuances and subterranean folds and crevices — are not that important. With the snooping technology and intelligence capabilities of today’s modern nation-state, it would be hard to imagine anyone constructing a functional nuclear device without someone knowing of it. The true significance of these negotiations is the mere fact that they are happening. This is the true breakthrough. It is the recognition of a level of respect the Iranians have been seeking from the United States. If the longest journey always begins with that first step, this could be the beginning of that long journey towards a more stable future for the most troubled region in the world. (I’ll admit, that sounds a bit too optimistic, but nothing can ever happen without that first step.) It is the decision of the Obama administration to negotiate, to talk, to treat the Iranians as equals in the international community, that is the policy decision here, not the content of the agreement itself.
Why do I say this?
When that Greek version of Paul Revere first ran the 26.3 miles that would become the distance for the foot race now known as The Marathon, his mission was to tell his countrymen that “the Persians are coming, the Persians are coming”. This was more than 2000 years ago, and at the time, the Persian Empire was perhaps the most powerful political entity on the planet. Today’s Iranians are the direct descendants of the Persian legacy, a legacy that had existed for thousands of years before the story of the first marathon runner. The Persian-Iranian culture has run continuously for something like 4000 years. It has rarely been conquered and has developed the rich tapestry such a well rooted sociological creation naturally engenders. The Iranians are not an inferior strain of antiquated hunter-gatherers. They are a complex, mature society with a rich heritage they have a right to be proud of. They have taken this heritage and evolved with a reasonable degree of acumen into the modern world. To treat these people as second class citizens, or, even worse, as children to be disciplined without explanation, could be seen, quite reasonably, as a great insult.
For reasons buried in the complex machinations of the huge, all encompassing machinery of history, as we speak, the United States and Iran are hostile to each other. They have differences. Their world views clash. Put yourself in the shoes of the Iranians. Here you are, this ancient, continuous, sophisticated culture, being told by this bullying upstart of a nation that Israel can have nukes, but you can’t. You’ve been naughty boys and girls and must go to your room without dinner and stay there until we say you can come out. No debate, when you learn to behave as we’d like, etc., etc.
What Iran is really looking for is to be treated like adults. This is the real issue and the Obama administration has decided to do just that. In the end, this could be the most important initiative of his 8 years in office. It is that unavoidable, most difficult to take “first step”. But the Neanderthal wing of American politics wants to stop it. Why?
The official reason, that being mistrust of Iran, for reasons already enunciated — that is, the highly unlikely possibility that Iran could secretly produce a workable nuclear device, with or without an agreement — can be thrown into the bunk receptacle. What about financial interests, that is, those who greatly profit from the threat of or carrying out of war? Yeah — well — maybe. How about the Jewish vote, domestic politics, all that? I guess — maybe, but none of that seems very convincing. That leaves just one thing: it is the consistent policy of obstruction carried out by an opposition party more concerned with their selfish interests than the well being of the country — and the world. These negotiations with Iran are a no-brainer. Everyone in the world except for the Israeli and American right wing, want them. For the Israelis, some degree of paranoiac sincerity could be conjured up in their reactions, but in the American arena it is nothing more than the most banal form of politics. An agreement ratified by Congress would give Obama a major political triumph. Regardless of such an agreement’s beneficial attributes (and this writer would consider such benefits as substantial, especially in the future), the Republicans will not allow that to happen.
America’s “loyal opposition” has disappeared. That is why our democracy is no longer functioning.