I have been attacked for the last week or so for stating my utter disappointment at the silence of the Obama Administration in supporting the protesters in Iran. Obama went from absolute silence last Saturday and Sunday, to a weak statement Monday, to a statement on Tuesday that said there is no difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi.
Not exactly a ‘Tear down this wall!’ statement.
What makes it worse is that just one week earlier, Mr. Obama was lauded for his speech in Cairo, which I myself have said was a good speech. It was a statement that at least I felt was a starting point for dialogue with the Muslim world. I thought Mr. Obama was starting an honest back-and-forth exchange with the Muslim world. My conservative friends and blogger buddies did not think that I knew what I was talking about; that Obama was just using his eloquent speaking abilities to simply ‘sell’ America. I felt that Obama was heartfelt in his words.
They were right, and I was wrong, and today I admit it.
Reads these words directly taken from Mr. Obama’s speech; some are cut out, but I don’t believe they are taken vastly out of context; many have to do with Israel and Palestine, but I believe Obama was also referring to the world at large:
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private….
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
Maybe Mr. Obama feels that he is upholding these beliefs by his weak statements of support. His ‘concern’ and ‘worry’ I guess is as much as the Iranian protesters, those beaten, harrassed, and killed on the streets of Tehran, can expect. I guess, however, the part about we will say in public what we say in private…well, apparently that was just drivel.
Even non-Democratic countries like Egypt understand what is at stake: “The caution that has characterized the position of the principle international actors towards the abuses occurring in the streets of Iran, up to and including the killing [of protesters], may be sending the wrong message to the ruling powers there.” Even the Egyptians get it.
And then there is the liberal view. The Nation came out and blasted Obama on his stance as well:
President Obama’s tepid response to the evidence the Iranian election was stolen from the people of that country by current president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his thuggish allies is disappointing. …
The president says he entertains “deep concerns about the election” in Iran. Well, who doesn’t? Expressing concern is “nice,” it’s “diplomatic”–in the worst sense–but it is not sufficient to the circumstance, as Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are reportedly arguing within the White House. …
By every measure, the US president’s response has been less than that of other world leaders, especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has branded the announced election “result” a fraud and bluntly decried the government’s clampdown on dissent “brutal,” “totally disproportionate” and “extremely alarming.”
Obama also once again has shown his surprisingly lack of understanding for other countries. These protests in Iran are no longer simply about the election. For example, the Grand Council is recounting votes as we speak…you think that will placate them? No, it is about a much grander vision for Iran…where the Islamic state can move into the future. Obama has missed that.
Instead, the Obama White House has promised to continue dialogue with Ahmadinejad and the regime, regardless of the outcome of this crisis. So if they kill, say, 50,000 protesters, will Obama just sit down with the leader of that regime and calmly discuss nuclear weapons? And to what end? Ahmadinejad repeated this week that the nuclear issue is a ‘closed file’ and that he would not have any further negotiations regarding the topic, either with the West or the United Nations. What dialogue is Mr. Obama proposing, dare I ask?
Barack Obama has said that after the strong willed George W. Bush ‘ruined’ our standing in the world, and that he, and he alone, would restore America’s moral standing in the world. Mr. President, does our moral standing improve by equating protesters who just want their vote counted, to the mullahs who are beating and killing those same protesters? That is exactly what you did this week. I see no moral fortitude in that.
So, Mr. Obama has no problem speaking harshly to our allies. But while the Ayatollah and his allies sit in Tehran, deciding if they should sit idly and wait for the protests to die down on their own, or impose a ‘Tiananmen-like’ solutions and bring in the Revolutionary Guard to wipe out the protesters, Mr. Obama has decided a simple course of action: do nothing.
UPDATE Mr. Mousavi has apparently written a letter to Barack Obama; whether Obama received it, or sent it back because he is worried about meddling, who knows. Whether the letter is authentic, I have no idea. But here it is below:
From the Office of Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi
To the President of the USA, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama:
Dear Mr. President,
In the name of the Iranian people, we want you to know that when you recently made the statement “Achmadinejad or Mousavi? Two of a kind,” we consider this as a grave and deep insult, not just to Mr. Mousavi but especially against the judgment of the Iranian people, against our moral conviction and intelligence, especially those of the young generation that comprises a population of 31 million.
It is a specially grave insult for those who are now fighting for democracy and freedom, and an unwarranted gift and even praise for Mr. Khamenei, whose security forces are now killing peaceful Iranians in the streets of every major city in the country.
Your statement misled the people of the world. It was no doubt inspired by your hope for dialogue with this regime, but you cannot possibly believe in promises from a regime that lies to its own people and then kills them when they demand the promises be kept.
By such statements, your administration and you discourage the Iranian people, who believe and trust in the values of democracy and freedom. We are pleased to see that you have condemned the regime’s murderous violence, and we look forward to stronger support for the rightful struggle of the Iranian people against the actions of a regime that is your enemy as well as ours.