by Gabriel Ash
June 24, 2003
Dear Ayatollah Ali Khameini,
You do not know me, yet nothing I know about you makes me think that I would like you if we met. Neverthless, we do have some common concerns. I therefore decided to give you some comfort and advice.
The White House is giving you grief lately. Let me assure you that you are not alone. The White House is giving grief to the great majority of the human race (and quite a few other species). Hang in there!
On the matter of nuclear buildup, I must reluctantly admit that I understand you. I know you are racing toward The Bomb, despite your denials. I don't like it at all. But you would be insane if you didn't.
Over there to your west, you've got Israel, a nuclear power with imperial ambitions and a readiness with ferocious nonchalance to make meatloaf out of civilians (don't take my word for it; ask your friends in Lebanon). Israel's nuclear suitcase is in the hands of generals suffering from periodic bouts of paranoid schizophrenia. Symptoms include delusions that Adolf Hitler hides in Gaza disguised as a ten year old, fears that Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to implant control chips in the backs of their necks, and an unshakable belief that God is an invisible real estate broker who communicates with them by telepathy.
As if that nuclear lunatic asylum in Palestine weren't enough, you've just won a new neighbor across the desert, the United States. Your new neighbor happens to be the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons. The U.S. vaporized two Japanese cities -- Nagasaki and Hiroshima -- for the hell of it. Japan had already communicated that it was ready to surrender. Imagine what such a country would be ready to do with nuclear weapons if victory actually depended on it.
Just to add to the general clarity, the current administration officially announced that it might use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries in a conventional war. And the U.S. Congress has just authorized renewed development of small, tactical nuclear devices. A couple of bombs will protect you from Paul Wolfowitz and Shaul Mofaz better than all the non-proliferation treaties in the world -- treaties are only as good as the credibility of the countries that sign them.
If you still have doubts, ask yourself who's doing better today, the disarmed Saddam, who did what he was told by the U.N. and scrapped his nuclear program, or that wacko survivalist in North Korea, who goes to sleep every night with an armed missile under his pillow.
I hope you don't share the sentiment of your poetically inclined colleague in India that nuclear weapons enhance your virility. I am sure that this kind of vulgar chest thumping is beneath you. I hope you agree with me that we would be better off in a world without nuclear weapons. But that isn't an option. As long as the U.S. is committed to keeping its arsenal and even developing new weapons, a few bombs in your possession will go a long way toward keeping the Sharon-Wolfowitz axis-of-evil at bay.
I have some advice for you: while you go about building that big nuclear stick, speak softly. The shouting match you engage in against the United States may feel good, but it isn't helping you.
Give an interview to Fox News. Talk about how you love rodeo. Reveal that you secretly own a full collection of Bette Davis B&W movies. Say how much you are anxious to be invited to a George Bush barbecue. Don't worry. No matter how conciliatory you sound, you will still be verbally abused by the Tasmanian Devils who make policy at the Pentagon. They can't help it.
What's in it for you? The U.S. is an awesome superpower. No army can deter it. Wolfowitz, Perle and Rumsfeld aren't afraid of you, no matter what you do. Nuclear power helps a lot, but the only power that the U.S. has learned to fear over the years is people power, a power Washington think tanks are constitutionally unable to fathom. This is the power that defeated the U.S. in Vietnam. This is the power that makes George Bush pull his hair in frustration in Palestine. Iran's best deterrent against the U.S. is the unity and determination of the people. You want that power behind you, but you won't have it unless Iranians are convinced that the U.S. is the bully. People power cannot be coerced. So tone down your rhetoric and let the Pentagon display its fangs.
Speaking about people power, there's something else we need to discuss. You have accused the U.S. of fomenting massive demonstrations against you in the last few weeks. Now, I am very much opposed to CIA induced coups of the sort that did Mossadegh in in 1953. I am also against "regime change" by tomahawk missiles. But helping students demonstrate? You lost me. How exactly did the U.S. help the demonstrators? By parachuting placards? I'm afraid you, too, are coming down with paranoia.
The students of Tehran didn't take to the streets because of U.S. interference. They took to the streets because of you. You fancy yourself as Iran's leader. But you and your Council of Guardians are not leading Iran; you are standing in Iran's way. In 1979, you threw off the tyranny that the U.S. had imposed on you 23 years earlier. And then you replaced it with a new tyranny. That, your betrayal of the revolution, is what fuels the discontent of the people. The people of Iran are motivated by the love of freedom, not by the empty rhetoric of Emperor Bush.
You may find it expedient to suggest that freedom is an American, Western import. This is the one point of agreement between you and the White House; but you are both wrong. Freedom isn't Western. It is Western and Eastern and Southern and Northern; it is universal; it comes from within each of us. Freedom is equally at home, or rather equally ill at ease, in every religion, every belief system, and every nationality. Pretend as it may, the U.S. cannot export freedom. It can only export stuff like Coca Cola. Coke may be advertised as freedom, but it isn't. It's a silly, carbonated drink. You know very well what freedom is. Freedom is not having to take orders from you. Freedom is not being afraid of your goons. That's what the students in Tehran want.
The U.S. has a vision for Iran. It is a vision of a vast market that can be tapped, natural resources that can be plundered, routes of control connecting Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Southeast Asia that can be secured for the operation of American hegemony, and a docile population that can be safely ignored or handled by strongmen. If you fear that vision, you should pay attention. Iran's ability to frustrate U.S. designs to reduce it to an American colony depends on the power of these students, the power of the Iranian people. If you want to help, move out of their way. By obstructing the pull of democracy, you and the clerical establishment, not the students, will be preparing the ground for a new U.S. colonial age in Iran. You think I'm crazy? Check your western border. What was the contribution of that great nationalist Saddam Hussein to the cause of Arab freedom?
But if you insist on getting even with the U.S. for supporting Iranian dissidents, I think I know the perfect revenge for you.
America, too, like Iran, is full of dissidents. Like their sisters and brothers in Tehran, American dissidents want freedom, democracy, accountability, transparency, honest elections, tearing down the police state, etc. They are a thorn in the side of the White House just as the students demonstrating in Tehran are a thorn in your side. Why not give us some help?
Gabriel Ash was born in Romania and grew up in Israel. He is an unabashed "opssimist." He writes his columns because the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword - and sometimes not. This article first appeared in Yellow Times.org. Gabriel encourages your comments: gash@YellowTimes.org