You may have heard an important statement by our new secretary of state, John Kerry: “Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations.” Okay. But on this matter of “elected,” I think of something that Jim Woolsey, the old CIA chief, once said.
“Arafat was essentially ‘elected’ the same way Stalin was, but not nearly as democratically as Hitler, who at least had actual opponents.”
It matters, what Kerry said. It matters greatly to Iranian oppositionists and political prisoners. They are no doubt extremely disheartened. The American secretary of state has blessed the dictatorship that rules them, and against which they’re struggling, as elected and legitimate.
Prisoners find out about such things, as we know from Natan Sharansky and many, many others. In his Gulag memoir, Sharansky remembers how “the KGB guys” taunted him about the death of Andrei Amalrik, an exiled dissident. By the same token, he and his fellow prisoners were heartened by good news.
In their cells, they somehow found out that President Reagan had declared 1983 the Year of the Bible. For a while, Sharansky was able to study the Bible with a prisoner named Volodya. They called their sessions “Reaganite readings.”
Andrei Sakharov once told Jeane Kirkpatrick that her name was known in every cell of the Gulag. Why? Because she had named the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.N. Kirkpatrick was a very different kind of official from John Kerry.
What do you think they know in Evin — the prison in Tehran that is one of the darkest and most evil places on earth? Many people would rather be shot in the head on Evin’s steps than enter that place, for even a day. Do the prisoners know what Kerry has said?
Would he ever mention their names, à la Kirkpatrick? Would President Obama?
Be very clear that what American leaders do matters greatly. Every word is heard, every gesture is noticed. George W. Bush used to send Nowruz greetings — i.e., New Year’s greetings — to the Iranian people. Barack Obama, when he came in, sent them to “the people and leaders of Iran.” He also referred to Iran as “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which is what the mullahs insist that country be. He said that he sought engagement “grounded in mutual respect.”
Mutual respect. Between a free, democratic country and a regime that, among other things, stones girls to death for the crime of having been gang-raped? Really? Mutual respect?
When protesters massed in the streets after Iran’s fraudulent election in June 2009, they chanted, “Obama, Obama! Either you’re with them or you’re with us!” Two years later, Sharansky called Obama’s stance during all this “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history.” At the critical moment, “the leader of the Free World said, For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.”
It seems that the United States does not really do freedom anymore. Freedom is passé. That’s just fine with most of our Left, and with significant portions of our Right. Too bad. But maybe some others will hold high the torch?
Stephen Harper of Canada?
I have a piece on the prime minister in the current National Review. And I thought of him, and Canada, when reading a column last week by Charles Moore.
Moore refers to a certain British parliamentary district, or constituency, as “almost the truest-blue in the country” — that is, one of the most Conservative. In my piece, I say that Harper has spoken of painting swaths of Canada blue — that is, making them Conservative, instead of Liberal. In Britain and Canada, red is the color of the Left, and blue is the color of the Right.
Just as Nature intended. Just as the centuries have decreed. Here in America, somehow, we got our colors reversed. It’s so unnatural, and so wrong. I’ve had several years to get used to it, I know. Still not there yet.