People of Iran, I'm sorry

Protesters in Iran on June 20 (Farhad Rajabali/Gooya via Faramarz/Flickr)

Protesters in Iran on June 20 (Farhad Rajabali/Gooya via Faramarz/Flickr)

Dear people of Iran,

I apologize.

I have been a coward.  A week ago, I wanted the U.S. to stay out of your revolution. I told myself that it was for your own good. But I was deceiving myself, and I was deceiving you.

I was worse than wrong. I was guilty of cowardice, because I thought your dictators would retaliate with terrorism. I was guilty of timidity, because I thought America didn’t need another foreign policy crisis when it must confront so many crises at home. I was guilty of feeling guilty, because the U.S. hasn’t always done the right thing in the Middle East. Worst of all, I was guilty of optimistic indifference, the illogical belief that somehow good will triumph even if no one lifts a finger to help.

But good doesn’t always win, does it? The Chinese survivors of Tiananamen Square can testify that the democracy and people power don’t always defeat machine guns and tanks.

People of Iran, I apologize for all the Americans who will all make sorts of excuses why we should do nothing to help. Some will say that we have no right to intervene because we overthrew your government in 1953. It’s a peculiar argument that says someone who committed a crime in the past has no right to stop a rapist from assaulting a woman right now. These people are willing to indulge their guilt trip with your blood.

Some Americans will make the excuse that intervening will make things worse for you. But we all know that the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij thugs will shoot you down in the streets regardless of whether we show restraint.

Finally, some will argue that there is nothing we can do to help. But what they’re really saying is that helping you is inconvenient for us. The Revolutionary Guards get their money from oil revenues. They get their weapons from Russia. For all their rhetoric, they need the world as much as the world needs their oil.

The U.S. can’t make your revolution happen. But what the U.S. and the world can do is impose a cost on your oppressors. We can impose an economic embargo, freeze diplomatic and cultural ties, and provide communications so your message can get out despite the censorship. It’s not much, and it probably won’t convince all of your rulers that it’s time for change. But some might get the message that conducting repression-as-usual has become a lot more expensive.

But I apologize, because I don’t know if America will do this. In which case, your revolution might be crushed, and then all the Americans who made the excuses for doing nothing will shrug and mutter that it just wasn’t meant to be. But that’s just another excuse.

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26 Responses to People of Iran, I'm sorry

  1. libtree09 says:

    So you want to be a courageous revolutionary so their revolt could be our revolt. Certainly they can’t do it alone. Our diplomatic ties were severed I believe, in 1980, and the oil embargo of Iraq hurt the people more than Saddam and the images coming out of Iran are already using western technology. Plus we did make sure Twitter was up and running on Tehran time. It is doubtful Europe would go along with any embargo.

    We had our opportunies and blew it every time. When Mohammad Khatami was elected in 1997 we ahd an opportunity but blew itas a reformer it was Putin who reached out not us which may account for the weapons. In 2002 Bush decides to engage Iran by including them in the Axis of Evil, then invades Iraq and so Ahamdinejah is elected to fight the Great Satan. A letter goes out from Iran to Bush for dialog. No deal.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t show support, we are showing support, from our citizens, with rallies and television coverage. The Iranian government is doing fine in cutting its own throat, our government doesn’t need chest thumping and the republicans don’t need to use this crisis as a weapon against a president that they so fear.

    If Iran is truly a future nuclear threat we need to put aside emotions for pragmatism, it is about being smart not courageous. If we were to listen to John McCain we would be gearing up for a new war. Ahmadinejad has already lost no matter the outcome. Iran is not North Korea, change is coming and nothing is going to stop it.

  2. layla says:

    WOW Michael. Very powerful. But still, I have to ask: is it right to encourage the Iranian demonstrators, when we may just be encouraging them to be crushed? Note Hungary 1956, and, more recently, the Kurds and Shia of Iraq, all of whom we encouraged to revolt, to their ultimate detriment.

  3. Rick Ungar says:

    Maybe powerful – but wrong just the same.
    Why do we, as Americans, always think that we are the answer? It’s like if it has something to do with democracy, somehow we believe that it is up to us to take the lead. It’s not.
    Iran belongs to the Iranians. While most of us certainly hope for the best for those with the courage to protest against a rigged election, nobody has asked the USA to stick its nose in. We should not, therefore, assume that we are welcomed or make that decision on our own.
    It is unlikely that what is happening in Iran will result in a regime change – however, the consequences of the those who are standing up for their rights are significant and will be long lasting. Our trying to put our “stamp” on it would only spoil what the Iranian protesters have already accomplished. Now that it has happened, it is not the place of the United States to rush in on its white horse and steal the glory.

  4. layla says:

    Uh, Rick, excuse me, but I believe the Iranians demonstrating in the street have asked us to intervene. This doesn’t mean we should, but you are incorrect in stating that nobody has asked us to. Many would appreciate our support; in fact, you could even say some are dying for it.

  5. troyaustinpickard says:

    Michael –

    I think your analysis of guilt-tripping Americans misses the point. Yes, America’s hands are still stained with blood from the overthrow of Mossadegh, but this history alone doesn’t generate the desire to stay out of the present situation.

    My concern is that American involvement in Iran now would be essentially motivated by the same selfish goals as it was the last time around. We obviously can’t trust Ahmadinejad to do the right thing; but we just as obviously can’t trust America to do it either.

    America has a long way to go before it can honestly claim that it is a force for good in the world, particularly while the fires of Iraq and Afghanistan are still actively burning.

    So, while I would love to see United States muscle flexed in some non-violent way for the sincere benefit of the Iranian people, any U.S. efforts toward Iran should be looked upon with a heavy dose of cynicism.

  6. Laurie Essig says:

    I have to agree with Rick. It’s horrible to watch state repression in Iran and also breath-taking to see the courage of the protesters. But it is not “ours” to fix or shape or decide. The impulse to do so is perhaps a noble one, but the effect of the US government doing so is Imperialism.

  7. Rachel King says:

    While it does feel horrible to stand aside while this horror going on, U.S. involvement isn’t necessarily the answer, and I think if we jumped in immediately, we would have made the situation entirely worse. Obama was right when he said the world is watching, and if we went in, the world would have judged us harshly, not the Iranian government.

  8. earlsworld says:

    Yes, America may have poked its nose too deep into other peoples’ business but it is my candid opinion that for the oppressed people of world, America must not look the other way.

    It doesn’t have to be direct involvement, it could be some other ways like food or medical aid and speaking up.

  9. Michael Peck says:

    Funny how all these excuses about Iran sound like domestic violence. No, we can’t interfere because the battered wife asked us not to. No, we can’t interfere because it’s none of our business. No, we can’t interfere because our motives may be less than pure. And them the wife is found dead and we wring our hands and wonder how it happened.

    Just seems wrong, folks.

    • Mish says:

      Not sure simplistic analogies about domestic abuse are really gonna cut it, Peck.

      I’m confident you’d do better by the people of Iran if, instead of trying to perfect your journalistic flair in 500 words or fewer, you began to dig deeper in an attempt to uncover insightful perspectives.

    • Brian In NYC says:

      No we can’t interfere because it won’t work! I realize Michael that you are tad Iran obsessed, but this really is a moment to keep our mouths shut and let the people of Iran workout their own destiny. Haven’t you neo-cons learned anything from the last 8 years. Democracy can’t not be imposed on a people, they have to earn it for themselves.

    • Troy Austin Pickard says:

      Michael, your analogies seem ripe for countering in the same vein, so here it is:

      If the Iran situation is like an instance of domestic violence, then “No, we can’t interfere because our motives may be less than pure… WE want to be the ones to violently repress the Iranians!”

      Same goes for your earlier analogy about the woman being assaulted by a rapist. It hardly makes sense for you to interfere if your real reason for doing so is that YOU can be the one to rape her.

      • Michael Peck says:

        So you think that if Obama supports the Iranian protesters, it must be part of a nefarious plot to install a pro-American dictator who will turn over every oil field in the country to Exxon. And waterboard every kitten in Tehran, too.

        The left doesn’t have much faith in its Messiah, does it?

      • Brian In NYC says:

        “The left doesn’t have much faith in its Messiah, does it?”

        Yuck! Spare us the right wing psycho babble!

        The president is supporting the Iranian people, calmly and appropriately. I realize that’s a concept for people who going around spouting Hitler, Nazi, and abused spouse analogies to accept, but try it for a bit. Your way has gotten us nothing over the last 8 years. Go have a drink, eat a good meal, get a massage, recall the days of neo-con glory when Baghdad was ablaze with the rockets’ red glare.

      • Michael Peck says:

        I don’t think you’re the best candidate to lecture us about calmness, Brian.

      • layla says:

        I think you need to go back and read the original blog; your reshaping of Michael’s save-the-rape-victim is completely completely off-base. Michael didn’t call for a military invasion, but said: “We can impose an economic embargo, freeze diplomatic and cultural ties, and provide communications so your message can get out despite the censorship.” Hardly assaulting the victim to save her, as you commented. His analogy stands.

    • Rick Ungar says:

      With all due respect, Michael, your analogy makes no sense at all. The difficulty in prosecuting domestic violence comes from the protections the law provides prohibiting a spouse from testifying against another spouse. If a prosecutor believes a case can be made against a domestic abuser without the testimony of the wife (who cannot be forced to testify), the prosecutor will go after them. But in making this analogy, you are saying that we should take action even when the wife doesn’t want us to. What is it you would have us to with Iran? Do you want us to send troops in to get in the middle of their domestic issues dealing with voter fraud? That would be far closer to the analogy you seek to make. If you simply want the government to voice its disapproval with the Iranian government, how is that different than the government saying “Domestic violence is bad” and then doing nothing about it? While your article speaks often of America “intervening” you never get specific about what that means.
      Maybe you should tell us precisely what you have in mind when you suggest we “intervene”.

  10. To me, the one crucial question to be asked on the issue of whether the U.S. government should do anything here is very simple: Would U.S. action help the dissidents’ cause or hurt it? I have yet to see a convincing argument on the help side.

  11. Brian In NYC says:

    It was good advice you should take it, America voted for a more calm and rational foreign policy. And seriously Michael find a position and stick with it. Days ago you were warning that Iran is an eminent nuclear threat to not just Israel and but to the US too. Now you want to wrap them our “loving, all protective arms”.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Excuse me? It’s precisely because I am concerned about Iranian nukes that I think we should support the protesters. They’re a lot less likely to press a nuclear showdown with Israel.

      If you think the Middle East is messy, try cleaning up after an Iran-Israel nuclear exchange.

  12. Brian In NYC says:

    “It’s precisely because I am concerned about Iranian nukes that I think we should support the protesters.”

    Finally the truth. I knew all along you weren’t concerned for the people of Iran.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Yup, nuclear war would be great for the people of Iran. Radiation is good for you, says Mr. Fallout!

      • Brian In NYC says:

        Right up there with WMDs, sorry Michael we’re not buying it. No one but you neo-cons and the wacko right in Israel think a nuclear threat from Iran is imminent. Fool us once shame on you, fool us twice shame on us!

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