Monday, February 15, 2010

Lessons from Camp

On Sunday, February 7, a full-page ad ran in the New York Times. It was paid for by the Eli Weisel  Foundation for Humanity and subscribed by a number of Nobel Laureates.  In the ad these great minds called for rigorous sanctions against Iran, which country they described as  a nuclear threat to the world  and a nation waging a "shameless war against its own people". Such were the threats made against Saddam Hussein's regime that led to the  destruction  and eventual invasion of that country.

On the face of it, this appeal is given as the voices of reason calling out for the preservation of world peace, mankind or some other lofty goal. But in the absence of any provable truth to the two basic charges, and aside from political rhetoric there is absolutely no physical proof that Iran is either of its descriptors. In fact there is much to indicate the opposite.

So why, then, would such great human minds lend themselves to such an appeal? They must really believe what they are saying is true, and the sanctions they call for effective. The advertisement leaves both points unexamined.

As to the first point Iran's 'nuclear ambitions'. Iran is, for that part of the world, a unique signatory to the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This instrument was signed by the government of the Shah no doubt with the understanding that his government would operate under the shelter of America's nuclear deterrent. Even as the neighboring Israelis, Pakistani's and Indians developed their nuclear arsenal in spite of the UN and American protection, or when the Iraqis started down the same road, no protest was uttered by Teheran about threats to themselves or anybody else. Indeed America saw no inherent dangers there. In all this the Iranis stayed strictly within the bounds of the conventions they had signed. Even after the theocracy came to power, and even after a protracted and bloody war with Iraq, Iran stayed well within UN constrictions regarding development of nuclear power sources.

So why are the laureates concerned? Well, for one thing, Iran has not been amenable to American influence for some time. What little influence remained after the Islamic Revolution diminished in the light of Iraq's US-supported attack on the Islamic Republic. A second reason is the little-disguised abhorrence of the Zionist polity in the Middle East. Iran is far from alone in decrying the actions of  Zionists and their effects on the people who were inhabitant of the former Palestine. But Iran is unique in being open and honest about this - to the point of stating that the Zionist regime is in need of a change. Laureates like other 'good jews' - who are normally very humane, peaceful and long suffering - can put their gentle angels aside to thwart a threat (real or imagined) to the Jewish 'promised' land. The laureates, like many Americans and Israelis, see Iran as a regional  adversary at best and a loose nuclear cannon at worst.  Very few of the countries which might suffer most from a nuclear Iran - Iraq, the Gulf States, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or a number of central Asian Republics are as concerned about Iran's actions, or objectives. Europe is split on the issue, Russia and China remain moderately supportive of Iran. Laureates and humanists in few other countries have taken this 'threat' to heart.

The Laureates also charge the government with warring on its own people. Would to God they would raise their voices about some nations who shamelessly war on other nations' people. There is a body of law supportive of internal restraint to riotous, rebellious or even revolutionary populations - just look at what's happening on behalf of the 'legitimate authorities' in Afghanistan and Iraq. And no laureates are griping about that.  The Iranians have at least put the 'people' they are at war with on a trial of sorts. They have their day in court and the trials are covered by the media. But there are a dearth of private security prisons, few black ops, prolonged detentions without trial, renditions, disappearances or any of the 'civilized methods' for dealing with 'enemies' that have become so much a part of Israel and America 'under siege'. And yet the Laureates have been otherwise engaged for the past decade, and took no notice, nor any time to comment, nor any paid advertisements?

Eli Wiesel is an eloquent voice of the Holocaust. To him is ascribed the notion that indifference can lead to another Holocaust.  But his times should have demonstrated to him that the Shoah may have been the Jewish experience, but the holocaust belongs to all humanity. Whether one dies in some demented racially-driven killing industry, or falls victim to a war of aggression,  makes little difference to the innocent. Wiesel's experience since  1945 should have shown him that 'holocausts' are subjective, and very easily repeated. The only solution for them is not the kind of  'difference' that imposes more suffering, but the kind of love and unity, tolerance or humility that never seem to be part of the repertoire of the powerful. If Elie Wiesel and his laureate friends wanted to really do something to engender world peace, and not assist in providing a philosophical base for new aggression, they should have castigated all sides and volunteered to act as honest brokers in resolving the differences politicians seem unable to approach, let alone solve.

That such eminent thinkers might consider that sanctions will effectively bring the Iranian hound to heel is little more surprising than the current 'Democrathink' that another stiff, little 'shock and awe' surge will force the Afghan Taliban to cease trying to liberate their homeland, take Uncle Sam's dollar and, possibly, join with their Iraqi brothers to 'spread democracy' into Iran. The latter may be slightly extrapolated, but should Afghanistan come 'onside' why not as the spearpoint of the free market in Asia? Problem is, both notions are patently incorrect. Iraq won't be invading anywhere for a while and with the majority Shiite population in control, it won't be east. Afghanistan is still another decade from any solution. And sanctions where they have been, or still are (as in Gaza and the west bank) being  practised, have proven to be politically ineffective while alienating to the 'ordinary people' democrats or peace groups might want to approach.

Wiesel and company's myopia serves the cause of humanity not a whit. Sometimes the learning of the concentration camp can be far too narrow a field.

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