Thursday, May 25, 2006

Paras Indonesia
May 25, 2006

Saber prattling is again in vogue. Snotty boy shouts "Evil!" The other screams "Bad!" Who's the good guy, who's the rogue?

"Israel must be wiped off the map," huffed the president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a speech last year that made many gasp. Israel "is a regime based on evil that cannot continue and one day will vanish," added the fierce Iranian a few months later.

The head of Iran glowers at mirrors when he speaks. If a mirror scowls back, he smiles. Lately, he has been beaming.

"The president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map," said Shimon Peres, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Israel's quintessential statesman. "Ahmadinejad represents Satan, not God," crowed Peres, the former Israeli prime minister. "When it comes to destruction," said Peres, currently the Vice Premier of Israel, "Iran, too, can be destroyed."

It's all about reflections, though Soren Kierkegaard would disagree. "What our age lacks," said the Danish philosopher, "is not reflection but passion." Not exactly. Ahmadinejad passionately denies the Jewish Holocaust ever took place and nuclear giants in Europe and the American nuclear juggernaut passionately train their telescopes, microscopes and moral-tropes on Iran's foolish nuclear intentions while cosseting poor, frail, defenseless Israel -- the sixth largest nuclear power in the world and the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons.

It's a wise world.

Iran must not be allowed to develop its nuclear program, the US government sanctimoniously tells whoever cares to listen to its ranting. Like many in the world, especially Filipinos, most Americans nod with the rant. Their minds have been on a five-year auto-delete setting for some time. They do no remember that in the mid-70s, America's leaders were copulating with the Shah and encouraging the vile despot that "Iran needed not one but several nuclear reactors." In fact, in 1975, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had signed a contract with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to provide "training for the first cadre of Iranian nuclear engineers." A final draft of a US-Iran nuclear energy agreement was even signed months before the victory of the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1978.

To gain wisdom, seek three methods, Confucius advised. "The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest."

Guess who hasn't gained any wisdom?

In 2003, four months after America invaded Iraq, George W. Bush told a Palestinian delegation at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh that he was "on a mission from God" when he ordered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did.... And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me."

He's been tailgating again. A vehicle adhesive label on sale at the American Bumper Sticker Store: "4 out of 5 voices in my head say 'Go for it!''"

"The Iranian regime is repressing its people," swaggered the US president. Iran is "sponsoring terrorists, destabilizing the region, threatening Israel, and defying the world with its ambitions for nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."

Right. Cream of Quagmire's on the US menu once more. Unlike opportunities, said Orlando Aloysius Battista, temptations will always give you a second chance.

The flight of fancy's still the familiar narrative: America, friend of liberty, foe of tyranny. The feint of heart: a compassionate United States standing against an undeniably appalling theocratic regime -- on behalf of those who cannot fight back.

Imperial adventures thrive on a common premise: that we believe in the utter powerlessness of the oppressed along with the 'obligation' of the hyper-power to fight in aid of the subjugated. As if the oppressed had no will -- or history of resistance.

Who remembers the rage of 1979? Within twenty-four hours after an edict issued by Khomeini demanded "women veil themselves," 20,000 Iranian women came out and demonstrated against the diktat.

In 2001 alone - the year of the terrorist attacks on the US - there were 52 street demonstrations against Iran's clerics - one for each week of the year - and 370 strikes, at least one for each day of the year. Around the same period, film events and art house cinemas began to appear along with a student rebellion demanding reforms and the open celebration of the Nauroz festival, a pagan new year which pre-dates Islam, where "young men and unveiled young women ... taunted the religious police to do its worst."

What it all shows, said the novelist Tariq Ali, is that "people learn through their own experiences. These are much better teachers than American bombs." #


1. "Ahmadinejad: Wipe Israel off map,", 26 October 2005.
2. "Iran president says ready for dialogue, brands Israel 'evil' regime'," Ha'aretz, May 11, 2006.
3. Nathan Guttman and news agencies, "Halutz condemns Peres' Iran remarks," Jerusalem Post, 9 May 2006.
4. "Iran’s president will end up like Saddam, claims Shimon Peres," The Daily Times-Pakistan, 16 April 2006.
5. Deborah Orin, "Israel warns Iran: you, too, may face oblivion," New York Post, 9 May 2006. See:
6. From
7. Renato Redentor Constantino, The Poverty of Memory: Essays on History and Empire (Quezon City: FNS, 2006), p. 152.
8. Ibid., pp. 52-59. The first discussion in the book dealing with US intervention in Iran with the title "Nothing new in the world" first came out in on 11 September 2004. See:
9. Mohammad Sahimi, "Iran's nuclear program. Part I: Its History," Payvand's Iran News, 2 October 2003. Read all three parts of Sahimi's fascinating essay. Mohammad Sahimi is Professor & Chairman of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Since 1986, he has been a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization devoted to preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and a member of the Union's Partners for Earth Program. The US does not have a monopoly on nuclear hypocrisy. Other countries such as Germany were also involved in the attempt to provide nuclear technology to Iran. For a wider look at the issue, see Saul Landau, "How the United States supplied nuclear know-how to Iran," ZNet, 12 September 2005.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid. See also the excellent discussion by Eric Ruder, "Nuclear hypocrites: World's biggest nuclear bully demands disarmament from Iran,", 18 May 2006.
12. The quote is from
13. "White House denies Bush God claim," BBC News Online, 6 October 2005.
14. Ewen MacAskill, "George Bush: God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq," The Guardian-UK, 7 October 2005.
15. From the website of the Bumper Sticker Store.
16. Zachary A. Goldfarb, "Bush sets conditions for contact with Hamas," Washington Post, 5 May 2006.
17. Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihad and Modernity (Verso, 2002).
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.


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