February 03, 2005

Democratic Illusions

Posted by Sima

Yesterday, I received an email from someone who asked why I was so worked up about a possible war on Iran. “It is unlikely that the U.S. would attack Iran,” the author of the email said, "because Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan." It is true. The situation in Iran is quite different than that of Iraq or Afghanistan, and we need to keep that in mind in our analyses of a possible war on Iran. But I am not convinced that my worries are unfounded, nor do I believe that Iran’s case is separate from the expansionist project of the U.S. in the Middle East.
As a matter of fact, I have been concerned for a while now about what kind of future is awaiting Iran. There have been many reasons to worry, all of which are too close to home.

To start with, shortly after Bush announced his “war on terror,” the conservative think tank, Hoover- which is located on the campus where I am pursuing my education, started a program to develop policies towards Iran. Interestingly, it was people from this very program who wrote the 2003 "Progressive Internationalism Report: A 'Democratic' National Security Strategy." The authors of this report (some of whom are good old liberals!)endorsed the invasion of Iraq, claiming that containment was no longer an option. Knowing this, I have wondered about what is being decided for the Iranian people in the name of “the people” in places such as Hoover and in a coalition between certain segments of Iranian diaspora and the U.S. law makers.

I was also concerned when Sam Brownback, Kansas Senator and the author of the "Iran Democracy Act," in his 2003 Keynote speech at the American Enterprise Institute forum on “The Future of Iran,” declared that Iran was “the most significant source of terrorism in the world as well as the single biggest opportunity for a peaceful democratic revolution in our age.” What does this statement mean, especially when it was iterated in the midst of a so called "war on terror?"

You see, as much as I want to believe that the neoconservatives in the U.S. cannot legitimize an attack on Iran, the very recent history of events has shown that liberals, neoconservatives, and conservatives can put their differences aside and happily endorse the rhetoric of "war on terrorism." Whether one supports a military attack on Iran, or promotes democracy through “peaceful solutions,” the common assumption seems to rely on the dichotomy of “success” of democracy in the U.S., against its lack elsewhere. There is nothing new about this logic. It has its history in colonial discourses in Europe and the U.S. The new part, perhaps, is the way that forms of neo-liberal governmentality couple economic agendas of global capitalism with tropes of “freedom” and “democracy.” And these forms of governmentality go beyond ideological and regulatory state apparatus (Hence my concern about the role of corporations, communication technologies, and “non-governmental” Iranian diasporic organizations in projects of "envisioning the future of Iran").

My other reason to write preemptively against a war on Iran is the racist backlash against the Iranian communities in the U.S. After September 11, 2001, when Bush declared a “war on terrorism,” the question that came to mind was “who are these terrorists and who defines acts of terrorism?”
After all, it was only a few years back when Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist, had bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, and causing immense terror. Was Bush to hunt down “white men?” No. The criminaliztion of men of color in the U.S., who were arrested for “looking like terrorists,” made it clear that terrorists have a “particular look.” Bush’s “axis of evil” talk made it clear that they live in particular parts of the world, but have been “creeping” into our home through the cracks in the immigration system. Immigration and Naturalization Services became a part of the Department of “Homeland Security.” Policing and surveillance became an everyday part of “American way of life,” as they increasingly revealed the failures of American multiculturalism.

Bush’s military crusade has made it clear that we are to expect a long war with no fixed target and no bounded geographical designation. What is distinct about this “new war” is that no clear offense needs to be committed before the U.S. launches a military attack: “Terrorists” could be anywhere and preemption is needed to destroy them! If Taliban were trained by the CIA to create terror in Afghanistan for many years, so be it; now they are “against us.” If Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, so be it. We, in the “land of freedom” are fighting “terrorism!” If we cannot prove that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iran, no problem… They “foster terrorism!”

It seems to me that the trope of “terrorism” has become necessary for the legitimization of U.S. expansionist projects and for the suppression of dissent here at home. But we cannot be quiet about any form of U.S. intervention in Iran. After all, the case of Iraq has shown that “diplomacy” can easily turn into bombs and military occupation. Too many lives have been lost in this bogus "war on terror." Our voices of dissent are needed to stop the violence of war in Iraq and Afganistan, and to prevent the occurance of a war in Iran. Bush's claims of "exporting democracy" notwithstanding, U.S. intervention does not bring democracy; it often creates and supports undemocratic regimes. As they say, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!”

February 3, 2005 08:57 PM | TrackBack

come on
a great idea
a great goal
god luck

Posted by: mahmood at February 3, 2005 11:22 PM
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