Ahmadinejad and Columbia


The voice of evil is coming to Columbia.

That’s what you’ve heard if you read a newspaper or turned on the television in the last five days. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a fanatic whose extreme beliefs and quest for a nuclear arsenal are the main threat to world peace today. His very presence, some say, constitutes hate speech. Politicians from both parties have lined up to condemn the event.

On the surface, the demonization of Ahmadinejad may seem like a natural reaction to his political statements and repressive policies. But the media campaign should be taken with a grain of salt. The U.S. needs a new bogeyman. The war in Iraq is a dismal failure for Washington, and now Iran is now an even bigger obstacle to American domination of the Middle East. The U.S. is laying the groundwork for a possible attack on Iran which would be even worse than the nightmare that they have inflicted on Iraq. In this context, Americans are not helping the people of the Middle East by protesting Ahmadinejad.

Why has the president of Iran become a cartoon villain in American politics? He’s a repressive ruler who holds reactionary views, but the same is true of many dictators and monarchs that the United States has supported, such as the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and the House of Saud. The U.S. is not a principled opponent of repressive governments. The real origins of the recent saber-rattling lie in Iraq.

The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 expecting to take over quickly, without complications. The new Iraq would serve as a loyal client state, a massive source of oil, and a permanent base for controlling the rest of the Middle East. Four years later, the American military is still struggling to secure anything outside of its Blackwater-fortified Green Zone. The number of attacks against U.S. soldiers keeps rising. Iraqis widely support the resistance. The Americans can’t even control their puppets. The situation looks so bad for the U.S. that they rely on ethnic militias whose loyalty is tentative at best.

This failure has magnified the threat that Iran poses to American interests in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic is the only major oil-producing country in the area not under U.S. control, and it has benefited from the quagmire next door. The U.S. could never have formed a government in Shiite-majority Iraq without Iran-friendly parties like SCIRI and the Islamic Dawa Party.

The U.S. undeniably has an interest in regime change in Iran. It’s become fashionable among presidential candidates — Republicans and Democrats — to say that "no option is off the table," but in reality the costs of an invasion are extraordinarily high and there is still no consensus in Washington about how to deal with Ahmadinejad’s regime. On the other hand, it’s never too early to start spreading lies and misinformation. In late August, Bush accused Iran of trying to destabilize Iraq and of posing a threat to the entire region. This takes a lot of nerve coming from the man who invaded the country and overthrew its government. The glaring reality is that the largest group of foreign fighters in Iraq is the 130,000 American troops.

Bush goes on to claim that Iran is the main threat to peace in the Middle East. The main thing destabilizing the Middle East is the U.S. interference. They have created a refugee crisis of Iraqis on par with the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from their land. Millions of people have been driven from Iraq and now struggle to survive in neighboring countries such as Syria, Jordan, and Iran. In addition, the U.S. gives 6 billion dollars a year to Israel, a country which has regularly and recently attacked its neighbors.

The claims against Iran echo the lies that Bush used to justify the invasion of Iraq. In the lead-up to the war, we were told that the Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, he threatened his neighbors, and had links to terrorists. Today we are hearing that Ahmadinejad has weapons of mass destruction, he threatens his neighbors, and has links to terrorists.

We are constantly reminded that Iran’s president is a fundamentalist tyrant. He is a right-wing politician with backward ideas, but the portrayal of Ahmadinejad as a lunatic terrorist falls back on racist stereotypes of Muslims. This clash of civilizations argument serves as a justification for endless war on the world and fuels attacks on Arabs and Muslims at home.

As long as the U.S. is in the Middle East, Ahmadinejad’s hand is strengthened against his political opponents within Iran. An invasion would be even worse, causing repercussions that could make the Iraq war look like a minor skirmish in comparison. Protesting Ahmadinejad in New York during his visit to the U.N. will only push us closer to such an outcome. If you care about human rights in the Middle East, your main enemy is at home.

Monique Dols is a student in the School of General Studies and employee at Columbia University and Dylan Stillwood is an Alumnus of Columbia College, 2002. They can be reached at: monique.dols@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs