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Dispatch from Teheran

Last week the biggest anti-war rally ever convened in various cities around the world to call attention to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (Kurd, Turk, Iranian, Arab, Shi’a, Sunni) in case of a military action in the region. Many think that America the Country (in fact, G. W. Bush and his cohort in Downing Street) will go ahead with its plans regardless of this strong show of anti-war sentiments, steeping Iraq into a more pitiable state that the country has been in over the past several years of sanctions, and it seems that it will do this over the dead body of public opinion the world over.

Since last year, and after 9/11, Iran has had the misfortune of finding its name in the ominous Axis of Evil circle. After Afghanistan, the American government has been hell-bent on “getting rid” of Saddam Hossein in Iraq and we have heard the same whispered regarding the leadership in Iran. Iranians, people and the government, have responded by taking to the streets in anti-American (and not anti-War) demonstrations. The move was interpreted as another perfunctory show against America despite Iran’s eight years of devastating war with its neighbor.

One look at the demographics of Iran will reveal that the early Iran-Iraq War motto of “War, war till victory” is as alien as war commemoration programs for the younger generation and as fear provoking as battlefield memories for the older ones. The new generation is unfamiliar with the language of madmen and reactionaries like Stalin, Hitler, and now George W. Bush.

Today when “dialogue” has become the sweetener of every cup of tea served in international political arenas, and when geographical boundaries are nothing but vague rallying issues, fueling the Machine of War in the name of battling terrorism is nothing but casuistry. It is not difficult to imagine how the region will fare and flare following such an incendiary war. Other than heavy human tolls, an American military trans-plantation will harrow the geography of the Middle East.

Iraqis won’t fight in the field that the head of their government has opened. But we heard in the news that the Iraqi leader is setting up a “human shield” for the city of Baghdad. People from other parts of the world have also offered to become part of this shield, hoping to deter military actions. As such, America will have a tougher time bringing a surgically quick end to a war that unfurls its windless flag of freedom and human rights.

The fear that September 11 provoked has slowly settled in the collective consciousness of American people and politicians over the past two years. And this fear is a sign of bad things to come. We saw an example of it recently: Guards in a bar used pepper gas to contain a fight when a man cries TERRORISTS and frightened frolickers trample over each other in their zeal to escape the premises, killing many underfoot.

American citizens, now more than ever, feel the presence of enemy forces within their borders. They have to wait for hours in airports, resign themselves to heavy security checks, jitter to siren calls of “condition orange,” and fear unnecessary harassment originating from unknown phone calls to terrorism hotlines. Every skin color reads danger, criminals lurk in every corner.

In its short history, America has never been closer to death and it has never lost face to this extent against its enemy; an enemy that can safely be said to be the product of its own making. History tells us that every time political paranoia washes over a country, bedspreads of fascism follow suit. Race, geography, ethnicity, and ideology have historically been the breeding grounds of fascism. Now, Freedom and Security have become the pretext for it reincarnation.

A nation that has always been proud of the word “democracy” and has advertised it around the world is now in the grips of a pathological fear of something as vaguely defined as terrorism. If millions of Iraqis cry over the rubbles of their country, America’s pain will not ease. Nor will it hear the cries of wailing Iraqi civilians amidst the tumult of war and paranoia. But surely when the world mourns the death of freedom and democracy, America will have to answer for its role. The Bush administration has never satisfied public opinion inside and outside its borders, and this proves once more that “public opinion” is only of peripheral importance in the Bush field of vision. European governments, on the other hand, have shown that they must follow their constituent’s wishes and desires. Germany and France will not beat on the drums of war and are trying to prevent conflicts before they are fanned. But the British government will fawn its cross-oceanic counterpart despite opposition by British political groups and non-governmental organizations.

The current American policy towards Iraq is not in disagreement with it foreign policy. This superpower has always appealed to undemocratic means to interfere in the affairs of other countries. What is different now is the application of those means to domestic policy. Security in the US and freedom in Iraq have turned into caricatures we can both laugh at and cry over. Fascism is on the prowl.

SIMA SAEEDI is a journalist and writer living in Iran. Her articles have appeared in various magazines and newspapers since the election of the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami. She can be reached at sima@tehranavenue.com

 

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