April 26, 2003

True Democracy?

Those familiar with my views, experiences and past positions know how I feel about the religious tyranny currently in power in Iran. To me a dictatorship, mixed with visions of divine responsibilities is probably the most horrendous type of repression possible. Close to a quarter of a century of an autocratic government in Iran, bringing mass executions, murders, large-scale imprisonments, terror, oppression and corruption is the prime confirmation of this line of reasoning. (continued...)

Needless to say, creating a similar government in yet another country in the region is a nightmare and nothing but a huge set-back for anyone concerned with establishing freedom and democracy in the middle-east.

Having said that, one of the bases for any true democracy is to accept the people’s prerogative to occasionally make wrong choices and even more often, to make choices that you and I may not like or agree with. But at the end of the day, the choice is completely theirs. By that I mean that if in a free and open election Iranians choose to keep the current regime, it would be vital for people like myself to value and honor their choice, yet reserving our right to oppose it in peaceful fashion and by non-violent means.

This of course also applies to the people of Iraq. We invaded their country supposedly to “establish democracy” and give them the option of selecting their own form of government, elect their true representatives and enact laws according to their own sets of values and cultural make-up. However, a short few weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein regime of terror, the hawks running globe’s only super-power are trying to take away that very right.

Just read the first line of AP’s wire: “The United States will not allow an Iran-style religious government to take hold in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.”

Will someone please remind our dear Secretary that it is their choice and not ours how they wish to run their country? Or is it that democracy is good only if the people select choices that meets our approval?

I for one would like nothing less than having an Iran-Style regime in Iraq. But I know it is not up to me to decide what is best for Iraq and Iraqis. I don’t think Rumsfeld and company feel the same way.

Posted by Pedram at April 26, 2003 10:27 PM

I come via Notes of an Iranian Girl.
I just wanted to offer a note of support
to all Iranians.
There are very many people here in the U.S.
who want to see the rights of self
determination, political & religious freedom
grow in your country.
We wish you well!

Posted by: TX Vet at April 27, 2003 08:07 AM

Our sentiment exactly. This is also what many Iranians wish for your country, where elections won't be bought, only votes by a majority elect politicians, people aren't affraid of opposing their government's choices, minorities aren't attacked or are presumed guilty based on their religion, race or heritage, minority parties and factions are granted proportional representation and nobody interferes with the internal politics of other countries. Maybe we'll both get there one day. Maybe.

Posted by: Pedram M. at April 27, 2003 09:01 AM

Farid Zakaria makes an interesting point. Right after the fall of one of these governments, the mullahs are the only ones "untouched" by the former regime. So they tend to get more political power then is appropriate.

The problem in Iran isn't so much that the mullahs have power, as much as the constitution is written in such a way as the Iranian people had no opportunity to change their mind.

Choosing freely is one thing. Choosing freely once is another...

Posted by: Pierce T. Wetter III at April 27, 2003 09:19 AM

bazaaam mikham begam inja cheghad khoshgeel shode, koli be adam rohie mide ;))
man ham ye blog soedi felan dorost kardam, ba 2 nafar dostam mikham benevisamesh, asl kari khodam ham dare hanooz khak mikhore :D
tambaalaam dige,che mishe kard

Posted by: عالیجناب منتقد at April 27, 2003 10:49 AM

This is an excellent essay.
I disagree to the extent that selecting a leader once does not a democracy make. Even after 200 years, America's democracy is changing every day. Its ability to change is what gives the people power over their leaders, rather than vice versa. A simple choice, a one-time choice does not a democracy make. I've posted more on my weblog, BuzzMachine, here.
And I'm delighted to have recently discovered your weblog; it's wonderful.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at April 27, 2003 02:37 PM

Oops. I guess HTML tags don't work. The URL:

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at April 27, 2003 02:37 PM

Well I wanted to at least try to
send good wishes
but obviously your head is in the sand

Posted by: TX Vet at April 28, 2003 02:01 AM

To Tx Vet;
I don't see anything wrong in Pedram's comment. I don't believe he is not appreciating your well wishes for Iranians (I do too appreciate and thank you for that). He is just wishing the same thing for Americans. And there is nothing wrong with that. What he says about undemocratic issues in the US are not denyable and are true. Please don't take it personal and deal with the truth of your country as we; Iranians, are dealing with the truth of our country.

Posted by: R at April 28, 2003 07:46 AM

TX... your well-wishes smacked of the condescension so peculiar to first-world countries when talking to people they believe are from the Third World. I sensed that, and Pedram must have sensed that(and here, i am taking the liberty of assuming how Pedram perceived your well-wishes, it might be entirely untrue but it's up to him to refute). Unfortunately, you reinforced my reservations with regards to your 'well-wishes' with your 'heads stuck in the sand' comment.

Posted by: hajar at April 28, 2003 08:30 AM

I hope all here realize that TX had good intentions. Words are imperfect tools to communicate ideas with, but they are all we have, especially here on the web. In person you may take a facial expression, or tone of voice into consideration. What I would like to suggest is that each country should get what that country wants. Iran doesn't have to be like the U.S. and the U.S. doesn't need to be like Iran. What the U.S. can do for Iran is keep our ideas to ourselves and wish them well. I think from the Iranians I have met on the net here, that they are fully capable of a solution that suits them when they are ready. If they ask for outside help, from the U.S. or any other country, it needs to be on their own terms. To all who are now in Iran or who may return, good luck and best wishes. (OK, now if I offended anyone, jump on me here)

Posted by: Dave at April 28, 2003 09:22 AM

Regarding the previous comment, I don't know if this is just a coincident or it comes from so-called first world person talking to so-called third world person: This is part of the comment:
"...Iran doesn't have to be like the U.S. and the U.S. doesn't need to be like Iran." (My point is using the words LIKE and NEED). This to me sound like talking from above and seeing others down below.

Posted by: R at April 28, 2003 01:30 PM

Well you always see everything that way. I couldn't think of a better way of trying to sound side by side instead of one being above. I've said this before, when two entities are different, one doesn't have to be better than the other, when one insists they are better, smarter, more moral, whatever, that seems to be a sign to me that just the opposite may be true. Then again if you read the post from the begining I believe it starts out "words are imperfect tools". Then you criticise the words. I'm pretty sure you will never get it. Words like "so-called first world person" don't invite someone to a friendly discussion either, but I'm pretty sure you never wish to have one of those. Now go run and say you weren't speaking to any one person, just giving information for everyone to read. I think they all got it too.

Posted by: Dave at April 28, 2003 01:46 PM

"WORDS ARE IMPERFECT TOOLS". Right. That is exactly why I gave the possibility of just imperfection and that was why I said in my comment; " I don't know if this is just a coincident..". Looks like it was.
And with regards to First and Third World, if I call it So-Called, I am questioning the notion of First and Third World countries as it is commonly used by many people, and it is definately not a hostile comment towards you.

Posted by: R at April 28, 2003 02:38 PM

I agree with most of you here, words are indeed powerful but imperfect tools of expression. However, having been in the political area for a while, I think I have developed a good sense as to when someone is being sincere and candid with a seemingly benign comment, or there is a tinge of moral/cultural/ideological superiority. In this case, I believe I was right and the "sand" comment is proof positive.

Having said that, I don't want to accuse TX Vet of being insincere or even hostile with his best wishes. He/she probably means them and somewhere within himself thinks this is the best way to express it. After all, he/she probably grew up in the culture that often replaces patriotism and national pride with this sense of dominance and ascendancy and subconsciously puts the rest of the world down. This isn't restricted to the attitudes towards the developing world either (although it is magnified there), I posted an earlier story of how an American upon finding out I had come from Canada asked if people there have microwave ovens. I honestly think she was most sincere in her question too and in no way meant to disrespect or belittle other countries.

Now on a different note: I think in a small way, we all proved here talking (or "commenting" in this case) really works and often even the most conflicting viewpoints can eventually find some common ground by continuing a healthy and productive dialogue.

Before you reply to this, give me a second to get off my soap box promptly.

Posted by: Pedram M. at April 28, 2003 05:45 PM

I come via Notes of an Nazi Girl.
I just wanted to offer a note of non-support
to all Iranians.
There aren't very many people here in the U.S.
who want to see the rights of self
determination, political & religious freedom
grow in your country.
We don't wish you well!

Is that better?

Posted by: Milwauken at May 1, 2003 04:29 PM

We always welcome and appreciate any support from those people who are not so arrogant to see others lower than themsleves, and those people who are not so weak to see others above themselves.
Believe me, we don't need any support from people like you. Just don't support us, please.
And, thank you very much for your clever comment.
Now, that is better.

Posted by: R at May 1, 2003 04:53 PM

I'm sorry you're so insecure. Hope you get better. Oh, was that arrogant?

Posted by: Milwauken at May 1, 2003 05:37 PM

Yes, it is very easy to smell arrogance even in this comment.

Posted by: R at May 1, 2003 05:57 PM
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