Backtalk, July 9, 2007

Caught Red-Handed: Media Backtracks on Iran’s ‘Threat’

I have been shocked to see some, including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, latch onto the myth that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Iran’s own news agency reports that Ahmadinejad publicly called for the State of Israel to be “wiped off the map” (see “Ahmadinejad: Israel Must be Wiped off the Map“).

With that said, I believe that some good people are fearful that my congressional resolution (H. Con. Res. 21), which passed the House of Representatives 411 to 2, is a call for war with Iran. Let me state unequivocally that it is not. The bill text clearly points to diplomatic actions for the international community to take against Ahmadinejad. Further, I am a longtime cosponsor of legislation (H. Con. Res. 33) introduced by Rep. Pete DeFazio that would require the president to seek authorization from Congress before initiating military action in Iran.

The whole purpose of the United Nations is to provide a forum for nations to resolve their differences peacefully. To achieve this vitally important goal, the world body has rules (the UN Charter) that prohibit one member state from seeking or threatening the destruction of another member state. If these essential rules for peace are to be effective, then they must be enforced.

I introduced H. Con. Res. 21 because the letter and spirit of the UN Charter and the 1948 Genocide Convention are clear: the international community must not only intervene to stop ongoing genocide, but also act to prevent the incitement of genocide. The House reaffirmed America’s support of this principle when 411 U.S. Representatives voted overwhelmingly to condemn Iran’s president for trying to incite mass killings of Israeli Jews.

Quite the opposite of instigating war with Iran, I believe the passage of H. Con. Res. 21 is a call for peace and coexistence.

~ Congressman Steve Rothman (D-N.J.)

Arash Norouzi replies:

Why was MEMRI’s vastly different translation of the alleged “wiped off the map” quote blocked from consideration in Congress’ deliberations on H. Con. Res. 21, especially in light of the fact that Rep. Rothman has praised their work repeatedly and knows its president, former Israeli official Yigal Carmon, personally?

If MEMRI’s work can’t be trusted, then its findings should be dismissed categorically. It can’t just be selectively reliable. In fact, MEMRI’s translation of the speech also offers the accurate context of Ahmadinejad’s words as they related to other nations, including Iran, which was not “wiped off the map” during the victory of the Islamic revolution. To obstruct such alternate translations from going into the congressional record seems undemocratic and un-American.

As I explained in my article “Rumor of the Century,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA was responsible for putting out the wrongly worded “wiped off the map” quote. IRIB, like IRNA, is part of the state media. Since Rep. Rothman selectively refers to one IRIB report, we might also consider these other IRIB reports as well:

While Rep. Rothman’s resolution does not call for war explicitly, it asks the international community to “consider stronger measures to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, which would be a . . . potential means to the end of carrying out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats against Israel.” Such “measures” could include military ones. We might recall that enforcement of UN resolutions helped form the basis for war with Iraq. This White House press release on the “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq” from October 2002 cites UN resolutions as justification for its illegal invasion of Iraq:

“Whereas on September 12, 2002, President Bush committed the United States to ‘work with the United Nations Security Council to meet our common challenge’ posed by Iraq and to ‘work for the necessary resolutions,’ while also making clear that ‘the Security Council resolutions will be enforced, and the just demands of peace and security will be met, or action will be unavoidable.'”

Rep. Rothman voted to authorize war with Iraq in 2002, a vote he now regrets in light of its disastrous outcome. “If I knew at the time of my vote what I know now, I would never have supported the president’s invasion of Iraq,” Rep. Rothman said in February 2006. “I believe that we must learn from our mistakes and make decisions based on new information. The president’s stubborn refusal to do either is not only wrong, but dangerous.”

In September 2006, Rep. Rothman said, “What’s happening now … is a very similar drumbeat for war [against Iran], with all of the exaggerated fearmongering again.” Strangely, Rep. Rothman’s own statements about Iran’s alleged threat qualify as greatly exaggerated, emotional hyperbole. He has warned that “the security of all Americans, Europe, and our allies around the world is at stake,” predicted the possibility of a second Holocaust, compared Ahmadinejad to Hitler and labeled him a genocidal lunatic, and falsely accused him of saying that “the Jews are very filthy people”. (This quote, itself highly questionable and apparently unverifiable, was actually attributed to Ahmadinejad’s “aide” in the Israeli media. If it were reliable, it would have become as legendary as the “map” quote and been specifically cited in H. Con. Res. 21.) Such demonization makes the prospect of diplomacy with Iran nearly impossible.

Rep. Rothman has also frequently referred to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” despite any proof that such a program exists. Only the IAEA can make such a determination, which they have not despite operating the most comprehensive inspections of any country’s nuclear facilities in their history. He also maintains that Iran has admitted to building nuclear weapons, an obvious falsehood. Though Rep. Rothman has urged Bush to stop the escalation in Iraq and withdraw American troops from the country without delay, he still engages in Orwellian doublespeak regarding Iran.

Rep. Rothman’s support for Rep. Peter DeFazio’s proposed legislation requiring congressional approval for war is commendable, but it still does not ensure that Congress will not authorize military action based on false information. As DeFazio has said of the neocon push for attacking Iran: “They’ve been wrong about everything, but they still think they’re right.” Are we “right” this time?

Because calling for the murder of other human beings is reprehensible, we should apply this principle universally and not selectively. For example, Sen. John McCain has publicly suggested that the U.S. “bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran”, yet no genocide-incitement charges have been proposed against him. Rep. Rothman’s colleague and H. Con. Res. 21 co-sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), has called for the assassination of Fidel Castro and other dictators, which itself – even the verbal threat – is a violation of international law. Earlier this year, former Israeli Mossad chief Meir Amit called for the assassination of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Former Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) commented just after Sept. 11, “I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it.” To date, no charges have arisen against any of these figures for their public incitement of violence, death, and destruction against their fellow man.

Rep. Rothman’s colleague Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has also openly reveled in the deaths of other human beings, telling the Village Voice in 2001, “I don’t give a sh*t if they [Mujahedeen-e-Khalq] are undemocratic. OK, so the [MEK] is a terrorist organization based in Iraq, which is a terrorist state. They are fighting Iran, which is another terrorist state. I say let’s help them fight each other as much as they want. Once they all are destroyed, I can celebrate twice over.” In the 1980s, Henry Kissinger reportedly made similar comments about his hopes that Iraqis and Iranians would continue killing each other.

Israel has repeatedly threatened Iran with possible attack, which Iran has complained about to the UN Security Council to no avail. And while Iran has not threatened to wipe anyone off the map, Israel’s Shimon Peres has said, “Iran can also be wiped off the map,” itself a incitement to genocide.

Rep. Rothman mentions the vital importance of enforcing United Nations rules to ensure peace in the world. H. Con. Res. 21 cites the UN charter statement that member states “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

The United States has openly called for regime change in Iran, has threatened Iran with war (including nuclear attack), has held five Iranian officials in captivity since January, supports militant anti-Iranian terrorist groups such as the MEK and Jundallah in Pakistan, is inciting ethnic divisions among various Iranian groups, and is engaging in other covert activities within Iran. These are not only blatant violations of the UN charter, but also of the Algiers Accord, signed in 1981 between the U.S. and Iran, which stipulates that “The United States pledges that it is and from now will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.”

Good-bye and Good Luck

I usually agree with most of your views, Mr. Reese, but in this article you seem to be saying that Americans should just walk away and leave the Iraqis to deal with the horrific mess that the Americans have created. They have bombed and destroyed a thriving, fully functioning country to the dark ages! I have no sympathy for Saddam but who gave the Americans the right to go to a sovereign country and take out their leader? You mention 3,000+ American solders have died, but look at the price the Iraqis are paying for the lies and deception of your leader. I absolutely agree that the Americans should leave – but then they should do everything possible to help rebuild Iraq with their money and expertise. Help them the get the oil production back to the prewar levels, and, yeah – buy it fair and square – let the oil money stay in Iraq.

As for Afghanistan – they were already a dirt poor country that the Americans and their so called allies bombed to kingdom come. (Does anyone remember that the Taliban had offered to hand over Osama bin Laden to an international court – but of course going to war with a defenseless country suited the mighty American leader better!)

Put away your guns but be willing to help – with aid, advice, technology, and training.

~ Sadiya in Toronto

You are absolutely right. The advice here is mind your own business and let others mind their own. Live and let live. The U.S. has a history of 50 years of meddling in the Middle East. The British before them for another 50 years. People are sick and tired of this control. The youth of today can’t be enslaved by tyrant rulers and those who do their bidding when they see most civilized world living freely, yet those very so-called civilized countries are pumping billions in WMD and supporting tyrants. They have had enough. We can’t drink the oil. We have to sell it at market prices.

Yet not all is lost. An added advantage is that the U.S. will regain its mantle of dignity and respect and will be regarded as an honest broker for peace. This is your potential which has been squandered by your governments, especially this current one.

How long the average American is going to trade dignity and respect for cheap lies and politics of fear? You must wish for others that what you wish for yourself and the first step is to let them sort out their own problems. Come back in a few years with your teachers, doctors, wise men/women, and those who represent hope and healing. For now remove your soldiers and camps for they are symbols of fear, control, and death.

Thank you, Charley. You have done it again.

~ Ahmed Asgher, Bahrain

Fred Thompson and the Burning ‘Necklace’

Dear Justin,

Leaving to the side the fact that a bloody coup d’état was instigated upon Aristide’s election, during which thousands of impoverished Haitians were slaughtered; and also leaving to the side the U.S. policy of intervention during the entire period of Aristide’s presidency, including his abduction and subsequent exile from Haiti by American forces (all of which would normally call for your sympathy), I’m amazed at your vehemence against Thompson on this issue.

Why should we care?

The fact that the Thompson was a lobbyist at all may be reason enough not to vote for him – simply on the basis of character.

But dismiss him solely on the basis that he had a client that you find to be unsavory? As I recall, has been accused of that as well. (The example of Slobodan Miloševic will serve.) In any case, since when do libertarians give two hoots about the legal conduct of a man’s private business?

I can’t think of any good reason to vote for Thompson. However, if red herrings had the ability, then this Aristide business would walk, talk, and quack like one.

~ Erich Walrath

Mr. Raimondo:

I can’t let your slanders of two democratically elected leaders from Latin America go unchallenged.

I am far to the left of you, but have enjoyed your columns, and considered – until this one – you to be one of the tiny handful of conservative writers with a brain and a human conscience.

But today I take issue with both those assumptions.

Whatever the crimes of Lavalas, Aristide was democratically elected and deposed by the United States in favor of CIA – trained murderers who have returned Haiti to the days of Papa Doc.

And your dismissing of Chavez as a demagogue – another (repeatedly) elected democratic leader whose main crime in your eyes seems to be sharing oil revenues with the masses instead the usual right-wing, fascist elite that has always dominated Latin America – shows me that for all your obvious intelligence, generally good standards of research, and engaging writing style you are a victim of ideology: in this case, libertarian.

I seem to remember being shocked by some praise for Reagan as well from you not too long ago, for which I forgave you, although it is unforgivable, judging his record.

But I can’t overlook your moral blindness about Chavez, especially. Having lived and performed music in Latin America, there is no question in my mind that you are on the wrong side. Who would you prefer, Pinochet? Stroessner? Trujillo? The representatives of the oligarchy he defeated?

You have much to learn here.

What you fail to understand is that the anti-imperialist Left in Latin America is the only force looking out for the interests of the huge, majority underclass. They are no more immune from abuses of power than leaders of the Right, but at least real human beings benefit from Lula, Kirschner, Chavez, and the presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, instead of just the oligarchy and its foreign clients such as the USA.

None of these leaders are anywhere near perfect, but I’d like to hear what your preferred alternatives are.

~ Jeffrey Briggs, La Puente, Calif.

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