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June 18, 2009

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John McCain has come out very clearly against torture. And hilzoy knows this.

And SAVAK was an Iranian organization that did things it's own way for it's own reasons. If the CIA had helped set up a winning soccer team, would you give the trophies to the CIA?

The current set of beatings in Iran and the history of the Basijis tend to indicate they have their own, Iranian, approach to violence and the ethics of doing harm. A couple of lectures by some foreigner from the CIA is not going to re-orient that.

That's some pretty weak shit, Fred. They were going to do bad things anyway, so no blame attaches if we help them do it? I mean, honestly, do you actually believe what you just wrote? Did you actually look at that just before you hit 'post' an think "yeah, I'm real proud of that"? Because I find that hard to credit.

A minor quibble: McCain likely meant something like "we should speak up for the people of Iran, just as we did for the Eastern Europeans during the Cold War". In other words, he didn't imply that the US spoke up for the Persians during the Cold War. That doesn't make his ignorance (or worse) of US support for the Shah any more excusable, but it at least takes the chutzpah down a notch.

John McCain has come out very clearly against torture.

So clearly, that he can now no longer describe what was done to him as a prisoner of war in Vietnam as "torture": since he has apparently accepted that when the same things that were done to him are done to prisoners in US custody by Americans, that is not torture: it's just "harsh interrogation".

In all seriousness, though: John McCain lost. It's a done deal. He isn't President. He never was President. He's never going to be President.

We're dealing with President Obama in the White House, with all his faults, flaws, advantages, smarts, prejudices, and friends. While it's fair enough to compare Obama to Bush, since Bush really was President for eight years and really did do the massive damage that Obama now has to repair, comparing Obama to McCain now the campaign's over and McCain is out of the picture, just looks like propping up Obama. Are things so bad for Obama that you feel people need to be reminded that he was clearly a better choice than McCain?

Jesurglislac, I find myself doing just that, every day. He is the epitome of what is wrong with a system where our representatives are owned and owe their allegiance to corporate sponsors and lobbyists they represent.

If only McCain were out of the picture, Jes. Unfortunately, like Cheney (and his daughter), he's a favorite of the media and so keeps popping up to disseminate his idiocy.

McCain should suspend his Senate activities, fly to Iran, get the leaders of the various factions in a room together, sit them down, and tell them a;; to "Stop The Bullsh!t !"

that he hasn't makes me wonder how serious he really is about this.

Is a comparison to who didn't prevail in the election the best that can be raised to support the Obama performance? It looks, at the moment, that the principle Obama uses is to do or say little or nothing until the outcome is certain, and then to spin that outcome - take credit if it is positive or blame somebody else if it is negative.

Has the administration voiced support for the electorate in Iran that, to all appearances in the media, has been defrauded in the election and is being abused by those in power for protesting?

Whether one agreed or disagreed with Bush, he was consistent and, to my best recollection, remained so regardless of criticism when he thought he was right.

Is a comparison to who didn't prevail in the election the best that can be raised to support the Obama performance?

Obama's performance on this issue is just about perfect: STFU and don't meddle.

It looks, at the moment, that the principle Obama uses is to do or say little or nothing until the outcome is certain, and then to spin that outcome - take credit if it is positive or blame somebody else if it is negative.

ah... so the new smear is that Obama is weak and ineffective ? thanks for the tip.

So what you're saying is:
"THANK (insert preferred Diety here) HE'S NOT PRESIDENT! He's like, So-o-o-o-o ignorant of the history of American perfidy that he doesn't share our OUTRAGE at this half-a-century-ago example of AMERICAN IMPERIALIST MEDDLING!"

Ignore the examples he gave and dredge up this favorite bit of left-wing folklore so you can scream, "HYPOCRITE!"

Like your Glorious Leader Obama, you folks on the left always seem so pissed-off at America, so willing, even anxious, to ridicule, demean, and always - ALWAYS - believe the worst about this country.

Unless, of course, a Democrat is in the White House.

GOB, are you just going to ignore the point that having the president of the United States strongly endorse them, thus making them look like American puppets, is the last thing the Iranian protesters want? Are you only interested in hearing feel-good rhetoric, even if its effect is opposed to what you supposedly support? It's not all about us.

Cleek, that been the smear for a while. He's a weak and ineffective all-powerful dictator, just as he's a radical Christian Muslim atheist and a far left-wing socialist who's practically a Republican carrying on Bush's policies.

And what principle is driving Obama's perfect performance on this issue and, if his performance is perfect, why the need to criticize McCain's support of those in Iran who are exercising basic political rights? Does this infer that the US does not support such exercise of political rights by Iranians?

KC... yeah, i forgot. he's President Evil H. Rorschach.

KCinDC, you could argue that point, but that was not the thrust of the criticism of McCain's interview statements.

I agree with Good Ole Boy to a certain extent. You can't rest a defense of Obama's Iranian policy on proving John McCain wrong. (John McCain also did this interview two days ago.)

As I've written in these pages, I think that Obama's current policy is the correct one -- but only for the moment. There is going to come a time in which Obama cannot simply "wait and see", but is going to have to take a position.

Keep in mind, by the bye, that the Iranian opposition is not much friendlier to the US than Ahmadinejad. Be careful what you wish for, here.

You can't rest a defense of Obama's Iranian policy on proving John McCain wrong.

who's trying to do that?

Keep in mind, by the bye, that the Iranian opposition is not much friendlier to the US than Ahmadinejad. Be careful what you wish for, here.

and if we were to start inserting ourselves into an internal Iranian affair, Iran is going to be even less friendly than they were before. which is not what Obama wants: he is trying to ratchet-down tensions, not to increase them.

Von, that's a curious set of paragraphs to lay one next to the other.

I tend to agree with your final paragraph, but if that's the case, then wouldn't it behoove Obama even more to stay out of it?

"And what principle is driving Obama's perfect performance on this issue and, if his performance is perfect, why the need to criticize McCain's support of those in Iran who are exercising basic political rights?"

The principle is: try to help the protesters by staying out of it and depriving A-Jad's faction with a "made in the USA" cudgel, while preserving the opportunity to engage whatever leadership the Iranians decide upon. Perfect. Pitch perfect.

McCain, on the other hand, is urging for the wrong course of action (bluster and bold statements that thrust the US into the conversation, tarring the protesters, fortifying A-Jad's faction), and so he deserves criticism. Becuase he's advocating bad policy.

Cleek is on the right track here. Just a few minutes ago on the elevator "Captivate" news blips, there was a report that Iran is now complaining that we are responsible for the protests. This is with Obama's hands off approach. I think Cleek and Eric have pointed out the issue is that that Iranian meme would get much more traction with McCain in the driver's seat shooting his mouth off.

A US-friendly Iran is a bit too much to shoot for, von. I think keeping out of this particular episode in an official capacity is a better strategy for good relations with Iran than is any kind of meddling as we've done previously.

None of which is to say that we can't talk about it, unofficially, or support fair elections practices, officially or no.

Oh...shiny.

Slarti: That's a good point - there is a distinction between unofficial, citizen-level solidarity (which I favor strongly) as opposed to encouraging the POTUS to speak out (and then labeling him feckless when he doesn't - which is the GOP playbook).

Keep in mind, by the bye, that the Iranian opposition is not much friendlier to the US than Ahmadinejad.

I wonder why that is the case...

Just a few minutes ago on the elevator "Captivate" news blips, there was a report that Iran is now complaining that we are responsible for the protests.

Isn't that predictable no matter what Obama does?

I'm actually sort of agnostic on Presidential rhetoric, Eric. I think there is probably something he could say that could be helpful, but I can't say in advance just what that would be.

Interesting that some former advocates of doing nothing until you absolutely have to are demanding some kind of action.

I'm talking Jonah Goldberg, in case that was confusing.

"Isn't that predictable no matter what Obama does? "

Yes, the question is to what extent it will be credible. For example, Osama was always going to talk about a US war on Islam/Imperialist crusade. But it looked a lot more plausible after the invasion of Iraq (oil rich, no connection to AQ or 9/11).

I did not say, nor did I mean to imply, that the best one could say for Obama was that McCain was worse, nor was this meant as a defense of Obama. (I did that elsewhere.) I was just -- ?? -- gobsmacked by what McCain said.

I agree that he probably just meant: we should stand with the people of Iran like we stood with others during the Cold War, or some such thing. (That was the 'charitable interpretation' I alluded to towards the end.) That still leaves the problem of astonishing ignorance.

And for the record: we trained SAVAK. We didn't just give them a few lectures.

"I'm actually sort of agnostic on Presidential rhetoric, Eric. I think there is probably something he could say that could be helpful, but I can't say in advance just what that would be."

But he has said something! Lots of things, really. Just not openly taken sides, or been too partisan such that he becomes a talking point. He has focused on the democratic question, and the state violence. Which, again, is perfect.

I tend to agree with your final paragraph, but if that's the case, then wouldn't it behoove Obama even more to stay out of it?

But he can't stay out of it Eric: Not completely, not over the long term. Obama will have to deal with the Iranian leadership at some point, particularly given that Obama's stated policy is engagement. Whoever ends up leading Iran, Iran will remain a country that is determined to pursue nuclear weapons; is hostile to the US; is hostile to Israel and several Arab states; and is a destabilizing influence in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. If that leadership is Ahmadinejad -- and it looks likely to me that he'll stay through some sort of brokered deal -- how Obama treats and responds to him is critical. It is no easier if it's Mousavi, since Mousavi is clearly not the favorite of the security forces; is pursuing essentially the same foreign policy as Ahmadinejad; and there will always be questions regarding whether Mousavi actually has control over the state.

"But he can't stay out of it Eric"

Well, obviously von. I didn't say he shouldn't speak to Iran's leadership, or remain completely silent in the long term. In fact, I said just the opposite:

"The Principle is try to help the protesters by staying out of it and depriving A-Jad's faction with a "made in the USA" cudgel, while preserving the opportunity to engage whatever leadership the Iranians decide upon"

While Obama, given the unbelieveable chasm in which the last President and his administration have left us, actually a legacy of anti-environmental, anti-science, spend and owe, taxevasion deregunomic nation which conducted the largested transfer in wealth from poor and middle class to the economic elect in our nation's history, military adventurism accompanied by an incredible ignorance of the Middle East--or greed masked by ignorance--that has lead to (and Al Qaeda just couldn't be happier about it) the loss of American blood and treasure, not to mention standing in the world, has appeared to be slogging uphill for these past few months, nothing like the Iranian situation displays how much different it would have been with McCain, President Yosemite Sam, and Palin elected.

While almost every real expert on the region is applauding Obama's nuanced public stance in response to events among the Iranian populce, once a joking target for bomb-bomb-bombing, McCain continues to demonstrate that his response to the world is operatics, while Mrs. Palin, the consummated diva, and her cult following, taking up the campaign theme of her former running mate, wishes to carry on a long feud with a late night comedian.

Whatever complaints one has with President Obama, my goodness, think what might have happened last November if hadn't been for the good sense of our electorate.

But he can't stay out of it Eric

I suppose an argument could be made that he might throw his support to the protestors purely as a counterbalance to the pro-Ahmadinejad government we helped install in Iraq. Which is presumably more evidence of what a splendid success that's turned out to be.

and there will always be questions regarding whether Mousavi actually has control over the state.

Actually, unless he overthrows the entire Islamic Republic (which isn't the protestors' goal), there will be no such questions, because as president he won't have control over the state. The Iranian political system is a uniquely complicated one that isn't binary between "figurehead" and "control." And barring the aforementioned overthrow, if he becomes president it will only be with at-least tacit acceptance of the Supreme Council.

Whoever ends up leading Iran, Iran will remain a country that is determined to pursue nuclear weapons

...

Sometimes I get the feeling that we're just trapped in a time loop here. I really need to keep track of who wins the Derby.

"Whoever ends up leading Iran, Iran will remain a country that is determined to pursue nuclear weapons"

They have a funny way of showing it, considering our latest NIE concluded that they have no active weapons program.

You guys should read Michael Ledeen if you want to really understand Iran.

You guys should read Michael Ledeen if you want to really understand Iran.

Please tell me that was satire. Please, please, please. And faster, please.

There is no more hackish an Iran watcher than Ledeen - who has never been and has never read a word of Farsi.

Eric,

Most western journalists do not read Farsi, so that is an unfair standard. Do you read Farsi? As for his never having been to Iran, what does that matter? Journalists in Iran are shown what the regime wants them to see. How can you discredit a man simply because he has not taken a propaganda tour?

I don't discredit him on those points, he achieves that well enough on his own. Still, I prefer reading people that do speak Farsi, or at least approach Iran without an overriding ulterior agenda. Ledeen is a war-baiting neocon who wants one thing with Iran: conflict.

I'll stick to Akhbar Ganji and Trita Parsi (native speakers), with a little Vali Nasr and Fawaz Gerges sprinkled in for good measure.

Michael Ledeen does not want conflict for conflict's sake; he seeks freedom and democracy for the Iranian people. Fawaz Gerges is a christian and a puppet. If you like authentic blues, you really gotta check out Blues Hammer, and if you like authentic reporting on Iran, you really gotta check out Michael Ledeen.

"he seeks freedom and democracy for the Iranian people"

Via military strikes. I know too many Iranians to wish on them the liberation that Ledeen brought to the Iraqis.

"Fawaz Gerges is a christian and a puppet"

Of whom?

"But he has said something!"

What I said was:

I think there is probably something he could say that could be helpful

Definition of helpful in this context to be supplied just as soon as I'm done with that root canal.

"Fawaz Gerges is a christian and a puppet."

Puppet I can live with, but Christian? That kind of delegitimatizes him as far as I'm concerned.

"Definition of helpful in this context to be supplied just as soon as I'm done with that root canal."

But he has said something helpful!

"If you like authentic blues, you really gotta check out Blues Hammer, and if you like authentic reporting on Iran, you really gotta check out Michael Ledeen."

Um, Eric, I think this might be an irony alert (if you've seen 'Ghost World'), but honestly I can't tell.

David,

One can hope.

"... you folks on the left..." should clarify which one of your representatives at this blog is your elected spokesperson, so I can speak to ALL YOU FOLKS ON THE LEFT at once. This would be ever so convenient for the voices in my head, which need to relieve themselves now and then, and which hate having to sort out mere individual people and separate opinions. Thanks for your cooperation in this!

Michael Ledeen? The guy who was claiming two years ago that Ayatollah Khamenei was dead, and that his death was being kept a secret by the Iranian government? That Michael Ledeen? Yeah, there's a credible source for you!

"...and is a destabilizing influence in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

I'm curious what your objective definition of "destabilizing" is in this context, von: can you give it, please? Thanks.

Whether one agreed or disagreed with Bush, he was consistent and, to my best recollection, remained so regardless of criticism when he thought he was right.

"I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"

- George W. Bush on Osama bin Laden, 9/17/2001

"I truly am not that concerned about him."

- George W. Bush on Osama bin Laden, 3/13/2002

"If you like authentic blues, you really gotta check out Blues Hammer, and if you like authentic reporting on Iran, you really gotta check out Michael Ledeen."

David is correct, it appears that Fasib is making teh funny.

Either that, or he's likely got a serious Jagermeister habit.

"Um, Eric, I think this might be an irony alert"

These are the droids you're looking for, starting at about 1:00 in. The key line is at 1:32, followed by a long period of speechlessness.

Blues Hammer! awesome. i loved that movie.

Thanks slarti. The intertubes make my humorless.

While Obama, given the unbelieveable chasm in which the last President and his administration have left us, actually a legacy of anti-environmental, anti-science, spend and owe, taxevasion deregunomic nation which conducted the largested transfer in wealth from poor and middle class to the economic elect in our nation's history, military adventurism accompanied by an incredible ignorance of the Middle East--or greed masked by ignorance--that has lead to (and Al Qaeda just couldn't be happier about it) the loss of American blood and treasure, not to mention standing in the world, has appeared to be slogging uphill for these past few months, nothing like the Iranian situation displays how much different it would have been with McCain, President Yosemite Sam, and Palin elected.

Woah! Now there's a sentence you can be proud of.

I almost gave up looking for a predicate, but patience was rewarded a mere 90 or so words in.

I almost gave up looking for a predicate, but patience was rewarded a mere 90 or so words in.

Twenty quatloos to the first person who diagrams that sucker.

If I could get over my flashbacks of collegiate Proust (in French and English), I may try....

Twenty quatloos to the first person who diagrams that sucker.

I don't know how to diagram, but:

Looking into the unbelievable chasm in which the last President and his administration have left us, actually a legacy of anti-environmental, anti-science, spend and owe, tax evasion economics: a chasm dug by a nation which conducted the largest transfer in wealth from poor and middle class to the economic elect in our nation's history, a nation plunging into military adventurism accompanied by an incredible ignorance (or greed masked by ignorance) of the Middle East, which has led to the loss of American blood, treasure, and standing in the world. (And Al Qaeda just couldn't be happier about it.)

In that chasm, Obama's administration has been slogging uphill for these past few months. But the Iranian situation displays how much different it would have been had McCain - President Yosemite Sam - and Palin been elected.

...that's how I would have written it. If I wrote it. Which, while appreciating the sentiments, I'm glad I didn't.

I have no idea what deregunomic means, so I substituted "economics".

von wrote: "There is going to come a time in which Obama cannot simply "wait and see", but is going to have to take a position."

And what on earth makes you think Obama is just going to maintain the current stance until, what, the full extent of his term?

Rigor mortis of policy was Bush's problem. I see no reason to believe Obama will maintain the current stance any longer than it is useful.

"Thanks slarti. The intertubes make my humorless."

My favorite musical performance in Ghost World.

Technically, the longer version from the extras on the DVD, actually. This version lacks Thora Birch doing her own interpretative dance version. A glimpse of that here.

Ghost World is one of my favorites. You should all go see it. Except for those of you who will hate it. You shouldn't go.

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