On Friday, a bus station in Baghdad was bombed, killing 7 persons and wounding 31.
Still, Big Oil is nevertheless getting back into Iraq — my guess is that they are positioning themselves for the filigire even though the terms and the security now are bad. In future they will have built a good working relationship this way.
Jackson was a man of multiple identities, which helped account for his enormous worldwide popularity. It seems clear that he was deeply traumatized by his rough show business childhood, and that things happened to him to arrest his development. Just as a stem cell can grow into any organ, Michael’s eternal boyishness made him a chameleon. Increasingly androgynous, he expressed both male and female. A boy and yet a father, he was both child and adult. In part because of his vitiligo, he interrogated his blackness and became, like some other powerful and wealthy African-Americans of his generation, racially ambiguous. Toward the end of his life he bridged his family’s Jehovah’s Witness brand of Christianity with a profound interest in Islam. He was all things to all people in part precisely because of his Peter Pan syndrome. A child can grow up to become anything, after all.
Jermaine Jackson explained that it was the experience of touring the Gulf that brought family members into contact with Islam. Interestingly, he found that Islam resolved some dilemmas he had about Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. Just as Malcolm X had been converted by his pilgrimage to Mecca from a narrow sectarian folk religion in America to Sunni anti-racist universalism, so Jermaine took a similar path.
We can only speculate about the attractions for Michael Jackson of Islam, but likely his 2005 trial in which he was acquitted of all charges was implicated in his desire for a change. The court psychiatrist confirmed his psychological innocence, saying he had been arrested at the stage of a 10 year old. Michael Jackson was deeply hurt and humiliated by the experience, and his withdrawal to Bahrain and search for a different tradition of spirituality may well have come out of that abasement.
Those who lived through the 80s will never forget the Michael of “Thriller” and other breakthrough videos.
But it seems to me that the iconic later Jackson is “Black or White,” which powerfully makes the points above about the fluidity of identity in a globalized world, and underlines the common humanity of us all, something that the eternal boy could see through the ravages of hurt that clouded his never-ending childhood. Young children don’t know about racial or religious prejudice. The great tragedy of Michael Jackson is that his childlike withdrawal from reality may have left him more vulnerable to himself and others, and never protected him from bigotry or, other human realities. After all, children shouldn’t die.
Jackson is still enormously popular in the Middle East. Here is a Gulf tribute to the King of Pop. Given the stereotyping of Gulf Arabs as medieval and fanatical, and given the hurtful prejudice against their very form of clothing in the West, it is only right that they should have the last word here on Michael Jackson’s universal appeal:
(People are saying that the sound track was added over globalized Gulf music here; OK, but it is the height of hybridity either way.)
At his Friday prayers sermon on Friday, hard line cleric Ahmad Khatami (no relation to former president and liberal Mohammad Khatami) called for capital punishment for leaders of the popular demonstrations against the outcome of the election. This call is a new and dangerous turn, since Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had praised the opposition leaders and simply urged them to accept the official results. Ahmad Khatami is close to the hard line faction of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and is surely voicing the sentiments of the worst of the Basij and Revolutionary Guards elements who have attacked the protesters.
‘ Mousavi, who last led a massive protest rally a week ago, described his growing difficulties for the first time in a statement on the site. He said authorities were increasingly isolating and vilifying him to try to get him to withdraw his election challenge, but Mousavi added he would not back down. “I am not ready to withdraw from demanding the rights of the Iranian people,” he said, adding that he was determined to prove electoral fraud and that those behind it were “the main factor for the recent violence and unrest and have spilled the blood of the people.” He also was quoted by his Web site as saying that the Iranian people have the right to express “their opposition to what happened in the election and after that.” ‘
All but 4 of the 70 professors arrested by the regime on Thursday for meeting with Mousavi were released the same day.
On the other hand, various forms of restriction are being imposed on the Mousavi camp. Abolfaz Fateh, a media campaign aide to Mousavi, has been forbidden to leave the coutnry while being investigated for his role in fostering ‘illegal gatherings.’
The other reform candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, cancelled planned mourning processions on Thursday, for lack of an official permit. Karroubi had called on his followers to protest and commemorate the killing of protesteAbolrs on Saturday. Mousavi is said to have made his own application for a permit for such a rally.
All sorts of solutions are being floated by various influential figures, including actually holding a run-off between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi; or having Ahmadinejad resign without requiring a confession of fraud; or having the Expediency Council resolve the dispute (it is headed by Mousavi ally Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; or even removing Khamenei and replacing him with a council of high clergymen. Most of these suggestions are highly unlikely to come to pass. The most likely outcome is that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad will crush their critics. Whether this repression can work in the short, medium or long term is not clear. The Shah seemed to successfully put down a rebellion in 1963, but was overthrown after a long interval of outward social peace in 1978-79.
The news that the regime has appointed Saeed Mortazavi to investigate those arrested in connection with protests against the rigging of the presidential election. Canada had a bad experience with Mortazavi when a Canadian journalist was imprisoned in Tehran and later died in custody under suspicious circumstances, and Canadian officials dealing with prosecutor Mortazavi found him wholly uninterested in human rights issues.
Obama, of course, has not in fact interfered in Iranian domestic politics, for which he has been slammed by hawks who apparently want an invasion. All he did was to object to regime violence toward peaceful protesters and regime abrogation of the right to peaceable assembly.
The BBC is reporting that a victory celebration by the Iranian elite to which 290 MPs were invited ended up being poorly attended, with only 105 showing up.
Ahmadinejad’s attempt to shift the blame for the crisis to Obama is an appeal to his base, which I would estimate at 20% of the population, who live for conspiracy theories. But if he were really a politician instead of just being a martinet he would be trying to craft a discourse that would attract the center and mollify the reformists. He is incapable, obviously, of achieving such broad appeal, and no doubt deeply envies Obama’s widespread popularity, even inside Iran.
Then there were two. Mohsen Rezaie, one of four candidates for president in the recent elections, has withdrawn his objections to the vote tally, which alleged that Rezaie got less than a million votes and that incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gained almost 63%. Rezaie, a former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is, like Ahmadinejad, a hard liner. But he had joined his two reformist rivals in questioning the official vote tallies. He said he was withdrawing his complaint because “political, social and security situation has entered a sensitive and decisive phase, which is more important than the election . . . I feel it is my duty… taking into account my pledge as a soldier of the revolution, the leader and the people, to inform you that I renounce following up on my complaints.”
A massive bomb shook Shiite east Baghdad on Wednesday, killing 70 persons and wounding 135. It was unclear, Ned Parker of the LAT reports, who was behind the strike, whether Sunni radicals or Shiites involved in a faction fight. Me, I’d put my money on Sunni radicals. There has at no point been any proof of any Shiite Iraqi engaging in a huge suicide bombing. The militiamen have set roadside bombs against the Multi-National Forces, but they haven’t been proved to hit Iraqis this way. If it was a struggle for power in Sadr City, there would be better ways to win than random violence. Whoever did this is still trying to destabilize the new government.
It should be noted that this bombing occurred despite the US patrols, which will cease next week (or be far less frequent or conventional). So logically I cannot understand the proposition that the bombing tells us something about what it will be like when the patrols cease.
‘ First, I’d like to say a few words about the situation in Iran. The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days.
I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.
I’ve made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs.
But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.
The Iranian people are trying to have a debate about their future. Some in Iran — some in the Iranian government, in particular, are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others in the West of instigating protests over the elections.
These accusations are patently false. They’re an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders.
This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran. This is not about the United States or the West; this is about the people of Iran and the future that they — and only they — will choose.
The Iranian people can speak for themselves. That’s precisely what’s happened in the last few days. In 2009, no iron fist is strong enough to shut off the world from bearing witness to peaceful protests of justice. Despite the Iranian government’s efforts to expel journalists and isolate itself, powerful images and poignant words have made their way to us through cell phones and computers. And so we’ve watched what the Iranian people are doing.
This is what we’ve witnessed. We’ve seen the timeless dignity of tens of thousands of Iranians marching in silence. We’ve seen people of all ages risk everything to insist that their votes are counted and that their voices are heard.
Above all, we’ve seen courageous women stand up to the brutality and threats, and we’ve experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.
While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech.
If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion.
That’s what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. “
The thrust of these comments is to deplore the Iranian state’s interference in the people’s right of peaceable assembly and nonviolent protest, a right guaranteed in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It is a good statement, insofar as it is phrased in terms that recognize an ongoing debate inside Iran and rejects US interference in Iranian domestic affairs.
But there are dangers here. Obama will likely be as helpless before a crackdown by the Iranian regime as Eisenhower was re: Hungary in 1956, Johnson was re: Prague in 1968, and Bush senior was re: Tiananmen Square in 1989. George W. Bush, it should be remembered, did nothing about Tehran’s crackdown on student protesters in 2003 or about the crackdown on reformist candidates, which excluded them from running in the 2004 Iranian parliamentary elections, or about the probably fraudulent election of Ahmadinejad in 2005. It is hard to see what he could have done, contrary to what his erstwhile supporters in Congress now seem to imply. As an oil state, the Iranian regime does not need the rest of the world and is not easy to pressure. So Obama needs to be careful about raising expectations of any sort of practical intervention by the US, which could not possibly succeed. (Despite the US media’s determined ignoring the the Afghanistan War, it is rather a limiting factor on US options with regard to Iran.) Moreover, if the regime succeeds in quelling the protests, however odious it is, it will still be a chess piece on the board of international diplomacy and the US will have to deal with it just as it deals with post-Tiananmen China.
And, the more Obama speaks on the subject, even in these terms, the more he risks associating the Mousavi supporters with a CIA plot. Iranian media are already parading arrested protesters who are ‘confessing’ that ‘Western media’ led them astray. In nationalist and wounded Iran, if someone is successfully tagged as an agent of foreign interests, it is the political kiss of death.
The fact is that despite the bluster of the American Right that Something Must be Done, the United States is not a neutral or benevolent player in Iran. Washington overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953 over oil nationalization, and installed the megalomaniac and oppressive Mohammad Reza Pahlevi, who gradually so alienated all social classes in Iran that he was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1978-1979. The shah had a national system of domestic surveillance and tossed people in jail for the slightest dissidence, and was supported to the hilt by the United States government. So past American intervention has not been on the side of let us say human rights.
More recently, the US backed the creepy and cult-like Mojahedin-e Khalq (People’s Holy Warriors or MEK), which originated in a mixture of communist Stalinism and fundamentalist Islam. The MEK is a terrorist organization and has blown things up inside Iran, so the Pentagon’s ties with them are wrong in so many ways. The MEK, by the way, has a very substantial lobby in Washington DC and has some congressmen in its back pocket, and is supported by the less savory elements of the Israel lobbies such as Daniel Pipes and Patrick Clawson. I am not saying they should be investigated for material support of terrorism, since I am appalled by the unconstitutional breadth of that current DOJ tactic, but I am signalling that the US imperialist Right has been up to very sinister things in Iran for decades. A person who worked in the Pentagon once alleged to me that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was privately pushing for using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran. And Dick Cheney is so attached to launching war on Iran that he characterized attempts to deflect such plans as a “conspiracy.” Given what the US did to Fallujah, it strikes me as unlikely that a military invasion of Iran would be good for that country’s civic life. And there are rather disadvantages to being nuked, even by the kindliest of WASP gentlemen of Mr. Rumsfeld’s ilk.
Moreover, very unfortunately, US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, ‘protest zones’ were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated ‘protest zones’ would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.
The number of demonstrators arrested in Tehran on Saturday is estimated at 550 or so, which is less than those arrested by the NYPD for protesting Bush policies in 2004.
I applaud the Iranian public’s protests against a clearly fraudulent election, and deplore the jackboot tactics that the regime is using to quell them. But it is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a ‘Homeland Security’ national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word ‘terrorist’ around about dissidents. Obama and the Democrats have not addressed this creeping desecration of the Bill of Rights, and until they do, the pronouncements of self-righteous US senators and congressmen on the travesty in Tehran will be nothing more that imperialist hypocrisy of the most abject sort.
American politicians should keep their hands off Iran and let the Iranians work this out. If the reformers have enough widespread public support, they will develop tactics that will change the situation. If they do not, then they will have to regroup and work toward future change. US covert operations and military interventions have caused enough bloodshed and chaos. If the US had left Mosaddegh alone in 1953, Iran might now be a flourishing democracy and no Green Movement would have been necessary.