Who Should Apologize to Whom?

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Amir Taheri

Published — Saturday 5 March 2005

Last Update 5 March 2005 3:00 am

Where is the country that Bill Clinton, a former president of the United States, feels ideologically most at home?

Before you answer, here is the condition that such a country must fulfill: It must hold several consecutive elections that produce 70 percent majorities for “liberals and progressives.”

Well, if you thought of one of the Scandinavian countries or, perhaps, New Zealand or Canada, you are wrong.

Believe it or not, the country Bill Clinton so admires is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Here is what Clinton said at a meeting on the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, just a few weeks ago: “Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency. It is there that the ideas that I subscribe to are defended by a majority.”

And here is what Clinton had to say in a recent television interview with Charlie Rose:

“Iran is the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). (It is) the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties. In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.”

So, while millions of Iranians, especially the young, look to the United States as a mode of progress and democracy, a former president of the US looks to the Islamic Republic as his ideological homeland.

But who are “the guys” Clinton identifies with?

There is, of course, President Muhammad Khatami who, speaking at a conference of provincial governors last week, called for the whole world to convert to Islam.

“Human beings understand different affairs within the global framework that they live in,” he said. “But when we say that Islam belongs to all times and places, it is implied that the very essence of Islam is such that despite changes (in time and place) it is always valid.”

There is also Khatami’s brother, Muhammad-Reza, the man who, in 1979, led the “students” who seized the US Embassy in Tehran and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days. There is Massumeh Ebtekar, a poor man’s pasionaria who was spokesperson for the hostage-holders in Tehran. There is also the late Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, known to Iranians as “Judge Blood”.

Not surprisingly, Clinton’s utterances have been seized upon by the state-controlled media in Tehran as a means of countering President George W. Bush’s claim that the Islamic Republic is a tyranny that oppresses the Iranians and threatens the stability of the region.

Clinton’s declaration of love for the mullas shows how ill informed even a US president could be.

Didn’t anyone tell Clinton, when he was in the White House, that elections in the Islamic Republic were as meaningless as those held in the Soviet Union? Did he not know that all candidates had to be approved by the “Supreme Guide”, and that no one from opposition is allowed to stand? Did he not know that all parties are banned in the Islamic Republic, and that such terms as “progressive” and “liberal” are used by the mullas as synonyms for “apostate”, a charge that carries a death sentence?

More importantly, does he not know that while there is no democracy without elections there can be elections without democracy?

Clinton told his audience in Davos, as well as Charlie Rose, that during his presidency he had “formally apologized on behalf of the United States” for what he termed “American crimes against Iran.”

But what were those “crimes”? Clinton summed them thus: “It’s a sad story that really began in the 1950s when the United States deposed Mr. Mossadegh, who was an elected parliamentary democrat, and brought the Shah back and then he was overturned by the Ayatollah Khomeini, driving us into the arms of one Saddam Hussein. We got rid of the parliamentary democracy {there} back in the ‘50s; at least, that is my belief.”

Duped by a myth spread by the Blame-America-First coalition, Clinton appears to have done little homework on Iran. The truth is that Iran in the 1950s was not a parliamentary democracy but a constitutional monarchy in which the Shah appointed, and dismissed, the prime minister. Mossadegh was named prime minister twice by the Shah and twice dismissed. In what way that meant that the US “got rid of parliamentary democracy” that did not exist is not clear.

There are at least two things that Clinton does not know about Iran and Iranians.

The first is that the claim that the US changed the course of Iranian history on a whim would be seen by most Iranians, a proud people, as an insult from an arrogant politician who exaggerates the powers of his nation more than half a century ago. The second thing that Clinton does not know is that in the Islamic Republic that he so admires, Mossadegh, far from being regarded as a national hero, is an object of intense vilification. One of the first acts of the mullas after seizing power in 1979 was to take the name of Mossadegh off a street in Tehran. They then sealed off the village where Mossadegh is buried to prevent his supporters from gathering at his tomb. History textbooks written by the mullas present Mossadegh as the “son of a feudal family of exploiters who worked for the cursed Shah, and betrayed Islam.”

Apologizing to the mullas for a wrong supposedly done to Mossadegh is like begging Josef Stalin’s pardon for a discourtesy toward Alexander Kerensky.

Clinton does not know that it was President Harry S. Truman’s energetic intervention in 1946 that forced Stalin to withdraw his armies from northwestern Iran thus foiling a Communist attempt to dismember the Iranian state.

Clinton does not know that if anyone has to apologize it is the mullas who should apologize to both the Iranian and the American peoples. He does not appear to remember images of American diplomats paraded in front of TV cameras, blindfolded, and threatened with summary execution every day — images that did lasting damage to the good name of Iran as a civilized nation.

Speaking of apologies, Clinton also ignores the fact that Iranian agents in Lebanon, led by the “ liberal progressive” Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Mohtashami, organized and carried out a string of terrorist attacks in the 1980s that cost the lives of over 300 US citizens, including 240 Marines.

And does Clinton remember the dozens of American citizens who were held hostage by the mullas’ agents in Lebanon, sometimes for more than five years?

Clinton forgets that anti-Americanism, and hatred of the West in general, is the ideological backbone of Khomeinism; that that the devise of the mullas’ regime is “Death to America”, and that the American flag is burned or trampled under foot in thousands of official buildings throughout Iran every day?

Clinton claims that the mullas “still kind of like the West in general, and America in particular.” That must be as much news to the mullas as to anyone else.

The former president endorses another claim of the mullas that Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi dictator, invaded Iran on behalf of the United States.

Clinton says: “Most of the terrible things Saddam Hussein did in the 1980s he did with the full, knowing support of the United States government.”

Don’t be surprised if Clinton’s next apology is addressed to Saddam Hussein, another victim of American Imperialism!

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