Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rest in Peace

Our president is committed to making a deal with Iran to end their threats of terrorism and nuclear blackmail. Nuanced diplomacy will succeed in building a quiet peace where so-called cowboy diplomacy under Bush failed. Sadly, our commitment to endless talks has already given Iran the only thing they want from diplomacy--time.

So it should be no shock that the soothing balms of hope and change seem to have no effect on Iran's mullahs:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed overtures from President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying Tehran does not see any change in U.S. policy under its new administration.

Khamenei was responding to a video message Obama released Friday in which he reached out to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian new year, and expressed hopes for an improvement in nearly 30 years of strained relations.

Khamenei holds the last word on major policy decisions, and how Iran ultimately responds to any concrete U.S. effort to engage the country will depend largely on his say.

In his most direct assessment of Obama and prospects for better ties, Khamenei said there will be no change between the two countries unless the American president puts an end to U.S. hostility toward Iran and brings "real changes" in foreign policy.

"They chant the slogan of change but no change is seen in practice. We haven't seen any change," Khamenei said in a speech before a crowd of tens of thousands in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

Iran is our enemy. They have been at war with us since they took over our embassy three decades ago and they continue to kill our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only thing holding Iran back is lack of capacity to kill more of us.

Talking to Iran or making a deal with Iran could never last and would only betray friends or victims of Iran's mullahs who desperately want our help against the mullahs.

President Obama would have been better advised to have sent a message to the long-suffering people of Iran. They are the ones who want hope and change. They are the people in the Moslem world with the best opinion of America, remember? But no, the people of Iran are thrown under the bus in our president's address to the mullahs:

"Liberty" isn't a word you'll find in President Obama's Iranian New Year message to "the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Nor is "freedom." Nor "democracy." Nor "human rights."

Nor will you find any expression of solidarity with the people of Iran--though you'll find plenty of solicitude for their rulers. The president bends over backwards to reassure the mullahs that our government wishes them well.

You'll find a paragraph addressed to "the people and leaders of Iran," as if the people and leaders were in harmony, and shared a need to be reassured that we seek "a future with .  .  . greater opportunities for partnership and commerce."

You'll find two paragraphs devoted to speaking directly to Iran's leaders. Obama reassures them of his commitment to diplomacy, and to an engagement grounded in "mutual respect." Of course expressions of respect for the people of Iran are nothing new--President Bush reiterated our respect for the people of Iran many times, including a year ago on the occasion of Nowruz, as they call their New Year. No, what's distinctive about Obama's statement is his respect for the "leaders," the clerical dictatorship.

God almighty. It was annoying during the Cold War when liberals spent far more time attacking authoritarian allies of America who we needed to resist the Soviet Union than they spent condemning Soviet crimes against humanity, but at least liberals stood up for human rights somewhere. And I'll give our labor movment credit for standing with Polish workers in the Cold War. Though to be accurate, the labor movement was led by Democrats and not liberals.

Now liberals are all about abandoning people who would be free from mullah thuggery. Lebanese? We'd rather strike a deal with Syria than help you fight Hezbollah. Israel? Ditto for Hamas. Iranians? Gotta get that "grand bargain" so you're on your own. Learn to love and respect the Basij.

If you think words don't matter, you didn't pay attention to our president during the campaign. Then, he believed words mattered.

And words mattered to the downtrodden Shia of southern Iraq who rose up against Saddam in 1991 after we defeated Saddam's army and ejected it from Kuwait. Words mattered--and had an effect. Our shame was in using those words and then doing nothing to support the people who risked their lives to fight oppression after they listened to our president's words.

When did hope and change become all about making thug rulers comfortable and secure enough to die peacefully in their beds? When did liberalism become all about using nuanced thinking to justify retreat in the face of such tyranny?

The peace and quiet of people living under such thug rulers isn't the quiet of peaceful partners of the rulers, but the quiet desperation of living with no hope of relief from oppression and misery.

It is the quiet of a cemetery. And our president has declared cemeteries to be heaven on Earth.

Words matter.