Thursday, December 21, 2006

Will Bush save the mullahs in Iran?

It is a dangerous thing to have a president who is dominated by a religious obsession, who has visions of military grandeur and who is disconnected from reality. And President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is just such a man. And many Iranians recognize this.

Prior to the 9/11 attack Iran was a nation that was seething with dissent against the rule of the mullahs. No nation does well when ruled by religious fanatics. And Iran was the birth place of the modern Islamist theocracy. It was in 1979 that Iranian students overthrew the dictatorial Shah. And then stupidly helped the mullahs win power.

There is no question that the Shah had to go. He was a ruthless tyrant. His connections with the US government gave him the resources he needed to murder, torture and oppress -- the things politicians in Washington do best. But his replacement was no better. (Of course the US has been ruled by someone who combines the dictatorial ambitions of the Shah with the religious dementia of the mullahs.)

Now remember 9/11 carefully. On the 10th of September the American people were very divided. Bush was not particularly popular with the voters. Had things continued on as they were he most likely would have been a single term president. But the fanatics who attacked the US united the people behind a bungler and a fool. The man was an idiot but he was “our” idiot.

The net result is that Bush won a second term to the detriment of the Constitution, the US and the world. Osama bin Laden did what Karl Rove couldn’t do. He made Bush popular. Bin Laden said he would destroy America and apparently he found rallying support behind Bush the best way to do it. But widespread opposition to Bush vanished when bin Laden attacked. And it took years for it to reappear on the political landscape with the thrilling defeat of the Theopublicans in the Congress.

The saber-rattling president, America’s not Iran’s, also brought unity to Iran. Before the Iraq invasion dissent in Iran was strong. It appeared entirely possible that the continuing dissatisfaction there would bring about a reform government and overthrow the mullahs. Nothing discredits a religion so quickly as its connection with state power and in Iran Islamism was had ruled since 1979 and none, but the religious crazies, were happy.

George Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq, justified by various, ever changing, always false justifications but a lid on the dissent in Iran. Just as the 9/11 attacks stifled criticism of the Bush regime so did the US invasion of Iraq stifle dissent in Iran. While the Iranian people would be thrilled to get rid of the mad mullahs they didn’t want to be seen as being allied with the US government.

Decades of US aid and military support for the Shah and his dictatorship alienated many Iranians. Iran had a large, educated middle class that didn’t want the Shah and didn’t want the mullahs either. And they would be happy to dispose of the theocrats today. But the bumbling, confused foreign policy of global central planning by the Bushites put the Iranian opposition between a rock and a hard place. Happy to dispose of the mullahs they couldn’t and wouldn’t want to be seen as doing the bidding of Bush. American involvement in Iraq set back the more secular, more liberal reform movements of Iran.

It was not Bush’s desire to stifle dissenters in Iran. It was just another one of the many foreseeable consequences of American interventionism which Bush ignored. Bush feeds on delusions, lies and dreams and ignores things like facts and reality. He never sees the consequences of his own actions only the vision of what he imagines will happen when the world discovers that he is fit to rule.

But the students in Iran have again grown weary of their government --- I know the feeling. The New York Times reports that the student movement in Iran “is reawakening from its recent slumber and may even be spearheading a widespread resistance against Mr. Ahmadinejad. This time the catalysts were academic and personal freedom.”

Ahmadinejad appeared to speak at Amir Kabir university only to be run off campus by the students. Students shouted “Death to the dictator” when Ahmadinejad tried to speak. Ahmadinejad is unpopular for several reasons. His economic policies are making Iranians poor, he is destroying what social freedom he can, he is using his power to remove reform minded academics from the universities, and his warmongering rhetoric is troublesome.

Taking his cues from Bush’s tactics Ahmadinejad decided to hold a political rally at the university. Bush screens his audience to cherry-pick only rabid supporters and stifle any appearance of dissent. Ahmadinejad tried the same thing. His government used to buses to bring in supporters to pack the hall and make it appear he was popular. Students on campus, seeing this deception, were livid and decided to disrupt the meeting.

Ahmadinejad cut short his speech and fled the campus but “angry students stormed his car, kicking it and chanting slogans. His convoy of four cars collided several times as they tried to leave in a rush.”

Will this anger grow? That’s hard to say of course. Chances are it will unless George Bush gives the Iranian people some excuse for rallying behind Ahmadinejad.