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Sunday, June 21, 2009

“Bill Kristol’s useful idiot” condemns use of violence against protestors in Iran

Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement condemning the use of violence against protestors in Iran:

“Canada condemns the decision of the Iranian authorities to use violence and force against their own people. Although the scale of the casualties is unclear, it is evident that Iranian security forces are using deadly force on citizens and deaths have occurred. Millions of Iranian civilians have taken to the streets in the past week in Tehran and throughout the country protesting what they consider a fraudulent election. The government’s reaction has been to silence the voices of its own people through brutality.

“The Iranian people deserve to have their voices heard, without fear of intimidation or violence. Canada condemns the use of force to stifle dissent, and we continue to call on Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice, and to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the fraud allegations. The Government of Canada continues to support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iran.”

Western Standard blogger Craig Yirush recently criticised libertarian blogger Will Wilkinson for "[turning his back] on the brave democrats in the streets rather than risk overthrowing the theocracy that's oppressing them.” Cannon, unlike Wilkinson, is apparently quite prepared to be “Bill Kristol’s useful idiot.”

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on June 21, 2009 | Permalink


My sympathies are always with those demonstrating against the government under which they live, and the Islamic Republic is a particularly vile regime. To the extent that they represent a vision for an expansion of civil liberties, a more conciliatory foreign policy of international engagement and for cleaner government, I am cheering the Green Revolutionaries. But on the question of whether western leaders should interject themselves into factional squabbles in Iran, I think Ron Paul, Justin Raimondo, Pat Buchanan, Will Wilkinson and even Barack Obama have much more wisdon than Lawrence Cannon. Stephen Harper and Barack Obama's governments simply should not be in the business of policing Iranian elections and demanding investigations. There is nothing really wrong with the substance of Cannon's statement (except that investigation thing), and I agree with all other sentiments expressed in every specific, but because this condemnation is necessarily selective (electoral fraud and brutal repression of dissent is widespread in the world) and the already aggressive international climate towards Iran whose people suffer under heavy embargoes, I think it very unwise. Excuse the long quotation, but Daniel Larison diagnoses the problem of this sort of high-horse lecturing better than I could:

After all, whose interests do we serve by having our government speak up? The casual assumption is that condemning foreign election fraud, of which there was probably a great deal in Iran, is both some kind of moral imperative and a strategically wise thing to do in order to aid Mousavi, which in turn is based on another questionable belief that Westerners are somehow obliged to aid him and his supporters. The first part of this is very dubious, and the second is clearly wrong.

Western policing of other nations’ elections, like our annual lectures to other states about the state of their human rights record, is getting very old. We readily assume not only that their elections are in some way our business, but we also usually identify with one side as being somehow more valid, genuine or representative of that country’s people. In Lebanon, the right people won, so the structural biases built into the Lebanese system are not only tolerated in the West, while similarly crude biases in the Iranian system are decried as outrageous, but the fruits of the Lebanese system are celebrated as a great triumph for freedom and light. The absurdity of avidly cheering Mousavi’s supporters, who voted for a man likely instrumental in the creation of Hizbullah, a few days after avidly cheering the so-called “crushing defeat” of Hizbullah in Lebanese elections earlier in the week should be apparent to everyone, but it is not clear to many people at all.

...We pick sides like this all the time, and when we do it is almost always arbitrary, ill-informed and mistaken. For various reasons, one side in a contest is deemed to be more “pro-Western,” which occasionally even has the virtue of being true, and this side’s victory is then lauded as a great step forward, and anything preventing that victory is deemed inherently suspicious and illegitimate."

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-06-21 10:39:10 PM

The War Measures Act, The Clarity Act, The SPP Summit in Montebello, The sponsorship scandal, Bill C-15, The "Samedi de la Matraque", etc.

"The Government of Canada continues to support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iran"

When will the Government of Canada starts supporting those values...IN CANADA, Lawrence.

Posted by: Marc | 2009-06-22 3:45:29 AM

Kalim -
Why are you always on the said of the nativist (and borderline racist) right?
And how can you call this a mere "factional squabble" - have you not been watching the brave protestors being clubbed and shot this past week? If they win (no thanks to people like you), it'll be a far more significant transformation than one faction replacing another.

Posted by: Craig | 2009-06-22 2:08:05 PM

If Will Wilkinson is a nativist, borderline racist or even a rightist, I'm an endangered white rhinoceros. Did you read his paean to the multicultopia of my adopted city of Toronto? If I sometimes find myself taking some similar position to individuals you find objectionable, it's simply because I think those positions are correct. What was your purpose in asking this question? When did this become about me?

I hope you're right that the protests in Iran bring down the entire regime (and not just bring to power the Mousavi-Rasafjani faction) and be replaced by something better, but I don't really see that as possible outcome. I'm not hindering any anti-regime uprising, instead, with the individuals I cited above, I think that anything resembling support for the opposition from western governments strengthens the argument being pursued by Ahmedinejad and his fellow hard-liners that their opponents are occidental stooges. It is well known that the US has supported both democratic and non-democratic opposition groups in Iran with the goal of regime change--and this interference is resented by most Iranians, as it would be by most people the world over. I will continue to follow closely the events in Iran, spread information as I can about developments there (I'll still retweet stuff here, but don't expect a green-tinged avatar), and do what I can to expand the reach of human freedom, but these actions will not include me encouraging our political leaders to take strong and selective positions on these sorts of matters. On the part of the international community, I support engagement and negotiation with the Iranian government whoever they might be, a reduction rather than a continuation or increase in economic sanctions, and I ardently oppose military strikes which are sure to have heavy civilian casualties, put coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk, and are likely to have all sorts of unintended negative consequences. The more we hear of the same from Harper and Cannon, the less likely my preferred actions will be pursued. If Cannon is demanding an investigation the logical question that follow is "or else what?" Isolation, sanctions, blockades, strikes? None of these would be positive developments.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-06-22 9:47:05 PM

Kalim Kassam,

I certainly wouldn't assume because youths are involved in havoc on the streets that their cause is inherently righteous. Besides, it's clear enough who rules that country. You are certainly right that our relationship with Iran must not hinge upon the outcome of an election of that nature.

Posted by: Timothy | 2009-06-22 10:15:59 PM

I came across an article of relevance to this discussion. It's by the Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror and Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq who writes in The Guardian to explain the meaning of a group of Iranian protesters sign bearing the image of Mousavi next to the likeness of the deposed former prime minister Muhammad Mossadeq beneath the phrase "We won't let history repeat itself":

Carrying a picture of Mossadeq today means two things: "We want democracy" and "No foreign intervention". These demands fit together in the minds of most Iranians. Desperate as they are for the political freedom their parents and grandparents enjoyed in the early 1950s, they have no illusion that foreigners can bring it to them. In fact, foreign intervention has brought them nothing but misery.

For those who are unfamiliar with the demise of Mossadeq in 1953 at the hands of the CIA, the article is a tiny but relevant history lesson.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-06-23 6:21:48 AM

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