On the eve of the one year anniversary of the most recent Iranian presidential election, the Web site for The New Republic gave space to Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to lament the Obama administration's feckless response to the corrupt Iranian regime's crackdown on protesters and its continued quest for nuclear weapons and terrorist sponsorship under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In response two days later, Time's Joe Klein resorted to his typical petulant bluster to berate the generally liberal magazine and divert attention from the real issue of Obama's leadership:
The New Republic perplexes me. It has some of the best and smartest writing around. And then it allows John McCain, whose lack of knowledge about Iran is encyclopedic, to hold forth in its pages.
Klein's June 13 Swampland blog post at Time.com focused on one brief excerpt of McCain's item, launching into how he felt McCain was not nuanced enough and hence lacks credibility to address the issue:
[McCain's] lack of knowledge--his tendency to bloviate without thinking--can be staggering, as in this case:
Is it any wonder that this is the same regime that spends its people's precious resources not on roads, or schools, or hospitals, or jobs that benefit all Iranians—but on funding violent groups of foreign extremists who murder the innocent?
Yes, the regime spends money funding noxious terrorist outfits like Hizballah. But it also spends vastly on its people. The road, school and medical systems far surpass those of neighboring countries--they approach the level achieved in that other regional petro-giant, Saudi Arabia (the Iranian school system, though riddled with propaganda when it comes to the teaching of history, is excellent when it comes to math and science--and it is fully coeducational; Iran's women are, without question, the best educated in the region).
More important, under Ahmadinejad, a phenomenal amount of money and attention has gone directly to the poor, especially the widows and children of the 1 million Iraq war casualties, raising them into the middle class.
You get the picture, Ahmadinejad is a bad guy, but he's done some good things. Ol' John McCain just can't see that because he's so blinded by his ideology, Klein insists. At the close of his post, Klein smarmily huffed:
I'd have hoped that the New Republic would have published something more insightful than this onanistic rant.
Leaving aside the fact that it's rich seeing Klein, of all people, to carp about "onanistic rant[s]," I would argue Klein's real issue with McCain is that he dares to challenge the Obama administration as feckless when it comes to handling foreign policy in general and Iran in particular. Here's McCain's chief complaint, which Klein failed to rebut:
We—the government and the people of the United States—need to stand up for the Iranian people. We need to make their goals our goals, their interests our interests, their work our work. We need a grand national undertaking to broadcast information freely into Iran, and to help Iranians access the tools to evade their government’s censorship of the Internet. We need to let the political prisoners in Iran’s gruesome prisons know that they are not alone, that their names and their cases are known to us, and that we will hold their torturers and tormentors accountable for their crimes. We need to publicize the names of Iran’s human rights abusers, and we need to make them famous. Then we need to impose crippling sanctions on them for their human rights abuses—to go after their assets, their ability to travel, and their access to the international financial system, which is exactly the goal of legislation that I and others have proposed.
It is one thing for members of Congress to lead this effort; but it would be quite another thing to have that leadership unequivocally from the President himself. The United States has never had a president whose personal story resonates as strongly overseas as President Obama’s does. His ability to inspire, to move people, to mobilize them on behalf of democratic change is one of the greatest untapped sources of strength now available to Iran’s human rights activists. If President Obama were to unleash America’s full moral power to support the Iranian people—if he were to make their quest for democracy into the civil rights struggle of our time—it could bolster their will to endure in their struggle, and the result could be genuinely historic.
If there were ever any doubt about the possibility that Iran will have a democratic future, the birth of the Green Movement over the past year should lay that doubt to rest. That democratic future may be delayed for awhile, but it will not be denied. And now is the time for the United States to position ourselves squarely on the right side of Iranian history—on the side of courageous Iranian reformers such as Shiva Nazar Ahari. Shiva was first arrested on September 11, 2001, at the age of 17, for the heinous act of participating in a candlelight vigil for the victims of that day of terror. After her release, she continued her human rights activism, until she was detained again in the wake of last year’s election. Shiva now faces the baseless charge of supporting terrorism—a charge that carries the penalty of death. June 10 is Shiva’s birthday. She is only 26. She spent this birthday, like so many before it, unjustly detained in Iran’s most notorious prison—locked in a cage so small that, last we heard, she cannot fully move her arms and legs.
Shiva Nazar Ahari represents the future of Iran, and all that could be best about it—its decency, its peacefulness, its commitment to dignity and justice for all. Shiva, and all of Iran’s prisoners of conscience, must know that they are not alone in their struggle for democracy, and their desire to change their government. America stands with them, as we do with all who seek a better future for Iran. The Green Movement lives on. Eventually—maybe not tomorrow or next year or even the year after that, but eventually—Iranians will achieve the democratic changes they seek for their country. The Iranian regime may appear intimidating now, but it is rotting inside. It has only brute force and fear to sustain it, and Iranians won’t be afraid forever.