Monday, June 15, 2009


My fever broke today. I was on the phone with a client. Who I knew was going to call at 10:30. And who I knew I had to be up for. Last night, the (I hope) final stretch of this flue spread its wings and covered me. And I sank in the midst of sweaty sheets, aches, meninginal headache and eyeache, and visions that took me from one hell to another. The hells were very William Blake-ish, and they were interrupted, each time, by an awakening that would end in an unstoppable cough - one of those coughs gets out its shovel and digs into your throat - surely there's a treasure here somewhere!

Otherwise, I would have written today - well, I would have written a review that is now past due. And I would have written about Iran. Nothing earthshaking, just an affirmation of this blogs support for the reformers, for the democratic process, and against the gravediggers and ghouls who think that, because Ahmadinejad appeared in a photo op with Chavez, he is some kind of groovy third world leftist. Virtue by association - is that sweet or what?

Well, I think it stinks. There is only one question, really, which is: why, if Iran has developed a miracle vote counting machine that can go through 16 million paper ballots in two hours, they haven't put it on the world market?

This has little to do, and should have little to do, with American foreign policy. The U.S. should recognize Iran and pull down the sanctions regime. That has long been evident. But it does have to do with Iran's democracy. Like the U.S. democracy, with its longstanding legacy institutions that represent the power of slavery and apartheid (notably the Senate and the Electoral College), Iran's democracy is curbed by what the revolution left behind. I've always thought that, through a long, slow process, those structures will be changed. It disturbed me that Iranians I knew and respected felt the last election was boycottable - once you let a skunk sit on the throne, you won't get out the stink.

So, I'm hoping that the demonstrators in Teheran are not mindlessly and brutally massacred. And I wish them good luck in finding the answer to their question: where is their vote?


Brian M said...

I don't know, roger. I certain ly don't like the clerical regime and its religion (but then I don't much like American Christianity, either, so) but there may be reasons for the vote, as goosed as it may have been.

I guess my main caveat is that "the reformer" does not appear to be that much of a reformer, his support was arguably not that deep except in very limited areas, and I don't trust the manufactured outrage promoted by our media and government. We don't have the right to comment right now.

And, given that we are funding and training particularly nasty ethnic militias (the t word has been debased) that have killed hundreds, if not thousands, I'm not sure I disbelieve the results of the election. Was the reformer a great reformer, or was he one of ours? Even if not true, you can understand why some voters may fear that/feel that way.

Plus, having the Big A in power just gives our elites more excuses to prepare for full-on war (I consider our funding of terror bombings in Iran already to be low level war, but...) The Drumbeat starts.

Brian M said...

I guess I find django's arguments, while disturbing, too convincing.

Roger Gathmann said...

Brian, the reform candidate was one of the central players in the Islamic revolution in Iran. I take that as the structure of governance that all sides in the election in Iran agree on. This is certainly not about who is virtuous. That's a separate argument. This is about an attack on the political system itself.

If you think the votes could be counted by hand in the amount of time they were supposedly counted, well, I don't. I don't think the government can back up its claim to a landslide. I think there was way more than a little goosing involved. Ahmadinejad could have won - but I don't believe he would win the first round by more votes, considerably, then he won his first election, especially as his side lost the last by-elections.

And I'm not sure how the U.S. funding of nasty ethnic terrorist is connected, at all, with the stealing of the election. The U.S. position vis a vis Iran is a totally separate issue. If the Reformists had won by stealing the election, it would be the same moral issue - the destruction of Iran's political system. Ahmadinejad, however I despise the little guy, would then be in the right, and I'd certainly be for him.

I doubt the voters were giving a lot of thought to the U.S. They were probably giving a lot of thought to the outrageous corruption that has caused oil money to leak to the Revolutionary guard oligarchy, plus inflation that has eaten away at the poor urban dweller since A.'s tenure in office. His sporadic acts of generosity to the "poor" have, no doubt, had some effect, and he had the advantages of incumbancy. But overall, this looks like a genuine coup against the reformist side - which, you'll remember, was elected with the largest landslide victory ever in 1997. Conveniently, this victory is bigger. Hmm, isn't that a nice coincidence?

You don't have to follow the U.S. press on this. Follow the arabic press. Follow the bbc middle eastern broadcasts. Nobody says that Ahmadinejad could not have won - what is said is that he could not have won by that number. I have a hard time believing you'd accept that election result if the circumstances were transposed to the U.S.

Roger Gathmann said...

Brian, I'm not sure if I was clear enough about the fact that the facts of the matter in the election have little to do with the American fantasy that the Iranian people are longing for an end to the current order. Just as dissatisfaction with American elections rarely has to do with dissatisfaction that we have such an insane system of Senators and the electoral college. For the most part, the latter are simply presupposed by the American voter. But that voter would be mighty upset by the idea that an election has been "goosed." For good reason.

Brian M said...

But that voter would be mighty upset by the idea that an election has been "goosed." For good reason.

As shown by our massive riots in the street in 2000 (LOL) > I'll give the reform supporters that much credit.

Roger Gathmann said...

brian, the laziness of the American voter in 2000 is a scandal. And it amplified as the public let itself be led by the nose by the odious junta of Bush and Co. As you know, I've written more than enough about this!

Of course, the press in 2000 wasn't full of speculation that the voters were really voting against the electoral college - because it didn't occur to anybody that the masses were really stirred up by the cause of direct democracy. That we are supposed to believe that discontent with Ahmadinejad is the translation of a more fundamental discontent with the whole system seems, to me, doubtful.

The American press conflates the two issues - this is its propaganda moment. But it is not propagandizing to report on the nationwide, popular displeasure with a stolen election. That, on the contrary, seems to grow larger every day. Good.

BrianM said...

Interesting discussion here. I also see the expressed horror as being tied directly to those who want to ratchet up hostilities with Iran.

Brian M said...

And, because I know you never read the interwebs and are utterly disinterested in others' comments, the inimitable Ioz sums it up:

"Curiously, people like Ezra Klein, who are deeply concerned about the brutality of "the régime" of President (and future President-presumptive) Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, evince no sign of knowing, or being interested in knowing, what Iran was like when Mir Hussein Moussavi was prime minister in the eighties. In a phrase: worse! This is not to say that Moussavi might not legitimately have changed, nor to engage in an exercise of comparative, relativistic (im)morality. But, as we used to say in comparative cultural lesbionics seminars back at leafy Oberlin, perhaps we could complicate our understanding . . . uh, problematize our prior assumptions? When push comes to pummel, Moussavi's reformist rhetoric seems to be pretty thin gruel; he talks of returning to the teachings of Khomeni. Well, American liberals are awfully fond of "take back" narratives, aren't they? Moussavi's reformist campaign and image, not to mention his fervent support among university students and highly educated urbanites certainly bear a distinct resemblance to another epochal reformer who is even as we speak working diligently and assiduously to rationalize the policies of his predecessor. Change you can believe in.-Ioz

Roger Gathmann said...

Brian, thanks for the quote!

Certainly true about the 80s. But of course, if we were to glance at the U.S. in 1860, our prediction about the Republicans would be that they are the party of Northern abolitionists. Things do change. There's a good travelog report about Iran that I reviewed this year - or was it last? The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd, which I'd highly recommend as a guide to the labyrinths here, which don't reflect the Western image - they aren't even the negative of the western image.