By Eli Lake
New York Sun, Opinion
January 19, 2006
Now would be a good time for the peace community to sober
up and find a conscience. After failing numerous moral tests after September
11, 2001, the academic left, the anti-war agitators have an opportunity
with Iran. Here is a regime that has in the past two years stolen two
elections, installed a fundamentalist president intent on making war
abroad and destroying dissent at home, pursuing an atomic bomb.
Vote tampering, fundamentalism, bellicosity, and proliferation:
Isn't that the Michael Moore-Noam Chomsky rap sheet on President Bush.
Except in the case of Iran, all of these charges happen to be true.
And if that's not enough, the country's military and intelligence services
act hand and glove with regional terror masters. If the left diverted
a tenth of its impeachment energies here to unseating the ayatollahs
there, they would be doing both the war effort and the Iranian people
a great service.
So why is there no campaign in Western universities to treat the Islamic
Republic like Apartheid South Africa or post-Intifadah Israel. Instead
of proposing divestment from the European energy concerns that continue
to profit from Iran's rich oil and gas fields, the majority of the left
is convinced President Bush secretly intends to invade a country his
diplomats have made a silent partner in rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan.
Take for example a group calling itself "U.S. Academics For Peace."
In September, a delegation of 13 such academics visited Tehran and Damascus
in an effort "to initiate dialogue that might further mutual understanding
between the United States and Iran and Syria," according to a November
statement summarizing the delegation's findings. While its members said
they deplore statements from Iranian leaders to "wipe Israel off
the map," they also condemned talk of changing regimes in Iran
or kicking the mullah out of the United Nations because it "can
only inhibit dialogue and prove counter-productive."
As for Syria, these intellectuals believe that whatever the result of
the U.N. investigation into the murder of the former Lebanese prime
minister, Rafiq Hariri, the murder should not be a pretext for changing
the regime in Syria.
Not surprising, the organization's line on Iran's nuclear program is
not all that different from the regime it is so set against changing.
"We adamantly oppose attempts based on unproven suspicions, allegations,
or prejudices to subject Iran to special evaluative criteria not included
in the NPT," they said in their final report, sounding more like
a prop for despotic ventriloquists than a collection of independent
Why would any organization comprising scholars oppose ending the reign
of people who not only arrest bloggers, but film them being stripped
in an attempt to blackmail them. Why would the academics for peace not
realize that the regime they seek to preserve has already declared war
on their Iranian counterparts, people like Akbar Ganji, the author who
is still in Evin Prison despite a fleeting campaign this summer among
some leading figures on the left to plead with Iran's supreme leader
to release him.
Do these peace-seeking professors support a legal system that authorizes
the public hanging of teenage homosexuals. If they don't, do they suppose
this practice would end with the correct mixture of deference and dialogue.
Would that these concerns were only academic, so to speak. But they
are not. Unless there is a massive purge of America's national security
bureaucracy, there is little the world's remaining superpower can do
to nourish the democratic revolution people of conscience so desperately
wish for Iran.
This is not because, as many Iran experts contend, support from the
patrons of the former Shah would taint Iran's democratic opposition.
Iran's revolutionaries are already imprisoned for proposing that their
parliament not be overruled by unelected clerics.
No. American support for Iranian liberals would be compromised by the
very institutions tasked to provide it. Western advocates for a free
Iran must ask themselves whether they can trust the CIA, State Department
or the Agency for International Development to find and support real
Iranian democrats. And supposing these bureaucracies managed that, does
anyone think someone inside would not sabotage the cause by leaking
details of the program to allies in Congress and the press.
Perhaps funding from the National Endowment for Democracy and its sister
organizations would have a better chance of reaching the right kind
of organizers in Iran. But what guarantees will the brave recipients
of this funding have that in any future open- or backchannel talks with
the mullahs, their financial lifeblood would not be choked off in exchange
for more promises on nuclear non-proliferation or terrorism.
For now it looks like the funding and support network for Iran's fragile
dissidents must come from elsewhere. What an opportunity for the academic
left to abandon its neutrality in the war between Iranians and the mullahs
who hold them captive. It could help lift the patina of legitimacy these
proto-fascists seek from a political left forever advertising its conscience.
But judging from the U.S. Academics for Peace, the academic left doesn't