Archive for February 17th, 2006

Lite Friday Nite Post

February 17, 2006

Because the news is just too damn depressing to read anymore tonite. My mind is a mess from my first week at work. I have become a lead project engineer overnight. While I am thrilled about the opportunity, I am feeling a little overwhelmed. But tomorrow is another day, so for tonite let us think of beauty. In particular, this beauty:

I have always thought Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, and I find this series of photos by Milton Greene called the Black Sitting to be the best pictures of her. Milton did a lot of photo sets of Marilyn, but the Black Sitting is my favorite.

Check out Milton’s archives for much more, or here is the link to a fan site that leads to a world of Marilyn.

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Clueless

February 17, 2006

Two articles from Asia Times show the lack of understanding our government has concerning the situation in Iran. Or maybe they give a glimpse of the true nature of US actions in the Middle East. The administration is, at least on the surface, still looking at Iran as a country controlled by the old guard clerics who support theocracy and are against modernization. The US government is trying to engage in covert actions to undermine the clerics.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s request for extra funds marks a nearly eightfold increase in the US government’s current expenditure on Iran and signals the beginning of a new period of concerted diplomatic pressure by the United States against Iran, a country that President George W Bush included in his infamous “axis of evil” speech in 2002.

In seeking an additional US$75 million from the US Congress to fund Iranian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that promote democracy, human rights and trade unionism, Rice is broadening the range of non-military options at Washington’s disposal to weaken from within Tehran’s clerical regime.

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“The United States will actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime,” Rice said. “At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country.”

First of all, the current president of Iran is in power despite the clerics. But we will return to that in a minute. There is one more part of the article that needs to be addressed first:

One of the militantly anti-clerical-regime groups that could stand to benefit from the new windfall is the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a Marxist-Islamist organization that is hated within Iran because it sided with the Iraqi dictator against Iran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

The MEK has been registered by the State Department as a terrorist organization for the past 10 years, but now neo-conservative factions of the Bush administration are lobbying hard to remove it from the list. Should the MEK end up benefiting from US pro-democracy largesse, it would send a clear message to people inside Iran that Washington funds groups that engage in terrorist activity. Some reports quote unidentified US officials as saying that the MEK would not receive any of the new funds.

“Most of the groups which will be suckling from this new taxpayer teat include designated terrorist organizations such as the MEK and ancien regime agonists, all with their own agendas which are not limited to outreach to Iranians, as these groups have little if any traction or credibility in Iran today,” said Donald Weadon, an international lawyer specializing in Iran.

Because the US supports terrorists when it benefits us. This country has supported countless dictators (like Saddam) over the past 50 years. And this is just one more example of the hypocracy of the Bush administration.

But the real reason none of this will work is because Iran is not under the influence of the old guard alone any longer. It is in fact beginning to be run by the folks who came of age during the Iraq-Iran war, the one where we financed the Iraq side. And the new leader may be very Muslim, but he is also in favor of changing the way Iran is run, replacing the old school clerics with second generation revolutionaries who want their turn in the seat of power.

Lack of progress on the economic and social-justice front notwithstanding, Ahmadinejad has introduced massive changes to the face and operations of the executive branch. Virtually all provincial governors have been replaced by Ahmadinejad loyalists, who tend to be young and hail from the Islamic Republic’s security establishment, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC – or the Sepah-e-Pasdaran).

Moreover, Ahmadinejad has replaced most senior bankers and other important figures in charge of the country’s finances. Furthermore, many of the country’s most experienced diplomats have been recalled from abroad and replaced by less experienced figures, with backgrounds in the Sepah-e-Pasdaran and other security outfits.

At a superficial level it appears that the Ahmadinejad government is preparing for conflict and is reordering the entire machinery of government accordingly. But the changes introduced since August have a deeper meaning; they signify the coming of age of so-called “second-generation” revolutionaries who were propelled into a position of leadership by Ahmadinejad’s surprise election victory last June.

The most important feature of the second-generation revolutionaries is that they developed their political consciousness in the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, and not in the revolutionary struggle against the Pahlavi regime. While they are intensely loyal to the memory of the late ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (the leader of the Iranian revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic), the second-generation revolutionaries have tenuous ties (at best) to the conservative clerical establishment that controls the key centers of political and economic power.

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The central question is how the second-generation revolutionaries led by Ahmadinejad view potential conflict with the US. The answer to this question lies in a better understanding of the second-generation revolutionaries’ background, ideology and socio-economic agenda.

The key personalities in this vast network are former IRGC commanders; this includes Ahmadinejad and nearly all members of his inner circle. This military-ideological background is accentuated by a strong sense of Iranian nationalism and Shi’ite supremacism. Some influential second-generation revolutionaries (including Ahmadinejad himself) even harbor millenarian beliefs.

While they do not welcome conflict, they see it as an opportunity for a full-scale catharsis. To men like Ahmadinejad, the Islamic Republic is unconquerable; with its ability to project power well beyond its size and resources, rooted in its “undeterrable” nature.

On a more practical level, the second-generation revolutionaries may see conflict as an opportunity for entrenchment and a context-generator for their long-term socio-economic policies. They would certainly see it as an opportunity to reverse Westernization and bring Iran more in line with developments in the wider Muslim world (where anti-Western feelings proliferate and Islamic movements are increasingly on the rise).

This movement is a direct result of Western meddling in Iran. And the West has learned nothing from all this. Before the “Axis of Evil” speech, Iran was looking towards real reform. But now there is a nationalist agenda taking hold, one that believes it must fight back against the evil forces of Western governments who have shown little desire to actually spread democracy in the Middle East. And the author of the article goes on to explain how just like in Iraq, war could destablize Iran enough to create opportunities for organizations like Al Qaeda to prosper.

It amazes me that in the War Against Terror this administration is in fact creating more terrorists. But then again, more terrorists is exactly what Bush needs if he and the far Right are to keep the US public scared and in check. Another attack in this country would help cement the Bush agenda. And destabilizing the Middle East is the best way to ensure another one happens.

Spreading democracy by destroying democracy, it’s the American way.