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Jesse Lemisch et al.: Sign statement condemning both US aggression against Iran & Iranian theocratic repression

Dear Fellow Historians (and a few others):

Below is a statement from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, which I have signed, opposing both theocratic repression in Iran and US aggression there. I think this intelligent statement can play a very positive role in shaping public discussion on this increasingly urgent situation. Historians among the initial signers include: Ros Baxandall, Eileen Boris, Martin Duberman, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Rusti Eisenberg, Linda Gordon, Adam Hochschild, Nelson Lichtenstein, and Howard Zinn.

This statement will be widely distributed and published. I hope you will sign (at www.cpdweb.org) and forward this to others -- both individuals and lists -- who might be interested

Jesse Lemisch

Dear Friend,
As the Administration escalates its threats against Iran, we are writing to invite you to sign the Campaign for Peace and Democracy statement "Iran: Neither U.S. Aggression Nor Theocratic Repression-A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." The text is below. If you would like to add your name or donate to publicize the statement, please go to our website www.cpdweb.org
Initial signers include the following: Initial signers include the following: Tom Ammiano, Stanley Aronowitz, Ronald Aronson, Rosalyn Baxandall, Medea Benjamin, John Berendt, Eileen Boris, Noam Chomsky, Joshua Cohen, Martin B. Duberman, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rusti Eisenberg, Carlos R. Espinosa, Gertrude Ezorsky, Samuel Farber, Barry Finger, Barbara Garson, Linda Gordon, Larry Gross, Mina Hamilton, Thomas Harrison, Michael Hirsch, Adam Hochschild, Nancy Holmstrom, Doug Ireland, Joy Kallio, Larry Kramer, Joanne Landy, Jesse Lemisch, John Leonard, Sue Leonard, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Nelson Lichtenstein, Norman MacAfee, Marvin and Betty Mandell, Selma Marks, David McReynolds, David Oakford, Grace Paley, Frances Fox Piven, Len Rodberg, Nancy Romer, Peter Rothberg, Matthew Rothschild, John Scagliotti, Jennifer Scarlott, Jay Schaffner, Sydney Schanberg, Paul Schindler, Stephen Shalom, Wallace Shawn, Kenneth Sherrill, Micah L. Sifry, Meredith Tax, Steve Wasserman, Lois Weiner, Naomi Weisstein, Cornel West, Edmund White, Reginald Wilson, Kenton Worcester, Julia Wrigley, and Howard Zinn.
Signers’ names and affiliations (for identification only) will be listed on the Campaign for Peace and Democracy website. CPD's previous statements, including "We Oppose Both Saddam Hussein and The War Against Iraq: A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy,” have appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, and The Progressive, as well as on many websites and listserves in this country and abroad. Your tax deductible donation will enable us to publicize this declaration of opposition to war and repression in these dangerous times.
In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy, Thomas Harrison, and Jennifer Scarlott
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Please go to the CPD website to sign, and forward this message widely.

A call for a new, democratic U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East

Just as it did before its invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration is manufacturing a climate of fear in order to prepare public opinion for another act of aggression this time against Iran. Three years ago it was the specter of Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction; today it’s the Iranian nuclear bomb. Washington’s immediate goal is to get the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran and, in all probability, to justify a military attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities -- a job that may be outsourced to Israel. The White House even insists on keeping the catastrophic “nuclear option” on the table -- that is, using tactical nuclear weapons to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, many of which are located in or near civilian population centers. Although a full-scale invasion of Iran is highly unlikely at the moment, there can be little doubt that the neoconservatives in the Bush administration have a grand strategy that includes, eventually, “regime change” in Tehran as a way of further enlarging U.S. imperial power.

We strongly oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq: it has brought appalling suffering to the Iraqi people with fatalities in the tens of thousands, descent into civil war and the strengthening of the most authoritarian elements in Iraqi society -- as well as more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers dead and thousands more wounded. Likewise, the U.S. government’s attempts to bully Iran are succeeding mainly in terrorizing the Iranian people and weakening internal opposition to the mullahs. The Bush administration’s claim that it is promoting democracy in these two countries is the grossest hypocrisy; its only interest is power and control of oil resources. We, on the other hand, care very much about the ability of the Iraqi and Iranian people to control their own societies, about civil liberties and the rights of women, gays, workers, and ethnic minorities there. That is why we raise our voices against the current threats to Iran and call for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq.

We too would like to see a regime change in Tehran, but one brought about by the Iranian people themselves, not by Washington. For 26 years Iran has been ruled by a repressive theocracy. Behind the formal trappings of democracy, real power is held by an un-elected oligarchy of clerics; all electoral candidates must receive their approval, and their authority is enforced by gangs of religious thugs. President Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier who has called for the elimination of Israel.

Iranian women lack some of the most basic human rights. They cannot dress, work, travel or choose spouses freely. “Honor killing” is legal, and women are hanged or stoned to death for “unchaste behavior.” Apart from Saudi Arabia, there are few if any countries in the world where women are as severely repressed by law as in Iran.

Workers who try to strike or form independent trade unions are violently suppressed. Hundreds of thousands of workers have not been paid for months and in some cases for years. Any attempt to organize is attacked by club- and knife-wielding mercenaries, security forces and the military.

As in many countries, homosexuality is outlawed, but Tehran has gone further than most by making sex between men punishable by death and unleashing a vicious pogrom against Iranian gays, many of whom have been tortured, beaten, and publicly executed. The government is carrying on a massive campaign of entrapment through the Internet; victims are subjected to constant surveillance, loss of employment, arrest, and violent blackmail that forces them to reveal the names of other homosexuals. Torture is used to make gay people confess to crimes they never committed. The basiji, a parapolice recruited from the criminal classes and the unemployed young, kidnap gay people, who are sequestered and tortured until they name names. Gays on the government's lists are forbidden to leave the country. And now Iran has exported its violent anti-gay crusade to Iraq.

In recent years there has been growing resistance within Iranian society, particularly from workers fighting privatization and unemployment and young people chafing against social and political repression. This resistance holds the promise of bringing grassroots democratic change to Iran. The threat of military action or broader and harsher sanctions from outside -- and especially the horrifying menace of nuclear strikes -- only serve to rally people around the regime and to give it another excuse to clamp down on dissent, inhibiting a potentially revolutionary process and strengthening the right-wing clerics. U.S. threats help the regime to justify its quest for nuclear weapons to the Iranian people.

As for the Iranian nuclear threat, Tehran’s assurances that it only wants to develop peaceful nuclear energy are not credible. Iran is probably still several years away from being able to produce nuclear weapons. If Tehran acquires the bomb, it is unlikely that the ayatollahs, who hold decisive power, would use it since it would be suicidal to do so. Israel alone has between 200 and 300 nuclear warheads capable of striking Iran, and this is not counting the thousands of warheads the U.S. can launch at Iran. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that Iran, or any other state armed with nuclear weapons, won’t use them or make them available to others. As long as these barbaric weapons exist, they can be used, and the more countries that possess them the more likely it is over time that they will be used.

We therefore strongly oppose Tehran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But as long as a handful of nations arrogate to themselves the exclusive right to possess nuclear weapons, the have-nots will always be able to point to the threat posed by the nuclear powers and will constantly seek to acquire such weapons for themselves -- as North Korea has already done, withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. Likewise, Iran, which has been menaced by the U.S. for more than two decades and was a charter member of Bush’s “axis of evil,” may opt out of the NPT.

An end to Washington’s belligerence is a crucial step in preventing Tehran from joining the nuclear “club.” Beyond that, the only way to stop proliferation is for those countries that have nuclear weapons to begin disarming -- something the Bush administration and previous administrations of both parties have refused to do, despite the fact that the U.S. is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty which commits it to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.” At the same time the nuclear powers must work toward nuclear-free zones around the world, but especially in the Middle East, a particularly volatile and dangerous region.

We call for a new democratic U.S. foreign policy that would deal with the threat posed to all of us by terrorist networks, and by weapons of mass destruction, and promote real democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere, by:

• Renouncing the use of military intervention to extend and consolidate U.S. imperial power, and withdrawing U.S. troops and bases from the Middle East.
• Ending U.S. support for authoritarian and corrupt regimes, e.g. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt.
• Opposing all forms of terrorism worldwide by Al Qaeda, Iraqi death squads, and Palestinian suicide bombers, and by U.S.-backed forces like the Colombian paramilitaries and the Israeli military in the Occupied Territories -- as well as the brutality and humiliation inflicted on Iraqis every day by U.S. occupation forces and Washington’s ominous threats against Iran.
• Supporting the right of national self-determination for all peoples in the Middle East, including the Kurds, Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Ending support for Israeli occupation of the West Bank and oppression of the Palestinian people.
• Taking unilateral steps toward renouncing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and vigorously promoting international disarmament treaties, instead of obstructing even minimal efforts to end the arms race.
• Abandoning the effort to impose, through the IMF/World Bank or unilaterally, neoliberal economic policies of privatization and austerity that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world. Initiating a major foreign aid program directed at popular rather than corporate needs.

The majority of people in this country now believe that the invasion of Iraq was disastrously wrong and that they were systematically lied to by the Bush Administration about the reasons for going to war, and they are wary of new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. At the same time, the administration’s scare tactics are generating popular support for aerial attacks on Iran. It is therefore imperative to speak out now against Washington’s threats, to educate public opinion, and to build organized opposition to aggression against Iran, as well as support for immediate, complete withdrawal from Iraq. It is time to demand a new democratic U.S. foreign policy that genuinely expresses solidarity with the aspirations of people for liberty everywhere, renounces once and for all imperial intervention, and is committed to real disarmament.