Liberal as in Liberty and Freedom. Iranian as in Cyrus and Ferdowsi.
Robin Wright recalls in a Washington Post article
A year ago, President Bush issued a statement saying [...] "[Ganji's] valiant efforts should not go in vain. [...] Mr. Ganji, please know that as you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
In the same article, Ganji recalls
"I was in solitary confinement in prison and had no contact with anyone when Bush announced support for me." Interrogators, however, "talked to me as if I had had dinner with Bush the previous evening."
Wright adds that "Bush administration support is dangerous for Middle East democrats these days."
Wright, I guess, is doing what she is paid to do. Ganji, however, reveals here that the art of self-delusion is still alive in him. Is he suggesting that because the interrogators use Bush's support as evidence against Iranian liberals, Bush should stop supporting them? Can we not apply the same twisted logic for, say, the same liberals' belief in basic freedoms? These beliefs are used everyday as evidence by regime's interrogators and revolutionary courts that these people are "irreligious," "lackeys of the West," "traitors" and "symbols of corruption on Earth." These are actual charges brought against many who had merely dared advocate freedoms of opinion in Iran, including Ganji himself. So, should we also stop believing and advocating our own freedoms because they are used as evidence against us?
It was only last year, when Ganji wrote
in his Republican Manifesto
[The US] plan depends more on the behavior of the Iranian regime than it does on the conduct of the opposition forces. [...] [T]he only way out of a US-Iran face off is the establishment of a democratic system in Iran. [...] They believe a widespread democratic social movement can pre-empt an American military attack on Iran. With such a movement, a military attack will no longer be an issue. [...] Did Afghan Mujahedeen stop their fight and join the Taliban? Did Iraqi freedom fighters stop fighting Saddam and join his regime because America was going to attack Iraq? If they had done so, wouldn’t they have been condemned by freedom lovers around the globe?
But now, he is doing exactly what he had advised against in his writings. He "scoffs at the $75 million that the Bush administration has allocated for programs to encourage Iran's democracy movement. He said the funds would be better used for Iranian- or Islamic-studies centers at American universities." But why? Why not spend that money in programs that promote international solidarity with the people of Iran in their struggle to attain their freedoms? What use are all those Iranian-studies programs if Iranians suffocate while being studied? By missing the chance to engage the world's superpower in a program of support for the Iranians' struggle for their freedoms, Ganji is now a good candidate to be condemned by freedom lovers around the world.
Interestingly, Ganji's own account shows his fallacy: even though he was in solitary confinement, the interrogators accused him anyway. This shows clearly that it is misguided to believe that Iranian liberals' actions, specifically their seeking help from the outside world, is what causes the regime to mistreat them. It is the ideas that they advocate, which go against the very existence of the tyrannical rule of the regime, not the real or imaginary support they receive from outside, that the regime fears and tries to eliminate. So, when the regime and its agents mistreat us anyway, why not encourage the free world, which can lend enormous resources to our cause, to support our struggle for freedom?
Ganji had it right in prison! Only by encouraging the US officials to help the Iranian people can we avoid a bloody war before it becomes unavoidable by the conduct of the regime in Tehran. Ganji is wasting a unique opportunity, given to him for his acknowledged position in the eyes of the people of the world and their governments, and created by his previous couragous and correct ideas and the efforts of those who spread those ideas by translating them, holding long vigils, signing petitions and making a noise for his and others' freedom, all around the world. Instead of spending time with Hollywood celebrities
, he should meet with those who can actually make a differnece, through helpful laws that would bind any cooperation with the regime to its respect for human rights and its conduct towards its citizens. The effects of these lost opportunities can be already seen. Last year, Bush repeated the "we stand with you" language used earlier for Ganji in his 2006 State of the Union address
. This is exactly what Iranian liberals need. Now instead, human rights are losing their place as an issue altogether in the language of veteran US politicians
. This would be a fatal blow to the cause of freedom in Iran.
In his more philosophical thinkings, too, Ganji is slipping.
"I realized that repression is in the essence of revolution," he said, smiling. "And I realized that we cannot produce democracy with revolution."
He forgets that the longest standing democracy of the world was in fact created by a revoultion of the sort he thinks must be "repressive in essence." Not only that, it had to rid itself of slavery (the brazen face of repression) through a bloody civil war. Yet, the people of the US now enjoy the sort of freedoms Ganji is yearning for. The simple truth is, it is not revolutions per se that are repressive, but the ideas behind them. There is a link: repressive ideas seek their domination through revolutionary and violent methods, but the inverse (which Ganji states) is not true.
The truth is that Ganji is distancing himself from American officials for two reasons: one is that he fears, as he reveals in Wright's article, harsher treatment for himself and his friends by the regime. For not telling this straight out he is at least to blame for dishonesty. Second, and more importantly, he is against US policies because he still carries with him, from his younger days, deep and untouched assumptions about the US, an ideological baggage against "US imperialism" and the sort, albeit in a lighter and modified version.
As a young man, he rallied behind Ayatollah Khomeini, served in the elite Revolutionary Guards at the same time as Iran's current hard-line president, then worked in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, churning out its propaganda.
One is left wondering if those years had a permanent effect.
At this time it seems, unfortunately, that Ganji can only be trusted when he says, "We still don't have the emergence of a Gandhi, Havel or Mandela." Sadly, that is right. Gandhi, Havel, and Mandela never had a baggage of unattended assumptions, from their early days of supporting their later adversaries, affecting their thinking and actions years after they had nominally rejected them as false. Ganji, unfortunately, does.