By David Swanson
Given the fates of the other two members of Bush’s axis of evil, some would argue that the best defense Iran could have would be a nuclear bomb. They would, however, be wildly wrong. The best defense Iran could have would be awareness in the minds of Americans of who the Iranian people are, a people with great love and affection for the American people, great generosity toward others, and great commitment to peace. The best way I know that this defense could be created would be for Americans to give every other American they can a copy of Phil Wilayto’s new book “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey Through the Islamic Republic.”
And an amazing journey it is, visiting people and places in Iran that you would not expect from either Iran’s portrayal in the corporate media or from the position I’ve taken in the previous paragraph. Wilayto does not air brush Iran’s flaws or exaggerate its achievements, but he does set them in proper context and provide illuminating comparisons with other countries, especially our own. His tale mixes travel records with history and political argument to provide the best window I’ve found through which to peer halfway around the globe and into a complex and conventionally caricatured culture. Wilayto even recounts running into a U.S. television crew in Iran and shows us what they reported as well as what was really there.
Wilayto’s book provides an understanding, among much else, of the following:
Everyone in Iran is provided with health care.
In Iran abortion is illegal, male sterilization legal, and couples required to take a class on modern contraception before marrying. A condom factory in Tehran produces 45 million condoms per year in 30 colors, shapes, and flavors.
In Iran live Persians, Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Bakhtyaris, Lurs, Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Brahuis, and Iranians of African descent. Israel has had very little luck offering Iranian Jews large sums of money to move to Israel. Minorities are guaranteed representation in Iran’s government.
The CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 for British oil interests repackaged as Cold War struggle. Fear of another CIA coup was a major cause of Iranian students seizing American hostages in 1979. The hostage taking caused President Jimmy Carter to cut diplomatic ties and create sanctions that remain in place today.
Iranians like to put hard sugar in their mouths and sip tea through it.
The issue at the heart of U.S.-Iranian relations is Iran’s nationalization or privatization of oil. Working class Iranians tend to favor nationalization and tend to be more religious, while those speaking out for more personal freedoms tend to be wealthy and to favor privatization.
When Iranians, including members of the military unit that the United States has bizarrely labeled a terrorist group, meet Americans in Iran they are thrilled, friendly, delighted, and eager to offer their assistance.
Iran has not attacked anyone in centuries but was attacked by Iraq with support from the United States, in a brutal eight-year war that included the use, by Iraq, of chemical weapons. A major Iranian peace museum documents the horrors of war.
Women and men can use Iranian taxis, but women who prefer to ride without men can use a taxi company created only for women.
Iran opposed Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, and the Taliban, and assisted the United States in Afghanistan.
In 1988 a U.S. ship shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing all 290 passengers. President Reagan gave the ship’s officers medals, and President Bush I. swore he would never apologize for it, something neither of his presidential successors has done either.
Literacy for Iranian women has climbed from 25 percent in 1970 under the U.S. backed shah to 80 percent in 2007, and school enrollment from 60 percent in 1970 to 90 percent in 2000. Between 65 and 70 percent of university students are women.
In 2003 Iran offered to negotiate, including putting its relationship with Israel and its nuclear energy program on the table, and President Bush II. said no.
Hand guns and alcohol are banned. A strong social safety net prevents poverty. Women feel safe walking alone at night.
Iran has an all-female fire department. U.S. cities banned female firefighters until 1974.
The president of Iran proposed regime change in Israel, not genocide of Israelis, and is open to a two-state solution for Palestine.
Working women get 90 days maternity leave at two-thirds pay.
Iran ranks high in lists of nations with rights for workers. The right to organize and strike is not respected. But overtime is voluntary and paid at 140 percent. Vacations are four weeks. Wages cannot be varied on the basis of age, gender, race, ethnic origin, or political or religious convictions. Those laid off get severance pay. Those falsely accused of crimes get back pay and retain their jobs.
The above list is a fraction of the topics addressed brilliantly in Wilayto’s book. He also addresses the topic of nuclear energy, arguing that Iran’s oil supply will run out and that therefore Iran must build nuclear energy. However, there are alternatives that Wilayto does not discuss.
Of course, Iran’s and everyone’s oil supplies will indeed run out, although we’ll probably destroy the planet for human life if we exhaust those supplies. On the other hand, nuclear energy is extremely dangerous as well. One alternative that is viable in Iran is wind.
CODEPINK Women for Peace recently announced the creation of a company called Winds of Change, which will invest in Iranian wind energy, specifically in the Saba Niroo Wind Company, as well as in a campaign to end sanctions. Saba Niroo builds wind farms in Iran, but has been forced to halt production because the United States has pressured the Danish wind company Vestas to deny the Iranian company necessary parts.
“It’s ironic that the West is so vehemently opposed to Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear energy, but it is sabotaging our efforts to develop clean energy sources like wind,” said Nader Niktabe, Sara Niroo’s managing director.
“Under present U.S. law, companies that invest in Iran are subject to a $1 million fine,” said Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK co-founder. “We’re challenging those unproductive restrictions and pushing the Obama administration to lift sanctions and establish peaceful relations with Iran.”