Wednesday, July 6

French philosopher goes to war against Iran's regime. What's next from Europe? Pink elephants falling from the sky?

Pundita is not having a good week. Yesterday we keeled at news that the European Commission has decided that rampant environmentalism is bad for industry. Tonight we suffered a bruised elbow while falling off our swivel chair. This happened upon hearing Shaheen Fatemi of the Iran va Jahan blog inform John Batchelor's audience that a famous French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, has called a spade a spade with regard to Iran's new president.

Here are excerpts from Fatemi's translation of Lévy's opinion piece for the prestigious French weekly, Le Point:

"Chancelleries will as usual minimize it. Experts will explain that there is no religious extremism which is not diluted by the responsibility which comes with the elected office.

"Americans and the Israelis will be warned against the temptation to use force. It would be said and repeated that it is urgent to hold judgment on the newly elected subject to his actions.

"As far as Vladimir [Putin] is concerned, he has already given [the new President of Iran] his shining seal of approval in return for petrodollars.

"Let’s face the facts: Mr. Ahmadinejad is a dangerous man. His election as President of Iran is a catastrophe. Coming after the takeover of the city and municipal councils and then the Parliament it should be construed as another step in the full fledged return to power of the hard-liners. [...]

"The new President is not the modest and pious leader described at length by the media. He is a brutal man. He is a man with blood on his hands. He is a professional killer, not very well known publicly but very familiar to the intelligence community that see him rightfully as one of the agents of international terrorism manipulated by IRI. Before him Iran was already a terrorist state. What will happen to it with him? What would you call a country whose chief is a terrorist himself?

"On the nuclear issue the new President following his election left no room for doubt. He promised that Iran under his leadership would become an exemplary powerful Islamic State. The status of nuclear power according to him is non-negotiable.

"And those who did not understand this unbelievable sophistry, a good example of the best collection of political bad faith, should take a second look:
“Nuclear energy is the result of scientific development of the Iranian people and no one can bar them from this path to scientific advancement."
"Add to this the hatred toward Israel which is the main ingredient of his world view; add to this a North Korean-type hatred for America of an irresponsible leader who has no hesitation in saying that he will lead his country on the path of self-sufficiency and thus is not impressed with threats of a superpower. [...]

"How did we get there? How did Iran about whom we were assured of irreversible progress towards democracy could all of a sudden reverse into such regression?" [...]

We will leave off there, before Lévy really gets wound up. Pundita must meet the philosopher's question with a question: When you ask how we got to there -- what you mean "we" kemosabe?

Any well-informed news consumer, any Iranian exile, knows there is nothing "sudden" about the hard-line regime. There is no "reverse into regression." There is a natural progression, as methodical and inevitable as the Nazi party progressed until the world had no choice but look at their face.

So here is my question: How does one interpret as a "sudden reversal" a regime following on a regime that ordered the death by beating and gang rape of a female Canadian journalist, then poured acid on the victim's genitals in a vain attempt to cover up the method of murder?

Where is the "sudden reversal" when for years Iranian exiles in France have been shouting at the French in speeches and from books, press articles and websites about wholesale atrocities and murders carried out by every administration in power in Tehran since the Iranian revolution?

Where is the "sudden reversal" when it was screamingly obvious during the first months after the revolution that democracy had not followed on the heels of the Shah's toppled regime?

And as long as I'm in the mood to ask rhetorical questions: What's in their water supply that causes the French to studiously ignore barbarism until it prepares to cook them for dinner? Maybe it's the same gunk that infested the water supply in Washington, DC, and which caused one US presidential administration after another to think it was a really cool idea to have a 'Green Belt' in the Middle East.

Bright thinking: pit a bunch of Islamofascists and outright dictators against the Soviet commies. Downside: once you let loose the Hounds of Hell, they don't tend to respond to "Shoo poochie!"

But let us look on the bright side. One has to understand the French and their influence in the Arab world to appreciate the far-reaching import of Levy's opinions. Surely as write these words Egyptian intellectuals lounging in Cairo coffee houses are discussing Lévy's points.

God Himself could appear to the French to give a warning and they would just shrug. But let a French philosopher hold forth and the earth pauses in its spin while the French ponder. Their dedication to the ideas of intellectuals -- which often make no reference to facts -- is at once their most irritating and endearing trait.

In this case, though, Lévy references hard facts while challenging his government's studious blindness about Iran's regime.

As to where we go from here, it's up to French citizens to continue recalling the meaning of a democracy -- a trend they've been demonstrating since the "Non!" vote. They need to stop acting as if they are ruled by oligarchs. All they have to do is read the riot act to their government and Chirac's party.

As to the fear that Iran will cut off oil to Europe if Europeans put up a united front, Tehran is referencing the past if they make that threat. They assume a UN embargo would have the same effect on them as it did on Saddam's regime. All that did was force the regime into back-channel deals with Europeans who were eager to do business with him.

So it's a matter of the French, and the rest of Europe, grasping the concept of a "united front." It doesn't require a philosopher to understand the meaning.

For Shaheen Fatemi's complete English translation of Bernard-Henri Lévy's piece for Le Point and a link to the article in French, visit Iran va Jahan. The visit is well worth it.

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