The Corner

Refusing to See Evil Clearly

For those who wish to think clearly about Iran, there are two fundamental facts: 

* the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been at war with us ever since the overthrow of the shah in early 1979;

* the savagery they have unleashed on the people of Iran is precisely what they want to do to us.

The Iranian leaders and their terror instruments, from Hezbollah to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have been killing Americans for 30 years, from the Marine barracks in Beirut in the 1980s to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces are operating against Coalition forces. Both the history and the contemporary facts are abundantly documented.

The mullahs’ war is unrelentingly and barbarically waged. When they organize demonstrations of hatred against the United States, and lead chants of “death to America,” they mean exactly that. It is not a slogan playing to a domestic audience (we have seen in recent days that the regime is enormously unpopular), but a statement of intent. They aim to kill us, humiliate us, and eventually dominate us. Just listen to President Ahmadinejad’s words to President Obama last Saturday:

You should know that if you continue (to criticize the repression) the response of the Iranian nation will be strong. . . . The response of the Iranian nation will be crushing. The response will cause remorse.

Such language is of a piece with stories alleging that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ordered an all-out attack on American, British, French, and German targets wherever possible.  

Meanwhile, the same forces deployed against us and our allies have taken to the streets to attack freedom-seeking Iranians. The same Revolutionary Guards who operate in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the usual foreign thugs and proxies (Der Spiegel reported five-thousand Hezbollah “fighters” had been sent into the streets of Tehran, and there are many other stories of sadistic Arabic speakers all over the country) have been beating, axing, shooting, stabbing, gassing, and clubbing unarmed peaceful protesters. As of late last week, Evin Prison in Tehran, long the regime’s Bastille, had run out of space for arrested citizens.

The brutality in Iran today foreshadows what the mullahs intend for us. It is what the world will look like if they prevail. Iran’s Middle East neighbors know this, and dread it (with the exception of Syria, which is playing Mussolini’s Italy to Khamenei’s Nazi Germany). Yet every American president from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama has convinced himself that we can reach a workable, long-term modus vivendi with the Islamic Republic. They refused to see the mullahs’ Iran for what it is: a ruthless and determined enemy, at war with the United States.

It is an old story. Franklin Roosevelt and most Western European countries refused to see that Hitler’s treatment of the German Jews and other minorities foreshadowed his global intentions, just as we deliberately blinded ourselves to the fact that Stalin’s mass murders of his own people, whether landowners or Ukrainians, showed what Soviet expansion would bring to the captive nations after the Second World War.  Indeed, America has almost always refused to see evil clearly, recognize that it would inevitably be directed against us, and act early enough to prevent an even greater disaster.

To our great shame, we were unprepared for the uprising of the Iranian people, which had become highly likely in the runup to the “election,” and which, we should have been aiding for years with better communications, strike funds for workers, open calls for freedom, and insistence that political prisoners be freed. Worse yet, in the first days following the explosion, our leaders seemed annoyed that the Iranian people had interrupted efforts to strike a bargain. The president first took credit for the “robust debate,” then suggested there was no real difference between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, warned that it would be counterproductive for him to be seen “meddling,” and then, when the dimensions of the street massacres were too large to ignore, criticized the repression and finally spoke warmly of Mousavi.

Iran is still simmering; there is still fire beneath the ashes of the savage repression, and no one knows what the tens of millions of anti-regime Iranians will do in the coming weeks and months. But we do know what the regime will do, both to its own people and to us: continue to wage its 30-year war. The big question is whether we will respond effectively.

Michael Ledeen — Michael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...

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