How Ahmadinejad is Like Bush/Cheney/Rove
I haven’t blogged on it, but I’ve been following the Iranian election, and post-election, closely — and it’s pretty clear that Iranian democracy is a sham.
Here’s Andrew Sullivan, bringing it home with some of the best analysis I’ve read (making a point that is sure to freak out the right):
Ahmadinejad’s bag of tricks is eerily like that of Karl Rove – the constant use of fear, the exploitation of religion, the demonization of liberals, the deployment of Potemkin symbolism like Sarah Palin…
Think of this regime as Cheney and Rove in a police state setting, and you see what’s been going on. (Of course, Rove and Cheney live within a democratic system utterly unlike Iran, and there’s no evidence they would violate democratic norms as Khamenei just did. But their demagoguery, abuse of the state, dedication to conflict abroad, co-optation of the armed forces, and manipulation of rural and religious voters all have parallels in Red State Iran.) We keep expecting to see some kind of shame or some attempt at rational dialogue. They have nothing but contempt for that kind of talk. If they’re going to lie, it’s gonna be a Big Lie. Like this sham of an election.
And, of course, of course, no one — neither Andrew nor I (nor anyone else I can think of) is suggesting that Bush, Cheney, and Rove are as bad as Ahmadinejad. They’re not Holocaust deniers, after all, nor have they suggested that Israel ought to be wiped off the face of the earth. But in some ways — that is, in terms of their democratic activity (i.e., running for election) — the similarities are striking.
We are right to applaud the brave protesters on the streets of Tehran, and elsewhere. We are right to demand the release of opposition figures, critics of the anti-liberal, anti-democratic Ahmadinejad regime (although it is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who runs the show, of course). We are right to call on President Obama to speak out in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi and the courageous opposition (as Republican Rep. Mike Pence has done — I applaud him, for perhaps the first time, though I disagree with his criticism of the Obama Administration for what he calls an “olive branch-and-apology approach to enemies” (as if Obama is any worse than Bush on that front! as if that hasn’t been American policy generally!)). We are right to be suspicious of the outpouring of support for Ahmadinejad. And we are right to remember that Iran is not a democracy, however vibrant its culture, but a police state, and that the Iranian people are subjected to appalling oppression.
But we are also right to remember that American democracy, while better and healthier than Iran’s “democracy,” isn’t perfect either.
(Cross-posted from The Reaction.)