Code Pink in Iran

Code Pink has gone to Iran (starting, I believe, November 22), on a friendly, people’s diplomacy kind of mission. According to LA Progressive‘s Linda Milazzo (Nov. 24) and according to Code Pink’s blog, their entourage is having a wonderful time in Iran, being led in part by Rostam Pourzal, a lobbyist for the Iranian government (at least, that’s what he should legally register as, really!). He has taken the Code Pink activists to some ministries, as well as (on the civil society side) cafes, restaurants, bazaars, and places of gathering where they have met with so many amazing women and men, all of whom were really cool, compassionate and intelligent, and above all peace-loving. People have acted generally enthusiastically toward the American people-diplomats upon learning that they, Code Pink’s Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin, were on a people’s mission for peace. It’s like, Oh my god! They want peace!

Benjamin’s descriptions are at times patronizing and at times quite frustrating to read, though I should admit she sounds sincere in her intent. I do doubt their judgment though. Code Pink did support Obama, and Jodie Evans, in an interview on Air America radio program, Clout, sounded ecstatic about Obama’s election, saying, “War is over!” (Meaning it not literally, of course, but believing that with Obama as president, the whole mess will soon come to a speedy end.) As if!

Anyway, on the patronizing side … Here’s the problem: Benjamin sounds surprised to have met so many interesting, intelligent people who like and want peace!

Why would that be surprising? It can only be surprising if she were going by some stereotypes of what Iranians are supposed to be like. Of course most people are peace loving! Most humans in every country on every continent of the world are peace loving. That’s why wars are so unpopular everywhere!

The other side of it is, of course, that the Code Pink entourage are either unaware, or have not fully taken in the consequences, of the fact that some 80% of the Iranian population do not support the theocratic setup. The government of Iran knows this. So, clearly an overwhelming majority of the population consists of highly intelligent people indeed! No surprise then that Code Pink delegation ran into some of these intelligent human beings living in Iran.

The sad part, though, is that because the itinerary must have been manipulated by the government, partly due to their own foresight and partly due to Rostam Pourzal’s, I can only imagine that the groups who have come to discourse with Code Pink in all the arranged as well as the spontaneous-seeming situations must have been packed with all the ‘right’ people (at least some, anyway); let’s face it, if you don’t speak Farsi, and especially if you are dependent on government-provided people to arrange your contacts, you would most likely meet only with the affluent or those connected to the government — such as the women parliamentarians Code Pink met or other ministers they were supposed to meet — or else you will see an assortment of middle class professionals and others; all of whom, quite frankly, are not likely to be openly critical of the theocratic government around lobbyists for the regime (such as Pourzal), or other handlers provided by the government.

So, most likely Code Pink is not going to communicate with the people whose voices are drowned out in the international macho games of intrigue played out between different-level bullys. So, Code Pink will not get to meet with and talk to the most venerable of the society, the working classes, for example, or their unionist leaders (mostly in jail), nor with those whose rights have been viciously violated, such as political activists on behalf of students’ rights, minority rights (e.g., Kurdish activists), women’s rights and civil libertarians and free speech activists.

One interesting project that Code Pink is working on, according to their blog, is to record some video clips in Iran to be posted on YouTube, as messages to Obama. While meeting with a group of Iranian peace activists, Miles for Peace (a group of cyclists for peace), Code Pink mentioned their YouTube video series Idea. “We told them about the YouTube series we wanted to make called Iran talks to Obama, with Iranians from all walks of life giving advice to the new U.S. president. They loved the idea, and signed up right then and there to be interviewed.”

Now, first of all, Obama does not listen to ordinary American people ‘from all walks of life’, so to think that he would listen to Eye-rainian regular folk is just absurd thinking. But, the irony of all ironies about this video project is that just last week, the Iranian government started blocking some five MILLION website; included in the list is, you guessed it, YouTube! Also included are, of course, blogs and websites expressing dissent. The government says the blocked websites are ‘immoral and antisocial’ (pornographic ones presumably). But what is immoral or anti-social about dissenting against a theocratic dictatorship?

Here is another example of people Code Pink will likely not get to meet, or be allowed to even talk about. As an anti-war organization with feminist sympathies, Code Pink entourage should love to visit some of the women from Change for Equality (or better known as One Million Signature), some of whom are prisoners in Evin prison. Their ‘crime’? Peacefully asking people to put their names and signatures on a petition to be presented, peacefully, to the Iranian government asking it for a simple thing, namely recognizing that women are legally equal to men. I deeply doubt that Code Pink sought from Ahmadinejad an opportunity to meet some of the activists of this organization in prison, just to hear their stories.

Code Pink’s stated objective for their Iran trip is to create a people-to-people contact. As they have stated it, they wish to repeat such trips, and would like them to be reciprocated; meaning, they would push the Obama administration to allow similar citizens’ groups from Iran to travel to the U.S. Fair enough, and an agreeable enough mission.

But, from its first steps, the trip has been one of a people-to-government mission. The trip was made possible by an invitation of president Ahmadinejad, an invitation solicited by Code Pink in a September meeting between Ahmadinejad and a group of American peace activists. Having arrived in Iran, at least from their own reports (available on their blog), it seems that most of the people they are meeting are government people, or people whom the government has arranged for them to meet.

Another shortcoming is this: how about bringing some news of solidarity and hope to the people who most deserve and need it, those who are persecuted by the Iranian government? That would be a real people-to-people (social activist-to-social activist, that is) meeting of minds. Thousands of political prisoners languish in Iranian prisons without having committed any crime whatsoever, other than holding certain political beliefs at variance with the theocratic setup. The only reason they are in prison is related to those ideas; i.e., for activities such as speaking up against injustices practiced routinely in Iran. Does Code Pink, or any other U.S. leftists, feel any obligation to reach out to these people?

Code Pink has created a situation in which they are going along with a policy of no-arguments with a theocratic dictatorship, no criticisms and no explanations asked. It’s an odious form of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’.

Now, in case there are some cultural relativists, who spew out garbage such as, “Well, having an Islamic state is in their culture!” it must be said unequivocally, NO, it is not in OUR culture. It is in the culture of a small minority in our country, the same minority that wields very formidable instruments of oppression, and the same minority that has enacted repressive medieval laws, which the state uses to imprison people who have ‘acted illegally’.

Since Code Pink plans to repeat such trips, we ask that they reflect on their November 2008 trip, and in their future trips seek to find ways to arrange for visits to Evin and Gohar-dasht prisons, which hold most of the political prisoners in Iran. That would be a welcome complement to their people-to-government trip they have just concluded.

Reza Fiyouzat can be reached at: rfiyouzat@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Reza, or visit Reza's website.

34 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 9:40am #

    dear reza, one of the reasons why one cannot take americans seriously is their utter lack of rational insight or critical judgment. it is the result of very bad schooling and the pervasive provincialism of their inbred evangelical impulses, how good their intentions ever may be. one should enjoy them for their enthusiastic freshness and charming naivete, but never expect from this kind of well-intentioned leftists any solution or effective help. they remain tourists in essence, often causing more harm than good (cf. an excellent cynical analysis of long ago by Graham Greene “The Quiet American”. Read that and you will see what I mean). best, gary

  2. Rita said on November 29th, 2008 at 10:11am #

    I personally find Code Pink to often prove to be quite naive and lacking true substance.

    Whenever I see them at marches and actions I cringe. The barbie doll dress up is very antifeminist, as far as I am concerned.

    When I attempted to have substantive discussion on the issues, it fell on deaf ears. Sparkle signs saying ‘end the occupation’ seemed a bit frivolous to me. That is a personal feeling, though. I think they seem a bit ridiculous and not taken seriously.

    But that is a sweeping generalization, I know. However, when Medea Benjamen was pied about a year or so ago, I had to smile. I find her to be incredibly ascerbic, as a person. And self aggrandizing.

    Petronius, I am an american, but I must agree with you. A generalization, I know. The evangelism is based in a fundamentally christian mentality, which is also the basis of ‘democratization’. It is also the basis of u.s. hedgemony-our sense of exceptionalism. Our God and religion (not my own, however), is the correct one. And we conquer others for their own good. For the good of their immortal souls.

  3. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 11:09am #

    thnx rita, despite my comments on code pink (and I know they really are honest to goodness revolutionaries in their minds), I find more chat
    and philosophizing within the left here than a search for effective and realistic strategies. please see my comments on ron jacobs’ article about obama and read on znet of november 28 the article on disposable youth. that is where our future lies and where we should
    concentrate our efforts, not on relying on demonstrations that have proven to be ineffective or trying to analyse ad infinitum the present oppression. the true revolutionary idea of the sixties that threatened the status quo was the dropping out of the young , never mind that economic circumstances were different or that many of them were upper-middle class as is alleged by the conservatives. as a child of the may ’68 student rebellion in france, I have seen the power of the young.

  4. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2008 at 11:52am #

    Petronius
    If only something came of the sixties. I agree that there was a moment in time when change seemed possible. What the sixties should was just how resilient the power structure is.

    I would say the plutocracy was stunned by what was happening – much of it their doing. The assassinations, the burning of cities, the constant marches, the taking over of university campuses, the killing at Kent State, the merciless and seemingly endless war in Southeast Asia, the militia in the streets….

    It was a time, past and nothing changed. There was no new dawning, the power structure become even more entrenched as they averted attention to fear. Fear is the narrative used by the powerful to keep the majority in line. It has never failed to work. Defining the reality before their eyes. Post-Watergate/Nixon the nation continued its warring ways, until the right-wing narrative was no longer behind the scenes but up front. The Reagan years, the Bush I years, the Clinton years (the years when the two parties showed themselves to be identical where it matters most), and then the horrid Bush II years.

    Reminisce all you want about the 60s or for those who think FDR was a turn in direction or JFK, or LBJ, these were just moments of adjustment (at best, with empire front and center always). The empire has continued to win out. The sixties with its dropping out has significance, but it did not change one iota the trajectory of empire – in fact it more deeply – tho inadvertantly – entrenched it.

  5. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:01pm #

    dear max, I disagree with you because the sixties showed us like you acknowledge that the real fear of the elite was a breakdown of society due to the youth movement. and that is why the rappel a l’ordre is so tough ever since. we should learn from that, not perpetuate proven to be ineffectual methods of resistance like demonstrations or marches. their time has long since passed and we need new strategies. I do not advocate a return to the sixties, just that we should research what shakes the establishment. and one of the most effective (seen by their reaction) was just that, a refusal to conform by the young. it appears to me that we are butting our heads against the same stones, so we simply must change our tactics, that is all…

  6. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:12pm #

    if one wants to build a better house; ie, smaller; no basement, corners, paint, etc., one must change the house structure.
    if one wants to change the basic structure of governance anywhere, one must replace it w. another structure.
    cosmetic changes r always ok if they benifit ALL citizens.
    to change the structure of governance in a strong econo-military empire like US, one needs, i believe, 95% support from its citizens.
    other means may be terrorism or coup d`etat. thnx

  7. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:20pm #

    ps. max, but nobody on the ‘left’ is willing to listen carefully to what the powers-that-be are saying. like george bush (and he is a honorable man, they all, all are honorable men….) clearly stated that he did not even listen to demonstrations against the war. he does not have to, it is well taken care of by such as the department of homeland security. obama cum suis, though he is undeniably a more charismatic figure are not the problem. it is the present social contract that is askew and geared towards the financially powerful. battling them will not produce one iota for a better society. the relationship of the public
    to society’s rules must be re-examined and altered. that is where the crux of the problem lies and what is needed is a suspension of belief. where else than amongst the young will this even be possible ? gary

  8. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:22pm #

    bozh, yes so be it…..

  9. Rita said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:23pm #

    This is a good discourse.

    I think that something did happen in the sixties. Even if you view the documentary “The US vs John Lennon”, you can feel there was a shift in consciousness. This is the key, as far as i am concerned.

    I think that change of tactics can come, but first a radical re-envisioning of what it means to be a human being will need to begin to emerge.

    Honestly, i have been very active for many years and believe that the movement of the past several years has really accomplished nothing. I participated out of an inner sense of rightness and also wanting the world to know everyone in the u.s. is not in agreement with this administration. But it is very contrived.

    I think independent journalism and unembedded reportage such as Dahr Jamail has done, has been crucial. Anyway, we will need to make deep changes in our beliefs systems and assumptions about the very nature of the human condition itself at this point. I don’t believe the transformation will come strictly from the political level of human endeavor. It is a closed system. We need to go deeper into the nature of reality. In a sense, that is what the sixties was about. But then it was all co-opted.

    I think we see strands of this in the environmental movement,etc. But the strategies are old school. We are in a post-post modern world. The sixties was another time. But when i see film from the march on the pentagon, etc. there was a feeling of soul and spontaneity about it all, that is certainly not present in the past few years.

  10. Don Hawkins said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:41pm #

    there was a feeling of soul and spontaneity about it all, that is certainly not present in the past few years. Exactly and why is this so because the Matrix learns from the past. The system has gotten very good at keeping people in dreamland very good at it. Then of course the means, money, to make that happen. The people who help the Matrix don’t even know it’s going on for the most part. The next four years or for that matter the next year just might see that soul and spontaneity return but the darkside is strong but we do have truth and knowledge that will not go away.

  11. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:43pm #

    rita you reflect exactly my thoughts and I agree Dahr is an exceptional journalist. but I also believe that we should not concentrate too much on what happens elsewhere but on what must be done here. there is at present an anomie amongst the public that must be overcome. the only way I see it is not in concentrating on the present, nor a reversal to the sixties, but a tough re-examination of what is possible and maybe effective. a disappointment about obama’s regime seems unavoidable to me, but then he is a master propagandist so will disflect grumblings. we should ignore all that and place our hope with the disadvantaged youth as they truthfully are much less damaged than us. realistically inclined they are sarcastic (a sign of repressed hope) and addicted
    to robotism ( a sign of outwardly not caring as robots have no feelings).
    friends of mine have realized this already and are working with youth groups and students. gary

  12. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:54pm #

    don, that was an excellent comment and taking the ‘matrix’ as model is already a huge step forward. the sleeping beauty of the public will awaken but not soon as indeed human engineering has been so perfected. one should never underestimate the cleverness of the elites. like us they learn from experience, but we should study their responses and model our actions on that like the protagonists in the matrix did.
    the easiest access we have is to the young because they have had less time to be fully indoctrinated. and like women they are being foolishly
    undervalued (vide the way ms palin was being used). that is the chink
    in the steel harness that can be breached I feel. the young are where it is at…gary

  13. Deadbeat said on November 29th, 2008 at 1:06pm #

    Max says…

    The empire has continued to win out. The sixties with its dropping out has significance, but it did not change one iota the trajectory of empire – in fact it more deeply – tho inadvertantly – entrenched it.

    Max gives short shrift to the 1960’s. The 1960’s did altered how the ruling class operate. And many group of the 1960’s were repressed via COINTELPRO. To say that the 1960’s was about “dropping out” really belittle such groups like the Black Panthers and their 12-point program as well as all the participants who “dropped in” and put themselves on the line. Also it ignores the valiant effort of the Vietnamese resistance against the American “Empire”.

    This discussion seem to paints a bleak picture of the gains that were made during the 1960’s. This harping on “empire” becomes a meaningless expression and a tool to distort the REAL GAINS made by the movement of the 1960’s.

    The problem is that the Left is trying to recreate the tactics of the 1960’s in an environment of retarded solidarity. If the Left want to challenge the “empire” it must first build solidarity.

    The movement of the 1960’s was more “identity” based rather than class based. What the ruling class did to weaken the Black movement and anti-war movement was to offer Affirmative Action and rescind the draft. Today we see a reactionary backlash to Affirmative Action and a poverty draft.

    Clearly the point to not to ignore the 1960’s but to properly analyze what worked and why and why certain tactics of the 1960’s will not work today. But what is true to the strengths of all movements is SOLIDARITY.

    The question is how can the Left build solidarity? This question remains unanswered because IMO the Left REALLY DOES NOT want to build solidarity. The Left talks about needing a movement but it doesn’t talk about how it plans to build solidarity. That is obvious by the sheer lack of nuanced responses and analysis that I’ve seen here.

    Code Pink, Medea Benjamin especially, was instrumental in the Green Party disruption of 2004 that help set the stage for the Left having a disorganized response to the Obama campaign in 2008.

    It is clear that the Left itself is disorganized because it cannot identify members that adhere to principles and is determined to build solidarity. It seems to thrive on disorganization, marginalization, and alienation. Being in such a state, it is clear that they cannot reach the masses needed to really build a strong and coherent movement.

    Taking about “points” and “programs” is ridiculous because every Left group has grand points, programs and outlines. The problem is little to no solidarity.

    What is true in 2008 is that the ranks of people of color is growing. Yet the Left could not attract many into its ranks. The recent election demonstrates this as Obama won 95% of the Black vote and 87% of the Latino vote. If Obama does anything to mimic “FDR”, the Left is going to be in trouble especially among people of color since the Left has little to no engagement with them.

    What is different about 1960’s, IMO, is that there was much more solidarity among the Left with people of color than there is today and with the REAL demographic shift of the population, solidarity, should be STRONGER today among people of color than it was in the 1960’s. Unfortunately I don’t really see the Left doing that.

    The selection by the Green Party of Cynthia McKinney may be a start but it is going to be a tough uphill climb for them but is it a start. Localism (like Max talks about) will still have to find a way to coalesce into larger networks otherwise parochialism leads to sects and factionalism which is exactly how the left looks today.

    Analysis and not platitudes is what is needed.

  14. Don Hawkins said on November 29th, 2008 at 1:23pm #

    I know James Hansen is putting his hopes in the young and what would that be say 18 to 35 is young to me. Unless we can make a try at climate change and you are in that age group and even older when you are my age probably a good idea to learn very basic skills. We have 9 years to level CO 2 must start now.

  15. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2008 at 2:03pm #

    Petronius,

    Here is my sense of the empire. First we must never lose sight of the US as empire, if you blink you lose. If we talk in empire terms like GDP and economic growth and prosperity, you’re lost.

    The US empire is resilient on many front. It produces debt, deficits and money as if to defy gravity. In fact, when past empires crashed and burned because of debt, the US empire thrives on it. The stock market goes up and down in spite of most of what happens around it. The price of oil is up and down without regard to supply and demand.

    The empire controls the all the levers of power. It can marginalize the opposition, put an African American in the white house and keep total control. It has the Declaration of Independence to provide a faux sense of democracy, while it rules from DC with a Constitution which was drafted by the gentry for the gentry. The full force of an unparalleled military has been at its disposal since the inception of this nation-state as it expanded, and destroyed. Built on genocide and slavery it made its way to the far east and elsewhere as the other empires faded into the sun set.

    So, you might ask, if this Empire is so mighty, what’s to be done? Well the question is, where is it’s underbelly, it’s soft spot. Global warming? Hardly. Economic collapse is only possible if the very fuel of the empire is gone. Kaput!

    (Now this will be over Deadbeat’s head who thinks the Black Panthers changed American!) The empire runs on energy, relatively cheap fossil. I’m not talking about ME/geopolitical stuff or Venezuela. I’m talking about energy.

    All living organisms collect and store and use energy. Humans do, but our output is very limited. The American empire was fueld initially by horses and slaves. But these very also limited and required much care and attention.

    When, during the industrial revolution, fossil became the basis for capitalization, production and wealth, it took off like a fury and is here today. Everything that is Empire was built on fossil – coal, natural gas, and oil. We know there is a limit to how much of natures miricle exists. There is a clear understanding that we cannot expend more energy than it takes to make fossil energy available for use. This is known as net-energy. What it takes in energy to extract energy is net energy.

    The Empire’s economy runs on endless growth propelled by endless cheap energy. Without the latter the Empire chashes and burns. It is said that the Roman Empire (US Empire is modeled after it) came to the same end. At that time it was not fossil.

    The Empire calls the shots. It will until it’s life line is cut. Alternative energy sources will never provide the kind of energy demand the Empire requires. It will take an utter deadstop in the upward growth patterns of the Empire. The Empire does not seem capable of making those adjustments.

    Here’s where a progressive alternative is needed. Small, local sustainable living, participatory and democratically governed will be need to replace the unsustainable empire as it collapses. This is not left or right. It is not about racism (which is the Empire’s invention). This is about survival and doing so in a healthier fashion than Western civilizations have know (with the exception of blips in time).

  16. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 3:12pm #

    I agree with both Deadbeat and Max and they make excellent and necessary points. But we should not put eachother down (with Max and Deadbeat), but support and ally ourselves with even divergent opinions because the main goal remains the same for all of us. I am aware of the gains from the sixties and they are considerable if compared to what went before, but the changes brought about by them are not enough, dont you agree Deadbeat ? And indeed we are seeing the hollowing out of the empire (I am not entirely sure that we can call this an empire, but that is another argument), by the drying up of the traditional sources for energy. However this system will develop easily enough alternatives in due time, so that is not really an expectation we can realistically depend upon. Nor are the present economic difficulties for the financial elites enough to open the structure for other humans. What Max writes is true, small is beautiful but there again we need people to agree to it. Most are mired in the web of materialism and would not like to give up their SUVs or do without television (or for that matter this medium which I am using to spout my ideas…;-), but which is quite powerful nevertheless untill m0re regulation and control can be installed by the establishment).
    That is why I think we should concentrate on the young in this country and get them into our camp. This does not need a huge organization or
    any political rally, but can be done on the snow ball principle of showing a few kids what is potentially possible and let them talk to eachother. Women frankly would understand that, but there is nothing in place for alternatives to the usual mind training. Previously kids read Marx or Engels or Marcuse or Adorno. Now we have the great but too scholarly and solution-less insights of Chomsky and analyses of what Obama will or will not do. What I am trying to express is that all of us should pause and direct our glances away from what is, which is unconquerable at present anyway, but develop other strategies. Gary.

  17. Danny Ray said on November 29th, 2008 at 3:33pm #

    I am so glad that code pink is now in Iran they were such huge successes in Iraq, How long has that war been over? Oh yes I am still here.

  18. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 3:57pm #

    what to do w. what we have and what will be done w. what “them” have?
    never forget “them”.
    it’s them againsts us. at present, us comprise ab 2% of amer pop and them, whom we may further stratify into several layers, comprise ab 97%+ of the pop.
    hobos, indigenes, prisoners don’t count.
    and the 97% control WH, senate, congress, cia, army, police, media, education, advertising, and entertaiment.
    and probably 50mn amers r for USA no matter what US does.
    if this is correct, there is only one solution: educate the people on streets.
    go door to door; garden to garden, park to park and talk to anyone who wants to listen.
    will people espy/digest that they r abused once it is pointed out to them and that educating their own children at home is the best way to go?
    to expect that US ruling class wld give up its econo-military-educational grip on US, amounts to a delusion.
    thnx

  19. Deadbeat said on November 29th, 2008 at 4:32pm #

    Petronius writes…

    but the changes brought about by [the 1960’s] are not enough, dont you agree Deadbeat ?

    “Change” brought about the ending of slavery in the United States was not enough either. Change brought about the women’s sufferage movement was not enough either. Change brought about by the union movement was not enough either. I don’t see your point.

    What is true about the aforementioned is that it took some level a degree of solidarity to achieve those gains. But unfortunately for reason of government reaction to these movements as well as unfortunately at times racism within these movement cause these movements to dissipate and was unable to sustain itself because these narrow causes.

    However I am not the one belittling the gains of these movement. Doing proper analysis and putting these movements — good, bad, and ugly, in their proper context means that we can celebrate these achievements against the powerful while learning from where they fell short.

    My point is that solidarity among people of color with the Left is extremely weak. I highly recommending listening to Monica Moorehead from the “2008 Workers World Party Conference presentation. There she provide an analysis that is clearly missing from this discussion.

    And indeed we are seeing the hollowing out of the empire (I am not entirely sure that we can call this an empire, but that is another argument), by the drying up of the traditional sources for energy.

    Can you provide evidence that there is a “drying up of the traditional sources of energy” for one and two how this relates to the lack of solidarity on the Left? The price of oil went back down to ~$55.00/barrel down from over $100.00 and the price at the pump has scale back in some place to below $2.00. If the price was due to dwindling supplies then the price of gas would still had remained high despite the economic downturn.

    The recent spike in gas prices was due to the War on Iraq and the ensuing speculation it caused on the future markets. In other words pure price FIXING. Unfortunately, a number of Leftist jumped on the high price of gas to sell us on the “Peak Oil” canard. There is clearly more to the “Peak Oil” canard then what the Left is selling here. Just like the Left selling of the “War for Oil” canard in order to obscure the role Zionism has played influencing U.S. Foreign Policy. It is this kind of DUPLICITY that is retarding solidarity on the Left.

    Which is why once again I return to ANALYSIS.

    What I am trying to express is that all of us should pause and direct our glances away from what is, which is unconquerable at present anyway, but develop other strategies. Gary.

    And what “strategies” are those? That once again is my point of PLATITUDES rather than ANALYSIS. My strategy is to build SOLIDARITY with communities of color. Work with them on their issues and then you will have earned their trust. Once you’ve earned their trust then you can influence them on larger issues (such as “empire”). What matters to communities of color is RACISM and CLASSISM. Those two together will enable the Left to challenge Capitalism, Militarism and Zionism.

  20. Rita said on November 29th, 2008 at 5:05pm #

    Just to add one main thought here.

    I think that all of these steps that are , of course, progressive in nature are positive. The part where it always falls short, may have to do with getting to the larger, underlying issues, which goes back to how we view ourselves as human beings and how we frame and understand the steps taken. For example,

    We could say that protests helped to end the Vietnam ‘war’. However,
    we are still creating the same immoral wars. Not only do we still believe in war, but we don’t even need to justify it with rationalizations. So how far have we truly come?

    Somehow, we are going to need to realize that what you do to another, you really do to yourself. It will need to be even more stridently apparant than it is already. We learn through repetiton, and when we don’t learn through subtle means, then life itself has a way of becoming ever more relentless.

    Every time I think things must have gone far enough, i am always surprised once again…

  21. Max Shields said on November 29th, 2008 at 5:47pm #

    Rita,
    Yes, I think the underlying issue is the structure that frames our thinking. The dominant narrative needs to be replaced. The story we tell ourselves and one another, are at bottom, the world we live in.

    Our world-view has been constrained by an empire narrative. The established system is built for empire, not for democracy. As such it cannot provide change. The challenge we are faced with is 1) creating a new alternative progressive narrative to the one empire provides, 2) create through a self-organizing movement the change that needs to take place. Absolutely that change must begin with each of us. But our world emerges not through some kind of therapy, but through our actions and stories. It happens as we congregate and begin to recognize what is and can be.

    I am certain change is quite possible. The tools are there. The will to change and to do it one story at a time is what it will take.

    I don’t think we’ll simply rise up and tear down the empire. The empire, from what I can see, has the levers of power to, as I said, undermine nearly every overt threat.

    But there are two things which can begin to change: our consciousness and the awareness of the possibilities through our narratives and frames. Understand the frame of empire – it is everywhere present – and introduce a progressive narrative in its place.

    I’m not simply talking about “peak oil”. This is not a conspiracy as some would suggest. It is about the reality of limits. The world created by energy is a material one. Our cities, our transportation, our lights, our airconditioning, all of the material good produced and functioning are built on energy – fossil. Energy amplifies our existence. There is no argument there. That that energy is limited is but obvious. Oil fields peak. That’s real. That’s not a fantacy. To plunder the earth as if it is has an endless supply of quality fossil, whether oil, coal, or natural gas is just insane. The empirical evidence is everywhere. The price of a barrel of oil went form 140 USD to 56 USD in just over a month! There were no new oil fields discovered (in fact the rate of oil finds has diminished greatly over the last 30 years), there were no new refineries that came on line. These are facts.

    That nature is treated as a commodity is the weak/vulnerable underbelly of Empire. The US Empire runs on fossil. It rules the world on fossil. This is not and cannot be refuted; except to say black is white and blue is green – which doesn’t make it so. Again, this is not a conspiracy and has nothing to do with geopolitics. It is a fact of nature. Net-energy is the only bottom line to Corporate capitalism – to empire. All the talk of “collapse” can only be real when the non-negotiable wall of net-energy is met. Oil cannot be substituted for by say – wind or solar. The empire is built on fossil; and the accommodation of oil and coal, and natural gas.

    We, on the other hand, must begin to plan and lay the course for a new direction, a new narrative. Locally which is sustainable. We must secure our food and get off the superhighway of the global market place. We must think and be local, while building solidarity with other locations, on sound fair trade with local regions, and globally. This needs to be done within the frame and context of a new narrative. Not the one the Empire provides. The latter will only keep us where we’ve been for hundreds of years.

    The time is now!!

  22. Rita said on November 29th, 2008 at 6:38pm #

    O.k., Max,

    How about this-

    A meta-perspective here can be that if we believe that we need to rape the planet in order to get what we need, we can be sure it will destroy us in the long run.

    So, empire is a non-cooperation paradigm. It is an dominance/suppression framework. And this implies role playing and not ‘being’ human, one to another.

    If a person or society feels truly empowered, they will not feel the need to dominate and oppress. That is a fear based response to life.

    I agree with your points. Although when it comes to energy, i think we are going to need to learn a lot more about the nature of energy in many different ways. Not to mention, the nature of power. Which i believe means ‘creativity’.

  23. Deadbeat said on November 29th, 2008 at 9:54pm #

    Max Shields writes …

    (Now this will be over Deadbeat’s head who thinks the Black Panthers changed American!) The empire runs on energy, relatively cheap fossil. I’m not talking about ME/geopolitical stuff or Venezuela. I’m talking about energy.

    Yeah Max it was WAYYYYYYYYYYYYY over my head. You need to take a listen to Larry Holmes and really school yourself.

  24. bozh said on November 30th, 2008 at 7:50am #

    slavery was ended because the deceivers who instituted it, realized that a nonslave produces more and wld, once ‘schooling” is provided, be more obedient to the same deceivers.
    today, 98% of blacks r serfs to their priests and the plutocrats(black, white).
    in short, only the change (obama’s also) which benefits more the ruling class is permitted to take hold or is enacted. thnx

  25. anon said on November 30th, 2008 at 8:37am #

    The ‘peak oil’ analysis that I’ve read predicts large price swings at around about the time that the ‘peak’ is being reached. This is precisely because the market and society swings back and forth between fears of shortages that drive prices up (and encourage speculation), and then drops in demand caused by the response to high prices as people conserve energy and economic activity contracts due to the high costs of energy.

    I know this is way too simplistic for people who want to cry ‘the end is near’ when the prices go up, or who want to scoff at the notion that we will someday run out of oil when the price goes down.

    The other thing I’ve heard said from peak oil theorists is that we won’t know we’ve seen the peak until we are already past it. The ‘peak’ won’t be ‘sharp’ like the peak of a triangle. Instead, its more like the slow gentle rollover of a high-speed highway as it goes over a hill. Stop the car sometime and stand by the highway and see if you can spot the precisely highest spot on the road. Its not so easy.

    Same with the peak in oil production. The ‘peak’ is a slow gentle event that happens over a span of years. When we’ve past it, we’ll be able to look back and see it. But large rise and falls in the price of oil is very much predicted behavior for the time when we are on the top part of this curve.

  26. anon said on November 30th, 2008 at 8:48am #

    Its more than 2% of the American people who oppose these policies.

    First, stop looking at the left only. There is opposition to these same policies along very similar lines from the right. Check out the Libertarian party sometime. Oh, I know a great deal of work goes into making sure the left hates the libertarians and vice versa, but if you are willing to put that all aside and look, you’d find they oppose many of the same things we do (war, empire, corrupt government, crooked elections, etc).

    Second, you apparently are only looking at voting results. First, I wouldn’t trust those anyways. Its very unlikely that the corporate vote counting computers would tally and the corporate media would report that large numbers of Americans don’t support the current regime.

    But, if you look beyond that, you can see polls that say that some 80% of Americans feel we are ‘on the wrong course’. Right now, the problem is that they don’t see any movement or party that they feel can really change things. So, a politician runs around shouting ‘hope’ and ‘change’ into every microphone, and they flock to him in the mistaken belief that he is the course for change. The interesting bit will be as they quickly figure out that little or nothing is changing after this election.

    If you talk to real Americans, you’ll find that most of them know things are going badly wrong. They know their lives are getting tougher, that jobs are harder to find, that they have to keep working harder and harder and working more jobs just to get by. If you talk to real Americans, you know most of them want these wars over and the troops to come home. They don’t get a real radical anti-empire message very often, so you won’t hear them talk in those terms. But it is very easy to get them talking about how America needs to be taking care of itself and not going around the world ‘in search of monsters to slay’.

    There’s remarkably little education that needs to be done about the problems with today’s policies. Where there is much work needed is in trying to convince people there is an alternative they can follow. This is very similar to the situation in the Soviet Union before its fall. There, they quickly went from a controlled police state where people kept their heads down and tried to survive their own lives … to millions of people in the street demanding immediate change … and they did it in the course of a few months.

    The same can happen hear as soon as people see what seems to be a viable course for change. That 80% that constantly tells pollsters we are going in the wrong direction can quickly be out in the streets acting to try to change that WHEN they see an opportunity to make that really happen. Until then, they’ll keep their heads down and try to survive as best they can.

  27. bozh said on November 30th, 2008 at 9:26am #

    anon,
    i have not yet read in US media this:
    no land has the right to attack another under no known circumstance. this necessary/desirable principle obviates collective punishment for crimes commited by individuals.
    in short, only those who do crime do the time.
    what be known circumstance that wld permit UN or a group of nonfascist nations to attack a land?
    i say, only if a land wld throw one or more nclr bombs on any other region or land.
    how ab this, libertarians? thnx

  28. Shabnam said on November 30th, 2008 at 2:50pm #

    The writer must understand Iran is a targeted country. Iran has an active civil society in many areas and some of them under influence of foreign countries including US, European countries and Israel, where are encouraged and trainted in neighboring countries to mobolize the Iranian population against the goverment. These activities should not be ignored. However, the writer like other anti Islamic liberation
    movement including HOPI, a Trotskyist group is working towards regime change under phony slogan that Fiyouzat repeats ‘no imperialist war, no theocracy in Iran’ trying to confuse and weaken a unified support for Iranian people in case of zionist attack which still exist and he tries to lower it down.
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/171256
    He borrows some of his claim from from a charlatan by name of “Hassan Dai,” who usually spreads nothing but lies on Voice of American, and accuses Pourzal, Abbas Edalat and whoever is active in anti war movement like the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) as a an Iranian agent to deceive ignorant people. In fact, HOPI and individuals who are associated with HOPI are hiding their own motives when they use this slogan: ‘No to Imperaialist war, No to theocracy” which is nothing but “regime change” because they have shown their HATRED towards Muslims repeatedly and are interested, like zionists, in a secular govermnent with trotskyist style in Iran that is pro Israel like KURDS who are working closly with Israel and have trurned north of Iraq into a military training camp and spy activity with Israel cooperation, while pushing indigenous population of Turkmans, Christians and Arabs out to sell their lands to Israelis. Talebani, Iraq president is also a trotyskist. Those who repeat ‘No imperialist war, No theocracy’ are against all Islamic liberation movements including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Iranian government and have attacked those who supported Lebanese people against Israel bombing of Palestine and Lebanon like British left. HOPI and Mr. Fiyouzat are clearly presenting Islamic liberation organization, as the biggest threat to peace on earth ignoring zionism and imperialsim. This is the positon of zionofascists as well. No Iranian is seeking your ‘intelligent socialism’. They want removal of all economic sanction to be able to feed their family and children. stop the threat of war, free middle east from nuclear weapon (Israel and US), a world with no nuclear weapon, end to occupation of the Middle East and the Central Asia including Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, end to partition plan of countries in the region to benefit Israel where has an intention to divide Iran into mini states through manufactured ‘minorities’ to create allies for Israel against Arabs such as ‘Kurdistan’ to expand the empire by divide and rule. No one can built a democracy under threat of nuclear holocaust. Pourzal has given answers to some of the charges:
    Fiyouzat argues, mainstream pro-dialog groups, such as the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), are aiding a Tehran-Washington conspiracy to fool and exploit Iranians. His evidence that Iran is, behind the scenes, a partner in crime with Yankee imperialists? Why, of course, it is Iran’s declared but unsuccessful attempts to attract foreign investment. That is proof enough to Fiyouzat that Iran is for sale and advocates of Iran’s national rights, like CASMII, are sell-outs, even if their purpose is to help expose Western double standards. According to this sophomoric fantasy, presumably the nations of the world must all boycott the U.S. to prove their independence! Fiouzat does not explain why Iran should be the first. I suggest he personally set an example by refusing to boost the U.S. war machine with his income tax.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/purzal08212008.html

  29. jodie evans said on November 30th, 2008 at 11:00pm #

    Reza,
    we did meet with many of the women who had been in jail and heard more of the horrors we had already known about. I had taken a previous trip where I met mostly with reformists and those who had spent many years in prison. Tho object of this trip was to create more opportunity for citizen diplomacy. An important tool for change. This trip was to listen to many conversations from as many sectors of Iran as we could on a Gov’t visa….one of the few ever issued.
    Of course Iran is under a repressive fundamentalist regime, we don’t need to meet with people to know how horrific that is. We have enough people we meet in the states who have told us those stories. The idea was to create more opportunities for connection. And with the ruling regime that needs to be done delicately.
    Medea and I had both been denied a visa for just the reason you stated, we asked too many questions and confront the powers that be. So to even be allowed to enter was a success.
    To say that CODEPINK is supportive of Obama is a misreading, while in Iran I was quoted in Politico about the Hillary Clinton appointment. One of the few people on the left to be speaking out.
    The suppression of rights, especially those of women, the horrific death penalty, the fundamentalist responses to life by the ruling regime of Iran are obviously something we would like to affect. We met with many who are doing what they can within Iran. But they asked that it be from within that change happens. What we can do as Americans is create change within our own country and government, which is what was requested from us at every meeting.
    We must work from where we are and from where we have the most leverage.
    There is much work to do.
    Our goal is peace,

  30. Eddie said on December 1st, 2008 at 4:55am #

    “Since Code Pink plans to repeat such trips, we ask that they reflect on their November 2008 trip, and in their future trips seek to find ways to arrange for visits to Evin and Gohar-dasht prisons, which hold most of the political prisoners in Iran. That would be a welcome complement to their people-to-government trip they have just concluded.” Amen. They truly are an embarrassment. Agree with Deadbeat regarding Medea Benjamin’s role in the destruction of the Green Party and think you can bring in Danny Ray’s point in here and apply it to the effort to end the Iraq war. Code Pink is led by two attention seekers who lack the ability to focus let alone offer change.

  31. Brian Koontz said on December 1st, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    This talk about the 1960s is inaccurate in my estimation.

    The 1960s in America were a complaint – primarily about the treatment of Americans.

    The complaining was addressed TO those in power. That’s like the slave complaining to the master.

    What every complainer wants is a redress of his situation – a redress implemented by the master.

    The complainer defines success as “redress” and failure as “no redress”. By those measures the 1960s failed. They led directly to neoliberalism and neoconservatism, and the world (and America) became worse.

    What exactly would success have looked like? An end to racism against American blacks and sexism against American women? Sure. A bigger piece of the imperial pie passed from capitalists to workers? Yep.

    If that had happened, what would the world look like today? Could it be anything better than a marginal improvement? How much better would global warming be? Wasn’t it precisely the hideous nature of neoliberalism that is leading to a decline in world imperialism and world capitalism?

    The 1960s in America were in NO way revolutionary. Even the violence of the 1960s was mostly directly at *regular people*, not at CEOs and heads of state.

    Wasn’t the 1960s in America really a complaint that the golden age of capitalism was under threat? A complaint that the American Dream was fading?

    Isn’t it precisely the capitalist American Dream that (at the time) was the biggest threat to the world?

    The 1960s in America was not about revolution. It was about a “more fair” capitalist system – more fair for Americans maybe, but highly destructive in the world.

    The 1960s were indeed revolutionary in many places around the world. But not in America.

    There are only two ways to destroy capitalism. One is the “positive” way of replacing it with a better system. The other is the “negative” way of making it so monstrous that it self-destructs. What began in the 1970s following the “revolutionary” 1960s was an implementation of the negative way, of the ridiculous neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies. Ideologies that are so patently self-destructive that it gave considerable hope to revolutionaries. So here we are in 2008, in a strange situation of both great destruction and great hope.

    The worst thing for a revolutionary is the “golden age of capitalism”.

  32. Seyed Reza said on December 2nd, 2008 at 2:55am #

    Jodie Evans,

    You should read the comment by ‘Shabnam’ (whatever the real identity). It gives you a good sense of the kind of people who come to the defense of the theocracy in Iran, as well as to the defense of Pourzal. As can be gathered from the comment, they are FOR theocracy.

    Iranian socialists are NOT anti-Islamic, per se; I am a ‘seyed’ after all, meaning, technically, a descendent of Prophet Mohammad, bless his soul; I’ll be the last person to tell people who to follow in their personal lives. I simply expect people to be just, civil and respectful of others’ rights and freedoms. People have a right to follow any religion they like, if they wish to remain religious-minded. If such beliefs bring some solace, then by all means individuals can follow whatever religion they like.

    What we are against is any dictatorship, especially one based on organized religion; a dictatorship that dictates how we should behave, how we should think and how we should talk, or whether or not we have a RIGHT to talk, think or behave in a certain way, or be able to travel without our husbands’ permission, etc. We are anti-THEOCRACY, as any freedom-loving person would be.

    People such as ‘Shabnam’/Pourzal, however, tell us we should shut the ‘F’ up and not criticize a state formation MOST deserving of criticism. A very interesting line of ‘logic’.

    Code Pink (whose members hold themselves to be social justice activists on the left), by discoursing uncritically with the government of Iran, is lending legitimacy to a theocratic dictatorship, at the same time as they are blunting the justified criticisms (directed against that theocracy) by activists for social justice INSIDE Iran (as well as those in exile).

    This line of action goes down the path of ‘no-criticisms allowed’ against a theocracy. Code Pink needs to look at who is leading their tour, and question whether or not it is healthy to be led by men whose most active connections are with the Iranian GOVERNMENT, not Iranian activists for social justice. Ask him if he knows a single political prisoner in Iran, and see what he answers; then thou shall know thy friends.

  33. paola said on December 2nd, 2008 at 8:39am #

    Jodie Evans

    i read the whole codepink diary from Iran, and i couldn’t find any criticism of the iranian regime. On the contrary, code pink activists continuously praise the freedom enjoyed by iranian people and expecially by iranian women.

    For instance, you wrote:
    “As the parliamentarians reminded us earlier in the day, “We may not have all the rights women have in the US, but we have free health care and education.” That seems to have contributed to strengthening women’s voices in Iran and Dr. Roustani finished the night declaring, ‘Women will be the leaders in Iran.'”
    After today, I can believe it. ”
    http://codepink4peace.org/blog/2008/11/day-2-in-iran-jodies-diary/

    And this is Mrs. Benjamin’s blog:
    I” have been comparing the atmosphere here to that of Iraq under Saddam Hussein and here it is very different. People in Iraq were afraid to speak out against Saddam, people in Iran aren’t. In a first moment i thought that Mrs. Medea Benjamin meant that people in Iran aren’t afraid to speak out against Saddam ;-), but she added : “While most wouldn’t want to be filmed venting against their government, they talk to us in an amazingly open fashion, barely looking over their shoulders to see if anyone is listening.”
    http://codepink4peace.org/blog/2008/11/day-1-in-iran-medeas-diary/
    etc. etc.

    Reading code pink blog, it would seem that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a paradise on earth and the land of freedom. Of course you and Code Pink have the full right to defend and praise the iranian theocracy, but you cannot say that you and your group criticize the ayatollahs’ regime.

    And after your meeting with Ahmadinejad in New York you issued the following statement:
    “It’s rare for a head of state to take time during an official U.N. visit to meet with the peace community, especially in a situation where the host government—represented by the Bush administration—is so hostile,” said Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK. “The fact that the meeting took place and was so positive is, in itself, a major step forward.”
    http://codepink4peace.org/blog/2008/09/official-release-leading-codepink-activists-and-other-peace-organizations-meet-with-iranian-president-in-new-york/

    Morevover, you were widely quoted as saying that Ahamdinejad is “really about peace and human rights and respecting justice.
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Jodie+Evans++%22really+about+peace+and+human+rights&start=0&sa=N&filter=0
    I don’t know if you really said it. But if you did, it seems to me that you didn’t blame him that much….

    As regards Obama, code pink enthusiastically supported him and ecstatically hailed his election as a a victory for the peace movement:

    These are your own words from your website:
    Like the rest of the world, CODEPINK is emboldened by Sen. Barack Obama’s victory in a historic presidential election.
    The victory came through the hard work of millions within the progressive peace and justice movement within the past six years, bolstered by a values shift among the majority of Americans and their growing demand and faith in change — including an end to war. It is a victory for the movement and inspiration for further change!
    “Americans have stood up to say they know the cost of war in lives, dignity and money,” said Jodie Evans, CODEPINK cofounder. “Being against war is the winning decision. They are ready for change. War is so over.”
    http://www.codepink4peace.org/article.php?id=4508

    And this is obama’s official website:
    http://answercenter.barackobama.com/cgi-bin/barackobama.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=130&p_created=1176309944&p_sid=iR7ileYi&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MiwyJnBfcHJvZHM9JnBfY2F0cz
    Who are Senator Obama’s bundlers?
    Raising from $50,000 to $100,000: […]
    Jodie Evans (Los Angeles, CA)

    Well, you don’t like Clinton. So what? You supported Obama all the same.

  34. John M. Morgan said on July 13th, 2009 at 5:32pm #

    I fail to see why I should trust Reza Fiyouzat’s judgement about the nature of the Iranian government more than Rostam Pourzal’s. I have heard Pourzal talk about Iran and I had the overwhelming impression that he was offering an honest, balanced assessment. I don’t get that impression from many who are bashing it.