Perhaps recognizing his unpopularity among other world leaders, George W. Bush decided to address “the people” of various countries directly in his September 19th speech at the UN General Assembly.  Among the lucky few whom he chose to single out were the Iraqis, the Syrians, the Lebanese, the Afghanis, and the Iranians. Oh, and in a brilliant public relations stunt, he threw in the people of Darfur with the express purpose of reminding the American people that this warmonger had some semblance of a heart. Specifically, Bush told the “people of Darfur” that America indeed recognized what was going on there; that America had gone through its dictionaries of war, and of human rights, and of course, of public relations, all to conclude on the unsettling semantics of the situation. The shocking conclusion was that the raping, pillaging, forced displacement and killings of civilians in Darfur did indeed constitute “genocide” proper. Another stroke of brilliance on behalf of the Bush administration.
Basically, Bush was doing the Sudanese people the great honor of telling them that he knew how miserable things were in Darfur and that, nevertheless, the US had no genuine or serious intentions to help. It was, however, willing to use the correct vocabulary -- not a small feat for George W. Despite the gravity of his topic, however, an _expression of pride and supreme self-satisfaction overcame Bush’s visage, even as he implied that the Sudanese’s problems with the Janjaweed were somehow secondary to their problems with proper semantics. The expression looked as if to say, I know you must be very impressed that I know what the word genocide means. I admit: I was impressed. But then again, genocide seems easier to pronounce than Janjaweed. And besides, I have always been impressed by trained dogs, no matter how limited their arsenal of tricks.
By saving his statements to the people of Darfur until the end of his speech, the president, (or more accurately put, his speech writers) brilliantly attempted to employ the thinly veiled hoax of promoting American humanitarianism in Darfur in order to distract from the even grander hoax of spreading American democracy and liberation across the savage desserts of the Middle East. Unfortunately for the Bush administrations, however, their smokescreens are beginning to wear thin, and accordingly, so is the patience of much of the international community, not to mention the American public.
Until the US begins to recognize that bullying does not constitute a practical or respectable foreign policy, it will continue to inspire the enmity of even more countries and individuals. Perhaps the country least likely to respond to American bullying tactics, and ironically the country most subject to them at present is that of Iran. There is little debate that Iran has had a tumultuous history and relationship with the US. In the minds of many Americans, this history is often abridged into a series of particular events: most commonly, the 1979 so-called “Islamic” Revolution, the ensuing hostage crisis, and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. For Iranians, however, abridging the Iranian-American historical relationship is a far messier matter. Iranians tend to remember a longer series of events that have strained US-Iranian relations in Iran, as so many of these events were American-imported, taking place inside of Iranian borders, not to mention the Iranian collective conscience:
First, there were the decades of American imperialist rule under the Shah, during which time, the Shah protected American and British oil and political interests at the expense of the potential social and economic prosperity of the Iranian people. Then, there was the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. He had the audacity to try to nationalize Iran’s oil so that the Iranian people might actually be able to benefit from their own natural resources. The US and Great Britain worked together like brilliant mercenaries to prevent this and succeeded. They illegally ousted Mossadegh and re-instated the Shah, who, unlike Mossadegh, seemed fully amenable to the rape of his country’s natural resources by the West -- so long as the West kept him and his cohorts living in the ridiculously lavish lifestyle to which they had grown accustomed. The Shah flaunted this lifestyle by throwing lavish parties and spending ridiculous sums of money on private luxuries that would have put any current American rap star to shame. Thus, it was little wonder that one of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s most popular and admittedly amusing actions taken after the Revolution was his decision to destroy the royal mausoleum and replace it with public toilets. 
Finally, there was the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War. The war didn’t sit too well with most Iranians, and neither did the American military and its philosophical support of Saddam Hussein during the war. As an Iranian-American, I can’t helped but be amused by the irony of American policies that fund and damn dictators on nothing more than apparent whimsy. The US loved Iraq when it was bombing and gassing Iranians, but now, dictatorship is bad; now, Saddam is bad: now, the Taliban is bad. I think the rest of the world would have a lot more respect for the US regime in general if the government would just quit banking on the American people’s ignorance and distaste for history, and admit to their hypocrisies. Of course, I know this won’t happen, and I don’t expect it to. But, I do expect that soon enough the American people will wake up and realize that our government is being run like an 11th grade prom committee: full of favoritism, discrimination, and a pathetic mismanagement of funds. Hence, it’s only fitting that the committee, I mean Congress, just approved setting aside 20 million dollars to pay for a party celebrating a victory in Iraq and Afghanistan that has yet to happen and is, let’s face it, highly unlikely to happen. Still, we need to be prepared with streamers and confetti in case it happens, right?
In short, the sloppy and hapless malfeasance that the Bush administration is sprinkling all over the world is managing to dredge up some old wounds, especially in Iran, where the people have already been living under sanctions for over 25 years, where the wounds of British and American Imperialism are still fresh, and where the realities of the war and loss are still impossible to forget. In many ways, the Iranian mentality can be understood by the saying that Bush has notoriously failed to get straight: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I assure you that the Iranians are a proud and quick-witted people. They have an impeccable memory when it comes to certain things, and they hate to repeat mistakes. Not long ago, the US screwed Iran pretty badly and pretty royally. From the CIA coup, to the years of imperialist rule, to the Iran-Iraq War, to sanctions, and now to the threat of more sanctions, Iranians are pretty fed up with being told what to do. They have not forgotten America’s history in Iran, especially the American penchant for wrapping dung in dollar bills.
During his speech at the UN, the ever-articulate American president had this to say: “To the people of Iran, the United States respects you. We respect your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture and your many contributions to civilization.” Given the fact that this “respect” has inspired so much atrocity, imperialism, and war in Iran, it is understandable that Iranians might be a little suspicious of America’s “respect” for them. It is in fact highly plausible, if not likely, that Iranians might see this “respect” as the ass-kissing that so often precedes the most horrifying of ass-kickings.
If the US has learned anything from its previous encounters with Iran, it should be well aware that Iranians, like many other people, do not respond well to threats and that they don’t like being told what to do. Sure, most Iranians aren’t altogether pleased with how the revolution turned out, yet many of the same Iranians who complain about the alleged “Islamic” republic are also quick to note that they would rather have their own crooked government than one imposed and imported by Americans. Given their more recent cultural and political history, Iranians have become particularly skilled at spotting hypocrisy, and the hypocrisy of the current American position toward Iran has not escaped them. It is no secret that the US has an impressive arsenal of nuclear weapons, and it is even less of a secret that the US has been the only nation in human history to employ one. Hence, to a certain extent, the Iranian insistence on continuing uranium enrichment for the alleged peaceful purposes of nuclear energy constitutes more of a “Nany-nany-boo-boo! You can’t tell us what to do” position, than a principled social or political one. Would the US act any differently in a similar circumstance? I doubt it. So, how do our rulers move past acting like toddlers, forever caught in the terrible twos? It’s hard to say, but it couldn’t hurt to bring some bona fide respect to the table.
is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and lawyer. Her forthcoming book,
War on Error, will be published by the University of Arkansas Press
next fall. Her work has appeared in Parabola, Urban Mozaik, and
The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. She can be reached at