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Opinion - Response to Eli Lake on Neocons

14 July 2005

Mr. Lake confirms – inadvertently – my point in regards to the human rights credentials of the neo-conservatives by stating that his passionate defense of them is only based on "what [neoconservative] lawmakers and pundits are actually saying." That is exactly the problem; people are judging the neo-cons by their words and not by their deeds. If we were to apply this metric to all, then Iran should be considered a paradise – just because the clerics say so – rivaled only by Kim Jong Il's North Korea, just because the North Koreans say so.

Fortunately, we don't do that. We know of the immense problems these countries face, and we have learnt to see through the rhetoric of their regimes. If people critically assess the neo-conservative movement, they will be able to judge them for their actions and not their self-glorifying rhetoric.

Consider the following. When the Iran-Libya Santions Act (ILSA) was up for renewal in 2001, a few American NGOs tried to include language that would exempt NGOs from the sanctions, i.e. enabling American and Iranian NGOs to connect. This was opposed by some of the same people that are now claiming to champion the NGOs in Iran. The language never made it to the bill that was voted on, and the American NGOs continued to face huge difficulties in connecting with Iranian pro-democracy activists due to American – and not Iranian – laws.

When the "Committee on the Present Danger":http://www.fightingterror.org/ came out with their report, it raised many eyebrows precisely because it did talk about the need to open up to the Iranian NGO sector. The problem was, however, that due to the neo-conservatives' apparent need for expressive rhetoric, the report stated that NGOs should be supported for the aim of regime-change.

There is no need to state this. In fact, the minute it is stated publicly, all NGOs in Iran became targets and the clamp down on the NGOs intensified. The Committee's report and statements directly put these NGOs in an even greater danger than they were in before and made it more difficult to connect with them. Sometimes when you talk too much and too openly about supporting Iranian pro-democracy activists, you actually become less of a supporter of democracy in Iran.

Furthermore, in a document drafted by several prominent neo-cons earlier this year, the specific objectives of a "Grand Bargain" with Iran were spelled out. The document was to serve as an alternative to the State Department's priorities in such a potential grand bargain. On top of the agenda was Iran's position on Israel and its support for the Hezbollah, together with the nuclear issue. At the bottom of the list, almost in a parenthesis, was dialogue with Iran's rulers on human rights.

Finally, we have "Richard Perle":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Perle and "Doug Feith's":http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Feith courting of the Iranian Mujahedin. Those truly interested in democracy and the well-being of the Iranian people would never consider supporting or promoting this cult, as Perle did when he spoke at their fundraiser in DC last year.

We are left to conclude – based on the actions of the neo-cons and not their rhetoric – that they are either not terribly interested in the promotion of democracy in Iran, or that they are simply ignorant of the situation in Iran, the Iranian political landscape and how pro-democracy activists can be aided in a safe and efficient manner.

Whether uninterested or ignorant, they are not helpful towards the goal of promoting democracy – regardless of their passionate rhetoric.

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