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Iran: The False US Friends of the "Iranian People" (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthammer)

IRAN GREENMr Krauthammer,

I never thought I would open an letter to you with a word of thanks. To be honest, I have almost never agreed with your past quarter-century of syndicated polemic in US newspapers and magazines. I respect your right to hold an opinion and your skill in writing. However, I find that your analysis is more often propelled by rigid belief rather than evidence, whether that belief is a specific objective (the unbending advocacy of Israel, whatever the circumstances) or a general aspiration, such as your call for an American “unipolar era” in which all others would bow to the dominance of the United States.

The Latest from Iran (27 December): The Day of Ashura

Yet I must note that, in your column on Friday, “2009: The Year of Living Fecklessly”, you ostensibly recognised the post-election demonstrations in Iran as a “new birth of freedom”. I am not sure exactly what a “new birth” is --- I have found that most Iranians with whom I communicate have a long-held desire for freedom --- but any acknowledgement of the public calls for justice and rights is to be welcomed.

So, thank you. And now a request: Go Away.

Please go away now and do not return to Iran as the setting for your political assaults. For --- and let this be acknowledged widely, if not by you than by others --- the “Iranian people” whom you supposedly praise are merely pawn for your political games, which have little to do with their aspirations, their fears, and their contests.

Let us recognise that your column begins with an attack on the “feckless” Barack Obama. The Iranian case, and specifically the US negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, is the platform for another front in your continuing assault on the President. So if I agree with you that the nuclear-first approach gives “affirmation” to an embattled Iranian Government --- and I do --- that agreement starts from a desire not to bolster President Ahmadinead in the current domestic crisis in Iran, rather than your own domestic crisis with an American leader from a political party you do not like.

Let us recognise that your own supposed defence of the Iranian people is propelled by your own nuclear conceptions, bolstered by your emphasis on Israel: “Iran will dominate 2010. Either there will be an Israeli attack or Iran will arrive at -- or cross -- the nuclear threshold.” For, if this piece was completely honest, you would have informed your readers, and the Iranian people, that you have supported Israeli airstrikes. In the columns offering that support, you made no reference to how “a new birth of freedom” would be affected by missiles fired upon Iran. Your frame of vision was limited, as if this was a journalistic smart bomb, to the target of the Iranian regime.

Let us recognise that, if there is a context for you beyond this nuclear arena, it is a supposed geopolitical struggle in which an “Iran” confronts the American presence in the Middle East and Central Asia and participates in the regional battle with Israel. Thus, your support of a “revolution” is not for what it brings Iran's people --- who, incidentally, may not be protesting for a “revolution” or, more specifically, a “counter-revolution” against all the ideals of 1979 --- but for “ripple effects [which] would extend from Afghanistan to Iraq (in both conflicts, Iran actively supports insurgents who have long been killing Americans and their allies) to Lebanon and Gaza where Iran's proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, are arming for war”.

(Had I the time and patience to dissect your geopolitical construction, I might note that US officials have been quietly talking to Iran about co-operation in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan --- strange behaviour indeed if Iran is allied with the Taliban and the Sunni Al Qa'eda in Mesopotamia ---- or that Hezbollah and Hamas cannot be reduced to puppets of Tehran masters. I know, however, that this would be logic falling on your stony ground of politics and ideology.)

Let us recognise, therefore, the slip of the pen in your sentences, when you refer to the apparent silence of Washington to the call of Iranian demonstrators, “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them”: “Such cool indifference is more than a betrayal of our values. It's a strategic blunder of the first order.” The slip is not your implicit confession that it's the “strategic” that really concerns you --- if these protesters were far removed from your strategy for American power, you wouldn't hear a word they were saying --- but in “our values”.

Assertion of “our” values does not mean acceptance of “their” values; it ignores them or, at most, wedges them into the framework of power that you find acceptable. Simply putting out the word “freedom” as if it were a universal umbrella for any proposal that follows does nothing to acknowledge, let alone, consider the complex negotiation of religious, social, economic, and political beliefs that has propelled movement inside Iran not just for the last six months but for decades.

Let us recognise, therefore, that you can throw out supposed solutions for “them”, not because they are considered measures but because they fit a model of “regime change” which is yours, not necessarily “theirs”. You advocate, “Cutting off gasoline supplies”, even though that cut-off might do far more harm to the “Iranian people” than to the regime you are condemning. You merrily think of “covert support to assist dissident communication and circumvent censorship”, even though overt calls of covert support play into the hands of an Iranian Government invoking the spectre of “foreign intervention”. (Far better to be open, in the name of the values of freedom and communication, in proposing overt funding of anti-censorship and anti-filtering programmes, as well as the encouragement of unrestricted media.)

Let us recognise, indeed even find common ground on, “robust rhetorical and diplomatic support from the very highest level: full-throated denunciation of the regime's savagery and persecution”. Let us do so, however, not because that denunciation supports your strategy of regime change for the sake of American power --- just as your denunciation of Saddam Hussein merely propped up your campaign for years to extend a US economic, political, and military presence through the “liberation” of Iraq --- but because that denunciation fulfils a morality and ethics beyond “your values”.

Let us recognise that I could have written this letter not only to you but to a legion of others who, in recent weeks, have embraced the “Iranian people” as their vehicle for regime change. Outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard put forth former Bush Administration officials and former activists for the Iraq War who now see a new platform for a US power which was not fulfilled in the military ventures of 2001-2009. Let us recognise that, in those calls, the “Iranian people” serve as pawns in a game beyond their own concerns.

After all these recognitions, let me conclude by returning to my thanks to you. For --- I am certain unwittingly --- you have re-affirmed this central belief:

This is not “our” regime change, “our” revolution; “our” values. This is “their” movement.

Please respect it as such. If you cannot, move on. Thank you.

Reader Comments (89)

Amen! Well said.

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnhtony

Krauthammer is a neocon/likoudnik fanatic blinded by his hate for Obama. His position is very contradictory: he supports an israeli strike on Iran (which would be a catastrophy for the Green movement) but criticizes Obama for a lack of open support for iranian democratic opposition though he knows very well that Khamenei & co would looooove to see Obama giving assistance the Greens, that would vindicate their accusations of foreign medling/plot/conspiracy in the present crisis.With friends like Krauthammer, iranian people doesn't need enemies

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloumdalclitch

Absolutely cracking Scott - you gave it to him straight. Hope you also sent it as a letter to the Editor. Will wait with intererest to see if he responds! £10 says he doesn't though!

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTricia Sutherland

thx from the bottom of my heart. great text!!!!!!!

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterafzaneh m.

Well said, indeed.
And thank you Scott
- for adressing all egocentric and selfish "supporters" of the Greens
- for thoroughly discussing every single implication
and last but not least
- for taking the time on a day like this

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaleene

Superb! Absolutely superb! Chuckie-boy had me fuming so much all I could think up was...

You are a fecking idiot. If you fecking think you can do fecking better, then fecking do it!

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhawaiianbear

Scott and All,

Okay we now know what pisses scott off!!! Fair warning to any who crosses him this way! Who would ever have thought the mild mannered writer Scott Lucas could pen something like this? I certaintly did not!! Well I should have know because he does have Khamenei as a friend on his Facebook page!!! :) All said this was a masterful piece striking at the geopolitical mindset rife in the US administration in its dealing with Iran. It's a striking article because it aims directly at the failed policies of many states were political concerns more often than not trump the concern for the ordinary people. The foreign policies of many in the West and Iran's oppression of it's people are prime examples. When are governments going to realize it is the people who matter not it's policies or political agenda. If they ever do learn to place the value of the person above politics they will find this path often resolves the political objective as well. When are these nitwits in Washington ever going to realize their best hope for a permanent resolution for the nuclear issue lies with the people and not with conflict producing coup regime??? Aggh now I am pissed!!! God I need to go find some Basiji to beat on!!! :)


December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

There are many things I am upset over with the Obama Administration, and a big one is the deafening silence after the June election and the following atrocities. One, the Iranian people yearned for and deserve better and the world would be a lot better off with a different regime. Lost a lot of sleep in prayer for the people of Iran. On an impersonal level, the current regime is an international nightmare. Note that I said regime, not the Iranian people. How do you walk the line between supporting the people and not being accused of being a foreign interventionist, of trying to force a govt. to give up their quest for weapons of mass destruction without hurting the people with sanctions. How should Israel respond to what they view as an existential threat? Difficult line to walk. The entire world has a stake in seeing this regime being brought down. Question his motives but there were a lot of things in K's article that were spot on. We as a nation have shed a lot of blood to bring freedom to Iraq and now to Afghanistan. We don't want to be there, but neither do we want to leave and come back 15 years later to clean up another mess. Geopolitical stability is a good thing. Once in awhile we get it right. We brought down the USSR and liberated Eastern Europe. We rebuilt the economy of Germany and Japan after WWII. We are liberators, not conquerors.

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdrgarym


"We are liberators, not conquerors."

Boy - are you going to cop some flack!! :)

There is a lot of anti-American sentiment here - most of it seems to come from Americans. :)


December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Tp drgarym
"We are liberators, not conquerors" LOL
Either you believe your own nationalistic twaddle, or you're a great comic artist, drgarym.

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloumdalclitch

You really called him on all his BS! I certainly hope you either sent this to him, or better, posted it in the comments section if there is one or published it in other media/blogs. It really ought to be read by K, his readers and others who will pass it on via links and repostings, not just the converted here at EA. Did you?

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine


I agree with much of what you say.

In my view, both Krauthammer's article AND Scott's reply are more about the divide in US politics than what is happening in Iran specifically.

The animosity between the two sides of this great divide in the US is startling. It does neither the US nor the rest of the world any good service - and both sides are equally guilty!


December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Just a student of history. We prevailed during WWII. We freed Europe from tyranny. Our industrial base was untouched and we had the atomic bomb. We could have conquered. We rebuilt the economies of our enemies. We also liberated Eastern Europe from Communism. I just stated the obvious. America, both the govt. and its people have always reached out when help was needed be it natural or man made disasters. In spite of who may occupy The Oval Office, we have no need to apologize to ANYONE.

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdrgarym

OOOH! drgarym

You are REALLY sailing into stormy waters here :) - but I will sail with you! :)


December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

Dear All,

Thanks for so much support, especially with our technical difficulties. To be honest, I haven't had time to send the blog to other media including the New York Times. Please feel free to use and circulate.


December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott Lucas

This was excellent, Scott!!!!

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJashar


" Iran Had a Democracy Before We Took It Away"

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeace Maker


Everyone else has already said what we both wanted to say!

Thank you so much - this is brilliant, we laughed our way through it, and it certainly packed a powerful punch.

December 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRoe Lassie

[...] you've read this article, then you must read Scott Lucas' open letter to the guy - it's brilliant. Iran: The False US Friends of the “Iranian People” (An Open Letter to Charles Krauthamme... __________________ Payandeh Iran, Sarfaraz [...]

To drgarym
YOU prevailed during WWII? What about the 20 millions soviet people who died during the war against Germany (US: about 420.000 death, Pacific & Europe). Study your history: the Luftwaffe was destroyed on the eastern front, so US could land in Normandy without ONE single german plane in the sky.
What about the 1953 CIA/MI6 coup against Mossadegh, the only democratically elected leader in Iran, which brought back the despotic regime of the Shah which led to the present Islamic dictatorship? What about Suharto ? And Fernandino Marcos ? Augusto Pinochet? So stop spreading your simplistic US-centered slogans & and learn your history.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloumdalclitch

Krauthammer is just as guilty of using Iran for "political games" as you!

I like reading your Iran analysis, but your recent and ever increasing critiques of fellow analysts has become borish.


December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris

To Barry
I'm not particularly anti-american. I just think every country is able to accomplish great things but can also behave very badly. USA is no exception.

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloumdalclitch


"I just think every country is able to accomplish great things but can also behave very badly"

We can certainly agree on that! :)

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry

To Chris
Contrary to Scott Lucas, Charles Krauthammer is a polemist. Krauthammer want to see the triumph of his idea. Lucas try to give the best possible day to day assessement of an intricate situation. To liken Lucas to Krauthammer is almost dishonest

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloumdalclitch


You have a very valid point concerning current events after WWII. The US has caused quite a bit of strife and misery for those around the world. However I caution against categorically labeling the US a overall negative influence(I don't think you do but some do.) The reality is the US did something most victors don't do in a War--they helped rebuild not only Europe but also Germany and Japan. Regarding the soviet deaths the US did not cause them. Those were largely of their own making playing a double game with Germany that ended up with them be being betrayed. Despite all this the US still helped the soviets with massive aid, military equipment, and industrial construction help(here are some number of what the US and other allies gave the Soviets: Without that aid the Soviet Union would have fallen. Personally I have some bitter feelings about this because half of my Lithuanian Christian relatives were hereded into Nazi concentraion camps by the Soviets never to be heard from again. I can also tell you horror stories of what the remaining relatives stuck had to endure under Communist rule after WWII. The fact remains the US was a huge reason the fascists lost in WWII and later on why the Iron curtain crumbled. We are far from saints but just imagine if the US had not been around what the world may look like. The moral of the story is not to throw the baby out with the bath water.


December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBill

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