With all the problems on this continent, what a nice diversion it is on Canada Day and the Fourth of July to have Iran to kick around.
Instead of the recession, the collapse of the auto sector, the wreckage in corporate America, we feast on the question of who won the Iranian election.
This type of digression is much in keeping with the Americans’ way. They focus on a country with larger problems than their own and portray that country as representing danger at the door. It’s called threat inflation. George W. Bush did it with Iraq. Created a bogus threat, started a major war.
Bill Clinton bombed Baghdad in the very week he faced impeachment hearings over a sex scandal. Ronald Reagan took out Grenada when he faced a crisis. Lyndon Johnson hugely overstated the domino theory to promote the war in Vietnam. Before him there was the ludicrous concoction known as McCarthyism.
In Iran, we don’t know who won the election. There is little doubt there was much voter fraud, but advance polls had Mahmoud Ahmadinejad far in front. He may well have won despite the fraud. But who can blame the opposition, urged on by surging support from abroad, from taking to the streets to challenge the verdict. The Mir Hossein Mousavi-led opposition, by the way, has a nuclear policy similar to Ahmadinejad’s. But that is seldom mentioned.
The difference this time‚ and for this we in Canada can be grateful — is there is a cool head in the White House.
Barack Obama operates from a global perspective instead of the narrow nationalist one of his predecessor. He recognizes the historic offences perpetrated against Iran by Western powers, one example being the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953.
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He speaks out against the clampdown against democratic rights in Tehran, as he should, but his overall thrust is to mend fences with the Islamic world as opposed to driving wedges. His approach is like Mikhail Gorbachev’s was with the West in ending the Cold War.
From the Canadian perspective it has been a tough year. The recession will dampen Canada Day celebrations. But there is the larger picture to look at.
The world is more important than our own backyard, and we now have a world leader who is fair-minded and enlightened. He’s a multilateralist, not a unilateralist. He favours conciliation over confrontation. He pursues a national health-care system and nuclear disarmament. He is standing up to climate change deniers.
He is, in sum, a president who is steeped in traditional moderate Canadian values. On the American national holiday and on our own, it is something to celebrate.