In the early 1970s, when the Vietnam War was still raging and I was 16 years old, I attended a Phil Ochs concert in a cramped courtyard at Chicago’s Northeastern University.
In his black leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans, and his slick-backed ebony mane, movie star good looks, and defiant in-your-face smirking manner, Ochs was the coolest cat I had ever seen. He sang all the protest folk hymns of that time: "The Ballad of Joe Hill," "Draft Dodger Rag," and "I Ain’t Marching Anymore."
"It’s always the old to lead us to the war. It’s always the young to fall. Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun. Tell me is it worth it all?"
Folk singers were the vanguard of the antiwar movement and, as I came of age during my rebellious teen years, they became my heroes. Their songs were coursing through the American bloodstream, reverberating through rallies and sit-ins, in the parks and coffeehouses, and on mainstream radio. I recall listening to Tom Paxton sing the gut-wrenching "Wake Up Jimmy Newman." One soldier is trying to rouse his wounded roommate, only to realize he had died from his injuries.
Only the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State rejoiced in the illegal and immoral targeted killing of Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani. No compelling evidence for his extrajudicial murder has been forthcoming.
Americans knew little about Suleimani. They continue to be denied accuracy, depth and context about a man whose death has taken the United States and Iran to the brink of war.
Politicians, corporate media parrots and instant Iran experts have portrayed Suleimani in mainly negatives – a bad actor, murderous monster with blood on his hands. For Iranians, however, Suleimani was the people’s soldier, a revered and significant military leader. The son of peasants from the mountains of Kerman, he put his eight year old body to work to help support his family. Suleimani, in his teens, volunteered to serve his country after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. He was wounded and nearly suffocated by chemical weapons that President Reagan provided Iraq during that eight year long brutal war.
One of the architects of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was in court this week to testify in the pre-trial proceedings of several Guantanamo detainees. His justification for designing and practicing some of the most inhuman practices on earth should give pause to Americans with a conscience. Do we really reject torture? Tune in to today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:
Following President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would seek new sanctions, but not immediate military escalation, against Iran, most people in the United States likely breathed a sigh of relief.
For Iranians and Iranian Americans like myself, that relief was accompanied by a reminder of just how painful existing conditions can be. Sanctions starve our people of food, medicine, and safety while public figures threatenus with more violence. We may no longer be at immediate risk of all-out, open combat, but this is hardly peace.
Every part of the US relationship with Iran feels asymmetrical, and looking through coverage of Iran in US media makes that imbalance incredibly obvious. It’s even been memed: Every few months I see friends share an image from a 1998 interview in which Iran’s then-President Mohammad Khatami refers to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America – which he states, perhaps fancifully, “I am sure most Americans have read.”
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