Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Disappeared

 By Paul Iddon

What the Argentine Dirty War and the massacre of Iranian prisoners of conscience in 1988 warn us about dictatorial caprice and paranoia.

Argentine memorial of the
'desaparecidos' -- disappeared.
The 30th anniversary of the Falklands War went by a few weeks ago. Amidst the present ongoing dispute regarding the rightful ownership of those small sparsely populated islands public interest in that question and on that war briefly flared as a result of the historically significant anniversary.

One however cannot aptly and properly reflect upon that period without appreciating the gravity of the Dirty War and the affect it had on Argentina. When one does appreciate this it puts a lot of things into perspective, particularly the manner in which the General Galteri dictatorship felt it needed to in a sense dignify itself by invading the islands under the pretext of reasserting national pride, which had been lost as the nerve racked country had tangibly “lost” some 30,000 of its citizens who were subsequently dubbed as “the disappeared.” The actual invasions of the islands and the subsequent war (which was later described very brilliantly by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges as being the equivalent of “a fight between two bald men over a comb”) was the juntas attempt of 'saving face' in the midst of its terrorizing of Argentine society and plunging the country into an economic recession.

The legacy of that horrific period in recent South American history has its origins in the subversion of democracy in Chile and the imposition of the ghastly military regime of Augusto Pinochet by the same U.S. Secretary of State who had helped Richard Nixon win the 1968 U.S. Presidential Election -- by sabotaging the Johnson Administrations peace agreement and thus prolonging the ongoing war in Vietnam -- and was by Gerald Ford's side when the Shah of Iran effectively stabbed the Iraqi Kurds in the back after prepping them up against the Baathist government there. I am of course talking about Henry Kissinger whose Cold War overture to China -- which was a bid by the U.S. to capitalize on the then recent Sino-Soviet split -- is an episode in 20th century history which Flynt Leverett constantly trumpets as the perfect model for U.S. Rapprochement with the Iranian regime in the present post Cold War world.

Reminiscent of the Argentine juntas cruelty during those years was the Iranian regimes massacre and crime against humanity which it executed in and around the time of Operation Mersad – a PMOI incursion into Iran near the end of the depleting Iran-Iraq War -- in 1988.

It's still unknown by international human rights organizations exactly how many were killed in this massacre which saw the Khomeini's then successor Montazari being forced to resign after writing letters condemning these heinous crimes. Montazari perfectly summed up the gravely horrendous injustice these mass executions represented when he stated very aptly that these actions violated “Islam by executing repenters and minor offenders who in a proper court of law would have received a mere reprimand.”

Even though he had been put forth by the Council of Experts Montazari was forced to resign. Criticism and self-evaluation was clearly not something that the regime took kindly to (and still doesn't). That is in a sense the point in time when the Islamic Republic ceased being anything that represented the masses of Iranians whom had fought in earnest to topple the Shahs autocratic regime. Having a free hand under the cover of that long war to crush dissent the regime felt the need to abolish all political opposition to its tight-knit ruling elite. Khomeini who had sacrificed hundreds of thousands of young men and boys with a clumsy and inept strategy then turned his hand to authorizing a religious decree to murder more Iranians.

However, instead of actually having trials for the various prisoners accused of treasonous action and/or membership with the PMOI Khomeini opted to make it a theological issue, painting thousands political prisoners of all different affiliations with the same brush he proclaimed them apostates of Islam (Salman Rushdie would give him the mother of all diversions the next year after his publishing of The Satanic Verses prompted Khomeini to capitalize on the resentment expressed by many inflamed Muslims who viewed the book as blasphemous. This affair was a political coup for Khomeini as it meant he could continue to instil radicalism within Iran and slyly divert attention away from the fact he had lost the six year counter offensive against Iraq).

That bloodbath also saw the hard liners do their utmost to squeeze out the moderates, the most prominent being Montazari who arguably could have substantially reformed the system and actually maintained a tangible legitimate Islamic Republic rather than the 'in name only' Islamic Republic that exists today.

That massacre was described as “an act of violence unprecedented in Iranian history - unprecedented in form, content, and intensity.” The exact number killed is still unknown, families whose loved ones were executed were prohibited from holding funerals for a year and were forbidden to show any signs of mourning in public. It was a warning of sorts for how cruel and capricious the regime can be and how when its unmentionable policies and actions are challenged (even verbally) it is readily willing to resort to sadistic violence within the blink of an eye.

The negation of elementary and fundamental human rights amongst people in Iran and the wider region isn't something that should be relativized, or excused as the internal conduct of the theocracies ignoble “justice system”. The Dirty War in Argentina is thankfully now part of history, this however doesn't mean the sense of loss and pain in those whom lost loved ones during that dark time does not still painfully linger on to this day. 

One of the most severe instances of violence to occur in Argentina following the Dirty War took the form of two heinous terrorist attacks against Israeli diplomatic institutions within the country, Iran in cahoots with Hezbollah are the prime suspects in these two respective attacks, a named high ranking member in the Iranian government is thought to have been a culprit in the latter one. Those attacks left approximately a hundred Argentine civilians dead.

These episodes from history are a grim reminder of why the abolishment of human rights in civilized countries like Iran must not be relativized, exculpating the oppressors, the human rights violators, torturers and the killers by explaining away such horrendous crimes against humanity is certainly no way for an International Community with a mere semblance of civility to conduct itself.


Anonymous said...

the regime will get changed; the question is how; the regime cant handle criticism and rational debate because it knows that in that case the position of 'supreme leader' , which is above the law, is not defensible and has to be dropped; their antiamericanism is a way for them to safeguard that position from criticism because they think antiamericanism always trump rational discussion because they think that people are stupid and dont see through their irresponsible game; Khamanei choose Ahmadinejad (againt Mousavi) because Ahmadi is not a rational person; that is what Khamanei liked about him because he knew that the Reformers and the Green Movement represent a rational set of mind that question his position and legitimacy; at the end they have to drop their antiamericanism and understand the only way forward for them is the reform-way that Khatami pointed to them and which they hated at that time ....

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:50 AM

Look my friend,if anybody has any sense would know that Mousavi,Khatami,Karoubi equals the regime.If you or anybody else doesn't know this simple equation then Iran will remain under a whole lot of trouble for years to come.
Either you have an agenda or really don't know the difference.
Mousav doesn't give a damn about the People.He murdered over ten thousand young people in the mid 1980s when he was prime minister.
This regime will have to be dissolved in its entirety for Iran to really change.
Don't fall for their cheap tricks.

Iran will still be here after the downfall of the Islamic theocracy.

Anonymous said...

what massacare ?

I remember the MKO attacked Iran and were killed at the front.
Then the MKO declared they were executed.
And some still jump at this.

Anonymous said...

The Iranian people rose up and out the Shah and they must find the resolve to again create a major political change.

Anonymous said...

No more revolutions in Iran, that we already had. Now we need PEACE slow reform.

A revolution in Israel or the US capital would be far better for us all.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:17 AM

Isn't 33 years enough for reforming this regime? So you're asking for 33 years more?!
You can't reform a barbarian regime.
This regime needs to be kicked out shouting and screaming.Anything less is betraying the Iranian nation.
You might as well say that Hitlers NAZI Germany was reformable or Communist Russia?
This time Iran needs a real revolution going forwards not backwards to benefit mullahs greed.