Wednesday, July 06, 2005 - Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear--William O. Beeman - Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear: "Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear
William O. Beeman
July 06, 2005

Anatomy Of A Neocon Smear
William O. Beeman
July 06, 2005

William O. Beeman is professor of anthropology and director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. His forthcoming book is The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other (Praeger).

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had not even been officially declared the winner of Iran's presidential contest before the attacks began.

American neoconservatives were clearly not to be deprived of their cherished canard that the "mullahs were manipulating the election." Certain that Ahmadinejad's rival, former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, would win, they first denounced his comeback as "due not to popular demand, but to machinations of mullahs," as Danielle Pletka asserted in The New York Times on June 16, before the final voting. Once Ahmadinejad had been declared the surprise victor, the neoconservatives began to denounce him as the candidate of religious leader Ali Khamene'i, claiming that the election was fixed by the clerical establishment. Clearly, the election was to be demonized, whoever won.

Neocon (and Karl Rove confidant) Michael Ledeen couldn't even wait to find out who won. In a statement in the National Review Online on June 24, he wrote, "Iran today reminds me very much of the death struggle between Hitler and the SA, the brown-shirted thugs who led the Nazi 'revolution'. At a certain point, Hitler knew they were a potential threat to his rule, and they were violently purged." It is unclear whether Ledeen's reference to the SA applies to Hashemi-Rafsanjani or to Ahmadinejad. Presumably, either would have served his rhetorical purpose.

Then, on the day Ahmadinejad's victory was declared, the perpetual enemies of the Islamic Republic, the Mojaheddin-Khalq (MEK) released a photo purporting to show the newly elected president with a blindfolded American hostage during the hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981. The photo was immediately distributed around the world, and accusations that Ahmadinejad was a "hostage taker" flew fast and furious. Some of the former hostages, still bitter because they had been prevented from suing Iran for their long captivity, thought they remembered him from their experience 25 years ago.

It was all a lie. Sa'id Hajjarian, an aide to outgoing president Mohammad Khatami and one of the original planners of the hostage crisis, quickly verified that the man depicted in the photo was not Ahmadinejad, but rather Taqi Mohammadi, one of the young men involved in the hostage taking. Mohammadi later joined the MEK, ironically, and died in prison. Hajjarian had publically criticized Ahmadinejad during the presidential campaign, and had no reason to lend him undue support. Even without Hajjarian's statement, numerous testimonials from multiple sources, including the family of Taqi Mohammadi, contradicted the false assertion that Ahmadinejad was the man in the widely distributed photo.

So, what is really going on here?

Clearly, a large number of people in the world are interested in discrediting the Iranian government and the newly elected president, even when they must resort to outright lies or absurdly twisted logic. The MEK, who participated in the Iranian Revolution of 27 years ago but were cut out of power six months later, still harbor fantasies of marching on Tehran and taking over the nation. They have created a shadow government outside of Iran, and have a coterie of aging troops massed near the Iranian border in Iraq with the blessing of the United States government. In an astonishingly effective political coup, they have co-opted a number of American legislators who support them with American taxpayer dollars. Among them are Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. The MEK has somehow convinced these American officials that they plan to bring "democracy" to Iran. The fact that they are still on the U.S. government list of terrorist groups, having killed American citizens during the time of the shah, seems not to faze Santorum, Brownback or Ros-Lehtinen.

The neoconservatives, such as Ledeen, Pletka and others including Richard Pearle, Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes—all Bush administration confidantes—still harbor the hope that the United States will launch a military strike against Iran, largely driven by the conviction that Iran poses a danger to Israel. The discrediting of Iran's new president seems to be yet another reason to put forward to the Bush administration why the government in Tehran must go.

What the neocons and the MEK are trying to hide from the American people is that Ahmadinejad is in fact a departure from the Iranian regime of the past. He is a religious conservative but not a cleric, and he has embraced some of the domestic agenda of Iran's reformers. These include economic development, anti-poverty programs, and anti-corruption reforms—things vital to an Iranian electorate sick of the nepotism and outright theft that has crept into 27 years of clerical rule, liabilities that many saw embodied in Ahmadinejad's rival, Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

Ahmadinejad lacks practical experience in legislative matters. He has a Ph.D. in civil engineering specializing in transportation, and ran a tight ship as Tehran's mayor. His modest life style and sober demeanor gained him the trust of many Iranian voters. He might just be a bridge-builder to the world—if the world would meet him halfway.

The danger in attacking him before he even gets started in office is that he, and the Iranian government, may turn further inward, adopting a defensive, defiant posture to the world. The United States should fervently hope that this does not happen. This is why the Bush administration should ignore the naysayers. With patience and care, Ahmadinejad, along with Iran's young and rising generation, can be brought productively into cooperation with the United States. But first, a quarter century of bitterness between the two nations must cease. Rejecting the slander against Ahmadinejad would be an excellent first step.

Copyright Agence Global, 2005