Hamid Dabashi, in his article “Left is wrong on Iran”, makes a number of fallacies in his argument that some on the American left are ignorant about Iran and have supported President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad while standing against those who supported opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran’s recent election.
Dabashi’s first error is his assumption that I’m on “the left”. Actually, I’m conservative, politically. Paul Craig Roberts, also included in Dabashi’s criticism, was a member of the Reagan administration. I don’t know the political persuasion of others mentioned, but I seem to be in good company regardless. So let’s set this aside.
His second fallacy is that of an ad hominem argument. Dabashi makes quite an effort to paint myself and others as having written on Iran from a position of “confounded blindness” and “constitutional ignorance”, while making precisely zero effort to actually discuss any of the facts we’ve written about or to contest the validity of conclusions we’ve drawn.
Dabashi provides a single example as evidence of our ignorance: despite “not having the foggiest idea” about events in Iran, either recently or historically, we’ve had “the barefaced chutzpah to pontificate one thing or another – or worse, to take more than 70 million human beings as stooges of the CIA and puppets of the Saudis.”
This is the fallacy of the strawman argument. I, for one, certainly haven’t—and I think it’s safe to say no one else he names has—“pontificated” that the entire population of Iran are “stooges of the CIA”. Dabashi presents no other examples of anything we’ve actually written, leaving solely the ad hominem attacks for his readers to go on.
With this as his foundation, Dabashi continues, suggesting we are “being blind and deaf to a massive social movement” and are “siding with Ahmadinejad and against the masses of millions of Iranians” protesting the election results.
What Dabashi apparently means by this is that we are not sympathetic towards the political goal of the pro-Mousavi movement. This interpretation is reinforced by his suggestion that we are “against” Mousavi supporters and “siding with Ahmadinejad”.
The basis for this entire line of thought presumably stems from our questioning of the accepted official narrative that the election was “stolen”, a matter to which I’ll return.
It’s interesting to employ the same rhetorical device Dabashi uses in a converse fashion. Unless he is a hypocrite, for instance, it would be fair to say that “Hamid Dabashi is siding with Mir Hossein Mousavi and against the masses of millions of Iranians” who voted for Ahamdinejad.
A further device employed by Mousavi supporters is that they are the “pro-democracy” movement. Setting aside the fact that the “democracy” exercised by Iran is a very limited form of the word (where all candidates are approved by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini), and setting aside Mousavi’s actual record during his time as Prime Minister during the 1980s (including his role in working with the CIA through an intermediary during the so-called arms for hostages deal), this characterization assumes that Mousavi was actually the victor in the election.
Notice that, if we start from the opposite assumption, that Ahmadinejad actually won, the protestors necessarily, by the same logic, become an “anti-democracy” movement.
Again, applying Dabashi’s own standard against him, one could write how confoundedly ignorant of U.S. foreign policy he must be, and how deaf and blind he is to the obvious propaganda campaign being waged by the U.S. in an effort to destabilize the Iranian regime.
Under President Bush, covert support for terrorist groups like the MEK and Jundullah aside, the U.S. allocated millions of dollars for the purpose of regime change, to be spent, among other things, on bolstering opposition groups and increasing propaganda efforts, including Voice of America and Radio Farda broadcasting into Iran. The U.S. has continued to fund opposition groups under the Obama administration, through USAID, for example.
To suggest that many Iranians have become victim to a propaganda war is hardly to say they are “stooges of the CIA”—a conclusion drawn not by me or my colleagues on “the left”, but by Dabashi and others who favor the ouster of Ahmadinejad.
Nor are Iranians any particular exception to being vulnerable to propaganda. 70 percent of Americans, for instance, according to polls, believed prior to the war on Iraq that Saddam Hussein had WMD and was involved in the attacks of 9/11. The vast majority, in other words, had fallen victim to a propaganda war being waged by the U.S. government against its own public.
A similar propaganda war—acknowledged by Dabashi in his article—is being waged now against Iran by the U.S. in concert with Israel. Elements of this propaganda campaign include repeated statements by government officials asserting as fact that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and would like to obtain the bomb in order to attack Israel. Again, large numbers of Americans are being duped by this propaganda—not the least of whom include prominent journalists and commentators in the mainstream corporate media.
So this case regarding Iran’s election is hardly an exceptional one, and it is hardly required for Mousavi supporters—much less the entire population of Iran—to all be “stooges of the CIA” in order for such a propaganda campaign to be successful in fomenting unrest and disorder in an effort to destabilize the country.
Finally, let me be clear: I support the right of the people of Iran to choose their own leaders. Similarly, I support their right to protest and demand a remedy for any injustice, real or perceived, that their government has committed against them.
So I very much support the Iranians who use peaceful methods in the streets to voice their grievances. What I am “against” are the deceptions being employed and the dishonest manner of debate, such as with the rhetorical devices employed by Mr. Dabashi, who seems to find it necessary to levy personal attacks and construct strawmen in order to actually make an argument.