November 12, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Correcting the Record on ‘Propaganda Versus Reality’’

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To the Editor:

As an Iranian American graduate student at Cornell and the son of Iranian immigrants, I have bitten my tongue as I watch the likes of Michael Johns ’20 be given a platform for their anti-Iran hysteria. But I can no longer contain my annoyance over the gross inaccuracies, historical revisionism and American exceptionalism emanating from The Sun because of him.

Johns loves to criticize the Iranian government. And in fact, there is nothing wrong with good faith criticism of any government or political system. I would know this. I have close family members who had their youth stolen from them in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s prisons. Therefore, I am no fan of the present, akhundi government of Iran. The fundamental issue with Johns’ criticisms of Iranian politics is his complete willingness to ignore the U.S.’s direct role or complicity in the current political situation in Iran and the region.

The first issue with Johns’ atrocious article is the point about Iran’s security apparatus being “among the world’s worst human rights violators.” What’s so ironic about this statement is that much of Iran’s modern security apparatus was inherited from the former U.S.-backed regime. Even the torture methods used by Iran’s current secret police are a carryover from those used during the time of the former Iranian kingdom, whose secret police had in turn learned them from the C.I.A. Condemn Iran’s practice of torture by all means. But don’t forget to give credit where credit is due: good ol’ U.S.A.

The hypocrisy of Johns’ claims becomes even more apparent when he throws in the word “terrorist” to describe Iran’s regional policy. I’m not about to defend Iran’s crimes in Syria or elsewhere. However, to claim Iran is a terrorist regime while simultaneously holding up the U.S. as “the world’s most reliable force for democracy, human rights and peace” is almost comically ridiculous. It is American warplanes in Yemen armed and equipped with American weapons that have been responsible for over 16,000 Saudi airstrikes in the last five years, nearly two-thirds of which have targeted civilian sites, including hospitals, weddings and water desalination plants. Over 85,000 children in Yemen may have starved to death with Saudi’s economic sanctions, blockade of Yemen and targeting of civilian infrastructure identified as leading causes. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to provide maintenance, technological support and training to the Royal Saudi Airforce. I find it hard to believe that supporting “democracy, human rights and peace” would include arming and supplying a military that practices no regard for civilian life; as if the martyring of 40 children last year on a packed school bus by an American-made bomb will bring Yemen any closer to these lofty goals.

I use the word hypocrisy a lot in this piece, but there’s no word that I think better describes the positions Johns has consistently taken. He accuses Iran of allegedly plotting to assassinate people on U.S. and European soil while leading U.S. politicians have praised the assassination of Iranian scientists by U.S. ally Israel. He bemoans the neglect for American victims of terror while the U.S. itself has yet to apologize for the terror attack on an Iranian civilian airliner that martyred 290 people. The U.S has also yet to apologize for helping Saddam Hussein coordinate chemical gas attacks on Iranians, which were responsible for an estimated 100,000 casualties. Go to the cancer ward of almost any Iranian hospital today, and you will see the effects of American terrorism on my homeland.

By far the most insulting claim which Johns has brought forward, however, is his insinuation that the Iranian people are benefiting from horrid U.S. sanctions. These sanctions have a human cost. They prevent cancer patients from being able to access life-saving medication and treatment. They force masses of people to shift through garbage to feed themselves and their families. They prevent vital repairs of Iran’s aging airline fleet, causing 40-year-old planes to fall from the sky taking hundreds of lives with them. To outright claim “U.S. policy toward Iran shows promise” shows a level of arrogance and ignorance that has honestly characterized the entire Trump administration and its supporters. It’s an insult to every Iranian who lives in this community.

I hope in the future The Sun will not give a platform to just any white man with a strong opinion about issues which mostly affect communities of color. Before I wrote this piece I had written another with the intent to publish in February, the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. It was about the insights to be gained from the Iranian Revolution through an interfaith perspective. I was told by The Sun that what I wrote was interesting but not “relevant to their readership.” And yet, just days later Johns’ piece about Iran was published. If you’re going to start a campus “conversation” around issues that mostly affect people of color, I ask that you stop giving white people the microphone.

Nima Homami grad