Troubles in Iran Should Deter, Not Prompt, War

To the Editors:

I am responding to letters concerning our current agitated state, and specifically to Mr. Madavi’s letter in the last issue of the Review. You voiced your concern for the decidedly “liberal” stance against war that much of this campus has taken. I agree. Much of what passes for liberal opinion on this and every other liberal arts campus is indeed “blind pacifism,” as you well put it.
I also left Iran around the same age, but I am a bit older than you. I have slightly differing things to say, from my own experience (a word you boldly capitalize in your letter, I assume in order to point out the legitimacy of your opinion versus those of the protected collegiate class). I hear you on the repression of fundamentalist governments and I hear you on the willingness to sacrifice your life for the greater good, the greater freedom, of the world. But the lives of others?
My brother, perhaps you do not remember what was going down in the streets of Iranian cities when the revolution hit. Maybe you were too young to recall the bloodbath that was Tehran. Maybe you were not yet even born. Let me tell you a little about it: children, just hitting puberty, were being picked up for Khomeini’s war against the western-backed Hussein; men swung by the neck from cranes; a pedantic, authoritative voice came over the loudspeakers like clockwork, reminding the citizens of the newly Islamic Republic of their unity and faith, their cohesive determination, and their duty towards their country and God Itself to fight the enemy. Sound familiar? Have you turned on a television recently?
Now you want to write, I mean, you actually want to write for others to read, that Oberlin College shouldn’t have a certain opinion? And furthermore that that opinion should not be against war?
Baradaram, do you recall crowding in a basement while bombs dropped to shake the earth? Being thrown to the ground or made to duck in the back seat while tracer bullets flew in every direction? Watching men executed in front of your house, unarmed, with nowhere to run? Do you remember women’s faces being doused with corrosive acid, all of a sudden, just standing there, screaming, because some other man or woman was given the authority to mutilate the beauty of those who wouldn’t wear their chadors? That’s war on citizen soil, my well-intended freedom fighter, and it looks just about the same no matter who is doing the dousing and who is doing the screaming.
Look, man, I am giving up political everything. I am leaving it behind in pursuit of that which grapples onto my heart and pulls me every day — my art. When I read that issue of the Review, however, during this short visit to my old college, where the students have always been more progressive than the self-proclaimedly liberal administration, I felt called to respond to this sort of nonsense one last time. I hear you, man, I really do. And all that stuff you call experience, I had it too. We fled over the mountains into Turkey. We moved by cover of night for weeks without food and real water, weeks of dodging dogs and border guards. We left while an uncle of mine was still missing (and he hasn’t shown up yet today). We left my father in prison, the house of my childhood and the superiority of Iranian pastries, but we decided to stand for an end to violence altogether, not for a now-extinct “security” against a now-extinct “outside threat.” Is anyone listening? There is no safety anymore! Do you honestly think that this nation, or any nation, so conceived in liberty, can continue to piss off country after country, commit terrorist-like acts with a legitimate army or “police force,” and not bear the brunt of resentment from around the world? Is there any evidence at all that we can separate our loss of six thousand with the losses that a bombing assault would incur on the Afghan people, who by and large deplore their Taliban autocracy? When, exactly, does it end?
I think you will find, Mr. Madavi, that the word ‘liberal’ has roots in freedom, and that its original connotations were extremely positive. The idea is, you see, that we are learning all of these arts and letters, sciences and languages, so as to better liberate ourselves from the banalities of the human condition. The theory is, you must understand, that these liberal arts will give us a greater understanding of each other, and a greater means by which to communicate, further that understanding and come up with solutions of synthesis, not of compromise, and certainly not of reaction. I think you will also see that the Taliban government won’t be as hard to oust as has been played up by our sensationalist, profit-slanted, cliché-ridden corporate media. “The first great war of the century” won’t find any traditional target, because, as you said, the Taliban government is horribly repressive, and harbors few staunch allies amongst the people it so oppressively governs. The Taliban will fall, and likely soon, without the innocent bloodshed some of us Americans are just as quick to be horrified by as we are to justify.
I am not scared, my brother, and I am not ungrateful either. I am as thankful as can be to live in a country that, although naïve, is at least trying, and to have gone to a college that, in the midst of overwhelming and pseudo-patriotic bloodthirst, is willing to jump ahead, as per its visionary reputation, and stand for peace, peace, peace.
–Turaj Zaim
OC alum

October 5
October 12

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