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We'd better learn to empathize with the enemy

By Miles Tompkin

02/04/06 "Halifax Herald"
-- -- This past Christmas, my son gave me a CD entitled The Fog Of War, a documentary about former U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara. In this must-see documentary, the 85-year-old gives us 11 lessons of war, none more important then the first: empathize with the enemy.

In a Feb. 2 opinion piece, Andrew Smith worries about history repeating itself in Iran and equates the present tensions in the area to Hitler and Nazism. It is a comparison that has very little to do with the present crisis, and any effort to suggest that it has is to deny the real problems and will lead us to a potential catastrophe that will make Iraq look like a Sunday school picnic.

Is Mr. Smith so phobic as to suggest that Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Syria were so smitten with Hitler that they blindly jumped aboard the Nazi train? He suggests that the "war on terror" is something left over from unfinished business in the Second World War. I would suggest that Mr. Smith examine the history of the era more closely, with an unbiased eye towards the force of Zionism and the role of the imperial Western influences in the area.

Iran made slow, creeping moves towards democracy until the 1950s when the populist Mohammed Mossadegh came to power. His move to nationalize the Anglo Iranian Oil Company led to a sequence of events regarding sanctions, military exercises and threats, and covert activity that has in no small part created the tensions of today's Iran.

Iran was a British/Russian dessert, not Nazi. If the devil himself could have removed the British from Iran, he would have gained popular support. In fact, once Eisenhower gained power, the CIA /British were happy to have Fazlollah Zahedi and Bakhtiari, two Nazi collaborators, fill the void. Sad, but very true.

Enter the Shah of Iran, a man whom Amnesty International described in 1976 as having the "worst human rights record on the planet," and to whom the CIA taught torture techniques that "were beyond belief." This was fascism of the first degree, promoted for the self-interest of the British and later the United States; but all backed by the powers in Israel, who see a moderate, Arab-friendly Iran as a threat to their expansionist ideal. This is the history that is repeating itself in Iran, only this time it is the Iranian Oil Stock Exchange that is the threat.

Nuclear issues are but a hot button to promote fear in order to convince the United States and the West that Iranian-inspired extremism is a major threat to the West. Hitler is just a sure-fire button. The Iranians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, and the Palestinians less. The Christians of the world certainly carry more blame for that vile atrocity than any poor soul in the Middle East and Persia.

At present, the anti-Iranian position is being led by forces in Israel (that have nothing to do with the theology of Judaism) through the neo-con regime in Washington. They can ill afford any friendliness between Iraq and Iran, and expect to fulfil the wishes of their fanatical arm by twisting the history of the era to fit with the goals of today.

When will we ever learn? Terrorism is not some leftover lesson learned from Adolf Hitler. Terrorism is a product of fanaticism and we embraced it in Afghanistan for short-term gain in the late 1970s. We embrace it whenever it fulfils our strategic needs, come hell or high water.

We had better take seriously this tension in Iraq, open some dialogue with Iran, and hold our noses and open some with Hamas, because a popular based movement has arrived there as well. They are no more extreme than the Sunnis we are now breaking bread with, or the mujahadin that we funded and supported in Afghanistan.

If we don't want history to repeat itself, we had better empathize with the enemy. We have done no justice towards them in this century, and we ignore that fact at our peril. Many Israelis realize this, and their press is far more open to discuss it; but for some reason, we never hear their voices. Let us never forget the Holocaust and the vile regime that killed so many innocent people, but we cannot contort the history of Hitler in Europe to promote our version of history in Palestine and Iran.

They have their own self-interests, to be sure, and have blood on their hands as well. Yet the radical forces in Iran would never have come to pass had we justly dealt with the popular movement of the day. Mossadegh looks Gandhi-like by today's standards. The outcome and the consequences are grave, and subscribing to the thesis put forth by Andrew Smith is to put our heads in the sand.

Miles Tompkins lives in Antigonish.

Copyright The Halifax Herald.

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