U.S. & Iran---Friends Separated by Religious Fanatics at the Top

Two countries, whose people have often liked each other, are now in the hands of reckless religious fanatics. The United States is ruled by a lawless Christian fundamentalist who has rained destruction and death on a Middle Eastern country which had not attacked it, and which he sees as a bed of infidels.

Iran is ruled by a similar head of state, a Muslim fundamentalist who wishes to have the means destroy a Middle Eastern country which has not attacked it and which he also sees as a bed of infidels.

This leaves us, in both America and Iran, the more informed and less fanatical of us wondering what how we got in this mess. Both leaders were selected in dubious, dishonest elections. Both are messianic in their beliefs...that they have the one sole truth, and that god smiles upon them.

I feel like if I had the phone number of a guy like me in Tehran, I'd call him up and we'd both be tearing our hair out about this situation. Neither of us wants to destroy the other, invade each other's countries, or any others we can think of. We'd probably like to sit down and have a beer and shoot the shit, because the shit is the same all over.

He'd like me to put on some American music. I'd like him to put on some of what Americans call "World Music," (that which comes from someplace other than our own back yards).

But no, we have to sit in our own houses without contact, wondering if these nutcases who think they have a pipeline to divinity are going to start a war over...over what? Has anybody figured that out?

These leaders appeal to the worst in humanity. They must be stopped. A small minority wants either side to start killing.

Hey, guy in Tehran. I want to tell you that there are lots of people trying to remove our lunatic from office. I'm hoping there are like-minded folks in your neighborhood. Maybe we'll be glad to see each other again.

Here's something Art Levine sent me from The New Republic for MXXLENT (who doubted the facts) to consider:

During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.
At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, "we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."

These children who rolled to their deaths were part of the Basiji, a mass movement created by Khomeini in 1979 and militarized after the war started in order to supplement his beleaguered army.The Basij Mostazafan--or "mobilization of the oppressed"--was essentially a volunteer militia, most of whose members were not yet 18. They went enthusiastically, and by the thousands, to their own destruction. "The young men cleared the mines with their own bodies," one veteran of the Iran-Iraq War recalled in 2002 to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. "It was sometimes like a race. Even without the commander's orders, everyone wanted to be first."

The sacrifice of the Basiji was ghastly. And yet, today, it is a source not of national shame, but of growing pride. Since the end of hostilities against Iraq in 1988, the Basiji have grown both in numbers and influence. They have been deployed, above all, as a vice squad to enforce religious law in Iran, and their elite "special units" have been used as shock troops against anti-government forces. In both 1999 and 2003, for instance, the Basiji were used to suppress student unrest. And, last year, they formed the potent core of the political base that propelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--a man who reportedly served as a Basij instructor during the Iran-Iraq War--to the presidency.
Ahmadinejad revels in his alliance with the Basiji. He regularly appears in public wearing a black-and-white Basij scarf, and, in his speeches, he routinely praises "Basij culture" and "Basij power," with which he says "Iran today makes its presence felt on the international and diplomatic stage." Ahmadinejad's ascendance on the shoulders of the Basiji means that the Iranian Revolution, launched almost three decades ago, has entered a new and disturbing phase. A younger generation of Iranians, whose worldviews were forged in the atrocities of the Iran-Iraq War, have come to power, wielding a more fervently ideological approach to politics than their predecessors. The children of the Revolution are now its leaders.