Barack Obama has weighed in on the protests in Iran. He told reporters at the White House, “It would be wrong for me to be silent on what we’ve seen on the television the last few days,” and so declared, “I am deeply troubled by the violence I’ve been seeing on TV.”
“The violence.” That free-floating phenomenon that seems to exist, for Obama, as something quite apart from human volition. Like a spontaneous state of affairs that is not only disconnected from national fanaticism or abusive governance, but in which there is scarcely a designation between the assailant and the assaulted.
Is it too much to say, “I call on the leadership of Iran to refrain from visiting violence upon that country’s citizens”? Apparently so. Obama declined from criticizing the regime because “sometimes, the United States can be a handy political football.” Sure, but sometimes the United States can be an extraordinary beacon for those fighting for liberty — starting with the French Revolution and leading up to the Iranian student who said yesterday, “Is [Obama] going to accept this result? Because if he does we are doomed.” What does that student mean? He’s not expecting the U.S. to send troops to Persia where they’ll make officials count ballots at gunpoint; he’s hoping that America is really what it says it is — an ongoing revolution built on the very idea of freedom and consensual government. If it’s not, and it’s just another well-off behemoth that can’t be bothered to oppose the mullahs, then what hope is there for Iran itself?
And, in the end, there’s no “political football” to worry about because the Iranian leadership cannot be negotiated with regardless of what Obama says or fails to say.
Here’s more from Obama’s statement to the press:
He said it’s up to Iran to determine its own leaders but that the country must respect voters’ choice.
However, Obama praised protesters and the nation’s youth who question results that showed Ahmadinejad winning a second term in a landslide.
He respects both the courage of the protesters and the authority of the bullies trying to stifle them. Not the most American of sentiments, is it?
UPDATE: Here’s the video of Obama’s statement. It’s significantly worse without the generous paraphrasing of news services. He opens with, “I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be; that we respect Iranian sovereignty,” moves on to praising the use of “hard-headed diplomacy” in maintaining a “peaceful world in general,” and winds down with a lukewarm compliment for the “voices” of the Iranian youth. It sounds exactly like what it is: a purely utilitarian, and ultimately ambivalent, statement about political oppression and liberty.