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Posts Tagged ‘independence’

Let the man speak: Iran’s president vs. media distortion

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on March 9, 2010 at 2:40 am

“Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Why does the American government so fear speech in opposition to its own?

Point in case: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I’ll be the first to admit Ahmadinejad is no benevolent leader whose heart’s desire is world peace. But let’s be honest — the guy has not been given a fair shake.

First there was the media-misconstrued “wipe Israel off the map” rumor. If you were listening to the mainstream machine, you probably believed Ahmadinejad unveiled his evil desire to annihilate Israel while giving a speech at a conference in Iran. In actuality, the president of Iran was quoting leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and said:

“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”

Hmmm. Doesn’t exactly sound like a declaration of war.

And then there was the designed to be ill-fated visit to Columbia University where the president famously denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. But more offensive than Ahmadinejad’s ridiculous claim was the introduction given to him by University President Lee Bollinger.

“Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” were the words Bollinger chose to open with. He continued insulting Iran’s president for more than six minutes; even having the audacity to ask President Ahmadinejad if he plans “on wiping us off the map too?”

He concluded with this disrespectful gem:

“Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer theses questions. But your avoiding them will, in itself, be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.”

Talk about an introduction. If only U.S. politicians were so lucky to be prefaced in such a way.

Not only did Ahmadinejad try to reach out to the American people during his visit to the U.S., he also challenged President George W. Bush to a live TV debate that “should be uncensored, above all for the American public.”

Of course, the administration declined; dismissing Ahmadinejad’s invite as a “diversion.”

But Ahmadinejad did not only attempt to communicate with President Bush on live TV. He also addressed to him a lengthy letter in which he challenged Bush’s claim of Christianity.

“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, make “War and Terror” his slogan?” he asked in the letter.

Perhaps realizing his efforts to communicate with the president would be ignored, Ahmadinejad attempted to communicate directly with the American people. In his open letter, Ahmadinejad expressed sadness over the Iraq war and sympathy toward both the Iraqis and American soldiers.

“American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq,” he said.

Ahmadinejad went on to condemned all terrorism because “its victims are innocent” and posed this question to the American people:

“Is there not a better approach to governance? Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?”

Surely such humanitarian ramblings can not be that of the “insane dictator” otherwise known as Mamoud Ahmadinejad? Doesn’t he want to build a nuclear arsenal with the intention of launching World War III? On the contrary, Iran’s president has vehemently denied such accusations.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapon ambitions. He called such weapons “outdated” and said Iran is ideologically opposed to them.

“We’ve said many times before, we don’t need the weapon,” he said. “It’s not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense, and ideologically we don’t believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically we know that it’s useless. It’s useless.”

However, the president did defend Iran’s right to develop it’s own nuclear energy without dependence on foreign powers.

“You should not have the ability to developed the nuclear fuel cycle yourself,” he said.

Ahmadinejad also pointed out the often-ignored fact of Iranian non-aggression. The president is correct in claiming that Iran historically has not invaded other nations. However, as he points out, his county has been the target of foreign attacks — including those financed by the United States. And let’s not forget the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government in 1953.

To be sure, Ahmadinejad is not to be trusted. But then again what politician is? What is clear is that the United States’ government, using media as a weapon of distortion, has twisted and largely silenced the message of Iran’s president. Ahmadinejad deserves a fair shake. More importantly, the American people deserve to hear what he has to say, uncensored, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

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You vs. the ‘greater good’

In sovereignty on September 23, 2009 at 4:33 am

Nazism, Fascism, Socialism and Communism are simply different “isms” based on the philosophy of collectivism. The so-called “debate” that rages today between conservatives and liberals, right vs. left, Democrat and Republican, is simply a distraction which feeds off of these labels and their emotional associations. In reality, all differences stem from two different philosophies: collectivism and individualism.

Collectivism, as stated above, has manifested itself in totalitarian regimes. It is the idea that the group is more important than the individual. And, if necessary, the individual should be sacrificed for the “greater good.”

In contrast, individualism stresses independence and self-reliance while opposing most external forces on one’s choices, whether by society, or any other group or institution. Individualists, such as myself, do not believe in the force or coercion that collectivism proscribes. Instead, we hope to “shape” society by persuading and appealing to the intellect of others — having faith in their reason and charity.

An example of this is seatbelt law. While the collectivist uses the force of law to protect others, the individualist allows for the free choice of the individual — having faith in her reason.

Affirmative action is another example. While the well-meaning collectivist, once again, uses force to create a fair work environment, the individualist allows for the free choice and charity of the employer. The individualist believes only true charity is voluntary and that a free society creates such charity.

While individualists and collectivists may be at odds over how to best shape society by moral means, they are alike in their intent. For both collectivists and individualists care deeply about themselves, their families, their friends, their communities, their country and human kind as a whole.

Sometimes, a collectivist will tend to view the “rugged individualist” as callous and elitist, caring only for herself. In reality, this is the case with objectivism, as touted by Ayn Rand. Objectivism is at odds with altruism (the unselfish regard for others). Individualism is not. Just as there may be collectivists who are self-absorbed, so may there be individualists who are self-absorbed.

I am an individualist because I am an altruist. For me personally, the two are inseparable.

The nation within: Lakota people declare their sovereignty

In sovereignty on September 23, 2009 at 4:15 am

We once forced the American Indians to adapt to our way of life — often claiming it was for their survival. The day may come when some Americans find themselves adapting to the American-Indian way of life for, what they’ll perceive as, their “survival.”

On Dec. 17, 2007, a delegation of Lakota Indians went to Washington D.C. to declare their independence. The “Freedom Delegation” delivered a letter to U.S. State Department, withdrawing from all treaties with the United States government. The Lakota are looking to reclaim their original land guaranteed to them by U.S. Treaty.

Russell Means, one of the delegates, said, “We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us. This is according to the laws of the United States, specifically Article 6 of the Constitution.”

Events leading up to the Lakota’s 2007 declaration were set in motion in 1974, when the International Indian Treaty Council brought together more than 5,000 delegates representing 98 Indian tribes and nations from North and South America. At the council, the tribes/nations signed The Declaration of Continuing Independence — a “Manifesto representing the wisdom of thousands of people, their Ancestors, and the Great Mystery supports the rights of Indigenous Nations to live free and to take whatever actions necessary for sovereignty.”

And in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an award of $105 million to eight tribes of Sioux Indians as compensation for taken land in United States v. Sioux Nation. The Court’s decision was in response to the United States Court of Claims ruling which concluded land was unlawfully taken from the Sioux and that the tribe was entitled to just compensation under the 5th Amendment. The Supreme Court however, refused to award land. To date, the Lakota people have refused the money, instead reasserting their indigenous rights to the land. Accruing compound interest on the settlement has brought the value of the claim to over $400 million as of 2008.

The Lakota say their claim to sovereignty is lawful under U.S. law. Because the United States illegally seized land and continually broke U.S. treaties, the Lakota claim the land is still legally their’s. Some of the Lakota have gone so far as to reject their status as American citizens.

Russell Means, the controversial “figured head” of the Lakota, was among the delegates in Washington D.C. in 2007. He envisions the “Republic of Lakotah” as a sovereign nation with laws radically different from current United State’s laws. The new Lakota government, according to him, will be one solely based on consent. There will be no income tax or property taxes. He says everyone one is welcome in the Republic of Lakotah; including Americans who reject their citizen-status. It’s likely a small percentage of the American population would find the Republic’s invitation appealing.

However, the movement is not immune to inward conflict. In 2008, the Lakota Oyate Lakota branched off from the original “Freedom Delegation” — claming the movement had been high-jacked by one of the delegation members.

So far, the U.S. government and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have ignored the Lakota. According to the Lakota Oyate and Lakota Republic, Gary Garrison of the BIA stated the group’s withdrawal “doesn’t mean anything” and said “When they begin the process of violating other people’s rights, breaking the law, they’re going to end up like all the other groups that have declared themselves independent – usually getting arrested and being put in jail.”

While the return of sovereign Indian nations may be unlikely, it’s none-the-less, something to work toward. The struggles of the Lakota and other indigenous people for their freedom are encouraging to behold.