The Columbia Coalition Against the War has published an Open Letter to Progressive Opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
As Columbia only very recently announced, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be speaking in Roone Arledge auditorium this Monday. A number of students and student organizations have already announced plans for a protest rally the same day. We are not among them. We do not endorse Ahmadinejad or his views, many of which are inexcusable. However, as opponents of a US military strike against Iran, we have serious concerns with the content of some of the hostility that has been expressed to his presence, and specifically with the planned protest.
We fear the demonization of Ahmadinejad, because we think this demonization contributes to the likelihood of war. In the current climate, with many on the political right in the U.S. and Israel pushing for air strikes, a campaign against Ahmadinejad is dangerous, regardless of the intentions of most involved. A call to action, unless it prominently rules out war, implies military action.
A rally where each speaker denounces Ahmadinejad's reactionary policies and just a few call explicitly for military action will still be perceived, on campus and around the U.S., as pro-war. The right-wing media, from Fox News to the New York tabloids, has already jumped on the event, and will spin it to favor their cause. Conservative organizations with no affiliation to Columbia's campus, such as the David Project, have already signed on to the rally on Facebook, and are likely to distribute hundreds of warmongering flyers and picket signs. The rally will seem to be a sea of pro-war demonstrators -- and the more people who attend it and the more organizations that endorse it, the more powerful this disastrous message will be.
A U.S. attack on Iran, which is not an inevitability but is a real possibility, would have consequences just as terrible as the invasion of Iraq. Thousands would die in initial air strikes, and more in the resulting backlash and regional conflagration. The work of Iranian campaigners for free speech, women's rights, and lesbian and gay liberation, and against racism and anti-semitism, would be set back immeasurably. As Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has pointed out, "Human rights are not established by throwing cluster bombs on people. You cannot introduce democracy to a country by using tanks."
There are other means for engagement with Iran than war, and other means for disagreement with Ahmadinejad than the planned protest. We call on those who do not support a war with Iran to be wary of the vilification of Ahmadinejad, to avoid Monday's rally, and to express vocally their opposition to military intervention.
Kevin Hayden urges us to listen:
Eleanor Roosevelt: “We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk.”
Every generation, it becomes clear, has to relearn the old lessons: war diminishes us, destroys hundreds of thousands of potentials and even when some form of victory is declared it is a rare conclusion that exceeds what has been lost.
Politicians and pundits often state that war is a last resort for them, but it soon becomes apparent which ones have never carried a suitcase into any other resort. Fox News and the Daily News well understand how to harness the power of hate because it is an animal built for the yoke. But the yoked plow fields that can never feed a single soul, save for the gunsmith and the mortician, who measure their well being in blood.
It is easy to be for hate, easy to lose the distinction between the hateful and the hated, easy to avoid any chance for dialogue and with it, the chance for peaceful compromise. It is too hard for them, too great a task, too much to ask one ounce of real effort to forge the steel of peace. That burden can only be borne by the hardy, the strong and the wise, not those conditioned to always take the easy way out, the path to war, the journey they will demand others to march from their safe and easy chairs.
Great majorities of the Iranian citizenry have no quarrel with our citizens. Most admire and emulate the fruits of our culture and civilization. But they have politicians and pundits, too, some just as eager to promote the easy way, the lazy way, the ways that risk war. Iran’s citizens often feel helpless to stop their leaders’ provocations. Just as many of us often feel as helpless about the endless threats emanating from ours.
“… and if we are to live together we have to talk.” And listen. And think. And create from that the only foundations that can ever support real peace.
Anonymous Liberal's comment on Rick Moran's post about Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia is also worth reading.