Bloggers and Iran’s Fear

Iran is afraid of bloggers, and is instituting the death penalty to harshly curb their rights.

Via BoingBoing:

New legislation has been proposed in Iran that could make blogging a crime punishable by death. Cyrus Farivar has a story on today’s edition of the PRI radio show The World: Iran considers harsh penalty for some bloggers (3:30).

Over at Global Voices, Hamid Tehrani writes:

On Wednesday, Iranian members of parliament voted to discuss a draft bill that seeks to “toughen punishment for disturbing mental security in society.” The text of the bill would add, “establishing websites and weblogs promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy,” to the list of crimes punishable by death.In recent years, some Iranian bloggers have been sent to jail and many have had their sites filtered. If the Iranian parliament approves this draft bill, bloggers fear they could be legally executed as criminals. No one has defined what it means to “disturb mental security in society”.

Such discussion concerning blogs has not been unique to Iran. It shows that many authorities do not only wish to filter blogs, but also to eliminate bloggers!

A translated English copy of the proposed legislation is here. [International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran]

Aside from being a gross violation of human rights, it is an admission by the Iranian government that they are too weak to stand up to opposition.  Apostasty will be used to silence religious criticism, and “corruption” is a catch-all that will surely be used to silence political opponents.

When a country resorts to murder to keep power, it eventually finds that a tighter grip is a weaker one.  All America needs to do is be diplomatic and friendly, depriving Iran of a common enemy to unite against.  As sympathetic friends, we’ll find ourselves in the better position of being inspirational to the brave people in Iran who fight back.

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McCain’s Strategist Impacts Obama

Mark McKinnon promised to leave McCain’s campaign rather than face Barack Obama, a man he deeply respects.  His departure sends some strong signals.  Those are obvious.  What is interesting to me is that he chose now to do it.  It is certain at this point Obama will become the nominee.  That said, McKinnon’s departure still strengthen’s Obama’s standing, and implicitly lightly knock’s McCain’s, despite his promises to continue to support the Arizona Senator.

Its a small movement, and one likely to be lost as the Clinton campaign dies noisily and McCain struggles to distance himself from parts of Bush’s administration while aligning himself closely with other aspects.  But its a very interesting one.  Especially as his foreign policy is criticized.  Obama is a natural Diplomat, in marked contrast to McCain.

Petition for Dialogue: Support Tibet

We need to start somewhere.  Honest, open dialogue is a great start.  Here’s the petition.

Obama Understands Diplomacy

Obama and Clinton have started a great argument on diplomacy. Unfortunately for Hillary, Barack is absolutely right. William Arkin at the Washington Post doesn’t get it. Let’s take a look (emphasis mine):

My conclusion from this affair comes in two parts. First, maybe Obama really is different (if also naive). And second, maybe he needs some new advisers.

Obama dismissed Sen. Hillary Clinton’s national security approach as “Bush-Cheney Lite” yesterday and said his priority as president would be to “unite” the country and seek change. His remarks came a day after Clinton smacked him down as “irresponsible and naïve” for his remarks during Monday’s CNN-YouTube debate.

In other words, Obama seems to have misstepped according to Arkin. The supposedly problematic position is actually both wise and necessary (emphasis mine):

Obama also held a conference call with reporters, characterizing Clinton as no different from the Bush administration for foreswearing dialogue. “If that’s not what she means, then she should say so,” he said. “Nobody expects that you would just sit down with them for coffee,” he said, speaking of the preparations he would make for meetings with the leaders of North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and other nations. But he stuck with his answer and said he would not impose preconditions.

This is a very important position to take. It understands the primacy and the value of dialog. It also understands the danger and the cost of the alternatives. Hence Obama’s very apt comparison of Hillary’s outright rejection of dialog as following in Bush and Cheneys bloody footsteps.

So why frame this as naive?

Well, this is not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong, but it is naïve. The president of Iran doesn’t even recognize Israel’s right to exist. Sitting down to chat with him would be like sitting down with Osama bin Laden to explain that it’s all a big misunderstanding, that America shares his ideals for a better life. Sorry, Obama, but those aren’t everyone’s ideals, and that’s not bin Laden’s beef.

That first sentence is so flatly dishonest in such a small space it should make your brain do a backflip. He’s just trying to soften the blow with “not necessarily bad, nor it is necessarily wrong”. Or is naive foreign policy “good and right” in Arkin’s estimation?

The benefit of dialog is it invites people to the table. It creates options instead of shutting doors. If you sit down to talk with a despot, this does not commit you to agree and acquiesce!  At the very least, it creates a diplomatic space in between a workable solution and a violent last resort.

One thing this world does not need more of is war.  And we do not need a Presidential candidate who automatically ticks off an alternative to war on some misguided principle or mistaken notion of good foreign policy.  Not all experience is useful or good, and Hillary Clinton is unwittingly making that readily apparent by playing the experience card as a counter to Obama’s position.

Keep options on the table.  Keep a cool and level head.  That will result in sound foreign policy, and is the mark of a true stateswoman/statesman.

Obama should be aggressive on this and fight the “naive” label before it starts to stick.  His position on diplomacy shows quite he is quite the opposite.