A Letter to Obama

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ali Akbar Abdolrashidi

Like millions of other human beings on earth I too heard the news about your success in the US presidential elections. I am glad to see that the American people have given in to a big change in their political tradition by electing a black American of Kenyan origin as president. Of course, I am aware that you too had christened your election in advance through the slogan of “change”.

I have no idea at what age did you hear about Iran for the first time. The first time I heard about the United States of America I was four years old. You had not been born then. The US embassy in Tehran and CIA agents dispatched to Iran had organized a coup d’etat to overthrow Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and prevent the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

On those days, I lived in Kerman. At that little age I saw the body of Major Sakhaei, the tall and distinguished police chief of Kerman who had been killed by the coup plotters on charges of independence seeking and patriotism being dragged on the hot street asphalt by the mercenaries of the coup leaders. That scene is still a nightmare to me. Many Iranian kids lost their fathers and many women became widows on those days. I heard rumors in my city that the bloody coup d’etat had been designed by the US. Later I heard that the US excuse for the coup was to maintain security in the region but my fellow countrymen were all aware that the aim of the White House and the CIA coup plotters was to keep Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in power as the American gendarme in the region and keep the cheap oil flow to the West. But I wish that coup d’etat had not occurred so that the people of Iran could decide their own fate from that very moment.

Iranians believe that Mordad 28 (August 18) coup d’etat was the beginning of a crisis in Iran and the region which still continues. Although your predecessors secured their interests for two decades but they were faced with a tough reaction from the Iranian people in 1979 which had its roots in the blunder the White House had made in Iran.

Mr. Stephan Kinzer, the former editor of the New York Times says in his book “All the Shah’s Men” that one should seek the root cause of the rise of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as all the current crises in the Middle East in Washington’s strategic mistake in Iran when it launched the 1953 coup d’etat.

When I was 10 I learned more about your country in my school books. On those days, the US embassy in Tehran held a competition in which it awarded any Iranian student who wrote a composition about America. I participated in that competition and wrote a piece describing the America I had heard and read about. I wrote that America is a big country with beautiful farms and nature. Its people are kind and hardworking. I wrote that the Americans in Word War II dropped nuclear bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagazaki and burned their people to death in seconds. I had read that the inhabitants of America had rendered the native American Indians in the continent homeless. I wrote that the white Americans racially discriminated against the black Americans who used to work as slaves at New Orleans cotton farms and Mississippi coasts.

Mr. Obama! I remember when I was younger Martin Luther King, the American priest and human right activist was killed by the gunshot of probably a white racist. I know many classmates who cried over the death of Luther King. Today, many of those classmates of mine are old men who consider your election as the US president a realization of Luther King’s “dream”.

In the same years, Iran too was a victim of repression and despotism. SAVAK (the shah’s horrible intelligence agency) was so oppressive. It was said that CIA experts taught the SAVAK agents all types of torture. But before long the Iranian people staged a revolution. In 1979 Mohammad Reza Pahlavi finally left Iran and the people of Iran gained independence and freedom. I think in those years you had just finished high school. You probably did not know what was going on in Iran. What you know today were written in the books you have read. In 1979, Iranians were very happy to have found the path to democracy and independence. But in the 1980s once again the Americans began their interventions in Iran’s affairs. They provoked and then armed Saddam Hussein who incidentally shared your name, to wage a war against Iran. Do you know what bombing means? I don’t think you have experienced the enemy’s blind bombing in Hawaii, Indonesia or America. But you can guess what the landing of a 9-meter missile on a 6-meter alley means. You can feel how horrible it is to see school children killed in villages. You can imagine what it means to get suffocated by inhaling mustard gas, sarin and tabun. If you visit Iran today you would see many chemically wounded and disabled Iranians who still suffer from the consequences of that dastardly war each of whom is a live proof of that unequal war.

On those bitter days, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, a minister with the former US administration visited Saddam Hussein and presented him with all types of satellite information and armaments.

Remembering those memories the people of Iran hate war and particularly detest chemical weapons because many Iranian were exterminated for inhaling chemical gases or are still suffering. In fact, we hate the chemical weapons we experienced ourselves and the nuclear weapons used against the Japanese. It is believed that the US army has also used depleted nuclear weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan. We think this too is despising.

Mr. Obama! You have no idea about the brave resistance put up by Iranian youth against the enemy during the eight years of defense. You may not believe that for the first time in the history of Iran not even one inch of our soil remained under enemy occupation. We know about the uproar the resistance of Iranian youths, these very innocent and inexperienced Basij members caused at CIA, the White House and Pentagon. If you don’t believe that you may ask senior officers at those organizations. In reality, the root cause of Saddam Hussein’s annihilation lay at the defeat he suffered at the hands of these Basijis.

Although we were targets of Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons for eight years we never used the same weapons against the Iraqis in retaliation. Our policy would not let us do that. Your father, who is believed to be a Muslim from Kenya, must have told you about Islamic compassion and mercy. I have heard that your stepfather too was a Muslim. I am sure he too has informed you about affection as Islamic teaching.

I have heard that when a new president is elected in America, officials of the former administration surround him and provide him with data and intelligence analyses in order for him to continue the US policy based on that information. If this is the case do not trust the information they offer as these analyses originate from attempts by the neoconservatives before you. They want to block the way to the “change” you have promised.

After victory, you have uttered words about Iran which are both different from your remarks before election and similar to what Bush used to say. Try to change your literature vis-à-vis Iran.

By the way what kind of “change” do you have in mind? Do you intend to “change” your foreign policy towards Iran as well? If so, it would suffice not to think anymore about coup d’etat, overthrow, war, intervention in Iran’s internal affairs, massacre, putting Iran in the list of ‘axis of evil’ countries, insult to Iranian nation, culture and civilization, and support for Iran’s enemies.

The people of Iran pay much attention to the word “change” in your program although many of them believe that the influence of anti-Iranian lobbies in the US would not let you carry out that “change”. But if you disappoint Iranians you would be making the same mistake George Bush and his predecessors made. Then the fate of your “change” would be unknown.

Mr. Obama! The people of Iran are peace lovers. Nowhere in the contemporary history would you find evidence indicating Iran’s intervention in internal affairs of other countries or documents confirming Iran’s aggression against neighboring countries. We have always been victims of war, aggression and terrorism and have always been defending ourselves.

Mr. Obama! Your predecessors called our civilized and cultured people terrorists and placed our country in the list of axis of evil states. Will this mistake of George Bush include the type of “change” you have in mind? Will the sanctions imposed on our people be lifted? Will you respect the right of the Iranian people to decide their own fate?

The people of Iran are strongly opposed to the US foreign policy components in the region which are based on hegemony, arrogance and supremacy. We are waiting to see the “change” you claim in the US foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran and register it in our history.

Mr. Obama! Do not miss this golden and historic opportunity. At least remain loyal to the ideals of your inspirer Dr. Luther King.