As I came out of the grocery store, I was surprised to encounter a young man with an embroidered “Amnesty International” vest and a clipboard. How often do you see Amnesty International petitions at the market? So I asked the fellow what was the issue, and he responded with the story of Mohammadi Ashtiani -- an Iranian mother of two who had been sentenced to death for her alleged adultery.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing killing people for adultery, but his story just seemed so unimportant as I stood in at the edge of the parking lot full of autos that need Middle-Eastern oil, for which we are currently at war. Protesting Iran’s “primitive” justice system struck me as the wrong focus of our attention.
Furthermore, I’d just read former drug prosecutor Jim Gray’s “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed” -- an indictment of something orders of magnitude more draconian than Iran’s adultery peccadillos: the U.S.’s “drug war.”
For a little perspective, consider these facts: The U.S. is 5% of the world’s population, but has 25% of its prisoners. The bulk of the difference in incarceration rates is the “war on drugs.” Canada did not do this, and it incarcerates 111 per 100,000 of population, while the U.S. imprisons 794 per 100,000--yet Canadian and U.S. crime rates differ insignificantly. In other words, American gulags are both expensive and ineffective.
Far from spending like a “drunken sailor,” for the last three or four decades, per-capita, inflation adjusted spending in the State of California has been declining, if you subtract the increases in prison costs. Since that “war” began, California has built 12 prisons, but only one University.
Finally, the drug war has killed orders of magnitude more people than have been executed for adultery in Iran. Pointing the finger at Iran is straining at a gnat, while we swallow the camel of U.S. crimes.
Yet there’s a movement now to foment an attack on Iran. Such people would not be above funding a petition drive by Amnesty International to sow the seeds of war. The message: “See, those Iranians are terrible, why they kill women, even mothers, dang it! We should go over an teach them a lesson!”
For those still convinced Iran is the international terror we must stop at any cost, Juan Cole’s The top ten things you didn't know about Iran is required reading. Among other things, Iran has an economy the size of Connecticut’s. This is reminiscent of Reagan’s insistence that Nicaragua -- one of the two poorest nations in the hemisphere -- was a threat to the U.S. Mexico’s president reportedly told Reagan he would be happy to endorse such a sentiment if there was any way he could do it without being laughed out of office.
So am I getting too paranoid, seeing war mongering even from Amnesty International’s campaigns when they promote the tribalism that lets us pick motes from Iranian eyes while ignoring the beam in our own? And what could possibly motivate someone to keep the U.S. in a constant state of “terror alert”?
One interesting memory in this connection: Woodrow Wilson promoted joining Europe’s war just as the left was on the rise in the U.S. Yes, many currently red states were hotbeds of [gasp !] socialism in the early 20th century.
Would the oligarchy that is the military-industrial-prison-media complex stoop so low as to incite a war, even promoting Iran as a backwater deserving of U.S. “shellacking”? And is the Pope really Catholic?
P.S. In fairness to Amnesty International, they have plenty of campaigns opposing U.S. criminality on their website.