A truly brilliant media event occurred in D. C. this week. In front of the U.S. Capital, public officials, celebrities, and even ordinary citizens walking by had a chance to use 60’s style ‘hot line’ phones to talk directly to Iranian citizens. This kind of citizen diplomacy works. Back in the 1980’s, it played a vital role in helping to end the seemingly endless Cold War. (1) Right now, given the growing chorus for war with Iran from some quarters and the talk of ‘all options being on the table,’ we American citizens need to greatly expand our own ‘cool it option.’
So what should our message be? I suggest this: ‘We American citizens want to protect the Iranian people (and all other Middle Eastern peoples, indeed,the rest of the world) from the devastating radiation that bombing Iranian nuclear facilities would inevitably release.’
Right now we have the two ‘mad dog’ national leaders, Bush and Ahmadinejad,insulting, threatening, and egging each other on. But the Iranians can vote their hothead leader out fairly soon, unlike the Cold War Soviets. In the Cold War 1980’s, American citizen diplomats had to start out actually visiting the U.S.S.R. with nothing in their hands but photographs of their children or grandchildren, to show their good will. Although today it is possible to visit Iran as a citizen diplomat, this is the age of the Web and tools like Skype. We need to develop many more ways to reach Iranian citizens directly and inexpensively via the Internet, as fuel prices and airfares vanish into the stratosphere. These new kinds of efforts also should get much wider Web publicity.
Here at home, ‘cool it’ citizens could launch a much more aggressive media campaign to demand that our own mainstream media establishment investigate and honestly report the reasons for opposing a U.S. military attack on Iran:1. the potential for a general, Armageddon-style Mideast conflict, since Iran will not just lie down the way Saddam Hussein did 2. a huge new Middle East oil crisis, inflicting even more devastating damage on our staggering U.S. economy, American consumers and businesses 3. disastrous effects on our own military’s already limping readiness, amid likely Iranian retaliation against Israel and Americans in Iraq.
Then there is the very strong possibility that bombing Iran might just reverse Al Qaeda’s current steep loss of support within the Muslim community worldwide, as widely respected Muslim religious scholars forcefully repudiate Bin Laden’s violent tactics now. (Both the June 11 issue of The New Republic and the June 9th issue of Newsweek report on this trend,verified by independent polling.)
But what if, despite all of our efforts, President Bush goes ahead to implement some of the worst case scenarios I wrote about last year at this time: 1. deliberate U.S. preemptive attack on Iran in order to stimulate terrorist counterattack here or 2. over reactive response to a ‘false flag’ attack here, either of which might lead to a rationale for setting aside the2008 election, or 2008 election results and the U.S. constitution, in favor of martial law in the U.S.
For details and documentation of these nightmare scenarios, see a report on some of them at: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/06/13/9596.
Impeachment wouldn’t be good enough for such a traitor to our nation. Come to think of it, if our president tries to order up an Iranian Armageddon for us all against our will, there’s always the solution the Serbian people adopted to stop their own dictatorial leader, Milosevic, back in 2000. They launched a society-wide nonviolent refusal to cooperate, as depicted in Steve York’s brilliant 2001 film, Bringing Down a Dictator.
It comes with a five star rating—the right kind of five stars.
Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., Metaphor Project Founder and Executive Director, has been active in progressive strategizing and organizing since the early 1980’s. The Metaphor Project helps progressive leaders and activists learn how to frame their messages for Americans.
- In Citizen Summitry, a 1987 chronicle and guide to the 1980’s successes, editors Don Carlson and Craig Comstock explained that citizen or Track 2 diplomacy does work because of the following rule of thumb. Since government’s most fundamental role is to protect the nation, state, or tribe against enemies, government officials must ‘make worst-case assumptions about an adversary’s intentions, but these very assumptions may set in motion a chain reaction of mutual distrust, threats, and hostilities that can culminate in war.’ Ordinary citizens are not chained to such zero-sum thinking. They are free to act on the ‘best case analysis’; they can assume that neither governments nor peoples truly wish for war. They know that both governments and peoples may actually be trapped by the myopic paranoia of government’s general duty to defend. MP Network member Tom Mahon has also discovered a good extended definition of Track 2 Diplomacy athttp://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/track2_diplomacy/. The site itself is called Beyond Intractability: A Knowledge Base on Constructive Approaches to Destructive Conflict, and offers case studies of successful efforts at conflict resolution. Today, U.S. citizen diplomacy trips to Iran usually include all kinds of contacts and sightseeing. Check the web for up to date information about where to access trips like this now.