Jon Stewart has written and directed a film about Iran’s criminal beating and imprisonment for five months of journalist Maziar Bahari. Critic Joanne Laurier notes that Stewart, who is friends with Bahari, feels “partly responsible for the journalist’s troubles” because during Bahari’s imprisonment, he was questioned about a Daily Show segment in which he participated.
Stewart, along with and arguably to a greater extent than his fellow countrymen, is partly responsible for a lot more than that. Our primary responsibility is for the actions of our own state, and the US has been torturing and committing terrorism against Iranians for over 61 years now, continuing today and projected far into the future.
While it is to be commended that Stewart shed light on an injustice, far worse is what we have allowed our own state to do to Iran (and many others). We should be aware of this so we can try to understand the effects of and punish our own misdeeds to mitigate our ongoing and further, imminent crimes.
US-Iranian relations began in 1953 when the US overthrew Iran’s democracy by carrying out terrorist attacks. Relations continue today through illegal US threats of force (terrorism, article II, UN charter), sanctions intended to harm Iranian civilians (terrorism), and plans for a possible US or US-client-organization re-invasion and mass murder operation to retake control of and loot Iran’s resources, space, and labor (terrorism, aggression, looting).
In 1953, US oil magnates used their armed force, the US government, to end Iran’s democracy and replace it with a monarchy. The US barons then began looting 40% of Iran’s oil extractions; the remaining 60% were looted by Western Europe, whence US settlers originated.
While working towards developing nuclear energy with US support, the US/Iranian anti-democracy regime imprisoned, beat, tortured and/or murdered countless journalists, authors, educators, students, union organizers, and others. One student recalled being shackled in a rancid cell and watching cockroaches, attracted by the open wounds inflicted on him by the terrorists, eat him alive.
The US was evil enough to produce special instructional film for its Iranian terrorist organization on such crucial topics as how to torture women.
Newsweek journalist John Barry has seen and described some of the US/Iranian regime’s recorded filth, which he refers to as “un-erasable pornography”. While never mentioning the US role (perhaps allowing him to give a more honest account of his feelings), Barry notes of the films:
Even now, on bad nights, images surface.
It seemed endless. I have no words to convey the horror.
The film showed sequences of torture on living victims, men and women, all naked and shackled to what looked like a bed frame. A variety of techniques were demonstrated: cigarette burns to sensitive parts of the body, the effects of electricity, and then on into other savageries I shy from recalling. One technique shown on the film used water. The film was clearly professionally made. There was a commentary … explaining, among other things, the varying sensitivities of men and women to different techniques, with a filmed example to illustrate each lesson. This was an instructional film. These torture sessions were not even designed to elicit information. The film was intended to teach Savak [Iranian secret police] recruits.
Thankfully for the sake of knowledge and accountability, documentation of the US role is readily available. For example, here is Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk in London’s The Independent, on August 9, 1998:
American intelligence … taught the Shah’s SAVAK secret police how to torture women; after the revolution, the Iranians found CIA film of these lessons.
Historian William Blum notes that SAVAK was “created under the guidance” of the US and Israel and, “according to a former CIA analyst on Iran”, the US instructed SAVAK in torture.
(Dan Mitrione is one US terrorist who became personally notorious for demonstrating torture on live victims – homeless people – though his particular sessions served to maintain and expand the USA’s Latin American iron curtain.)
As an example of the “notoriously savage” techniques used by the US/Iranian regime, Barry notes in Newsweek:
…an Iranian exile … had gone from Jordan into Iran to try to organize unions. Savak caught him, surgically amputated his arms and legs, and sent his living trunk back to his family in Amman as a warning.
Once their iron curtain was thrown off, Iranians discovered certificates documenting people who had been tortured to death by the US implant:
…hundreds and hundreds of forms.
The US/Iranian regime committed so much terrorism against secular opposition to monarchy that it enabled the Islamic resistance to take the lead once the tyranny was overthrown.
Being kicked out angered US terrorists, so they swiftly teamed up with Saddam Hussein, re-invaded Iran, and killed a million Iranian citizens (US per-capita equivalent of over 4 million citizens), many with gas, as well as thousands of Kurds, many with gas, both arguably acts of genocide. In 1988, US pirates, thousands of miles from their own territory, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in commercial airspace, killing almost 300 people. A nearby US commander who witnessed the shoot-down wrote an article saying he couldn’t believe what he was seeing – a fatal US attack on an obviously civilian plane. But when the pirates returned home, they, including the one who commanded the act, were given a hero’s welcome and awarded medals, and VP Bush Sr. said of the attack, exhibiting his signature class, “I’ll never apologize for America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are…” (The US soon thereafter, under Clinton, teamed up with Turkey for another genocide against the Kurds, then Bush Jr. perpetrated an illegal invasion of Iraq, the biggest crime of this century, that destroyed the entire region.)
Today, the US and its clients proudly murder Iranians, and US sanctions against Iran, like the illegal US sanctions against Cuba, are intended to, and do, harm Iranian civilians for political reasons – the textbook definition of terrorism.
While Iran’s actions against Stewart’s friend are inexcusable, the US and its clients are doing far worse to journalists, human rights activists, medics, whistle-blowers, etc., on an incomparably more massive scale, including arresting, censoring, imprisoning, torturing, and outright murdering them in cruel and unusual ways, such as complete dismemberment, bleeding to death, and lashing with whips. Israel has the most political prisoners of any country in the Middle East, and NATO member/US client Turkey, according to a 2011 HRW report, has more journalists in prison than China (though no one in the world – apart from US drone base/Western colonial piracy victim the Seychelles – competes with the US in terms of percentage of population kept in cages against their will).
Saudi Arabia, much worse than Iran and a major US client since the 1930s, doesn’t even pretend, as Iran, the US, China, and others do, to have “democratic” procedures that do nothing but entrench dictatorship. It’s simply another of the straight monarchies US terrorists love to install and/or support. Saudi Arabia imprisons and tortures people for Tweets and other social media comments. It recently sentenced a blogger to ten years in prison and torture by one thousand lashes, and was also recently caught giving its prisoners ultimatums to either stay in Saudi dungeons or join the unpopular, US-backed “rebels” fighting to overthrow Syria (as part of an operation to conquer Syria the US began in 1948 and continues today).
What does the brave hero Obama do in the face of one of his biggest clients behaving this way? Showers them with an unprecedented amount of rewards, sending the corrupt Saudis the biggest shipment of lethal weapons in US history, which Obama did in 2013.
The US runs a global torture network involving over 50 nations. In just the last ten or so years, scores have been mercilessly beaten, imprisoned, and tortured, including to death, including around a hundred tortured to death by the US alone, including people marked in official documents as civilian or “n/a”.
Aside from the US, the top ten foreign organizations that receive US funds are also all torturers.
The USA has targeted and killed or tortured tens of thousands of civilians for “crimes” including writing, speaking, educating, whistle-blowing, striving for democracy/independence, and defending themselves or their countries from US looting and exploitation.
Here is a specific case for which Stewart (and all US citizens) are “partly responsible”. Perhaps it could be the subject of Stewart’s next film.
In 2003, US terrorists abducted Khalid El-Masri in Macedonia, anally raped with an object and beat him as part of a terror-inducing procedure, then took him to one of innumerable US torture-holes, this one called “the salt pit” (which appropriately sounds like something from a horror film like Saw), where they continued to beat and interrogate him for over a year, giving him just enough rations and “putrid” water to survive, until he couldn’t take it any more and tried to starve himself to death until he was finally released because the USA figured out he was just some random, innocent family man they had kidnapped, who had nothing to do with anything involving politics.
Why did the US drag this poor man down to its level for over a year? Because his name was similar to the name of one of countless suspects the US wanted to torture and interrogate without trial or access to a lawyer, and US terrorists had “a hunch” that Khalid was the right guy. Literally.
It makes sense for Stewart to feel partially responsible for Bahari’s brutal five month ordeal. Anyone who provided a platform for people to speak out about the US/Iranian terror regime may likewise have felt somewhat responsible for what happened when and if the US surrogate got hold of the person. But, clearly, dissent should not have been avoided.
Julian Assange (whom Stewart has “cynically and viciously attacked”) must feel somewhat responsible for Obama’s pre-trial condemnation, torture, and imprisonment of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (pre-trial imprisonment exceeded legal limit by approximately 1,400%), followed by Manning being sentenced to 35 more years of imprisonment, after which she will be 60. But, obviously, Assange should not have buried Manning’s revelations.
Perhaps the Catholic Church felt somewhat responsible for the murder of Father Óscar Romero, who spoke out against US-backed torture and assassination, and was assassinated by US-trained and supported terrorists in a chapel while delivering mass.
While Stewart may not be able to help feeling more responsible for someone he happens to know than for hundreds of thousands of US victims treated worse than Bahari, he should still make the bigger picture abundantly clear. This would help avoid reduction to propaganda that serves the ongoing, barbaric US terror campaign against Iran, which is surrounded by US terrorist training and aggression camps, represented by stars on the map, right.
To censure Iranian crimes today without acknowledging the shameful US role is similar to a parent condemning his teenager for misbehaving without mentioning that the parent physically abused the child for years. This is maliciously self-serving at best and delusional at worst, though Stewart could perhaps also claim ignorance. (The parent/child relationship is analogous here in terms of size and power, not maturity or knowledge. Iran is an ancient civilization.)
Though he should be commended for speaking out against illegal practices by Iran, Stewart’s primary responsibility lies where it does for us all: we are each partly responsible for the actions of our own state, and, as a whole, one hundred percent responsible.
In the case of Iran’s beating and imprisonment of Bahari, we do, indeed, bear some responsibility: we let our state get away with overthrowing Iran’s democracy, installing a tyrannical monarchy, and killing over a million Iranians, many with gas – a grisly record of looting, terrorism, repression, murder, and mountains of corpses, that eventually led to the mistreatment of yet another journalist.
Throughout the world, on any given day, a man, woman, or child is likely to be displaced, tortured, killed or “disappeared”, at the hands of governments or armed political groups. More often than not, the United States shares the blame.
– Amnesty International
For a political comedian/analyst/TV-host more capable of balancing details with the big picture (with none of Stewart’s tribal reverence for homegrown terrorists like Barack and Hillary), see Lee Camp.
Robert Barsocchini is a researcher focusing on global force dynamics. He also writes professionally for the film industry. Here is his blog. Also see his free e-book, Whatever it Takes – Hillary Clinton’s Record of Support for War and other Depravities. Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.
Review of Stewart’s new film, plus comments on his superficial criticisms of and mindless praise for his own state, the world’s leading criminal organization, and his attacks on people such as Assange
US plans for re-invading Iran directly or through proxy
Further blum quotes, ibid.