There But For The Grace Of God …

Charles Brown at Undiplomatic picks up a gem from John McCain that I missed yesterday (Brown’s emphasis):

“DAVID GREGORY: Let’s get right to it on Iran. How does the U.S. deal with an emboldened Iranian President Ahmadinejad?

SENATOR JOHN McCAIN: Well, we lead; we condemn the sham, corrupt election. We do what we have done throughout the Cold War and afterwards, we speak up for the people of Tehran and Iran and all the cities all over that country who have been deprived of one of their fundamental rights. We speak out forcefully, and we make sure that the world knows that America leads — and including increased funding for part of the Farda, Iranian free radio.

Ah, yes: our celebrated Cold War concern for the rights of the people of Tehran and Iran! I wonder which of those golden moments McCain wants us to relive. Maybe the one where we overthrow Iran’s democratically elected government and install a dictatorial monarch? Or maybe one of these:

“In 1957, with the help of the CIA, [the Shah] set up SAVAK, the notorious secret police, to crack down on dissidents.

Documentation of its activities is still difficult to come by, partly because SAVAK spread an atmosphere of terror so intense that victims — those who survived — were long afraid to talk. International investigators tell of families beseeching them to try to find out what had happened to relatives who had disappeared months before, but simultaneously begging them not to let the Shah’s government know they were asking.

The number of SAVAK’s victims is also difficult to establish. In 1976 Amnesty International, a London-based organization that keeps track of “prisoners of conscience” around the world, estimated that 25,000 to 100,000 political prisoners were being held in Iran. (…)

There is no longer any dispute that SAVAK practiced systematic torture. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a member of Khomeini’s Revolutionary Council, described to TIME’S Raji Samghabadi how SAVAK agents in 1964 lashed the soles of his feet with electric cable: “The flesh was torn apart, and the bones jutted out. There were multiple fractures.” The agents, he says, also held a knife to his throat for hours, making small nicks and telling him to guess “when the blade might go all the way down and sever my head.” Amnesty International in the 1970s described other methods of torture: electric shock, burning on a heated metal grill, and the insertion of bottles and hot eggs into the anus. Last spring Anne Burley, an Amnesty International researcher, was shown by the government a SAVAK file that she deems authentic, containing pictures of victims who had been tortured to death. Several were women, she says, and “in each case the breasts were mutilated.”

William J. Butler, a New York lawyer who investigated SAVAK for the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva, spoke to Reza Baraheni, an Iranian poet who was held for 102 days by the secret police in 1973. Baraheni told of seeing in SAVAK torture rooms “all sizes of whips” and instruments designed to pluck out the fingernails of victims. He described the sufferings of some fellow prisoners: “They hang you upside down, and then someone beats you with a mace on your legs or on your genitals, or they lower you down, pull your pants up and then one of them tries to rape you while you are still hanging upside down.” Baraheni himself was beaten and whipped, and released only after agreeing to make a statement on television condemning Communism. Many other SAVAK victims were tortured briefly and then released, after the secret police satisfied themselves that they would no longer oppose the Shah.”

At least the objects of our concern would be able to listen to Radio Farda while they are having hot eggs shoved up their anuses — and I’m sure that would make it all worthwhile.

Seriously: this guy might have been President. National security was supposed to be his strong suit. On the most charitable interpretation, he is completely ignorant of the history of our relations with Iran, but this fact does not prevent him from pontificating about what we ought to do. Think about that, and thank the deity of your choice that he lost.