Iran and the hypocrisy of the pacifist left

Peter Tetchet

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Topics Politics World

The following is an edited version of an article originally published in Hungarian on Azonnali.hu.

Leftists in the West routinely accuse the US of threatening world peace. And yet they readily and hypocritically turn a blind eye to the imperialist aspirations of other countries.

Take the case of Iran. At the beginning of this year, President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Qasem Soleimani, a leading general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and the principal architect of Iran’s regional expansion. The Western ‘pacifist’ left did not hesitate to cry foul. The more ignorant among them expressed their sorrow over his death, seemingly oblivious to the blood on his hands. The more literate said the killing was a threat to Middle Eastern peace, despite the fact such peace is non-existent.

Their response ignores the fact that, for many in the Middle East, the death of Soleimani came as a relief. Sunni Muslims, from Iraq to Lebanon, who had long suffered at the hands of Soleimani-led, Shia militias, were only too happy to see his demise. Yet Iran’s regional interventions and imperial ambition, led up until now by Soleimani, do not trigger massive left-wing demonstrations in the West. And no Iranian flag is set alight by leftists outraged at Iranian imperialism.

Why is the Western left unaffected by the suffering of the victims of Eastern imperialism? And why is it, once again, standing up for a dictatorship?

It’s partly because some really are ignorant enough to believe that all wars are attributable to the bloodlust of Western powers. If they just laid down their weapons, so the magical thinking goes, their rivals in Moscow, Tehran and Beijing would lay down theirs. Yet even the Romans knew that whoever wanted peace had to be ready for war.

Very often, Western leftist ‘pacifism’ is rooted in a myopic loathing for America. When, under President Reagan during the 1980s, the US toughened its stance on the Soviet Union, helping to bring about its fall, Western leftists started calling out American imperialism. In doing so, they showed they had absolutely no regard for the Eastern Europeans living under the yoke of Russian imperialism.

Or take the case of Serbian aggression in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. When President Clinton led the NATO attacks on the forces of the then Serbian president, Slobodan Milošević, in 1999, the Western left started calling out American imperialism once again. They had no regard for the tens of thousands of Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and Albanians who were living in fear of Milošević.

Even when the US is reluctant to intervene militarily against Russian imperialism, as is the case now in Ukraine, a large part of the Western left is still concerned about American imperialism. And again, they show absolutely no concern for the Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, South Ossetians, Georgians or Chechens who still live in the shadow of Russia.

The same thing is happening in the case of Iran. Even though it has been pushing an imperialist agenda in the Middle East, and has intervened in numerous sovereign territories, from Iraq to Egypt, the Western ‘pacifist’ left has remained silent. Leftists are happy to wave the Palestinian banner, while burning American and Israeli flags, but they show no interest in Iran’s bolstering of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, or its bloody work in Iraq.

Instead, they see Islamist Iran as mounting a legitimate rebellion on behalf of the Third World. Indeed, in much the same Third Worldist terms, leftists, from Paris to West Berlin, welcomed the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 as a victory against the Great Satan of America.

For the Western left, it is as if being a part of the Third World excuses everything. As far as the left is concerned, Third World countries are free to act as they please, without being called out for committing the same acts as the West. The well-known leftist narrative is that the Third World is underdeveloped because it was colonised, oppressed and exploited by the dastardly West. Therefore its liberation can only come about dialectically. According to this interpretation, Third World countries are also compelled to colonise, oppress and exploit.

So, if Iran, China, Russia or Venezuela intervene anywhere in the world, it must be hailed as an act of international liberation. If the US, France or Israel does the same, then it is evil imperialism.

This is why the Western left regards Trump, and not the murdered Soleimani, as the main wrongdoer in the Middle East. After all, Soleimani was anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian, so he must have been a good man, right? Also, he hailed from a poor family, which is a prerequisite for being virtuous.

Not only is the Western ‘pacifist’ left hypocritical, calling out imperialism in some cases and accepting it as liberation at other times – it also goes against its own hallowed principle of international solidarity. So, just as Western leftists once supported the Kremlin, and betrayed the tens of millions suffering under Soviet imperialism, so today their pacifist heirs support Iran, unconcerned by the fate of the oppressed Persian people, the Iraqi Sunnis or the Sunnis and Christians of Lebanon.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing sides. However, the left should be honest with itself, stop claiming that it is acting in the name of ‘peace’ or ‘international law’ and admit what it is doing – namely, allying itself with Tehran.

Péter Techet is a freelance journalist and researcher, based in Frankfurt am Main and Budapest.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Comments

Marvin Jones

23rd January 2020 at 1:13 pm

The western lefties cannot be so ignorant and naïve to see, sense or know, that if any middle eastern country, especially Iran were to be permitted to develop nuclear weapons, very soon WW3 would follow. All the wisdom of every race on this planet must be at least of all semi literate to see that two primitive medieval factions who have detested each other since this cult began, and have only the desire to totally destroy each other, will then seek the same for the infidel nations of this planet. There is no other purpose on earth that these barbarians exist for. Hence we should sit back and watch the mother of all shows in the biggest arena ON EARTH.

Chester Draw

22nd January 2020 at 4:18 am

Iran’s poor state is unlikely to be due to colonisation. It has remained independent — well, at least it has never been conquered by Western powers and it’s a while since Timur swept through.

botalap botalap

21st January 2020 at 4:29 pm

Make $125 per hour with your phone or laptop from …..www.mywork5.com

nick hunt

21st January 2020 at 3:01 pm

Today’s leftists, so loud and hostile to leaders like Trump, are strangely silent about Iran’s Islamist dictators and known mass murderers, just like leftists in the 20thC infamously continued to support Stalin or Mao long after the horrific details of their genocidal regimes became indisputable (some still do). Both then and now, the USA and its democratically-elected presidents and allies were seen as the real threat. Assuming leftists on this forum accept this summary, can they explain why we should follow their puzzling choice of heroes?

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 5:42 pm

We all know the reason those on the right are so hostile to Iran- it has everything to do with their almost uncritical love of Iran’s biggest rivals, Saudi Arabia.

And thus, no matter how brutal, how theocratic, how much terrorism they support, how authoritarian and aggressive their regime is, right wingers will always back Saudi Arabia and oppose Iran.

It has nothing to do with any concern for the citizens of Iran itself.

Michael M

21st January 2020 at 8:04 pm

“right wingers will always back Saudi Arabia and oppose Iran.” What a breathtaking generalisation. Don’t conflate US hawks who love Saudi Arabia with the rest of conservatives everywhere in the world. Iran and the House of Saud are as bad as each other. The stupid “enemy of my enemy is my friend” philosophy is as inane as it is dangerous. Taliban anyone?

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 11:15 pm

I’d like to believe that many conservatives remain firmly opposed to Iran, but I’ve seen little evidence of such.

Conservative voices calling for the West to dampen their relations with Saudi Arabia appear to be a pretty small minority on their side.

Even more regrettably, there are many on the centre left who adopt the same position of silence.

Dominic Straiton

21st January 2020 at 2:20 pm

Just imagine if the Persians hadnt spent the last 1400 years fighting with the Sunnis about a load of nonsense. They would be a successful people. Maybe the most prosperous place on earth. Unfortunately the curse of mo wont let anything develop.

Geoff Cox

21st January 2020 at 12:00 pm

Leftist the world over see anything the US does when it has a Republican President as “fascist”, “racist” “imperialist” (add other insults as appropriate). They are caught between two stools when a Democrat is in the White House. But as a rule US = bad; anyone against America = good. My enemy’s enemy is my friend.

In Negative

21st January 2020 at 9:54 am

All a bit Tony Blair that for me. All a bit “The West must bring to heel the naughty countries and make a better world.” The middle-east really is none of my business and I don’t believe for a single instant that my own very alien values could rebuild it in my image. This whole way of thinking has been responsible for Iranian expansion in the middle-east, not its antidote.

nick hunt

21st January 2020 at 1:57 pm

It’s impossible for me to understand how you can ignore or discount the openly-expressed supremacism and famously Nazi behaviour of the Islamist dictators in Iran’s expansionism. Do you really believe they are only pretending to hate and kill Jews and other infidels? Also, should no-one bring the world’s ‘naughty nations to heel’, and are you suggesting that Iranian naughtiness is just a Western delusion? I’m sure the families and friends of all the hundreds of thousands of Iranians murdered or imprisoned for opposing the regime must find such a claim offensive in the extreme. But then they haven’t lost all sense of right and wrong, unlike today’s leftist bigots and losers, who can only see Trump as monstrous villain and murdering mullahs as victims. What brainwashing and/or insanity, which also seals your mind to any critical feedback of the kind I provide here.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 5:38 pm

Nick, you were the one who mentioned Trump. Not anyone else.

Trump, who let not forget was elected in 2016 promising pretty firmly to stay out of Iran. Hence why some of his more honest supporters (not that there are many) have been critical of his actions in Iran of late.

Peter Hitchens and Tucker Carlson are not left wing, nor do they see Trump as some ultimate purveyor of evil.
I wonder if you’d direct the same rant at them.

nick hunt

21st January 2020 at 1:58 pm

It’s impossible for me to understand how you can ignore or discount the openly-expressed supremacism and famously Nazi behaviour of the Islamist dictators in Iran’s expansionism. Do you really believe they are only pretending to hate and kill all Israelis and other infidels? Also, should no-one bring the world’s ‘naughty nations to heel’, and are you suggesting that Iranian naughtiness is just a Western delusion? I’m sure the families and friends of all the hundreds of thousands of Iranians murdered or imprisoned for opposing the regime must find such a claim offensive in the extreme. But then they haven’t lost all sense of right and wrong, unlike today’s leftist bigots and losers, who can only see Trump as monstrous villain and murdering mullahs as victims. What brainwashing and/or insanity, which also seals your mind to any critical feedback of the kind I provide here.

In Negative

21st January 2020 at 3:10 pm

What you write doesn’t sound like critical feedback. It sounds like a tidal-wave of emotion-driven dog-whistlin’ with little by way of historical or cultural reflection. It’s the kind of feedback that you used to get with Cobains guitar at the end of Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, something more akin to the Ginsbergian Howl.

The mess of Iraq and Libya are the result of Western no-nothings (like you and I) thinking they have some special insight into how people’s can be re-engineered into a more innoccuous image after their destruction. That doesn’t seem to be so at all. And it’s through that and the ensuing mess (ISIS et al.) that Iran have found it so easy to expand its influence throughout the middle-east.

I actually can’t even tell what your position is. Should we go to war with Iran? Is that your view? Wonder how that will play for Saudi/Sunni expansion? Or ISIS? How do you feel about heart-eating ISIS or child-crucifying Saudis? Or should Israel and the US just take over the whole desert? So tiring.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 9:00 am

“If they just laid down their weapons, so the magical thinking goes, their rivals in Moscow, Tehran and Beijing would lay down theirs.” In the 1930’s, that school of thought, progenitor of CND, campaigned for us to scrap The RAF – Germany would then definitely ditch the Luftwaffe.
Guernica was used as pressing evidence of the need for us to do so. The people of Guernica were not asked. It was just taken as a given that they did not want the means with which to defend themselves against this particular form of warfare, were happy to be the sacrificial lambs for the London chattering classes’ causes, and content to let the The London Liberal Left speak for them. Just as they are now doing with The People of Iran.
The London Left look forward to the ammunition of a body count in Iran caused by a Western attack, but will fall silent when The Ayatollahs shoot people in the street.

The cry on the streets of Tehran “death to the dictator” (Khamenei) left no doubt that the demonstrators blaned The Supreme Leader for the shooting down of the plane, and were not going to be fobbed off by the scapegoating of a few individual soldiers. The Left here have no such clarity or instinct.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 11:24 am

“were happy to be the sacrificial lambs for the London chattering classes’ causes”

Are you under the impression that Liberals in London control the whole world or something?

nick hunt

21st January 2020 at 2:16 pm

I’d say he’s just suggesting how the twisted or absent moral compass of the chattering leftists caused them not to care or even recognise the injustice. Same thing today with the slow genocide against white South Africans, or the faster genocide of Christians in the Middle East and nations like Nigeria. My goodness, how heroic leftists stand up and scream against such evil and injustice! Like they do for the underage, white working class girls being targetted by the UK’s racist rape gangs over 40 years or more. Or maybe they don’t suffer like black or brown rape victims do because of their privileged skin colour. That’s your usual claim, isn’t it?

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 5:34 pm

I must say I do find it rather disgusting how when right wingers mention the plight of grooming gang victims, or Christians in the Middle East, or whoever else, they seem more concerned with using such instances as a means to attack left wingers and profess their superior virtue to the “evil liberal left” than actually helping put a stop to such atrocities.

When you see Christians being persecuted, your instincts should be how you can prevent such actions, not how you can use them to highlight your moral superiority to your political opponents.

Jim Lawrie

21st January 2020 at 9:45 pm

No Jonnie. I merely pointed out how readily they accept working class suffering and slaughter as being necessary for the advancement of their causes.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 11:13 pm

That would be something they shared in common with most right wingers then.

a watson

22nd January 2020 at 7:27 pm

Yes. And how the European fascists loved and lauded the peace campaigners in Britain. Do we have to be reminded of the inadequate strength of the British military in 1940 opposed to the fantastic size of the fascist forces in Europe? We had disarmed in the twenties and early thirties to encourage others to do the same – some result.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 12:49 am

“When President Clinton led the NATO attacks on the forces of the then Serbian president, Slobodan Milošević, in 1999, the Western left started calling out American imperialism once again.”

Those NATO attacks were ordered by the two most senior left wing politicians in the world at the time – Blair and Clinton. It’s a bit odd to claim western leftists were opposed to the intervention they themselves were leading.

Similarly, it’s ridiculous to point the finger at left wingers for being too soft on Russia in recent years, when large sections of the right in the West now openly admires the Russian state. If anything, the left has frequently been attacked for being too anti Russia, especially during the last US election.

David George

21st January 2020 at 1:12 am

Did you read the essay Jonnie?
It said: “Western leftists once supported the Kremlin, and betrayed the tens of millions suffering under Soviet imperialism.” The USSR and Russia are different regimes, the left are still deluded hypocrites.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 1:22 am

Sorry Dave, how on Earth does that relate to my point? The article very specifically mentioned modern day Russia and the US’s response to it:
“Even when the US is reluctant to intervene militarily against Russian imperialism, as is the case now in Ukraine”

Did you read it Dave?

David George

21st January 2020 at 5:46 pm

You see what happens when you’re owned by your ideology Jonnie; when you become a mere avatar of it.
We see it in Corbyn’s support for the murderers of the innocent, of children and Naom Chomsky praising Pol Pot while he’s murdering millions of his people.
Nothing inherently wrong in having beliefs, the problem starts when you begin to believe them. When everything is filtered through an ideological lens you can’t see reality and, worse, when you’re convinced you’re on the side of the angels even the worst atrocities are justifiable.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 7:47 pm

Er, I haven’t been praising Pol Pot, or anyone else who murders innocents.

What makes you come up with that drivel?
And how does that in any way relate to my point?

Are you sure all the lights are switched on in your head, so to speak?

David George

22nd January 2020 at 1:43 am

No one is accusing you of anything Jonnie, it’s not all about you. I didn’t think I would have to explain a pretty simple point but…..
The examples I quoted are hardly unusual (as the essay explains) and indicate a propensity to overlook the most egregious crimes when folk are blinded by ideology. Folk from all political persuasions are guilty of that but it appears to be almost compulsory on the modern left.
Less of the childish insults would be good.

Jonnie Henly

22nd January 2020 at 1:43 pm

You were responding to me David, and you refered very specifically to my ideology…

Anecdotal evidence on your part is nowhere near enough to claim something is “almost compulsory” on the part of the modern left.

A bit more evidence, and a bit less of the pompous judgements would be good.

David George

22nd January 2020 at 6:20 pm

Sorry for the ambiguity Jonnie. I should have written:
You see what happens when one is owned by their ideology Jonnie; when they become a mere avatar of it.
I still can’t see how you concluded that I was accusing you of being a Pol Pot supporter; it’s quite clear who I was referring to.

Sowell Power

21st January 2020 at 9:27 am

You really consider Clinton and Blair to be that left wing?

michael harris

21st January 2020 at 9:56 am

Oh dear, John Henly. It’s news to the whole world that Clinton and Blair were ‘leftist’ politicians. Luckily they are now ‘senior’.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 11:22 am

Centre left, Michael. That’s why many (not all) left wingers voted for them.

K Tojo

21st January 2020 at 11:45 am

Wee Jonnie Henly is at it again – with his seemingly muddled thinking well to the fore. I say “seemingly muddled” as we are clearly dealing with a Momentum troll here. Disruption is the name of the game rather than a sincere expression of opinion.

To give you the benefit of the doubt, Wee Jonnie, if you actually are expressing sincerely held beliefs (rather than just picking a troll-fight) could you show your bona fides by fleshing out your argument that “large sections of the right in the West now openly admires the Russian state” by posting evidence of this admiration. I am not talking about just one or two instances – you did say “large sections”. You also need to provide evidence of open admiration – grudging or pragmatic acceptance is not sufficient. I suspect you are exaggerating but I am agnostic on the issue.

Then we have your Blair / Clinton axis to consider. As a Momentum activist it is a bit rich for you to pretend you regard those two leaders as real men of the Left when, at the drop of a hat you would denounce them as right wing stooges. Obviously, your comment was no more than a piffling troll’s red herring designed to confuse the unwary. What do you think (I do mean conscious thought – I’m not interested in Pavlovian troll-think) the attitude of the real Left (on both sides of the Atlantic) might be to Russia and those Third World states?

In conclusion, it would pay you to be a bit more broad-minded and critical of socialism/communism with its history of brutal oppression. Hiding behind whataboutery and petty debating society point-scoring is seriously self-limiting.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 7:49 pm

I have no affiliation to Momentum whatsoever, you have no evidence at all linking me to them. As a matter of fact I’m about to vote against their chosen candidate.

If you’re going to argue against me, why don’t you start by actually responding to what I’ve written, not some straw man you invented out of nowhere.

nick hunt

21st January 2020 at 2:44 pm

The more serious claim is that leftists always attack the military activities and alleged imperialism of their own nations and culture, but never or rarely the crimes and atrocities of communists, Islamists or other murdering tyrants. That’s because leftists’ real goal is power and elite control over inferior non-leftists, gammons or infidels, not justice or ‘power to the people’. One of the greatest and most absurd delusions afflicting the leftist mind is that they are virtuous defenders of the poor proles, while non-leftist critics and conservatives are all evil exploiters. Your favourite actor, Lawrence Fox, nails that with his memorable comment that ‘wokeness is elitism masquerading as compassion’. But you can always challenge such allegations by linking us to posts where you praise Trump’s generosity, merits and successes, condemn the violence and hate of leftist mobs, or call out terms such as the ‘religion of peace’ as ridiculous propaganda.

Jonnie Henly

21st January 2020 at 5:31 pm

Left wingers are always more critical of their own governments that ostensibly act in their name than foreign ones. That makes sense – it’s a good idea to be concerned first and foremost of the internal politics of your own nations, as that is what has both the biggest impact on your own life and is the thing you have the most power to alter.

People in the UK protesting against the actions of Iran or whoever does very little, people in the UK condemning and opposing their own government has a much greater likelihood of changing policy.

I think there’s a pretty succinct quote in the bible about planks of wood and specs of dust that sums this up rather well.

Leftists don’t like outside interference and nation building. They generally prefer change to happen internally, to be driven from the ground up, by ordinary people as opposed to the military and political elites of superpowers.

And finally, could you link us to posts where you condemn the violence and hate of rightist mobs, and where you call out the brutality of Islamist Saudi Arabia, and politicians like Trump who are only to happy to ally with them. Otherwise people will be forced to conclude you are a hypocrite.

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