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Monday, November 8, 2010

Roger Cohen's "An Unknown Soldier"

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "An Unknown Soldier" (, Roger Cohen describes his encounter with a severely wounded veteran, assures us that Iran is nowhere near building an atomic weapon, and concludes that a "third U.S war [with Iran] is inconceivable."

Yes, Roger, war is horrifying, and as a former combat soldier, I am haunted by the faces of those whom I have known, whose bodies were mutilated while seeking to serve their country and protect their loved ones.

Today, however, I am also haunted by the face of Ehsan Fattahian, a 26-year-old Kurdish activist, who was executed by hanging in Iran exactly one year ago. He was originally charged with "working with armed opposition groups" and sentenced by an Iranian Revolutionary Court in 2008 to 10 years in prison. Ehsan and his family vehemently denied the charges, but when he appealed the verdict, he was sentenced to death on the charge of "moharebeh", i.e. enemy of God.

Today, I am haunted by the face of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who is soon to be executed in Iran, but it is not certain whether she will be stoned to death in accordance with her original sentence or hanged. Ashtiani, 43 and a mother of two, initially was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, but owing to international protests, the Iranian government later convicted her of murdering her husband, although the man who killed her husband was identified and imprisoned. Ashtiani's son and attorney are in jail after being arrested last month, and her former lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, has fled Iran.

Today, I am haunted by the faces of the seven Baha'i leaders - Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfahm and Mahvash Sabet - who were each sentenced to ten years of imprisonment by the Islamic Republic of Iran for alleged espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and "corruption on earth." Or more to the point, they were sentenced to prison for having the audacity to believe in the gentle teachings of a prophet who arrived on this earth after Mohammed.

And yes, I am also haunted by the faces of 16-year-old Mahmoud Asgari and 18-year-old Ayaz Marhoni, who were publicly hanged in Edalat ("Justice") Square in Mashhad, Iran in 2005 for homosexuality.

Roger, these are some of the persons you ignored in 2009, when you sought to convince us that "Iran is not totalitarian" and encouraged rapprochement with a regime that murders and tortures minorities, homosexuals, women, journalists and political dissidents.

Sure, war with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which we now know is complicit in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, must be avoided if humanly possible. Yet, given your mistaken past analysis regarding the "benevolence" of Iran's leaders, given that you do not speak Farsi, and given that you are not a nuclear scientist, on what basis do you suggest to us that Iran is nowhere near building an atomic weapon and that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has even made the decision to build one?

And if you are yet again mistaken? . . .


  1. Well said JG.

    Timing the moderation of my comment:

    "The longterm cost of "containment" is much higher, in both the 'fear factor' and actually dollar cost, than preventing a millenial messianic theocracy from going nuclear. No one is suggesting a ground invasion.
    The Persian core of Iran is surrounded by their own abused minorities.

    To even suggest that the Shi'ites need to go nuclear just because the Sunnis have Pakistan's nukes is the strangest rationale ever."


    p.s. By Cohen's emotional logic, Britain would never have fought WW2. Their surviving wounded warriors of WW1 were beyond our modern comprehension.

  2. Bringing up Britain as way of example here is absurd. Iran poses no threat to the US, and if (and if is the key phrase here) Iran were to really develop nukes how long before Israel would act in its own defense? So far, they haven't felt the need to do so, which should tell us something. That said, Iran is terrorized by its mullahs and their revolutionary guard, its minorities and women routinely harassed, beaten, and worse. But to even suggest war with Iran, as Broder does in his article, is insane. As abhorrent as the Iranian regime is we have to rebuild our economy and scale back our military commitments or we're toast.

  3. Iran poses no threat to the US? Except when its proxies send a suicide bomber to a Marine barracks killing 241 American servicemen in Beirut.

    Of course the Iranian attack on the Jewish community center in Argentina, which killed 87 and injured more than 100 was not directed at Americans, but certainly illustrated Iran's "export capabilities".

    Query: The next time Iran threatens Bahrain, should the US remain silent? Or should the US ignore the proxy war that Iran is waging against Saudia Arabia in the northwest Saada Province of Yemen? And should the US not pay attention to Iranian territorial demands upon Iraq?

    I'm not counseling war, but the horrors perpetrated by Iran are not confined to its borders. The US would be foolish to declare ironclad intentions in advance and should hold its cards close to its chest.

  4. well said JG, although the U.S. and the Gulf States will have the ultimate anti-war President for two more years. He will not change.

    My comment took six hours to be posted. the moderator is still at work. I truly believe the NYT deliberately delays moderating most comments that might disagree with Roger.

    really hard to read through all these anti-war idealists, but worth it to stumble on the rare person who is a realist.

    Limited war is an experiment that has failed.

    Two more years of spinning centrifuges with earthquakes in all the wrong places. Mother earth should stop bothering Chile, Haiti, and Java, and pay some attention to Teheran. Maybe all the others are a rehearsal for the really big one :)