Letter: Grossman misrepresents Iran

By Hamid Bendaas

A post–9/11 and Iraq War childhood and adolescence provoke the question, especially for young Middle Eastern Americans like myself: Would our peers who grew up witnessing and enduring the disastrous consequences of those misinformed policies in turn reject them and advocate for policies based on understanding, accountability, and, more than anything, compassion for those most greatly affected—the civilians in the Middle East?

David Grossman’s worrying piece in the last Maroon issue, “Bombing Blind (10/3/14)” is evidence of how little we’ve learned. It is riddled with error and misrepresentation, and lacks any semblance of compassion.

A bizarre comparison to ISIS incongruously inserts Iran into Grossman’s piece; “Like Iran’s nuclear program, these militant extremists represent a threat that is easier to contain than to defeat.”

First of all, if we’re talking about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, then every bit of U.S. and Israeli intelligence makes quite clear that there haven’t even been internal talks in Iran about nuclear weapons since 2003. But maybe Grossman is referring to Iran’s current negotiations with the US  and other major world powers for a civilian-purpose nuclear energy program.  Grossman’s comparison seems a little off—what with ISIS being an overtly violent and extremist organization that kills villages of people without remorse, while Iran’s nuclear energy program would do little more than provide jobs, new infrastructure, and economic growth to a developing nation of 80 million people whose economy is dangerously reliant on its dwindling fossil fuel reserves. Splitting hairs, I realize.

What’s most fascinating and ironic, though, is that Grossman commits the political sin his piece is ostensibly about refuting, namely the recent “fear mongering” by politicians “in an attempt to appeal to [the] distressed” and “less-than-fully-educated.”

What takes Grossman’s piece from ill-informed to sinister (from Bush-level to Cheney-level, if you will) is the conclusion he draws at the end of the piece: “Considering that fighting [ISIS] head on puts us on the same side as Assad and Iran, it’s better to let them fight it out.” However, here’s very strong evidence that Assad ignored ISIS for years because its existence provides cover for his war crimes, and Iran has been the most vocal critic of the U.S.–led coalition against ISIS.

But worse than being false, that statement shows how much contempt still remains for people in the Middle East. It’s likely true that ISIS poses little threat to U.S. citizens, at least in the short term. In this selfish, short-sighted sense, ISIS is “not our problem,” as Grossman says.

But in a broader and more emphatic sense, where we are accountable to help resolve dissasters for which we are partially responsible, ISIS is very much our problem. Our invasion and failed rebuilding of Iraq and our punitive, imperialist policies across the Middle East have laid the real and ideological habitat for ISIS to flourish, and our client states in the Arabian peninsula have been funding the group for years. Regardless of its potential for expansion, the extremist group will kill thousands of innocent people across Iraq and Syria, and obliterate any chance of peace in either nation for the near future.  Regardless of whether stopping ISIS helps Iran, the fact that Grossman believes it does and is willing to let thousands of innocent people die so the two can “fight it out” is an atrocious, repulsive doctrine; it’s the doctrine that helped create ISIS, and the doctrine which, if continued, will perpetuate it and create more organizations like it.

To conclude, Iran’s support for the Assad regime over the last three years is unforgiveable and horrid, and has helped give radical Sunni groups in the region a hell of a recruiting pitch. But any policy chosen out of a desire to punish Iran, either for these real grievances or Grossman’s manufactured ones, if it comes at the cost of protecting innocent lives, will only send us tumbling backward.

Grossman’s is more than just the contemptuous ideology that will cost us real victory and great loss of life; it’s the ideology that already has.

–Hamid Bendaas, Class of 2015