In an apparent attempt to prepare for action against Iran, President Bush in his State of the Union address declared, "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom." Someone at the State Department ought to inform Bush that Iranian President Khatami has twice been elected with an overwhelming majority.
Mohamad Khatami was first elected president in May of 1997 with 69 percent of the vote. He was subsequently reelected in June of 2001 with almost 22 million votes and more than 78% of the total. Iran has universal suffrage over the age of 15, and in the last election, more than two thirds of eligible voters participated.
After the June election the president of the European Union according to AFP declared his "deep satisfaction" at the Iranian people's "commitment to democracy" and issued a statement declaring: "This is a clear signal of Iranian voters for the strengthening of democracy, the establishment of the state of law and stronger guarantees for fundamental freedoms in their country." Any search of press reports from June of last year indicates that countries around the world expressed satisfaction that it was a fair and democratic election.
So what is Bush talking about?
We all know that truth is the first casualty in war, but this statement about the "unelected few repress[ing] the Iranian people" is almost absurd. The Iranian regime certainly is repressive by Western standards, and perhaps it is involved in terrorism, but it is not "unelected." A lot of people are unwilling to admit it, but democratic countries can be quite bad: after all, Hitler was elected.
The point is that statements such as Bush's "unelected few" comment are designed to try to rewrite political reality in order to demonize hostile states, and their leaders. Truth can never be allowed to get in the way of a propaganda campaign.
Perhaps Pakistani "President" Musharraf (whom Bush praised in his speech, but who is a military dictator who came to power in a coup) is a better leader than Khatami, who was overwhelmingly elected. Yet it is not exactly "politically correct" to point out that US allies include military dictators (Pakistan), Stalinist thugs (Tajikistan) and corrupt princes (Saudi Arabia), while US enemies include regimes which are more democratic than the US. A cynic might even point out that George Bush did not even win a majority of the popular vote, and wonder where Bush gets off criticizing Iranian leadership as "unelected."
More importantly, though, if Bush intends to attack Iran one would hope he would at least be honest with the American people. The Iranian regime to all appearances has the support of the vast majority of Iranians. In Afghanistan the US was intervening in a civil war in one of the poorest and most divided countries in the world. Iran and Iraq are hardly the same situation, as Bush seems to be trying to suggest. There is no doubt the US could defeat Iran in an all-out war effort, if it came to that; however, there is no resistance in Iran to do the dirty work (unless we perhaps count the Kurds, a tiny minority). That means that the US would need to intervene directly in Iran, with more than a mere handful of soldiers and a couple hundred aircraft.
Even if Bush does not intend to take any military action against Iran, he still ought to be honest with us.
The "War on Terrorism" is a dirty business and trying to recast it as some sort of noble crusade to "make the world safe for democracy," or "free captive people" would simply be a sham.