By Amir Mohammad Esmaeili

The world is fortunate that Iran is dominated by clear-headed thinkers, says American analyst

July 28, 2020 - 13:0

Charles Dunaway, an American political commentator in Oregon, tells the Tehran Times that Americans have been lied by politicians and media for a long time, so most of them “do not trust the media and do not trust their government”.

On Iranian tolerance in response to US illegal move in Syria on Thursday night, he notes “The world is indeed fortunate that the Iranian government is dominated by clear-headed thinkers who have the patience to wait for the right moment and the right method to punish the US for its belligerence.”

Dunaway argues that ongoing protests in the US have this potential to drive serious systemic change in the country and he adds “one of the underlying problems that may be giving more impetus to these demonstrations is the complete failure of our political system to respond to the needs of citizens.  Elected officials of both political parties listen almost exclusively to their campaign contributors and corporate lobbyists.  The issues and concerns of ordinary citizens usually don’t get their attention.”

The text of the interview with Dunaway is as follows:

Q: Firstly, please let me ask your opinion about the recent US illegal move in Syria. On Thursday night, US warplanes operating illegally in Syria conducted some dangerous maneuvering close to the Mahan Air flight. The Civil Aviation Organization of Iran called it “a clear violation of the international law and the aviation standards and regulations.”  What is your thought?

A: The Trump Administration, its foreign policy led by dangerous neoconservative Christian Zionists like Secretary of State Pompeo and Vice President Pence, continues to take actions in West Asia that are designed to incite Iran to strike out in retaliation.  The aerial harassment of the Mahan Air passenger jet is the latest example.  One need only considers what action would be taken if an Iran Air Force fighter threatened a US airliner in the same way.  We would not have US media describing it as a 'close call', we would have calls for the US to retaliate against this terrorist act, and probably within days, there would be a strike against Iran.  

This act of terrorism is designed as a provocation and intended to draw a violent response from the Iranian government that can then be used as a pretext for the all-out war that the US and their Israeli partners in crime have been seeking for years.  The world is indeed fortunate that the Iranian government is dominated by clear-headed thinkers who have the patience to wait for the right moment and the right method to punish the US for its belligerence.  We can hope that this November will bring a change of leadership to the United States that will reduce tensions in the region rather than continually exacerbate them.

Q: Forgoing any permission from Damascus, the US has been operating in the Arab country since 2014 under the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist group. The US, however, continues its occupation even as Syria defeated the Takfiri terrorists in late 2017. Is US presence in Syria legitimate?

A: As with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, US justification for its illegal invasions shift as each rationale is proven false.  The US and NATO did not invade Syria in order to defeat Daesh.  It was the US and its allies in the region that funded, supplied, trained, and inserted the Takfiri terrorists into Syria, and on numerous occasions, the US has directly supported Daesh attacks with air power.  The illegal intervention by the US in Syria has been and still is designed to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad and replace it with the Takfiri-dominated chaos that it brought to Libya.  Weak governments, puppet governments, and failed states all benefit the Zionist project in Palestine.

The continued US military presence in the region is not advancing US national interests and some voices in the US establishment are recognizing this fact.  Whether they will be able to gain the political power to bring their ideas to fruition remains to be seen.

Q: Please let’s back to our main topic. It seems that the United States is a contradiction. Its founding principles embrace the ideals of freedom and equality, but it is a nation built on the systematic exclusion and suppression of communities of color. From the start, so many of this country’s laws and public policies, which should serve as the scaffolding that guides progress, were instead designed explicitly to prevent people of color from fully participating. What are the reasons behind this?

A: The high sounding words of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 were a valuable tool for enlisting popular support for the revolution.  The American Revolution was initiated and carried out by the bourgeois merchant and planter class and they needed the support of ordinary colonists to win against the British.  The Constitution of 1789 represented the first effort to establish a strong national government and it was riddled with compromises designed to satisfy the concerns of the slave states.  Initially only white men with property could vote and even then there were provisions like the Electoral College and the Senate that made sure that any incipient abolitionist feelings among Northerners would not be able to threaten the chattel slavery of Africans brought to this continent in chains.

Throughout our history, women and people of color have struggled to obtain the same rights and privileges as their white male fellow citizens and with only partial success.  A brutal civil war promised to make Black Americans free but within a very few years, the same compromises with the Southern planter aristocracy led to the withdrawal of Union troops from the South and a violent return to quasi-slave conditions in the Jim Crow South.  Again in the 1960s, the civil rights movement brought about many improvements in the situation of African Americans, but as the retrograde political forces regained power, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and failure to enforce civil rights laws have left us where we are today.   

It is also important to recognize that the United States is a settler-colonial enterprise.  All the nation’s land was stolen from Native Americans and the most brutal genocidal methods were used by white settlers to take what they wanted.  When the indigenous people were driven from all the land between the Atlantic and Pacific, the US began imperial wars using the same techniques to invade and occupy the Philippines and Cuba and to steal much of Mexico.  It is encouraging that because of the current unrest, more Americans are beginning to understand that part of our history and to see the brutality of other settler-colonial projects such as that of the Zionists in Palestine. 

Q: What is important to learn from history of the slavery in the US is the social construction of race, with the main objective of controlling the dominated groups and enforcing distance from them through multiple institutionalized laws and social norms. What is your take on it?

A: Race is a social construction since there are no significant biological differences between people based on their skin color or facial features.  Before the rise of the plantation economy in the mid-1600s, Blacks enjoyed many of the same rights as whites and they worked and socialized together.   Cheap labor and lots of it was required by the cotton farming that began to be prevalent in the South and when large numbers of African slaves were imported and set to work, it was necessary to justify their subservient position and the theory of racial superiority was developed.  The race was also useful in creating an otherwise non-existent differentiation between poor whites and poor Blacks who otherwise might have made common cause against the white elite that oppressed them both. 

Racism is still very prevalent, particularly among less affluent whites.  It is still used to divide working people from one another.  If working people of all races could unite, they might demand better wages, better social provisions from the government, a voice in the management of businesses and government, and an end to wasteful overseas military adventures.  That makes racism extremely useful in maintaining corporate capitalism that rules the United States.

Q:  The U.S. Constitution proclaims free and equal people, but everyone is aware this designation was not intended for enslaved Africans, but rather for the European settlers and their descendants. Many Blacks support the idea that individuals are not equal if there is a discrepancy in employment, food securitization, good schooling, housing, and healthcare. What do you think?

A: The elements of the Constitution that extend freedom and rights to African Americans are only contained in amendments adopted during and immediately after the Civil War when the Southern states were either not represented or were under federal occupation.  The courts largely refused to enforce these amendments for a hundred years and what gains Blacks have made in employment, education, and housing largely came during the 1960s and 1970s.  Once Ronald Reagan came to the presidency, those gains began to ebb away from lack of enforcement and lack of funding.

In the United States, there are dramatic inequalities in wealth and income that leave millions of Americans of all races facing food shortages, lack of housing, inadequate health care, poor educational opportunities, and employment, when available, at wages insufficient to support themselves and their families.  The right-wing political forces have portrayed programs that would address these inequalities as entitlements primarily for Blacks.  Once again, race is used to divide people who should work together.  The dog-eat-dog neoliberal capitalism that drives this inequality is supported by both political parties so no matter who Americans vote for, the problem only gets worse.

Q: Protests over the death of George Floyd continue to rage across the US. What do you think about the protests? Do you see any hope for a change of behavior towards African Americans?  

A: I am guardedly optimistic about these protests.  They are beginning to help white Americans understand that racism is not an individual behavior that we have a personal responsibility to change.  It is a systemic problem and unless the system is changed, racism will remain. 

I am also encouraged by the fact that the protests have centered on police brutality toward people of color.  Police have been heavily militarized in the US, largely as a consequence of our being perpetually at war somewhere in the world.  Many police officers are veterans of those wars and bring the techniques they employed on the streets of Kabul or Mosul into their work in Minneapolis or Portland.  Excess military equipment has been given to police forces and now routine incidents are handled by squads of heavily armed officers riding in Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles invented to fight IED attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Is it any wonder they see citizens (particularly those of color) as the enemy?

It is possible that these protests will last long enough and gain enough momentum to actually drive serious systemic change in the country.  Obviously the entire establishment is determined to prevent that and it’s likely the movement will be co-opted before it can reach that point.

Q: What is Black Lives Matter protesting for? Can the roots of this movement be traced in American history? Are there any similar movements in American history?

A: It is a mistake to see these protests as a unified movement.  The primary thrust at this point seems to be ending racist policing and moving toward some kind of law enforcement model that does not require such a high level of violence.  The official Black Lives Matter organization is primarily focused on encouraging people to vote for Democratic Party candidates for office.  They have been effectively co-opted.  The Democratic Party has not been a friend of Black Americans for a long time and few of the candidates they are running this year have a strong track record of support for the Black community.  

There is another organization attempting to influence the demonstrations, the Movement for Black Lives.  They are calling not only for an end to what they call the war on Black communities but an end to the war on drugs, the death penalty, money bail, and many other radical reforms.

Most of the people currently in the streets probably have no allegiance to either group but are simply showing solidarity with their Black neighbors and friends and supporting their calls for an end to systemic racism and racist policing in particular.  One of the underlying problems that may be giving more impetus to these demonstrations is the complete failure of our political system to respond to the needs of citizens.  Elected officials of both political parties listen almost exclusively to their campaign contributors and corporate lobbyists.  The issues and concerns of ordinary citizens usually don’t get their attention.  If there is enough unrest and it lasts long enough, the politicians will have to respond in some way other than military repression. 

Q: Some experts argue that Black Lives Matter is the largest movement in U.S. history. What do you think? 

A: I don’t think it is a movement.  There are no leaders, no agenda, no goals, no structure.  If these materialize then it might well become a movement.  

Q: How do you assess the role of mainstream media in the protests? What about Facebook, Twitter, and other social media?

A: US mainstream media are interested in two things - making money and maintaining their access to power.  They will continue to highlight violence and property damage in the protests because that gets them more readers and viewers.  Only the largest newspapers will do any serious investigative journalism to determine what is going on inside the protests, who is involved and why.  

Social media is important in reaching those sympathetic to the protests and helping them gather more people in the streets.  It’s also useful in conjunction with right-wing media such as Fox News, in marshaling opposition to the protests and using thinly disguised racist tropes to convince their white audience that the protesters are anarchists and criminals.  

It must be noted that most Americans do not trust the media and do not trust their government.  We have been lied to so often for so long about so many things that any credibility they may have once had is destroyed.  That is a large part of the reaction to COVID-19 precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.  

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