The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I never thought irony would make me vomit, but...

So much of blogging during the Bush years is about irony that it's all getting pretty old. John Stewart pointed out a few months ago that this administration is apparently incapable of doing anything that isn't ironic. But these days I'm inclined to make like Spinoza and add a few theorems to that there postulate.

1. The admin's unprincipled/illegal actions are very unironic, but all manage to achieve irony by flying in the face of everything they claimed in order to win elections. In the words of Fearless Leader: "First, we must always maintain the highest ethical standards. We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right."

2. The level of irony achieved is directly proportional to the seriousness of the endeavor.

Case in point:

TIME's sources, who do not want to be identified for fear of retribution, say that they repeatedly warned [the current administration] about the negative consequences in informal talks that have been taking place for several years between figures in the U.S. and Iran who are close to their respective governments. Similar warnings were delivered to U.S. officials by others, including Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. "We had talks with the State Department and with lawmakers," Parsi told TIME. "We pointed out the dangers. Our advice was not taken into consideration. Things have turned out worse than we expected." Parsi says that, in the past, individual democracy activists have been arrested without a pretext, but that the Bush Administration's program gave the regime an opportunity to go after as many as 10,000 non-government organizations and their memberships. "There is tremendous self-censorship going on," Parsi says. "They know that the money has made them targets." Speaking to TIME, a State Department official explained that because "dictatorships do react against any kind of rule-of-law, or democracy-promoting programs," the U.S. does not make public the names of recipients of program funds, although recipients are aware that the money is coming from the U.S. . .

Bush's democracy program is opposed even by some exile groups that support a tough U.S. line against the Islamic regime, including a royalist group led by Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah who seeks to reinstate the monarchy. In an e-mailed comment to TIME, Pahlavi said he "would not accept funds from any foreign governments." He said there were ways to support freedom "without such support coming in the form of governmental funds which invariably ends up hurting those it intends to help by unfairly labeling them as foreign agents."

Several mainstream Iranian reformers tell TIME that from the start they transmitted their opposition to the democracy program indirectly but clearly to American officials via the back-channel talks. Besides warning that it could trigger a crackdown, they argued that Iran's reform movement had strong popular support and did not want or require foreign help.

It's already an overload of tragic irony. But the high-minded goal wouldn't be a BushCo plan without this abstinence-only stinger:

The Bush Administration has proposed that the program's budget be increased to more than $100 million annually.