In kicking things off at last Tuesday evening’s Evergreen Peace-sponsored political discussion, the event’s organizer, Hannah Hayes, didn’t waste any time setting the evening’s tone.
"If you’ve never read ‘War Made Easy,’ it explains the ways the media sold us the war in Iraq," said Hayes, addressing a crowd of perhaps three dozen people gathered at the United Methodist Church of Evergreen. "Now I see them doing it all over again. We’re being sold a war in Iran. That’s why we’re here tonight."
If the occasion was open to the public, nobody in the room had come to argue with featured speakers Rob Prince, a senior lecturer at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of International Studies, and Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, a native Iraqi who serves Denver’s Muslim community and directs the interfaith Abrahamic Initiative. Though the two men touched on several Middle Eastern topics of concern, America’s intentions toward Tehran dominated the discussion. Leading off, Kazerooni harked back to June 2002.
"The dominant discourse in the media suddenly transformed," he said. "They began practically fighting among themselves to see who could present a more persuasive argument for going to war in Iraq. Four and a half years later, we can see how this evil, illegitimate war was sold to the American people."
Today, Kazerooni believes the same process is grooming the public to accept, even welcome, an invasion of Iran.
"Iran is portrayed as an imminent threat for merely aspiring to have nuclear weapons," he said. "The administration is seeking provocation, and when they couldn’t sell the nuclear threat to the rest of the world, it forced them to shift policy in a more dangerous direction.
"They now say that Iran is a threat to U.S. troops in Iraq, which has created an even greater likelihood of a U.S. invasion. Only in the U.S. Congress could part of another country’s army be defined as terrorist. If they can define an element of Iran’s military as terrorist, it’s a green light for Bush to invade."
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Kazerooni warns that attacking Iran will net the U.S. a world of trouble it can ill afford.
"In 2003, Iraq had a population of 23 million and was broken by a long war with Iran and two years of embargo. In 2007, Iran is the most nationalistic country in the Middle East. It has a population of 80 million and can bring 4.5 million men under arms in six months.
"Do you really think they will let go the fact the U.S. came in and bombarded them? It is imperative for us to understand the magnitude of the crisis we face and that it must be stopped here."
Prince, who agreed that America is tipping toward aggression against Iran, laid blame as far back as the Carter administration.
"The Carter Doctrine said that any threat to Middle East oil is a threat to the U.S. itself, and we have a right to intervene militarily," he explained. "That’s pretty much Bush’s foreign policy after 9/11.
"Shortages are coming globally, and we’re falling behind in manufacturing," Prince said. "The way to maintain political strength is to control the world’s oil and gas resources. What Iran wants is control of its own energy resources, and that’s what the U.S. is out to destroy.
"As far as I can tell, the Bush administration doesn’t care what happens in Iraq as long as we have our bases there. Some of those bases are as big as the city of Aurora, and they’re there to stay. I’m convinced that the goal of Bush and Cheney is to restructure that region as much as possible before leaving office."
In a roundabout way, a woman in the audience suggested that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public threat to wipe Israel off the map might have, in some small way, fueled current apprehensions regarding Iran’s intentions in the Middle East. Neither Kazerooni nor Prince thought so.
"There’s no doubt that Ahmadinejad has made some odious statements in the past," Prince admitted, "but let’s keep two things in mind. First, he doesn’t control his country’s foreign policy, and, second, that’s not a reason to bomb Iran."
Before last week, Conifer resident Scott Jones had never attended an Evergreen Peace event, but a recent encounter in the friendly skies convinced him to give Tuesday’s discussion a chance.
"I was seated next to a guy from Pakistan, and he seemed like a pretty reasonable, enlightened person," Jones said. "I thought it was my job to enlighten myself a little."
If the evening provided him much to ponder, Jones amply repaid in kind.
"It seems intentional that you never see pictures of the Middle East that show anything of civilization or an advanced society," he said. "Whether it’s in Kabul, Karachi or Tehran, all you ever see are mud huts and disheveled people wearing turbans and holding AK-47s. I think that helps build a stereotype of them as backward, savage people that can’t be talked to or dealt with.
"After sitting next to that guy from Pakistan, I started thinking that if there were more dialogue between normal people on both sides, we could start to change that impression."