An interesting evening with Reese Erlich and Ali Shakeri

On Friday I was at the First Unitarian Church to listen to Reese Erlich and Ali Shakeri talk about the political situation in Iran (sorry, no pictures). They both shared useful information about the past and present of Iran, and I was a bit frightened by Erlich’s observation that even with our over-extended military, the Bush administration may think it can get away with military action because we would focus on bombing them from afar, using our Navy and Air Force, which are not as overtaxed by our occupation of Iraq as our ground forces are. As foolish as it seems — after all, Iran is nowhere near being able to produce a nuclear weapon — we didn’t invade Iraq and Afghanistan because they posed a direct threat either.

I was also intrigued by Erlich’s description of the U.S.’s twisted relationship with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). At times it would appear that we have materially supported their terrorist attacks against Iran (see his interview with Amy Goodman), while verbally condemning their terrorist attacks against Turkey. It’s easy to see how frustrating this is for the government of Turkey, as well as those of us who want a coherent, rational foreign policy that rejects terrorism and war as a way to achieve change. And now I just found that Sunday, Turkey attacked and killed 50-60 peoplein Iraq they believe to be the PKK… Bush has been counseling restraint to Turkey in the face of these attacks against Turkey by the PKK.

On another note… when Ali Shakeri spoke, I was especially moved by his account of this time in solitary confinement (what we would call a control unit here in the United States) and the depravity of the practice. Shakeri was one of several people taken into custody at the same time, and he was held the longest. It has everything to do with his political perspective, which calls for peaceful change (which, I guess is dangerous to some folks in Tehran), and the relative lack of attention that his detention got. He talked about how important it was for him not to become embittered by his experience of living alone in a bare cell for 140 days.  I was inspired and heartened to hear him speak, since yes, one important part of peace work is not holding grudges, even when they might seem to make sense.

Both speakers pointed out the importance of people speaking up in every way possible so that the current administration does not think that we will let them get away with military action against Iran. Shakeri suggested that we all take time to contact our senators and representatives to tell them that we disagree with military action against Iran.

The church that hosted this event, the First Unitarian Church, will host a gathering if the U.S. takes military action against Iran. If it’s in the news that we have attacked Iran before 4 PM on a particular day, gather that evening in the church. If it is on the news after 4 PM, come to the church the next evening so that we can strategize a response and support each other.

The church member who announced this also expressed her wish that we might never have to do this. Let’s hope it’s so.

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