President Bush’s support for Iranian student protesters reminds me of something a Russian friend said to me many years ago, during the Soviet era: “You Americans are an odd people. You love our dissidents, but you don’t like your own dissidents. You should support your local dissidents, too.”
Don’t get me wrong. I think Americans should support Iran’s student movement–while understanding that fundamental reform must come about peacefully, indigenously and without US interference. But I’d like to see a little respect for our own dissidents too.
On February 15th, when more than two million Americans protested the Administration’s rush to war in Iraq, Bush contemptuously dismissed them as a “focus group.” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer added that “Often the message of the protesters is contradicted by history.” Millions of Americans who have opposed corporate globalization have been treated with even more derision.
The other day Bush said, “I would urge the Iranian administration to treat [the protesters] with the utmost of respect.” Okay, but how about treating your own dissidents with some respect, Mr. President?