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The Day I Met Paul Wolfowitz—and Why I Wish He Would Take up the “No Comment” Approach to Iran

June 22, 2009

Yes friends, substitute Bush for me and substitute the background to that of AEI–that was me

Paul Wolfowitz wrote an op-edentitled “No Comment is Not an Option” protesting the Obama administration’s “no comment” response to the election unrest in Iran. As Christopher Preble from the CATO Institute points out in his brilliant commentary here, Obama did condemn the brutal crackdown of Iran’s government. I think the Obama administration response to Iran has been very astute and shows consideration of the fact that statements from policymakers in the U.S. could endanger the lives of protesters in Iran. I only hope that Paul Wolfowitz would one day take such considerations in mind and opt for the “no comment” approach—the LAST thing Iranian protesters risking their lives on the street need is the endorsement of one of the champion cheerleaders for invading Iran.

Last year I attended a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute to hear Doug Feith wax eloquently about the tremendous success of the war in Iraq. He admitted there had been “some mistakes” in the planning, and I had to wonder whether he was still bitter that the U.S. didn’t invade South America instead of Iraq after 9/11, an idea that Feith recommended would be “a surprise to the terrorists” since everyone was expecting that invade Afghanistan and possibly other places in the Middle East. (A kind of logic that makes you wonder whether his next step would be bombing the polar ice caps–which would be an even greater surprise to Al Qaeda if they happen to be climate change deniers.)

I actually shook hands with the guy—yes one of the perks for all you prospective FCNL program assistants. I also stood within inches of Richard Perle, the man who, merely weeks after invading Iraq, proposed that we threaten destruction of Iran and Syria as countries that harbor terrorism. (Making the analysis that all the U.S. has to do is threaten them with wholesale destruction, after which of course Iran and Syria and other countries that “harbor terrorists” will submit peacefully to the demands of the U.S.

I even had a brief conversation with Paul Wolfowitz about Iran. I asked him what he thought about the memorandum from Iran in May 2003 proposing comprehensive negotiations with the U.S.—which would include laying out on the negotiating table a deal where Iran promises full transparency and safeguards on its nuclear program and cooperate in a myriad of ways in regional security issues in exchange for normalized relations with the U.S. He said that he had heard about that—but wasn’t sure if it was authentic. Below is more of what I can remember from the convo:

Kate to Paul Wolfowitz: But if you could be convinced that it was true, that the U.S. could negotiate with Iran and ensure complete transparency on its nuclear program, then there would be no reason to threaten a military attack right? That’s our major problem with Iran, the reason why the U.S. hates them right?

[Note: I very much regret this choice of words—I was not thinking clearly, as this was one of the most surreal moments of my life. It seems I also get extraordinarily nervous in front of people who I believe should be tried as war criminals]

Paul Wolfowitz: No, that’s not why we hate them.

Kate: Well, that’s the major dispute—I mean that’s why we might bomb Iran….

Paul Wolfowitz: No, no, we hate them because they hang homosexuals.

Whoah—so there you have it. The secret Bush agenda was really about instigating a global gay liberation movement. I guess this was one of the issues that like other freedoms the Bush administration supported the strategy was to limit such freedoms domestically and purport to expand them abroad…through various tactics of militant belligerency.

On a more serious note, bombing Iran to bring about equal rights for LGBT people is absolutely absurd.

Protesters in Iran are struggling to convince their government and the wider Iranian public that their movement for change is genuinely Iranian, rather than supported by the U.S. and other countries that are working (as they have before) to overthrow their government.

My message to Paul at the next AEI discussion: You mischaracterized President Obama’s response to the turmoil in Iran, as his response was a strident criticism of the crackdown on protesters in the street.

“No comment” is an option–an especially smart option if you happen to have taken the lead in pressing for an attack on Iran. That doesn’t give you a lot of legitimacy, but more importantly, such endorsements run the risk of endangering the lives of these protesters who are working hard to prove they are NOT affiliated with the Paul Wolfowitz’s of the world.

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