I gave this letter to DNC Chair Candidate Sam Ronan to give to every DNC candidate. He has promised me that he will deliver it. I am also emailing it to their campaigns.
My name is Bijan Nader Sharifi, I am a former U.S. Army infantryman, first generation Iranian-American, and currently I teach high school art in a juvenile correctional facility. I have been concerned with U.S. policy in the Middle East since my time serving in the Army. I remember watching the events of Sep 11th, 2001 in our company training room on a small television surrounded by 150 other soldiers. We immediately knew after the second plane hit that there would be a war. I remember the conflicted feelings of shame and ethnic pride hitting me in the gut when my platoon sergeant thought out loud “that it was probably the Iranians”. I was relieved to find out that Iran had nothing to do with the attack and that there was a spontaneous candlelight vigil in Tehran that night. Soldiers in my unit unfortunately did not recognize the difference between Arabs and Persians and had not heard of the candlelight vigils all over the Middle East.
I am fortunate that I am white passing and could hide my ethnicity as I saw fit when confronted with Islamophobia and racism towards Middle Eastern people. I am also ashamed at myself for using that to avoid harassment or worse during those uneasy days. Other middle eastern people did not have that privilege. That type of test in morality stays with a person for a long time. Yet even though I feel shame for taking advantage of white supremacy culture for personal security, I have watched with more shame in my heart for the actions my home country has taken under republican and democratic direction. I learned something about staying true to my moral principles in the months after 9/11. It appears to me that our country still has not learned the same lessons 16 years later.
First off, this is not a letter about Republicans. I don’t blame Republicans for how they are. They are not honest, or have moral convictions of any sort other than greed and power. I accept that, and I accept there will always be people like that. I’m not concerned with them, the truth always, one way or another, eventually wins.
I do blame Democrats for empowering and enabling the worst of their policies with at best, mealy mouthed opposition and at worst, obfuscated collusion. The Democrats sell themselves as the party of facts, logic, and social justice. If justice IS their watchword, then I have every right to hold them to the highest moral standard. I am also justified in my resentment every time they betray that watchword and fail to meet their self-professed standards.
I can’t speak for the millions of other Americans that voted for candidate Obama in 2008, but I voted for him over Clinton to end the wars in the Middle East and stop the erosion of civil liberties here at home. In 2008, As far as I was concerned, Clinton was onboard with the establishment war agenda, but candidate Obama promised us something different after 8 years of George W Bush: he promised us hope.
Instead, President Obama expanded Bush’s wars and bombing, from 2 countries to 7. He also expanded the surveillance state and then handed it over to a human clown shoe and fascist; Donald Trump. Thanks Obama.
For me the hope that President Obama represented, was a hope for an end to the wars and American perpetrated violence in the Middle East. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that bombing for peace is stupid, and will never work. Yet here we are, 16 years later and we dropped 26,000 bombs on Syria alone last year. In Yemen we have been helping Saudi Arabia bomb life sustaining food production, hospitals, and water infrastructure. One child dies from acute malnutrition, diarrhea, and dehydration every 10 minutes. Those are war crimes, and America is helping commit them. We are helping with $29 billion dollar arms deals and other military support. There is no good reason for this to be happening and America should not be taking part. We are supposedly a better country than that. If you have any political power and have been too afraid to speak out against these atrocities, I hope you feel ashamed of yourself. If this truly is a secular country under GOD, we must consider the words of Christ found: “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
Violence begets violence. And If you don’t listen to that little voice inside your head that whispers that the war on terror is imperialism posing as security, you have lost the courage to face the truth.
Here’s a truth every Democrat can agree on: trump is a corrupt fascist. But, his fascism is a symptom of a much deadlier disease: systemic political corruption and permanent war. When Democrats/liberals focus on the insane actions of trump, they are focusing on the wasp stinging the tip of their nose and missing that their entire field of vision has been taken over by a rabid grizzly bear charging towards them. Let’s dismantle our American Empire before it collapses global stability worse than Rome. Trumps sad presidency is the spiritual price America has paid for its moral failings in prosecuting the war on terror and facing its inner demons by eliminating political corruption/war profiteering.
What does America even manufacture anymore? Software and Warfare?
Further, what is worse: banning innocent people, or bombing innocent people? You may say that the two issues are not correlated, but I am arguing that they are. Trump draws his power from the fear both parties have fostered about terrorism. He can call for bombing the families of terrorists because Obama has bombed entire wedding parties out of existence. He can call for torturing suspected terrorists only because Obama failed to bring the torturers to justice. How are we to fight the corruption and bigotry of trump when democrats themselves are guilty as well?
Trump has been empowered by the actions of Obama. The national conversation about the war on terror empowers trump to demonize Muslims and middle eastern people because we have already been dehumanized by democrats foreign policy. Bigotry is saying people from 7 Middle Eastern countries cannot come into the United States. Bigotry is also saying that Americans descended from 7 countries have a different visa process than other Americans. Bigotry is also saying that any Middle Eastern military age male is a justified kill in a drone strike. Bigotry is a universal injustice, and so is hypocrisy. If we are for justice, our justice should lead to peace. Hypocrisy will not defeat bigotry, we must hold ourselves to the high standards of social justice and peace we claim to have.
Hypocrisy will not defeat the war on terror. Every time we denounce al Qaeda, or ISIS, people across the world wonder if we are really against terrorism then why did we take the MEK off of the terrorist watch list? Why we sold Saddam Hussein the gas that he used on Kurds and Iranians? Supported right wing death squads across Latin America? Why America ousted the democratically elected president of Iran and installed a dictator? We funded the same people to fight the Russians in Afghanistan that ended up attacking us on 9/11. When a lone wolf terrorist inspired by ISIS shoots up a club full of Americans, we grieve for their loss. Do the people that have family unjustly killed by our actions grieve in the same way we do? Or do they write it off as the cost of a so-called “just” war like Americans do?
We need to take the moral ammunition away from our enemies by taking the first step to recovery and admitting we have a hypocrisy problem. The next step is advocating for policies that create stability for the United States, our allies, rational actors that are NOT our allies, and the world overall. The third step is to work with every rational actor ally or not, to end the activities of those still committed to terrorism with an internationally sponsored investigation and police action. If an investigation leads to those we consider allies, members of our own countries, or communities, no matter how elite, we must have the moral conviction and boldness to go where justice demands.
I heard DNC candidates speak on the interconnectedness of racism, sexism, and classism. If they are not to deny the interconnectedness of these topics that they speak of, let them speak on how foreign policy under democratic leadership has allowed this climate of fear to fester in the minds of the public against people of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims.
I appreciate the thousands of people that protested at airports and marched against trump. I applaud their courage to stand for their convictions and march in solidarity with people targeted under the ban. I’m asking the protesters to consider why so many people are coming from the Middle East into the West? What part do our actions have in them fleeing their homes? Please reflect on if those actions were just, and if you are really standing in solidarity with the banned if you support those actions? And, if you do support how America has prosecuted the war on terror up to this point, are you empowering those you claim to be standing in solidarity with, or are you exploiting them for partisan reasons?
If the policies of the democrats do not reflect social justice (which is interconnected with peace), then what does that make the rhetoric of politicians that support those policies yet speak against the ban? Is it still social justice because it fights one injustice? or is it just identity politics, focused on only one injustice while ignoring the greater context of a larger injustice?
If social justice empowers those that are oppressed; identity politics exploit the oppressed and benefit the perpetrators of injustice. Is it really crazy to ban innocent people but, totally fine to bomb them? How can anyone not feel exploited by that contradiction?
America needs a peace movement to recover its soul, to defeat trump, and become great again. I hope that the Democratic Party becomes a vehicle for that movement one day.
Bijan Nader Sharifi