How oceans of blood were shed by both sides in the Iran-Iraq War — a war of aggression waged by Saddam Hussein and Iraq (with American support) against Iran.
How invasion is nothing new for this mighty and historic nation. (When I visited the surprisingly humble National Museum of Archaeology in Tehran, the curator apologized, explaining that the art treasures of his country were scattered in museums throughout Europe and the West.)
How an elderly, aristocratic Iranian woman had crossed the street to look me in the eye and tell me, “We are proud, we are united, and we are strong. When you go home, please tell your people the truth.”
How, with a reckless military action, this society could be set ablaze and radicalized. The uniquely Persian mix of delightful shops, university students with lofty career aspirations, gorgeous young adults with groomed eyebrows and perfect nose jobs, hope, progress, hard work, and the gentle people I encountered here in Iran could so easily and quickly be turned into a fiery hell of dysfunctional cities, torn-apart families, wailing mothers, newly empowered clerics, and radicalized people.
My visit to the cemetery drove home a feeling that had been percolating throughout my trip. There are many things that Americans justifiably find outrageous about the Iranian government — from supporting Hezbollah, financing Iraqi resistance to the US occupation there, and making threats against Israel; to oppressing women and gay people; to asserting their right to join the world's nuclear club. And yet, no matter how strongly we want to see our demands met by Iran, we must pursue that aim carefully. What if our saber-rattling doesn't coerce this country into compliance? In the past, other powerful nations have underestimated Iran's willingness to be pulverized in a war...and both Iran and their enemies have paid the price.
I have to believe that smart and determined diplomacy can keep the Iranians — and us — from having to build giant new cemeteries for the next generation's war dead. That doesn't mean “giving in” to Iran...it means acknowledging that war is a failure and inspiring us to find an alternative.
About This Entry
You are reading "War and Peace", an entry posted on 14 April 2010 by Rick Steves.