Hard versus less hard

It is a persistent problem for the West that the hard-liners are opposed by the less-hard-liners. Even Obama has suggested that

there may not be much difference between Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Mousavi,

an unfortunate but understandable misstep.

Sometimes the choice seems to be between the hardhardhardliners and the hardhardhardhardliners. Or to sustain the psychiatric theme, these survivors from a theological Stone Age are in such a brittle, delicate state that they must be wrapped up and insulated as far as possible from reality, so that the shock doesn’t kill them or cause some security-shattering disintegration.

The roll-call of evil

Iran is desperately seeking to take its place among the Khmer Rouge, the Russia of Stalin’s purges, North Korea’s theatre of hysteria, China’s cultural revolution and Cuba’s penal extravaganza. Even President-for-Life Hugo Chavez seems keen to get on the same blacklist as his friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, otherwise known as Pinocchio (see the cartoonist below) for the number of lies he tells.

Ahmadinejad as Pinocchio 2

There is no point in opposing military force with street demonstrations. The enemy is not to be killed with his own bullets. It is thought that the Ahmadinejad regime has half a million security personnel and 125,000 Revolutionary Guard. This is a fascist-style militarised society. The Guard run perhaps half the economy also, a state within a state.

A flowering of art

That is why Iranians within and outside Iran are turning to poetry, song and cultural comment, especially cartoons, in what is like a flowering of art in the face of tyranny. Prominent among the cartoonists is Mana Neyestan, whose works are always acerbic and penetrating, sometimes free-floating and loaded with cultural context, mostly surreal. This is her cartoon about the triumph of soft power.Boot and foot

Today it is reported that a mighty mullah has called for the execution of all the protestors. This should produce a corpse-pile of 30 million Iranians of all social classes and ages. What a triumph for revolutionary orthodoxy this would be. A warning to those who would make war against God!

A snapshot the world has seen

No, the opposition’s weapons are not of this kind. Their triumph is the exhibition of conscience, the detection of lies, the elevation of the joke, the capture of sensibility in a poem, the glimpse of normality, the unanimity of silent protest, and above all the sacrifice of innocent life. In less than a fortnight, starved of all normal media, these brave men and women have indelibly communicated to the world a snapshot of the regime, like something taken of a naked man by flash at night, exposing the illegitimate nature of a military dictatorship.

Their work is done. They can sit back and watch the consequences roll on, as a vicious dictatorship, weakened by exposure, lashes out and adds to its political errors. History, as Obama rightly says, is on their side. They hold all the cards. Whenever it is needed, a joke, cartoon or poem will again cause the forces of evil to cower and retreat. Thirty million people in indignant unity are irresistible. They too have been seen in the snapshot, silently suffering in their prison cell, as virtuous in the oppression of their humanity as their captors are false in oppressing it.