Friday, January 09, 2004

Bam Casualty Figures and National Security

The State’s obsession with national security matters is nowadays one of the most central impediments-- using one of those way too worn out clichés--to the “march of liberty.” Freud, blasé as his thought might have become in certain circles, is nonetheless right in pointing out aggression as an indication of vulnerability and insecurity.

Behind the solid, secure façade of the central State, lies a decrepit, trembling scaffolding just begging to come down with a loud thump were it not for the constant propping ups it receives by the constant intrusions into the private sphere—intrusion caused by its (justified) anxiety and its (real) fears, apparent in the often (silly) preoccupations with the supposed “matters of internal security.” After all, how is it possible for the apparatchiks to know where to draw the line? Where does the “harmless” dissent end and real threats begin? It must be difficult to be discriminating when there is not much to hold on to!

Take the story of Sina Motallebi, who was incarcerated, abused, and ultimately forced into exile, all ostensibly because of a few entries he made on his weblog deemed a “threat” to—and yes you guessed it-- to the national security. I should add here parenthetically that thanks to Pedram’s blog which alerted me to this interview, I was also introduced to this interesting new blogger, as well as this sharp, savvy commentator who happens to write in Farsi.

Sina points out that the authorities intended to make an example of him. So, I get to thinking: who am I to really not take the authorities seriously! Indulge me if you will please: suppose that by some accident of fate, I happen to chance upon some reliable information. Understand that being Iranian, I have grown nauseated by our penchant for conspiracy theories and rumor mongering. So I have become somewhat skeptical of most things that pass as news about the way the Iranian Government conducts its affair.

But now, suppose that I somehow chanced upon the content of the latest memo released on Thursday by a certain Ministry that by appellation deals with information, but quite naturally is in the security business-- if you know what I mean. Can I write here that the actual casualty figure the said Ministry put forth for the Quake in Bam is about 75,000 dead and around 25-30000 missing—thus putting the official toll roughly at 105000.

Will there be anyone more connected able to pursue the matter and authenticate this figure? Why would the release of this item be against our national security and not something the public at large should know about? Why would a government be threatened by Sina and not the hundreds or thousands who failed to acknowledge warning signs of a looming earthquake? Or the countless who ignored the building codes? Why not be threatened by the multitude of the negligent and the criminal—those callous individuals responsible for the agonizing death of thousands of our fellow citizens who perished in just a few seconds much like the falling autumn leaves?

Why would the considerations of national security prevent the officials of this government from publicly admitting what the Public Safety Officers told the participants in a Tehran Mayor’s office meeting this week: that there were so many cases of Bam aids trucks being diverted to profiteers elsewhere that there are now armed escorts accompanying the trucks? Why would the news of the robbery of jewelry and other personal items off the bodies of the victims not be widely circulated on the account of national security?
Is this nation not threatened more by the deterioration of the character so easily observable by anyone who so much as passes around here for a fortnight? What sort of a society has citizens on the one hand who pour en masse to offer prayer, personal items, money and their blood to aid victims of a nasty quake, while on the other hand, countless thugs simply wait for a disaster to steel, to rob, and to defile the bodies of the fallen-- raping the woman, stealing the children, and profiting from the misfortune of others? I ask you: is not the character of our nation the ultimate source of its security?

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