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An Iranian Dissident’s Experience Provides Lessons for Americans


Last Sunday, the New York Times carried an article about a 31-year-old Iranian dissident, Ahmad Batebi, who successfully escaped imprisonment in Iran, where he was being tortured. Making his way through Iraq and ultimately arriving in Washington, D.C., Batebi taunted his former captors with a photograph of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Batebi’s story has three important lessons for Americans:

1. Torture.

The brutal regime in Iran tortures people, just like the U.S. government does. Isn’t it a shame that our nation, which has historically stood against cruel and unusual punishments, now engages in the same wrongful conduct as brutal foreign regimes?

2. Immigration.

While U.S. immigration controls could have been used to prevent Batebi from entering the United States, U.S. officials decided to permit him to enter our country “out of concern for his safety.”

This brings to mind the original idea behind the open-borders policy of our American ancestors. The idea behind open borders was that if people were suffering tyranny, oppression, or starvation in their countries and if they could find a way to escape, there would always be at least one country — the United States — that would not force them to return. Thus, our American ancestors opposed sending U.S. military forces to “liberate” people with bombs, missiles, and troops, which they knew would inevitably kill and maim many innocent people. Instead, they simply provided a peaceful and moral outlet for people to escape their plight.

The repatriation phenomenon with respect to immigration was experienced in 1939, in what has become known as the Voyage of the Damned. On the eve of World War II, the SS St. Louis departed from Hamburg, Germany, carrying 937 Jews, who realized that this would probably be the last time they would be able to escape the clutches of Germany’s Nazi regime.

When the ship arrived in Cuba, the Cuban authorities refused to permit the passengers to disembark, even though many of them had family and friends waiting for them. Turning toward Miami Harbor, the passengers soon discovered that the same plight awaited them in the United States. Relying on their power to control the borders and being infected by the same anti-Semitism that was infecting officials in the Hitler regime, U.S. officials refused to permit the Jews to disembark.

The ship captain began heading back to Europe. At first, every other country followed the lead of Cuba and the United States. Thus, the ship captain had no choice but to begin returning to Germany, the nation in which his Jewish passengers were citizens. At the last minute, Britain, Belgium, France, and The Netherlands agreed to accept them. Unfortunately, many of the ones who ended up on the continent ended up losing their lives in German concentration camps. The experience is one of the most horrifying consequences of immigration controls.

3. Foreign Policy.

The third lesson has to do with U.S. governmental meddling in Iran. U.S. officials think that a U.S. regime-change operation would be welcomed by the Iranian people, just as they thought that they would be welcomed by the Iraqi people when they invaded Iraq for the purpose of regime change.

Batebi provides a good example of how foreigners feel about U.S. governmental meddling in their nation’s internal affairs — the same reaction, by the way, that many Americans would have if foreign regimes were meddling in American political affairs. Despite the fact that Batebi despises his own government (while loving his country), “he recoils when asked about the possibility of American military action against Iran, saying that if the United States attacked, ‘I might go back and fight for my country myself.’”

The Batebi experience provides a roadmap for the future direction of the United States:

(1) The American people should send the message to the people of the world that the beacon in the Statue of Liberty has been relit, enabling anyone suffering tyranny, oppression, and starvation to freely come to the United States without fear of being repatriated.

(2) The American people should rein in the federal government in overseas affairs by prohibiting it from meddling in the affairs of other countries, which by necessity would entail closing all U.S. military bases overseas and stopping the U.S. government’s policy of regime change in foreign countries.

(3) The American people should strive to restore our country to its rightful place in the world — a free and prosperous society. A good place to start would be a constitutional amendment stating, “U.S. officials are prohibited from inflicting cruel and unusual punishments … and this time we mean it.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.