Wedged between emotional accounts of their imprisonment and gratitude toward friends, family and campaign leaders in a press conference just hours after landing in New York, hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer surprised many when they pinned blame on American policies.
"From the very start, the only reason we have been held hostage is because we are American," Fattal said at the opening of his talk, often repeating this point. "Iran has always tied our case to its political disputes with the U.S."
And that very well may have been the case. They were political pawns. They may have been used for political bait or a prisoners’ swap, as is often the case, and particularly a pattern we have often seen in the three decade rule of the Mullahs in Iran.
To fault American policies for their more than two year imprisonment in the hands of the Iranian regime, however, is completely unjustified.
The hikers didn’t see their imprisonment as a unilateral offense on the part of the Iranian regime that often incarcerates those with dissenting political, religious, cultural and even social practices.
After 781 days at Evin Prison, it is completely audacious for the hikers to point any fingers at the U.S. and to still see the evils of the Iranian regime as only relative to the crimes of this nation or any other. This is the same naïve mindset that possessed them to go hiking in that area in the first place, something that they still have yet to address. It’s a refusal to believe that evil exists and that fundamentalist ideology wants death and destruction for the West.
The irony of it all, Bauer said, "is that Sarah, Josh and I oppose U.S. policies towards Iran which perpetuate this hostility." The comment received a nod from third hiker Sarah Shroud who was released last year.
They find irony in the fact that since their political ideologies differ with those of the U.S. then they did not deserve to be imprisoned. Does that mean that perhaps someone who does agree with U.S. foreign policy then, does? Or are they merely using their five minutes of fame, and their first public appearance, to make political statements against the democracy in which they live?
The only irony here is that they are making these allegations against a country that actually gives them the podium to make these political critiques.
The point that the three completely miss is that their lives were saved precisely for the fact that they are American. Had they been Iranian, they would have stood the probable chance to be executed like the many innocent natives who are put to death every year, some just for attending a protest, others for their sexual orientation or religious beliefs. And while they speak about the brutality in Evin Prison, hearing the “screams of the other prisoners being beaten” and even having “experienced a taste of the Iranian regime’s brutality” themselves, they fail to connect their own fate to the fortune that spared their lives.
Specifically, the hikers wanted to emphasize the issue of Gitmo and the CIA’s track record against criminals, alleging that every time they complained about being hit, tortured or put in solitary confinement, the guards would remind them about the conditions at Guantanamo Bay and the CIA prisons in other parts of the world.
On the one hand they believe they were innocent, apprehended solely because of their nationality, on the other, they are comparing their imprisonment with the treatment of criminals, the perpetrators of heinous crimes, at Gitmo.
This is the same moral equivalency argument that we’ve heard before from leftists and anti-war proponents. Their argument is that the Iranian regime is evil, but so are we. Yet this argument is deeply flawed. I don’t ever recall our government imprisoning hikers on the Canadian border accusing them of espionage.
It is this sophomoric perspective that our administration has employed in dealing with the Iranian threat. In six to eight months, Iran will be ready to deliver a nuclear weapon. They have all the necessary parts and already have 1000 missiles pointed at the U.S., Israel and various cities throughout Europe. They have been extremely clear about their hatred for the U.S. and Israel, or the Big Satan and Little Satan. Yet, our administration still believes it can negotiate with such extremists.
Instead of acknowledging the ideological differences between the Iranian regime and others, our administration has ignorantly believed that through diplomacy, it can assuage the Iranian threat. The only result has been a delay in any negotiations and an extension for the Iranian regime to play out the clock and realize its ultimate goal of becoming a nuclear power.
A nuclear weapon alone is not to be feared, however. After all, surrounding neighbors India, Pakistan, Israel and China all possess weapons. A bomb only becomes a threat when you have a government head extreme enough to push the button.
Iran has been overtly substantiating itself as the number one exporter of hatred, be it through the funding of Hezbollah, the supporting of the insurgency in Afghanistan, supplying and training the Syrians against the opposition, or establishing and maintaining strong ties with Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Both against its own people and through proxy terror groups, Iran has been vocal in expressing its global agenda in spreading Sharia law and terrorism.
The most important question then is why don’t we believe them?
To get the whole story on why leftists reach out in solidarity to America's totalitarian enemies, get Jamie Glazov’s critically-acclaimed book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.