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Former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson dies

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Why refusing to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization keeps us out of war
By Patrick T. Hiller
A “Twitter-stamp” by Secretary of State Pompeo made it official. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC) is now designated as a foreign terrorist organization. “We must help the people of Iran get back their freedom is a diplomatic tweet of an alternative reality, ISIS, Boko Harman, and Iran, all in one place.
This move is not a measured foreign policy decision that should be up for debate between more diplomacy-minded versus more hawkish policy-makers. This move is a step toward war that should be condemned by all sides. Whether we like it or not, the IRGC is much more than a branch of the Iranian armed forces. It has also been a part of the Iranian governmental, industrial, economic, and social system ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution with now potentially 11 million affiliated people. Fact: Labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organiza-tion is dangerous and leads us on a path to war.
When we allow the IRGC to be viewed as a terrorist organization, we allow for the commonly known steps of dealing with terrorists to follow: Terrorists are not within our scope of morality. We don’t negotiate with them, we fight them, we destroy them until there aren’t any left. And since 9/11, the US has been in an end-less global war on terror (with changing names), fought by the US military on foreign soils.
Seriously and it bears grim repetition, the terrorist designation of the IRGC is a long step toward war with Iran.
By refusing to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization we are refusing to create an enemy image of Iranians as a whole. Holly Dagres, editor of the Atlantic Council’s IranSource blog, stated on the BBC Newshour that designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization is problematic because of the complexity of an entity with which 11 million out of 80 million people in Iran are to some extent affiliated with.
Making general claims about an entity and its affiliates as a terror organization suggests that we are threatened by “the other” and allows us to easier legitimize violence against “them.” That’s the nature of de-humanization and it is one of the most common forms of propaganda before and during warfare. Combining this psychology with the politics of a global war on terror is worse than unnecessary; it is a classic lose-lose slip that will cost us all.
Targeting the Revolutionary Guard is nothing new. In October 2017, the US Treasury already sanctioned the IRGC under terrorism authority and as Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative notes, this new designation as a terror organization is gratuitous and provocative. We are in an ex-tremely dangerous moment of the US-Iran conflict. Trump’s unwarranted pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and the additional sanctions already increased the tensions. This step is yet another escalation moving us closer to a war that the US should not risk and that has no upside.
Critics rightfully point to the role the IRGC’s reprehensible actions at home and abroad. They are indeed involved in human rights abuses against their own people as well as supporting violent conflict abroad. Des-ignating them as a terror organization, however, plays into their hands.
I’ve been to Iran. One thing that the highly educated Iranian people know for sure is that Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, and John Bolton don’t care about their freedom or suffering. Instead, this designation will more likely lead Iranians to rally around the flag against the American government which once again has shown it cannot be trusted. As Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif told our delegation, Iran’s biggest crime in relation to the US was its decision to be independent.
It is not necessary to get fully caught up in the highly complex conflicts of the Middle East and the US role in those to advocate for a different approach with Iran. For now, one thing we can to do prevent another war is to push back against the creation of enemy images for propaganda purposes. Iranian people have every right to determine their own path. The Revolutionary Guard, for better or for worse is part of it. Iranians have national pride that goes beyond the religious regime.
Iranians generally hold complex views, unhelped by the US government telling them what to believe. Mi-chael Axworthy, author of Revolutionary Iran, tells us that Iranians still regard the IRGC as heroes of the Iran-Iraq war and guarantors of independence, but also as repressive and corrupt. Iranians are highly edu-cated, proud, warm, and welcoming people who are very aware of their own government’s often bad behavior. The last thing they want is the help of the US to “get back their freedom.” I know, because I just returned from Iran where I was part of a citizen peace delegation.
The actions by the Trump administration are arguably an attack on Iran’s sovereignty and independence as a nation and will be seen that way. Iranians know their history and the role of outsiders in trying to de-termine their path for them. The best thing Americans can do for the freedoms of Iranian people is to prevent Trump, Pompeo and Bolton from their ham-handed meddling. The latter comes with war, and I have 80 mil-lion reasons there, and 328 million reasons here, not to go to war with the Iranian people.

By Gene Robinson

Kenneth A. Gibson, who became the first African American mayor of a major American city, died this past week at the age of 86. After decades of Italian political rule, Gibson fashioned a coalition of blacks and other groups to ascend to the mayor’s office in Newark, New Jersey in 1970. He served four historical terms, leaving office in 1986.

Gibson’s political ascension followed the tumultuous 1967 Race Riot that engulfed the city in flames for several days, as angry Blacks took to the streets to vent their frustration with the way they were treated in Newark. Within several weeks, riots broke out in other major U.S. cities, including Detroit, Cleveland, Atlanta, and many more. That ‘67 riot’s aftermath encouraged many Blacks to vote in the 1970 election, which took Gibson to power.

A native of Alabama, Gibson was an engineer by trade, and served in that capacity for both the New Jersey Highway Department and the Newark Housing Authority before he became mayor. He was considered such an astute political operative that many of today’s well known politicians, including New Jersey Senator and American presidential contender Cory Booker, have followed Gibson’s path and plans to elected office.

Gibson’s daughter is Joyce Bryan, a friend and former city commissioner in the South Florida City of Margate. When I spoke with Bryan prior to her leaving Florida for Gibson’s funeral this week, I told her that when I was an urban affairs consultant, I traveled to work on the problems of many cities, including Newark, and knew her Dad. When I told her that I am sure he was proud of her for following his footsteps into politics, she added, “He was my mentor, and guided my campaign for city commissioner from day one.”

Elaborate funeral arrangements included Gibson’s body Lying in State at the Newark City Hall on Thursday, April 4 for six hours, so that the residents of the city could see the man for the last time. Then, funeral services that evening were held at the spacious Newark Symphony Hall.

Rest In Peace Mayor Kenneth Gibson, and may GOD Bless You.

 

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