The Associated Press description of the insurrection in Tehran on Sunday, June 14 provided an account of how opposition leader Mr. Mousavi’s newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, was printed but never disseminated on Sunday morning. The government of Mr. Ahmadinejad was disgruntled over some of the charges being made in the paper, so authorities arrived at the printing offices and confiscated the papers. When asked about this turn of events, Mr. Ahmadinejad responded: “Don’t worry about freedom in Iran.”
When elections are stolen, the press is silenced, and political opponents are imprisoned, we better worry about “freedom” in Iran.
In light of these recent developments following the counterfeit election in Iran, and as we watch video of protesters demanding a genuine election, it is a good time for us to return to our own claim to the right of independence, which is the basis of free and legitimate electoral politics.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson penned his famous lines concerning our rights as found in nature. He described the timing and decision of the assembled members in 1776 “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” Oftentimes these first few lines of the Declaration are overlooked in favor of the more famous lines of the second paragraph. But the assertion made by Jefferson should not be overlooked, as the description of the “Laws of Nature” as prescribed by God is the essence of law.
William Blackstone wrote in the late 1760’s his Commentaries on the Laws of England. In the section entitled “Of the Nature of Laws in General,” Blackstone wrote:
Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being… And consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker’s will.
Law then, in order to be right, must be consistent with the natural order established by God. Failing this, the laws and the government that implements the faulty laws are illegitimate. Law must conform to the “maker’s will” in order for them to gain their legitimacy. In 1776, the key point that the founders were confronting was the “divine right of kings” and the underlying assumption that “might makes right.” History up to this point had shown that the authority of the king ultimately relied on his might. History has also shown us too often that might does not, in fact, equal right. Clearly in Iran today, just as in the American colonies of 1776, might is not right.
Let’s now return to the second paragraph of the Declaration, where Jefferson defines the nature and purpose of government:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Government does not give us rights, for rights have already been given to us by God. The purpose of man entering into civil society is that these God-given rights might be more secure. Clearly the theocracy of Iran is inconsistent with the God-given rights of man. Jefferson and our founders concluded that when the government fails to secure these God-given rights, the people are fully within their rights to overthrow the illegitimate government.
Freedom is God-given. Mr. Ahmadinejad and his tyrannical government have and continue to deny this freedom. He and his government are illegitimate.
Finally, Jefferson gives those seeking the establishment or restoration of their God-given rights a warning concerning prudence.
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Jefferson’s concern is on two points: the length of suffering a people must endure as well as the likelihood of success. Freedom loving people in Iran need, of course, consider whether a revolution is, in fact, timely in light of this concern. The people of Iran might, in fact, conclude that the timing is not right for revolution. What they need not fret is over the legitimacy of their demand for liberty:
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Despite Mr. Ahmadinejad’s attempt to deflect, we need to be worried about freedom in Iran. And Mr. Ahmadinejad should himself be worried.