Persepolis author, Marjane Satrapi, says:

The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you.

And our governments are very much the same.

(Via Peter Manchester on Facebook)


  1. It’s a shame that this has degraded into a debate about which country or political system is more evil than another. Everybody has become hung up on the last part of Satrapi’s quotation: “And our governments are very much the same.” Only in a very limited, narrow sense is that true – comparing Abu Ghraib with hanging gays is truly apples and oranges – but as apples and oranges DO compare, so do the points brought up on both sides of the debate – governments are capable of violating basic human rights. This, I believe, is Satrapi’s point.

    It’s the first part of her quote that is important, which I took to mean that all people, everywhere, desire what has been set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    If you haven’t read this, please do so. This is what Satrapi is trying to say about people of any nationality, and it is governments that so often trample the basic needs of human beings everywhere, whether justified in their own minds by the worship of profit or the worship of prophet.

    Please read Satrapi’s excellent graphic novel, Persepolis, which shows the impact of history on one child growing up in revolutionary Iran. My students here in the United States found it very illuminating – it is long on humanity and short on the kind of reactionary political elbowing.

  2. We are indeed more alike that government and we see now how governments are resistant to changes that would keep us from sharing our experiences in a manner that leads to greater understanding. For years, I have wondered how the West differs from the East. I have gotten as far East as Lagos, Nigeria but I look to go further in the future. I do not see a great difference in people with the exception of how much government they are willing to tolerate.

    Surely, government is a social necessity, but this Internet seems to be breaking down the need for such barriers as militaries and nuclear deterrence. It is difficult to believe that some if not most Americans do not perceive themselves imperialistic or dictatorial people. As an American, I can attest t the fact that it isn’t a widely held self-opinion. My international travels have presented me with the opportunity to see for myself, and I do not believe that we are the cause of the world’s problems either.

    This is where people differ. We will either support our governments because it is the practical alternative or protest our governments because we believe we can influence an alternative administration of the interactions between ourslves and our neighbors, irrespective of borders.

  3. And I should also add that when your advice was followed, the US staying out of it, the result was what we have just allowed to happen in Darfur. As before that, in Rwanda. And before that, in Sudan again. Etc, etc.

    When it comes to politics, get off your moral pedestal.

    1. …:

      I’m not a communist, though I tend to be left of centre. In my youth I was to the left of the Communist Party. In some sense, I was an extremist. Now I’m older and wiser. I’ve seen too much dishonesty and downright depravity on both extremes of the political spectrum to be anything but a moderate (not that the centre does not have its fair share of dishonesty and depravity too: I’m not with the social democrats either).

      Much of what you’ve said is true: no self-designated communist regime has so far been successful. But I would tend to agree with Maryam in the sense that in fact there has never been a communist regime as Marx envisioned it, but only state-capitalist ones. I also agree with you that those regimes have been guilty of some of the worst atrocities the world has seen: the holocaust pales by comparison to what Stalin did in the Soviet Union, Mao in China, etc.

      But you seem to be living in a bubble. Somehow your government has managed to convice you that the American way is the best way (no mean achievement, considering that from your writing I can tell you are an educated and thoughtful person).

      I’ll tell you some facts for you to ponder. I’m not in any way an enemy of the USA: I cannot judge 300 million people from the actions of their government. I just want you to release yourself from the grip of propaganda.

      1. 1954, Guatemala. American bombers contribute to overthrouw a government whose only sin had been to attempt an agrarian reform. Nobody could have called Arbenz’s government “communist”. He was simply tring to overcome the worst social injustices. Net result: 161,500 dead, 40,000 disappeared, to protect the interests of landowners. Today, thanks to the USA, 62.5% of the land is in the hands of 1.5% of landowners.

      2. In 1961, Ernesto Guevara (aka “Che” Guevara)tried to reach an agreement with the US government. Fearing an inminent invasion, the Cubans offered to sever links with Moscow and stop their attempts to spread the revolution to other Latin American countries. Kennedy refused, fearing that such an agreement could be interpreted as a “communist victory”, and thus threw Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union. What else could they do? A tiny island just off the Gulf of Mexico could not defend itself against the American war machine.

      3. 1966, Dominican Republic. President Johnson sends troops to overthrow the government of Juan Bosch, deemed by the White House to be “far too leftist” for their taste. A puppet government was installed, led by Joaquín Balaguer, respinsible for eight years of massacres and repression.

      4. 1982. Following a tour through Central America, Ronald Reagan told the journalist: “This may surprise you, but in fact they are all different countries!”

      5. 1970. Memo from president Nixon: “President Nixon has determined that Allende’s regime in Chile is unacceptable to the United States”.

      6. The “School of the Americas”, a military training compound set up by the US Defence Department, counts amongst its graduates the following people:
      – General Galtieri, head of the Argentine Military Junta which was ousted only because they lost the Falklands war againsr Britain
      – Manuel Callejas, chief Intelligence Officer of Guatemala during the years of the worst massacres
      – Roberto d’Abuisson, head of El Salvador’s death squads
      – 100 out of 246 Colombian army officers processed in 1993 for war crimes
      – 17 of the 20 members of a death squad that massacred a group of Jesuist priests in El Salvador, 1989.

      7. Since 1989, Latin American regimes supported by the US have been responsible for the deaths of over 2,500 trade union leaders.

      8. 1976, Chile. Henry Kissinger, during an official state visit to my country, declared: “The United States will not cause the Chilean government any unnecessary difficulties in their cleaning operations. The sooner they are done, the better”.

      9. In 2005, arm sales by the US reached 12 billion dollars. In 2010, they had risen to 32 billion dollars.

      Don’t be fooled by the American dream. That’s just anothe opiate of the masses. The US government is responsible, through its foreign policy and economic subsidies, for more deaths than Genghis Khan, Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot put together.

      Everything I’ve stated in this post is publicly available information. You just have to care enough to look for it.

    2. Oh, and by the way, why did the US not intervene in Rwanda and Darfur? Could it be because there were no economic benefits to be reaped?

      1. Oh, and by the way, why did the US not intervene in Rwanda and Darfur

        Excuse me? Did you perhaps forget who it was who yelled and screamed against US unilateralism? Who demanded everything be routed through the UN?

        The US government is responsible, through its foreign policy and economic subsidies, for more deaths than Genghis Khan, Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot put together.

        Never mind. You’re a mendacious moron. Got it.

        1. No, I’m not. You should be better informed about your own country. For a start, find out how many Africans lost their lives as a result of the slave trade in their native land, during the horrendous trip and in the plantations. Find out which companies monopolized the banana trade in Central America, condemning local pesants to starvation. Find out how many people have died in Colombia and Bolivia because of the US so called “war on drugs”: since they cannot control drug trafficking within the US, because the drug cartels have the police under their thumbs, the US government exports a war it can’t win. Find out how many people died in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Indonesia, etc. at the hands of US-sponsored tyrants. Find out how many people already oppressed by Saddam Hussein died as a result of US-imposed economic sanctions against Iraq. Find out how many people died in Lybia when American missiles wiped out their main pharmaceutical plant because they assumed (wrongly, as it turns out) that it was a secret weapons factory.

          I’m not even counting the 246,000 civilian deaths caused by the US atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nakasaki. And don’t give me silly excuses for that atrocity: any monster worth his/her salt will find arguments to justify atrocities.

          This is all, as I said, public information. If you don’t want to take the trouble of finding it, at least read Chomsky, for fuck’s sake. Don’t be a gullible instrument in the hands of whomever actually runs your country. It is not the people, by the way: the US have another unenviable record, that of having the largest proportion of assassinated presidents of any Western country. You still don’t know who killed John and Robert Kennedy, yet you keep pretending to live in a democracy. I pity you.

          1. To moral and mental pygmy who has managed to annoy me:

            Here’s who your idol Chomsky defends: Mao TseTsung, killed about, 70-80 million people. The Soviet Union (30-50 million). A denialist of both the genocides of the Khmer Rouge and of Milosevic.

            So, as long as people like me are hated by Chomsky’s secondary tumours, we may relax, safe in the knowledge that we are morally unassailable.

        2. Oh, I almost forgot.
          Since when has the US paid any attention to UN policies (or country’s, for that matter)? They’ve flouted every UN agreement on global warming, for example, yet you argued this was the reason why they did not intervene in Darfour. That’s beyond naivety and gullibility: we are entering the realm of mendaciousness, which you so lightly attributed to me.

    3. Oh, and a second by the way: given that most of the terrorists that flew the planes on 9/11 were Saudis, why did the US invade Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia? Could it have something to do wirh economic links between the Saudi and the American oligarchies?

  4. Really? The American government is hanging gays, legalising rape (child and other), financing suicide murderers, legalising rape and all the rest of it?

    I have no love for the US government, but to pretend that it and the Iranian are identical is insane.

    Moreover, the suggestion that both peoples are the same is questionable. The Ayatollah Khomeni was cheered by millions, and the decision for Iran to become an Islamic state – one where the Shariah was dominant – was ratified by popular referendum. As much of a pain in the arse as the christian right is, I do not think that you’d get such support for the introduction of the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the states. Imagine a referendum on the idea that, say, it was considered a good idea to kill someone for working on a Sunday. I doubt you’d get much support. Or how many yankees do you think would happily volunteer their children to act as human minesweepers?

    I’m an internationalist. I will always stand in solidarity with those in Iran trying to achieve a free, secular, Enlightenment society. That does not require rose-tinted goggles; in fact, it mandates against them.

    1. I sympathise with you to some extent. I would, neverthless, take into account the following facts:

      1. The USA is determined to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear power. Yet so far the US are the only country that has ever used a nuclear device against a civilian population.

      2. Several democratically elected governments have been toppled by US intervention in many countries, including my own (Chile). The subsequent bloodbath did not to seem to trouble Americans one bit.

      3. The US are the only country I know of that has presented arguments in favour of torture. Yes, I know, everybody does it, but most have at least the good taste not to try to justify it; they merely deny the charges.

      4. The US were the last Western country to abolish slavery, and it took a civil war to achieve that.

      5. The US have a disproportionate percentage of their population in jail. 5 to 7 times as much as European countries

      6. A large part of Muslim immigration to America and Europe can be accounted for by the US Government policy of subsidies to US producers, cotton being a prime example.

      In summary, you can enjoy your freedom as long as you are a US citizen. If you happen to live in a place the US considers strategic, good luck.

      1. I’m hardly an apologist for American foreign policy; I disagree with you about the use of atomic weapons in WWII, and I think that most people don’t really understand what kind of an enemy Imperial Japan was, but I am in no sense an apologist for American foreign policy. I think a great deal of it looks exactly like what you’d get if, say, it was strongly influenced by an intelligence agency staffed with mercenary former Nazis (google Reinhard Gehlen). That’s only just begin to change, and it’s been very hard to get that far.

        However, the key test of a country isn’t how it treats the enemy in wartime. It’s how it treats its own the rest of the time. There’s not a country on earth that I think would not be immensely improved if it had the First Amendment as the highest rule in the land, nor do I think that any other answer but federalism and separation of powers has been found when it comes to actually guaranteeing liberty. Nelson Mandela is extremely complimentary of both the American constitution and the founders, which is very nice, considering it was the bloody CIA who told the Apartheid government where he was hiding.

    2. Do I really need to list US-led militarism’s deeds? It may not be hanging gays in city centres but it has also created havoc across the world. Here’s something I had written about it a while back:

      I know that peace in the 21st century can often be difficult to envision especially when we – our lives, our rights, our children, cities, schools and homes – are caught in the crossfire in a war of terrorists.

      It is crucial for any successful discussion around visions of peace for the 21st century to look at the USA’s adverse role in today’s post-Cold War world. Iraq is a model for what the USA represents for the 21st century – insecurity, disorder, poverty and hunger, mass unemployment, destruction, carnage… No claims of weapons of mass destruction, liberation from dictatorship, a defence of rights and a war on terror can conceal its real nature. In Iraq, it is stripped naked and bare. It is itself the only state to have used the atomic bomb; it itself supported the dictatorship it has ‘liberated’ the people of Iraq from; it is itself the main cause of the Iraqi people’s rightlessness. And despite its claims of fighting a war on terror, the USA is itself a pole of international terrorism in the world today. And it is not just Iraq.For profit and hegemony, the US ruling class would turn this world, including America, into another Iraq if it could.

      But that is only one part of 21st century reality. Any successful discussion must also look at the other pole of international terrorism in the world today – political Islam. It is political Islam that hangs the likes of sweet 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi for ‘acts incompatible with chastity’ in city centres, stones Maryam Ayoubi for adultery, throws acid in the faces of those who refuse to veil, beheads prostitutes, and legally permits sexual apartheid and misogyny. All of you will have become uncomfortably familiar with this right-wing reactionary political movement from September 11 onwards when it went about its business as usual but this time outside its zone of influence and power. Political Islam and its ruling class would also turn this world into another Iraq if it could.

      This vile movement may make many claims as the USA does in order to legitimise its barbarity – from people’s liberation to democracy to rights – but they are only claims to dupe and legitimise. It cares as much for the liberation of the people of Palestine and Iraq as the USA does – not more, not less. Both will indiscriminately maim and slaughter the very people they claim to defend. One will behead westerners feigning defence of women prisoners in Iraq with one hand whilst killing Iraqi women who refuse to veil with another. The other will feign a defence of rights through indiscriminate bombings whilst its soldiers’ boots are trampling over tortured naked bodies.

      They both have women defenders – from Maggie Thatcher and Condi Rice to Fayezeh Rafsanjani and Zahra Shojaie who make declarations about women’s rights but implement misogyny. They both have their media – from CNN to Aljazeera, think tanks and academics whipping up hype to make us believe that their claims are not deceptions; that they are slaughtering for more than profit and political power; that they actually have legitimate demands and grievances and no alternative but terrorism …

      In practical terms – notwithstanding the differences – however, the USA and political Islam are two sides of one coin. They have the same agenda, the same vision, the same infinite capacity for violence, the same reliance on religion and reaction, the same need for hegemony and profit-making. They represent the same new world order for 21st century humanity.

      You don’t need to look beyond Abu Gharib or Evin prison or Guantanamo to see it.

      When it comes to you and I, when it comes to the people of America, Iran, Iraq… they are one and the same and will Iraq-ise the world if we let them.

      But only if.

      We must not let them exploit the suffering of millions of people caught in their crossfire by claiming to represent their victims. Only 21st century humanity can defend the interests of humanity as well as peace and social justice.

      This is our historical task.

      1. Consider me Mr. Picky if you will, but there is something in me that won’t take, just will not take a long winded whinge about US foreign policy from a spokesperson of the bloodiest political movement in human history. Picky, I know.

        I have not forgotten, and I have no intention of letting anyone else forget, that if it were not for the United States holding the line, your comrades would have enslaved the world, and dragged all mankind into a pit of misery and despair the like of which has never been seen.

        Yes, the United States has done terrible things in its foreign policy. But never, ever forget that this was in a struggle against the most evil, most murderous movement ever seen by mankind. The movement you champion.

        If my politics had that sort of record, I would be very very modest about the sort of demands and accusations I make. I would also consider that it might just look to others that my complaint about Theocracy was that I wasn’t the one bringing down the boot.

        So, forgive me, I won’t take this stuff from you. Nor will I take your contemptible rehashing of Jihad propaganda against the state of Israel. Nor do I see what would be so great with Iran replacing its regime of rape-cells and mass oppression with one of torture cells and mass starvation. Which is exactly what would happen if the Commies took power.

        Now, as regards the cases of Abu Graib, Gitmo and the removal of Saddam Hussein in order. The sadists of Abu Graib were considered criminals and duly punished. Far, far worse than that is done as a matter of policy throughout the Muslim world, and the perpetrators would be rewarded and received payment. As regards Gitmo, the fundamental requirement of moral seriousness here is that people recognise that, firstly, this is the first prison camp where all inmates are released alive, with a new pair of jeans, a new Koran, and an average weight gain. Compare that with, say, Vorkuta (your comrades, again). It is also to do with the fact that this is no an enemy where one can take name, rank and serial number, or one that respects any sort of division between civilian and soldier. As regards the removal of Saddam Hussein, I defended it at the time, and would do so again, and I think it says worlds that the socialist parties of Iraq, the workers parties, the trade unions all find better support amongst my own comrades and the neoconservatives than amongst the international Left.

        I will fight against every tyranny over the mind of man until the day I die. That includes the one championed by yourself.


        1. The difference between you and me is that you believe that the US government represents you and you therefore must defend and excuse all its atrocities. The Soviet Union, China and all the other bogus communist states (which were really state capitalist regimes) do not represent me so I don’t need to defend them or apologise for them or be held responsible for them. Moreoever, I can be against Islamism and also defend the rights of Muslims and others to live in secular socities. I can be opposed to the occupation of Palestine and still support a two state solution and security for the people of Israel; I can oppose Saddam Hussain and also the war on Iraq; I can be against the Islamic regime of Iran and US-led militarism; I can despise Islamists but also oppose their being tortured… Do you see how it works when you actually do use your mind?

          1. Sorry, wrong. You can’t call yourself a fascist and expect not to be associated with Auschwitz. You can’t call yourself a communist and expect not to be associated with Vorkuta. That contemptible excuse about “state capitalism” was worn out a long time ago; if you think you’re fooling anyone except those who want to be fooled, forget it.

            I know where your road leads. And hundreds of millions know the same thing. Believe you me, any step along that road will be denied. We know full well that your path offers nothing but slavery and starvation.

            I am not represented by the US government, and I said so before. But I will not take any self-righteous drivel from a peddler of communism.

            I can oppose Saddam Hussain and also the war on Iraq

            Sure you oppose him. You’d have only left him in power, and then his sons, and the nightmare implosion that would have followed. And I will never let anyone forget that it was the left who openly defended Saddam and openly sided with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the Muslim Brotherhood. I have not forgotten, and neither have many, many Iraqis.

            The day that the far left could act as though it automatically had righteousness on its side is long past. Better get used to it. Much more respectable that way.

          2. So basically I am responsible for the Islamic regime of Iran’s crimes because I was born in Iran and you are responsible for Hiroshima. I am responsible for September 11 since I was born a ‘Muslim’ and… Excellent logic (or lack thereof)!

          3. Says, ‘Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it’. Your ‘Simpleton’s guide to History and Politics’ shouldn’t convince an 8 year old.

  5. That is very true and everything I believe but have never been able to articulate.

    Still we read and learn. Read and Learn.

    Thanks Maryam.

  6. In Iran she’d be persecuted for no hijab.
    In the U.S. she’d be persecuted for the cigarette.
    I like her already just from the picture.

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