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Senator Kirk, the Shock Jock?

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On November 13, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) assumed a new persona: that of a shock jock. Obviously not remembering that he represents the great state of Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, he resorted to racism in saying "How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money." The statement was his attempt to shoot down the White House's arguments against new sanctions on Iran. Now that a more moderate Iranian president is vigorously pursuing a diplomatic path, the administration understandably fears that new sanctions could upset recent progress in negotiations and return the U.S. and Iran to a path of mutual confrontation that ends in war.

In an apparent attempt to earn brownie points from the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Senator Kirk has already exhibited an appalling degree of callousness toward the plight of ordinary Iranians under sanctions. Previously, Sen. Kirk stated that "it is okay to take food from the mouths of [Iranian] citizens." However, he now has achieved a new low by diving into outright racism and by masquerading as a shock jock. What is no longer considered an acceptable form of speech even in a raunchy frat house is certainly not acceptable speech from a sitting US Senator from the Land of Lincoln. Senator Kirk needs to apologize to the thousands of Iranian-Americans whom he represents, to the million-strong highly educated Iranian-Americans living in this country, and to the millions of pro-American Iranians attempting to survive under very difficult conditions in Iran.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Senator Kirk appears to think very little of the Iranian people, he has put forward an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would increase sanctions and effectively kill any interim or comprehensive deal by drastically restricting the President's ability to offer sanctions relief. Fortunately, the President and Senate Democrats appear to be holding firm in blocking Kirk's bid to sabotage diplomacy -- in addition to other sanctions -- at this critical juncture in negotiations.

Over the course of its history, the United States has had disagreements with many countries throughout the world. The post-1979 Iran has been one of the countries we have had many disagreements with. However, during this period, our elected officials have always conducted themselves with dignity; none having appealed to racism to settle our disputes with the government of Iran. Now, it appears that Senator Kirk's mistrust of all things Iranian has blinded him to the facts on the ground in Iran, equating the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, and disparaging the people of Iran. Plainly stated, this is un-American and behavior unbecoming of a US Senator.

The time-honored strategy of those advocating wars has been one of demonizing the adversary by creating myths about them. When it comes to Iran and Iranians, it appears that this has been the strategy of Senator Kirk. However, as John F. Kennedy reminded us half a century ago, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." Unfortunately, it appears that Senator Kirk is creating myths about Iranians in a deliberate manner.

Senator Kirk owes it to the people of Illinois, and to all Americans, to retract his inflammatory and insulting rhetoric and back away from confrontational policies that could lead us to a disastrous and unnecessary war.