Raymond Tanter

That “one man” treated “unjustly” is Mohammad, a popular singer of the Iranian resistance, who sings his way to an honorable death. He endangers his own life to call on President Obama to break his silence and act to save the lives of 3,000 other Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty. As the hunger strikes enter their twelfth week, there is an extraordinary rise in fear of the other residents of Camp Liberty, surviving families, and the Iranian community.

Besides President Obama, another target of Mohammad’s is the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It has the power to deny the sale of American-built Apache helicopters for Iraq to use in counterterrorist operations against al Qaeda, which Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki so dearly desires. But Nouri did not count on the moral power of Mohammad, the hunger striker.

Regarding the civil rights movement, consider that during the same week of the 50th year of JFK’s death comes the 150th year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863. Lincoln planned simply to mark a burial site for those who gave their lives in the Battle of Gettysburg of July 1863. He then reasoned that the dedication of the Battlefield could also be an occasion to persuade the Northern public that the war was fought not simply to save the Union but also on behalf of freedom. And the South did not count on the moral power Lincoln showed combining preservation of the Union with freedom for the slaves.

So the revolution anticipated by JFK in Profiles of Courage presaged the soft revolution by black and white freedom riders and sit-in protestors. Both stood on the shoulders of Lincoln of Illinois. Will Obama of Illinois stand on the side of liberty? Just as Lincoln backed emancipation for the slaves, Obama can back freedom for the Iranian dissidents.

Now is the time for President Obama to be courageous and back those whom we promised to protect who are now trapped in Iraq.

Raymond Tanter

Raymond Tanter served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. His latest book is "Arab Rebels and Iranian Dissidents."