Last week the Iranian judiciary issued indictments for a handful of former and current U.S. civilian and military officials. According to Fars News Agency, a semi-official regime organ, the indicted include Bush administration policymakers like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, charged with “crimes committed against the Afghan and Iraqi people.”

And there are also Obama aides, like former national security adviser General James Jones, charged with supporting terrorist groups, especially Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK). In the 1990s Tehran convinced the Clinton administration to list MEK, the regime’s longtime rival, as a foreign terrorist organization, but Hillary Clinton’s State Department recently delisted the outfit.

Not that American legal procedures mean much to the Islamic Republic, for it seems the point of the indictments is to show that America is illegitimate, its legal system corrupt, and its elected officials systematic abusers of human rights around the world. In other words, the regime seeks to turn reality on its head.

“The Iranians always try to do what we do in reverse,” our colleague Reuel Marc Gerecht told The Scrapbook. Gerecht, a Weekly Standard contributing editor, has had some dealings with the Iranians in this fashion previously. After Gerecht testified that the United States should try to capture or kill Qods Force head Qasem Soleimani, responsible for thousands of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iranians asked Interpol to arrest Gerecht. “Interpol steadfastly refused to play along,” says Gerecht.

The former CIA case officer believes that the indictments are about “hubris and wounded pride. Their standard of measure is what we do. If the U.S. and the West indict Iranians as war criminals, then by God they’re going to indict war criminals, too.”

So not only should the Americans be held accountable for their outrages at Abu Ghraib, according to Tehran, but the world should be reminded how they treat their own. Never mind the tortures, rapes, and murders of Iranian dissidents at Evin Prison—what about Waco? Yes, former FBI director Thomas Pickard is charged, too, with human rights violations, stemming from the FBI siege of the Branch Davidian complex in 1993.

What Iran’s ruling clique seems incapable of understanding is that for all of our mistakes, even our crimes, there is a fundamental difference between a theocracy run by obscurantist mullahs and a liberal democracy. These indictments are how the regime tries to recast its own image, with the United States the darker mirror by comparison. This suggests that for all of their obfuscation, Iran’s rulers recognize that we have taken their measure accurately—and they fear it.

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