Monday, September 24, 2007

Fortunately, our country ain't quite that fragile

This whole big fracas about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia is fascinating to me. Here are some random thoughts:

1. Apparently the Dilbert cartoonist has him some Politics. In this blog post, Scott Adams has some really snarky thoughts on Ahmadinejad and the controversy involving same. It's a really funny piece, and I think I agree with his overall sentiment, though I'm not sure I understand all the underlying facts well enough to wholeheartedly agree with him. One of many money quotes: "Ahmadinejad believes his role is to pave the way for the coming of the Twelfth Imam. That's a primitive apocalyptic belief! I thank Jesus I do not live in a country led by a man who believes in that sort of bullshit. Imagine how dangerous that would be, especially if that man had the launch codes for nuclear weapons."

2. Predictably, all the presidential candidates have made statements in opposition to Ahmadinejad, and to Columbia for allowing him to speak. You need not read them all: Democrats very critical, Republicans (and Hillary, who other than the health care thing might as well be a Republican) severely, shrilly critical.

3. I read through this very long transcript of Scott Pelley's recent "interview" with Ahmadinejad. Pelley acts like a 10 year old with Dick Cheney whispering into his earpiece. A lot of questions that should never have been asked were repeated over and over, while several questions that should have been asked were inexplicably not brought up. He asked the guy 4 times what he could find to "admire" in President GWBush. That's a difficult question for any reasonable person to answer, much less someone who GWBush has villified and threatened to nuke (for the record, Ahmadinejad answered much like I would have: "well, nothing, at all, from what I know of his public life, but maybe I could find something I liked if I got to know him on a personal level, but no, really nothing I can think of right now. What, you want me to repeat that, what I just said, three more times? Ok then..."). And but then instead of searching for detailed, definitive answers on arming Iraqi insurgents, building nuclear bombs, holocaust denial, oppressing his own people, etc., Pelley keeps trying to get the guy to make these binding, enforceable, policy commitments about various things: "I hereby swear, on the holy altar of 60 minutes, that as long as I serve as President of Iran, my country will never ever _________". Really effective, because, you know, world leaders often make binding policy commitments regarding complex issues, on the spur of the moment, on a fucking teevee show. Yep, happens all the time.

4. In the course of reading the aforementioned transcript, I found it very difficult to get a good idea what this guy is all about. He seems fairly reasonable most of the time, but he sure gets dodgy when addressing certain, um, sensitive issues. My overall impression is that he definitely opposes some ardently held western beliefs (example: he believes Israel, as a sovereign nation, does not have a right to exist), and he definitely knows where his bread is buttered in terms of the religious ideologues who hold the real power in Iran (the point being: he ain't about to turn his country into a open, secular society), BUT he didn't appear to me to be a raving lunatic, and I sincerely doubt he has some secret plan to overthrow or otherwise exercise influence over governments or societies or even the views of people outside of Iran's immediate neighborhood. His basic desire seems to be to get rid of western influence so that Middle-Easterners can be left to their own devices. Which, granted, isn't necessarily the kind of idea our country can completely get behind, at this point (but that is a whole other ball o' wax). So I guess what I'm saying is, there's a lot in his worldview that even the most liberal folks over here will (and should) legitimately disagree with, but that fact (i.e., that the leader of another country doesn't share our ideals) should not, in and of itself, mean we oughta be warming up the jets for bombing runs, as it appears we very well may be.

5. What I find most ridiculous about the whole thing is this idea that letting the guy come and speak at Columbia, or even allowing him to appear at the 9/11 site, will somehow destroy our country, our way of life, etc. Sure, the guy has some whacky (and even repellent) ideas, and sure, he is pretty squarely opposed to U.S. policies in many significant ways. But since when does that mean a guy shouldn't be allowed to speak? If for no other reason, we might learn something that will help us oppose him. And, in point of fact, the guy was allowed to speak, and did speak, and the world didn't, or so far hasn't, come to a crashing halt.


bgirl said...

Excellent post. I have nothing further to add except maybe a "Here, here!"

Gleemonex said...

Me too!