Ahmadinejad: A Whole Lotta Smoke, Not A Lotta Fire

Much has been said about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York this week, not the least of which has been directed toward the invitation extended to him to speak at Columbia University earlier today.

About this, I’ve been relatively quiet, mainly because I’ve already expressed my general opinion on the matter.  I really don’t care.

What I have cared greatly about, however, has been our reaction to him as humans.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not my Chris Crocker “Leave Ahmadinejad Alone!” moment.  Okay, maybe it is sans the eyeliner, tears, and actual sympathy for the Iranian President.

The point is simple.  We’re doing it again.  We’re engaging in the kind of mass hysteria that leads us as a nation to not only fail to miss the mistakes of our elected government, but actually goad them into it. 

Why do we hate this man?  His personal record aside, because we are told to.  He’s a far cry from the worst dictator we’ve ever known, hell, he’s a far cry from quite a few that are living today.  Does this excuse him?  No, but we also have to ask ourselves, does it also warrant the chest thumping the moment he comes to town?

The fear of knowledge crew, led by the blood thirsty Madame Malkin, have been up in arms not only about Ahmadinejad’s visit to Ground Zero (which was quickly axed; interesting considering the fact that this would be the second time we snubbed Iran’s attempt to show condolences for that attack.  Immediately following 9/11, Iran made a great show of its sympathy and offered the United States its assistance.  Of course, we turned them down… on principle), but also about his speech he delivered today.

Now, this strikes me as silly, but then, I never had much time for those who would willingly turn away from knowledge.  Of course the things that Ahamdinejad has to say have merit.  Whether you agree with him or not, this is a man who is the Head of State of a nation that is growing in power in an entire region of the world.  This is a guy who will be in History books and debated long after we have all shuffled off this mortal coil.

Do you listen to what he has to say and challenge it where you think he is wrong and learn from the whole experience, or do you act like a three year old, shove your fingers in your ears and hum the National Anthem the whole time?

The latter seems to be the standard operating procedure of the neoconservative nationalist Bush crowd (small sidebar.  Anyone but me notice that the “we stand for victory” crowd actually only seems to mention Bush when they have to?  Like after he gives a speech or something?  His policies, they endorse him fully, but they’re still embarrassed to admit who they’re tied to… meh).  But they don’t get it.  You don’t LEARN anything that way.  All you get for your troubles is some good old chest thumpin’ pride which incidentally can’t buy you a soda out of a friggin vending machine.

What the hell is wrong with you?

Luckily, the University of Columbia stuck to its guns, and had the Iranian president over for a little chat.  Most likely to the utter shock of the rabid war drum beating “We Hates Ahmadinejad” crowd, Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, laid into Ahmadinejad but good.

Which brings another question to mind.  Who’s really courageous?  The crowd that wants to shut the man up, or the guy who invites the man over, let’s him speak, and calls him out to his face.

Dunno how things work where you’re from, but the to his face guy wins where I come from.

And yet this is all beside the point.  The real point is why is there so much smoke around the Ahmadinejad fire?  Macswain touches on it when he asserts that the right needs this guy around.  He is, in truth, the witless foil; forever twirling his handlebar moustache and tying voluptuous young women up to train tracks and piles of dynamite.

When the Iranian President made mention that Iran was ready to fill a power vaccuum in Iraq, it’s possible that he had no idea how accurate that statement truly was.  Not only would Iran be able to fill a certain void in Iraq as a result of the failed occupation, but Ahmadinejad is primed to fill the role of Saddam Hussein as ultimate evil bad guy we must overthrow.

Juan Cole has an excellent wrap up:

The media has focused on debating whether he should be allowed to speak at Columbia University on Monday, or whether his request to visit Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11 attack in lower Manhattan, should have been honored. His request was rejected, even though Iran expressed sympathy with the United States in the aftermath of those attacks and Iranians held candlelight vigils for the victims. Iran felt that it and other Shiite populations had also suffered at the hands of al-Qaida, and that there might now be an opportunity for a new opening to the United States.

Instead, the U.S. State Department denounced Ahmadinejad as himself little more than a terrorist. Critics have also cited his statements about the Holocaust or his hopes that the Israeli state will collapse. He has been depicted as a Hitler figure intent on killing Israeli Jews, even though he is not commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces, has never invaded any other country, denies he is an anti-Semite, has never called for any Israeli civilians to be killed, and allows Iran’s 20,000 Jews to have representation in Parliament.

There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran’s rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.

The neoconservatives are even claiming that the United States has been at war with Iran since 1979. As Glenn Greenwald points out, this assertion is absurd. In the ’80s, the Reagan administration sold substantial numbers of arms to Iran. Some of those beating the war drums most loudly now, like think-tank rat Michael Ledeen, were middlemen in the Reagan administration’s unconstitutional weapons sales to Tehran. The sales would have been a form of treason if in fact the United States had been at war with Iran at that time, so Ledeen is apparently accusing himself of treason.

But the right has decided it is at war with Iran, so a routine visit by Iran’s ceremonial president to the U.N. General Assembly has generated sparks. The foremost cheerleader for such a view in Congress is Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who recently pressed Gen. David Petraeus on the desirability of bombing Iran in order to forestall weapons smuggling into Iraq from that country (thus cleverly using one war of choice to foment another).

American hawks are beating the war drums loudly because they are increasingly frustrated with the course of events. They are unsatisfied with the lack of enthusiasm among the Europeans and at the United Nations for impeding Tehran’s nuclear energy research program. While the Bush administration insists that the program aims at producing a bomb, the Iranian state maintains that it is for peaceful energy purposes. Washington wants tighter sanctions on Iran at the United Nations but is unlikely to get them in the short term because of Russian and Chinese reluctance. The Bush administration may attempt to create a “coalition of the willing” of Iran boycotters outside the U.N. framework.

There can be little question that the neoconservative methodology has been proven a failure in Iraq.  Instead of redefining our foreign policy and pushing neoconservatism to the dustbin where it belongs, the neoconservatives in charge have come up with a perfect solution; start another war.

If at first you don’t succeed…

15 Responses to “Ahmadinejad: A Whole Lotta Smoke, Not A Lotta Fire”

  1. Beth says:

    You guys are beyond parody. Pathetic.

    I find it amusing that you mention jamming fingers in the ears like a three year-old, when that’s quite obviously what you’re doing here. Obviously, you’ve only bothered to read Malkin’s link-dump post (which links to plenty of other posts with commentary you won’t read).

    But I get it–the Right (oh sorry, Neocons!!1!, and especially bloggers!) is worse than Ahmadinejad and the mullahs. Or that’s your and your “progressive” (LOL!) allies’ coping mechanism. It’s so much easier to vilify other Americans, because you can’t do a damn thing about the very real evil elsewhere in the world, if you can even actually bring yourself to recognizing it.

    The Juan Cole garbage was an especially nice touch. LOL!

    I think this marks a(nother) day when the Right gets to revoke your “progressive” and “liberal” cards. Useful idiots.

  2. Nice diatribe. Make a salient and on topic point, and we’ll discuss.

    (Though, I’ll say that Maybe Duncan Hunter’s words on Ahmadinejad are particularly different from Madame Malkin’s… oh wait… no… um… Rudy…no… uh… I’m floundering here. Give me a decent rightwinger commentary that differs by a noticeable margin from the ho hum chest pounding, and we may have something to talk about)

  3. Laura says:

    KyleE! What happened?!! I leave for a few days and you start up with someone else??!! haha. I am a little mystified by blogging that starts with “I find it amusing..” and then goes on to, well… not be amusing. I know, I know, open minds/open hearts. I’m sure this is considered just a friendly back and forth in some parts of the country. I don’t even know why I’m commenting on this… I’m really just trying to find out here if I’m too late to fight for habeas corpus… Oh, that’s right. Shoot. (I did enjoy your post; it’s an interesting perspective.)

  4. xranger says:

    Kyle, I humbly disagree with a lot of your post. I was flumoxed (sic) when Columbia allowed Ahmadinejad to speak, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it, cause that’s what kook liberal colleges do.

    Imagine my surpise when the college prez lit into the man, like nobody else has before. Bully for him. Made the whole invite thing more curious, though: why denigrate your guest? Did bother me, though, when the students wildly cheered the madman.

    And I do mean madman. You cannot ignore Ahmadinejad’s rants about Israel and the US. We are now engaed with his troops in skirmishes. The IED pipeline moves smoothly into Iraq and Afghanistan.

    If he continues his escalation, culminating in a nuclear bomb, I cannot believe Israel will sit idly by. Look what they did to Syria a couple of weeks ago.

    I caution you on your use of liberal love for all humankind with this guy. This man is a zealot, willing to continue the jihad against the infadel. Unlike Osama, he has a military and a country sitting on a large chunk of the world’s oil.

  5. Unfortunately, X, you’re kinda dipping into the kool aid a tad deep. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love the man. By our standards (and this I’m sure will cause its own debate among me and those to the left of me) Ahmadinejad is a zealot, but in comparison to those who claim jihad, well, not so much. Remember, this is a guy who campaigned on letting women participate in sports in a country where that kind of thing is unheard of.

    Not that he’s a champion of women’s rights by any means, but again, he’s not over the hedge either. In fact, the most extreme thing about him seems to be his rhetoric. We’re not actively engaged with Iranian military, Iran has seen fit to excuse itself from any direct interraction. Its feeding of weapons to anti-american forces is also something that is in doubt, as has been posted here several times.

    All of which is moot when talking about Ahmadinejad since unlike our president, the Iranian president does not also serve as the commander in chief.

    Finally, the nuclear claim here is still unfounded, and is thus far only the spinning of administration and neoconservative hopeful wishing.

    As for Israel, it is becoming more and more evident that his bark is worse than his bite, but that the real issue is that the Muslim world in general is still harboring resentment towards the Israelis as a result of what’s happening to the Palestinian people.

    One thing we have to do in general is stop looking at foreign policy like it’s good guys vs. bad guys, and start looking at the whole picture. Much of the region is antagonistic against Israel, but there are reasonings behind it, much of it having to do with what is going on with the Palestinians. Really, it starts with the ousting of Palestinians from their homes to make way for the Jewishpopulation following the Holocaust, a move that many of them don’t understand why they should have to suffer for Germany’s transgressions.

    But even that would have been tolerable I suppose had the remaining palestinians not been trodden upon by the Israeli government. This animosity has resulted in fighting and terrorism groups embedding themselves in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as many of the muslim population of the region siding with the Palestinians for obvious reasons.

    What has compounded the problem is that honest dealing with the Israeli government is impossible for any amount of criticism is met with accusations of anti-semitism. You can’t even debate a two state solution or equal rights for palestinians for fear of being labeled an Anti-Semite. And if you were to go ahead and say that Israel isn’t the perfect little angel it is… hoo boy.

    Which may explain why Ahmadinejad is anti-Israel, and yet claims not to be an anti-semite, given that apparently tens of thousand jewish citizens live there in peace, there might be some fire to that smoke.

    Though I will admit that claiming the holocaust never existed is irresponsible.

    But here’s the key point, he’s an unsavory character, and despite me saying this in every post I’ve written about the guy, people still claim that I love him or like him or whatnot. I defend him, but only to the point of making it clear that this is a guy who is not the Arch Nemesis those who would want war with him claim he is.

    Lastly, here’s a guy who has offered twice to repay his respects for what happened on September 11th. Twice we had an opportunity to kind of bury the hatchet as a result, and yet at the cue of the administration (who took the lead in refusing their respects directly after 9/11) we only take the offers as a result to further malign this guy.

    I mean, that’s the point. He’s not our friend, I say this time and again, but he’s not the guy that is our sworn enemy, and even if he is, it’s not like he’s going to be in office that much longer, and finally, there still is no action that warrants military action.

    It’s all insane when you really stop to think on it for any length of time. We’re really pounding out the war drums to a guy who isn’t really much of a threat. We’re doing it again, only if you think we’ll get off with just creating another Iraq scenario, you’re really selling the whole thing short.

  6. xranger says:

    Sarkozy must be drinking the same kool aid:

    “Sarkozy says letting Iran go nuclear could cause war”


  7. xranger says:

    …and the US Congress:

    WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress signaled its disapproval of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a vote Tuesday to tighten sanctions against his government and a call to designate his army a terrorist group.

    Are you feeling lonely in your view of this issue?

    You should be.

  8. Not really.

    Congress has been wrong before, haven’t they?

  9. matttbastard says:

    I caution you on your use of liberal love for all humankind with this guy. This man is a zealot, willing to continue the jihad against the infadel. Unlike Osama, he has a military and a country sitting on a large chunk of the world’s oil.

    Ahmadinejad can be as anti-Semitic and addicted to demonstrative jihadist zealotry (and the global spotlight) as he wants; as President, he doesn’t control the Iranian military, nor have any say over whether Iran engages in war or peace.

    The only one who matters in such regards–in all meaningful regards of Iranian statecraft, period–is the Supreme Leader:

    “Ultimately, the importance of Ahmadinejad’s appearance in the United States should not be overestimated. He is not the man who calls the shots in his country.

    The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran is Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei who, as the supreme religious authority, head of state and supreme military commander, is the guardian of the revolution. Khamenei brought Ahmadinejad to power, when he supported him against his old rival, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    Therefore it is all up to Khamenei. When he decides Ahmadinejad is more of a burden than an asset, he could remove his support. It’s doubtful Ahmadinejad would be allowed to present his candidacy for president in the elections due in about two years without his approval.

    Alternatively, Khamenei could support a rival against him altogether.”

    So, in other words, Ahmadinejad is, to a large extent, merely a convenient boogeyman being exploited to rile up the rubes, whether said ‘rubes’ be in comment threads, Congress, or protesting in the streets of NYC. Self-described Neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz and Joshua Muravchik (some of us actually do consider the term to be neutral and descriptive, rather than pejorative) have staked the rehabilitation of their discredited ideology on turning Tehran to rubble.

    But carry on sucking hard on Cheney’s Kool-Aid crack pipe; as you’ve displayed thus far, you obviously have a firm grasp of global affairs (to say nothing of political theory).

  10. xranger says:

    Well, bastard, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran is set up similar to China’s army – they are a separate, money-makin’ entity, open to the highest bidder.

    That’s why the US singled them out as a terrorist organization a couple of weeks ago.

    Read something but DAILYKOOK Times once in a while.

    It’ll do you some good.

  11. xranger says:

    Here, bastard, let me help you with the heavy lifting:

    “The Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is responsible for extraterritorial operations, including terrorist operations. A primary focus for the Qods Force is training Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups. Currently, the Qods Force conducts training activities in Iran and in Sudan. The Qods Force is also responsible for gathering information required for targeting and attack planning. The Pasdaran has contacts with underground movements in the Gulf region, and Pasdaran members are assigned to Iranian diplomatic missions, where, in the course of routine intelligence activities they monitor dissidents. Pasdaran influence has been particularly important in Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. ”


    Keep that head in the sand, ya hear.

  12. matttbastard says:

    You know, I wouldn’t be dispensing advice with regards to where one keeps one’s head, xranger (considering where yours apparently resides).

    Now, since you only seem concerned with goalpost movement and lame ad-homs (DAILY KOOK TIMES! HYUCK! I WARSH MUHSELF WIF A RAG ONNA STICK), consider this my last interaction with you (apart from my more succinct reponse to your insincere bleatings on my Paradise Lost post, which is more attention than you deserve).

    Others here may (masochistically) enjoy feeding (or even wacking) trolls such as yourself; me, I starve them.

    Now that we have that clear, it’s been a pleasure. Seriously. Let’s do lunch sometime. Vegan ok with you?

    (Although that does remind me that I must dig up that article the DAILY KOOK SCIENCE MONITOR!!11 did on the Qods Force several months ago–thanks for tangentally inspiring a future post. Cookies for you).

  13. matttbastard says:

    Actually, scratch lunch. And cookies. Hell, no soup for you.

    Bastard out.


  14. xranger says:

    You only starve trolls since they are smarting than you, and you end up looking stupid trying to debate.

    Vegan…how typical.

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