Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Right-Wing Hysteria

Josh Marshall has a really good post up about the hysteria that's been going on over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit Ground Zero:

Am I the only one embarrassed by the dingbat brouhaha over Iranian President Ahmadinejad's attempt to visit Ground Zero to lay a wreath? Given relations between our countries I could see denying him a visa, but as long as we're hosting the UN that's not an option. Ahmadinejad now says he's "amazed" that such a visit would be insulting to Americans. Sen. McCain said that Ahmadinejad should be "physically restrained if necessary" from visiting the site. The National Review's Kathryn Lopez got worked up in such a lather that she begged Rudy Giuliani to "lead a human blockade keeping Ahmadinejad from getting to Ground Zero" -- thus demonstrating once and for all Rudy's true calling as the surrogate id of right-wing nerds everywhere.

So what's the problem exactly? Presumably we can be frank enough to acknowledge that the real issue here is that while Ahmadinejad is not Arab to most of us he looks pretty Arab. And he is Muslim certainly -- and pretty up in arms about it at that. And we officially don't like him. And we classify the country he runs as a state sponsor of terrorism. So even though he has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, when you put all these key facts together, he might as well have done it himself. And what business does anyone with the blood of the victims of 9/11 on his hands have going to Ground Zero?

That's basically it and don't tell me it's not.

Alternatively I guess it's that he's a very mean guy, said bad things about Israel or questioned the Holocaust? Is this man any worse than the various Soviet dignitaries who we feted and hosted around our country? Or is it simply that we've grown increasingly infantile as a country since the end of the Cold War, more and more obsessed and histrionic about minor powers like Iran and Iraq?

A president with some dignity and sense of the greatness of his country would say, good he should go there. Maybe he'll learn something about us and our loss.

If we as a country were a person, I'd say grow up. Act like a man*. Have some self-respect.

* Yes, outdated language. But I know no non-gendered language that conveys the same meaning.

No, Josh, you are not the only one. I have been, frankly, as amazed as Ahmadinejad claims to be that Ahmadinejad's wish to visit Ground Zero would be seen as a monstrous insult.

A few days ago, Clifford May shared with us in a post at The Corner on National Review Online the most offensive thing he had seen all day:
The Palestinian Authority celebrates the 9/11/01 attacks on the U.S. – most recently with a cartoon showing Osama bin Laden raising his index and middle fingers in the V for Victory sign, except his fingers are the burning World Trade Center Towers.

That was not my choice for the most offensive thing I had seen all day (this was) -- but I would agree that the cartoon May describes is offensive. Quite offensive. But now we are told that a request by the president of Iran to visit the site of the 9/11 attacks is also offensive. So if it's offensive for our enemies to celebrate 9/11, but it's also offensive for our enemies to see what really happened on 9/11 by visiting Ground Zero, accompanied by U.S. officials, then what space is left open for any outcome but continued and perpetual hatred and war? Ahmadinejad has been invited to the United States to speak at the United Nations, and while he is here, he tells us he wants to show respect to Americans by visiting a site that has enormous historic and emotional significance for Americans. No harm can be done by such a visit (except possibly to his own physical safety), so why question his motives when there is an opportunity for him to come away with a greater understanding of what that site means to us? And if we reject his request with such contempt, saying the mere request is offensive, then what could Iran, or any other nation we consider an enemy, possibly ever do to demonstrate good will or good faith?

1 comment:

IAblogger said...

Remember How Iran Responded to the 9/11 Attacks?

With all the ruckus over the request of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit “Ground Zero” during his visit to New York to lay a wreath [1], it is somewhat worth remembering how Iran responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Knowing how short American memories are and knowing how many Americans share President Bush’s habit of conflating all U.S. opponents and enemies into some sort of utterly fictional “united front,” like the now famous “Axis of Evil” (none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks); I began preparing in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It was fully predictable that there would be an Islamaphobic backlash in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and that people with a vested interest in promoting anti-Muslim hatred would later try to equate the entire Islamic world with the attacks in New York and Washington DC. So, beginning on September 12, 2001, I began compiling the actual responses to the attacks by all the countries of the world with a Muslim majority regardless of their political standing or relationship with the United States. Visiting and saving snippets from official government outlets for these states (embassy websites, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, &c.) as well as searching the media for relevant articles discussing the reactions of these states, I saved all this data for the fifty-two states in question and put it online in the “International Islamic Response” website. After several moves to different hosts, I kept all this data and it can now be found online at:

So what was Iran’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks?

"On behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the hijacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people," President Khatami said in reaction to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. ... "My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims," he said, noting, "terrorism is doomed and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it." Khatami added that the Islamic Republic of Iran is treading a road to uproot terrorism and to this end, he noted, it will spare no efforts.

And related news stories included:

“Iranians Honor U.S. with Moment of Silence” (NY Post)

“Khatami Condemns ‘Terrorist’ Attacks on U.S. Targets (People’s Daily, Iran)

“US calls Iran’s response ‘positive’” (Economic Times)

“Terror attacks transform U.S. image in Iran’s media” (Gulf News)

“Powell sees hope in Iran, Syria response to attack” (Reuters)

“'Iran News’ deplores attacks on major US landmarks” (Iran News)

“Iran expresses rare sympathy for U.S. over attacks” (Reuters)

“Iran ayatollah says he is heart-broke over U.S. attack” (Gulf News)

“Iran seals Afghanistan border” (AP)

All of this was saved in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 at though of course many of the links are no longer valid, being six years old.

The point was – and remains – to show that contrary to whatever the Islamaphobic hate-mongers might say today, the vast majority of the Islamic world, even including states that the US has had difficult relations with, were sympathetic and supportive in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The whole supposition that there should be any problem with President Ahmadinejad laying a wreath at “Ground Zero” is just a statement of American ignorance, bigotry, and hated completely unjustified by anything Iran has done.

Anyway, to learn more about the response of the world’s majority Muslim countries in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, visit the International Islamic Response website at: Just click on any of the countries listed on the left to see how they responded. Just to save you some time, the ONLY majority Muslim states that were not sympathetic was Iraq (at the time under Saddam Hussein and suffering from US imposed sanctions that resulted in the death of over a million Iraqis [2]) and Afghanistan (then under the Taliban).

John S.


[1] Pat Milton, "New York bans 'photo op' visit to Ground Zero by Iran's president," The Scotsman, 21 September 2007,

[2] Peace Action, “End Sanctions on Iraq,” Peace Action Education Fund, undated,