Saturday, September 29, 2007

Live From New York, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Unreality Show

Dana Milbank

"For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with the people of Iraq ," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the National Press Club yesterday.That's true -- as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by poison gas. And you'd also have to overlook 500 years of fighting during the Ottoman Empire.
But never mind that: Ahmadinejad was on a roll.
"Our people are the freest people in the world," said the man whose government executes dissidents, jails academics and stones people to death.
"The freest women in the world are women in Iran," he continued, neglecting to mention that Iranian law treats a woman as half of a man.
"In our country," judged the man who shuts down newspapers and imprisons journalists, "freedom is flowing at its highest level."
And if you believe that, he has a peaceful civilian nuclear program he wants to sell you.
Much of officialdom spent yesterday condemning Columbia University for hosting the Iranian leader while he visits the United Nations this week. There were similar protests outside the National Press Building in Washington, where reporters gathered to question Ahmadinejad in a videoconference. "Don't give him any press!" shouted one woman.
But that objection misses a crucial point: Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?
"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country," he informed the Columbia audience.
It takes time to come up with profound thoughts such as that, so Ahmadinejad was understandably in a hurry yesterday. His appearance at the press club was delayed 10 minutes when he didn't show up on time at the television studio in New York. Then his delegation informed the press club, mid-rant, that he would have to leave 15 minutes early so that he would have time to pray before his Columbia appearance. The prayer evidently missed the mark, for he was greeted at Columbia with a lengthy condemnation by President Lee Bollinger . He called Ahmadinejad a "petty and cruel dictator" and ended with the thought that "today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for."
The reception was rather friendlier at the press club, where the sole questioner was moderator Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News. He introduced Ahmadinejad as "one of the most newsworthy heads of state in the world" and chose written questions submitted by the audience such as "Do you plan on running for reelection in two years?"
Ahmadinejad, wearing open collar and glasses, lost his audience at the press club almost immediately. After only one sentence of his speech, the translator stopped translating. " The president is reciting verses from the holy Koran in Arabic," she explained. Completing his verses, he launched into 20 minutes of cheap sentiment.
"I believe we all believe strongly that it is possible to create a better world for humanity, and to realize this sublime and beautiful goal, we need to take a look and revise how we view the world around us," he said, going on to mention the "sublime value of humanity" and a "walk on the sublime path."
The faces on the dais -- Greta Van Susteren, Eleanor Clift and Clarence Page among them -- met the president's statement with expressions of confusion that gradually turned into boredom as Ahmadinejad eschewed talk of uranium enrichment in favor of Hallmark. "Family is the center of love and beauty," he advised.
The man who recently hosted a convention for Holocaust deniers also treated listeners to his thoughts on the truth. "Lies have nothing to do with the divine spirit of mankind," he asserted.
Then the lies began.
Zremski inquired about the Amnesty International report finding flogging and imprisonment of journalists and at least 11 Iranian newspapers closed . "I think people who prepared the report are unaware of the situation in Iran," the president answered. "I think the people who give this information should seek what is the truth and, sort of, disseminate what's correct."
Zremski then raised the specific cases of two Kurdish journalists who have been sentenced to death for enmity toward God.
"This news is fundamentally wrong," Ahmadinejad replied. "What journalist has been sentenced to death?"
Zremski supplied the names of Kurdish journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Hiva Boutimar, sentenced July 16. "I don't know people by that name," the president retorted. " You have to, sort of, rectify the information channel."
A pattern had emerged. Zremski asked about the beating and torture of women's rights leaders. "Can you again tell me where you get this report from?" Ahmadinejad asked innocently.
Zremski asked about Ahmadinejad's assertion, at a news conference last month, that Iran is "prepared to fill the gap" of power in Iraq as U.S. influence declines. "Well, again, this, too, is one of those distortions by the press," he answered.
And those Iranian weapons showing up in Iraq? "No, this doesn't exist," he said.
Who knows? In the wild and wacky mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that just might be true.,1,245252.story?coll=la-news-comment&ctrack=3&cset=true
From the Los Angeles Times
Ahmadinejad's crack-up
Iran's president was his own worst enemy during a controversial appearance at Columbia University.

September 25, 2007

That Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a real cutup. The Iranian president had a hostile crowd at Columbia University laughing and applauding Monday during a controversial appearance that prompted an outcry from thousands of protesters and attracted bipartisan criticism from presidential candidates. Of course, Ahmadinejad's audience was mostly laughing at him rather than with him.

New York officials were outraged that the university provided a forum for Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who has called for the destruction of Israel and is titular head of a country known to sponsor terrorism and aid insurgents in Iraq. They weren't alone. Democratic candidate Barack Obama made the rather contradictory statement that he wouldn't have invited Ahmadinejad to speak if he were president of Columbia, even though he has said he would personally meet with the man if elected president of the United States . Republican candidate Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has started airing a campaign commercial decrying Ahmadinejad's visit. On Capitol Hill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) attacked Columbia for handing Ahmadinejad a microphone.

These critics not only disrespect such core American principles as academic freedom and freedom of speech, they disrespect the intelligence of Ahmadinejad's audience. It isn't likely that many were swayed by his wild-eyed questioning of the facts of the Holocaust or who was really behind the 9/11 attacks. The biggest laugh of the afternoon came when, in response to a question about the Iranian regime's brutal treatment of homosexuals (a crime punishable by death), Ahmadinejad remarked, " In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country." He also declared that "women in Iran have the highest level of freedom" even though they are forbidden from such basic social activities as attending soccer games, and said "we are friends with the Jewish people" while attributing nearly all the world's ills to Jews. It's hard to believe that anyone with a third-grade education would find him convincing.

In 1939, a journalist named Alan Cranston was outraged by a sanitized English-language translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," so he edited his own abridged version that bared the German dictator's sinister soul. Cranston, who later became California's longest-serving Democratic senator, understood something that Obama, Romney, McConnell et al do not: The best way to discredit a tyrant is to let him do it himself, in his own poisonous words.


Kindly face of global terror
Sept. 25, 2007 12:00 AM
The terrorist often plays a double game.

That was the lesson on display Monday at Columbia University, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demonstrated the ease in which the terrorist masks his intentions.

The president of Iran showed his American audience an avuncular, peace-loving profile of Iran.

"We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people," said the slight fellow from behind his impenetrable black beard.

Ahmadinejad, of course, was lying. And the evidence is ample. The Iranians are training and supplying terror armies in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Explosive projectiles manufactured in Iran are killing Americans and allied soldiers in those last two nations. And our State Department has long warned that Iran is the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world.

In the same way Yasser Arafat could sign peace treaties with one hand and order terror strikes with the other, Ahmadinejad can play the pacifist as he briskly strides toward a nuclear Iran and Middle East dominance.

His country is neither expansionist nor belligerent, he said. "Iran will not launch an attack on Israel or any other country."

Such is the new world we live in that a committed foe can promise not to strike even as he has been attacking for a quarter century. Iran has pressed a low-level asymmetric war with the United States since its surrogate Hezbollah bombed the Beirut barracks in 1983 and killed 241 American servicemen.

The terrorist can talk like your friend, kill your countrymen and still enjoy invitations to your most esteemed institutions .

Columbia President Lee Bollinger asked Ahmadinejad if he plans to wipe the United States off the map along with Israel. "I doubt you have the intellectual courage to answer these questions - but your avoidance will be meaningful to us."

Ahmadinejad didn't need to answer. He already has, back home, where he once boasted that the promised hidden imam put him in power to provoke a "clash of civilizations," reports the (London) Telegraph. In this war, the Muslims, led by his nation, would confront the West, led by the United States, and bring it to submission.

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