Let me follow up on Rob’s excellent post on the Ahmadinejad controversy, which I urge you to read. I always think there’s something special about the fall, when the leaves start to come down, the Yankees clinch pennants, the General Assembly meets, and New York City gets its own foreign policy, which basically consists of condemning Muslim and Arab heads of state.
I suppose there are good reasons for keeping Ahmadinejad away from the WTC site . He is truly a despicable man whose only talent seems to be for publicity, mischief-making, and stirring the pot, and whose advocacy of Holocaust denial is both evil and inane. But the difference between Ahmadinejad and David Irving is that the former is head of government in a large country that many people in our government are itching to attack, and against whom we are conducting a propaganda war.
Our president made the real reason for keeping away Ahmadinajad from anything having to do with 9/11 very explicit:
My thoughts are that the local police will make the proper decision,” Mr. Bush said, “and that if they decide for him not to go — like it looks like they have — I can understand why they would not want somebody who is running a country who is a state sponsor of terror down there at the site.”
Bush’s syllogism is very simple: 9/11 was caused by Muslim radicals; Ahmadinejad is a Muslim radical, ergo Ahmadinejad had something to do with 9/11. It worked once with Saddam Hussein (whose villainies and stupidites, like Ahmadinejad’s, made him an easy target to attack and a very difficult one to defend), why not again?
And this, despite the reality that the 9/11 terrorists were of course Wahabi Sunnis who look on Shi’ism the way evangelical Christians view Mormonism. Moreover, the notion that Iran had anything to do with supporting Sunni fundamentalists is laughable. In case you haven’t noticed in Iraq, Sunnis and Shi’ites really don’t get along that well. I have no doubt that Iran is aggressively supporting its interests throughout the Middle East; but in that regard they are still a piker in comparison to the United States.
As for Ahmadinejad’s wreath laying, why do I think there would not be a similar uproar if say, Perez Musharaf, Palkistan’s military dictator, wanted to place a wreath on the WTC site? (Perhaps he has already done so.) Surely, if there is a current world leader who bears some responsibility for 9/11, it is Musharaf, whose intelligence service aided and abetted the Taliban up to the US invasion, and whose army has not been exactly vigorous in cleansing itself of Taliban/al Queda in its western provinces, whose ranks almost certainly include bin Laden himself. But Musharaf was deemed sufficiently cuddly this past spring to make an appearance on the Daily Show, where he cracked wise with Jon Stewart, while Ahmadinejad is regularly seen as the second coming of Hitler.
To me, it comes down to this. The United States has suffered a catastrophic, self-inflicted military defeat in Iraq, and Iran will eventually and inevitably be the great victor. All the president’s horses and all extraterritorial death squads like Blackwater will not be able to avoid this. And we will waste countless more lives, American and Iraqi, until we recognize this, and then beat an ignominious retreat, as we eventually did in Vietnam. But before Nixon was ready to give up in Vietnam, he had to entangle neighboring countries, like Cambodia, in a futile to get the sort of post-war settlement he wanted. And there are many in the administration who think that if we somehow weaken Iran, we can still eek out a victory of some sort in Iraq. This is a fool’s delusion, but it is the possibility, even the likelihood of a US attack on Iran that is forming the backdrop to everything that will happen when Ahmadinejad visits the Big Apple.