Asking for Trouble

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blogging, Middle East, September 11, Terrorism

This week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was denied a visit to Ground Zero. Ahmadinejad asked that he be allowed to lay a wreath at the site while he visits New York next week. Today ABC News reports that Ahmadinejad may go anyway, permission or no permission, and has even announced when. I can see all kinds of ways this would turn out badly, and I hope someone talks some sense into Ahmadinejad before then.

But Ahmadinejad is not the only one who needs to chill. The ever irresponsible Michelle Malkin is fanning the flames and trying to organize a “welcoming party.” And if she incites enough rage and recklessness to get someone killed, she will be equally outraged if anyone says it is her fault.

When the Good Lord was handing out common sense, Malkin was out hunting down exclamation marks.

No sooner had word gotten out last week that New York City was considering the request than politicians of both parties went into spasms of outrage. There was such a piling on of outrage you’d have thought Ahmadinejad had proposed offering a human sacrifice or, worse, memorializing Muhammad Atta. As BooMan says, the piling on turned into a game of one-upmanship, with pols bragging that they were not only outraged, they were more outraged than their political opponents. (See also the Anonymous Liberal.)

At this point in the post I have to stop and declare how much I don’t like Ahmadinejad. And I really don’t, but I resent having to say it. I am, however, obliged to make it clear that I don’t like Ahmadinejad so that righties don’t show up and accuse me of being a Mahmoud lover. What I will not do is enter into a competition to prove how much I dislike Ahmadinejad or if my dislike is sufficient dislike, because insufficient dislike is tantamount to siding with the terrorists.

Please note: I dislike groupthink a lot more than I dislike Ahmadinejad.

Here’s where we go from dumb to dumber — Scott Johnson of Power Tools says that Ahmadinejad is in New York he will participate in a question and answer session with university faculty and students at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum. Johnson thinks this is a disgrace.

Columbia and President Bollinger are a disgrace. They welcome to their campus a man who is a ringleader in the seizure of American hostages, a terrorist, the president of a terrorist regime, and the representative of a regime responsible at present for the deaths of American soldiers on the field of battle. Columbia’s prattle about free speech may be a tale told by an idiot, but it signifies something. And President Bollinger is a fool who is not excused from the dishonor he brings to his institution and his fellow citizens by the fact that he doesn’t know what he is doing.

It’s true America is plagued by people who don’t know what they’re doing. Most of the Bush Administration comes to mind. But Columbia U. President Bollinger makes it clear he’s not inviting the Iranian leader over for tea and cookies. Bollinger intends to challenge Ahmadinejad on matters of terrorism, nuclear weapons, Holocaust denial, women’s rights, and other thorny issues, which I would think would be educational.

See, Scott, this is a World Leaders Forum, which I assume includes world-leaders-in-training. What World Leaders normally do is deal with other World Leaders of all stripes, and it’s good to have some laboratory experience with such things before you go out and practice World Leadership for real. Among other things, real World Leaders are not cartoons and do not go about with “Good” or “Evil” stamped on their foreheads. Real World Leaders are complicated people who probably got to be World Leaders because they are very good at handling other people. Even evil World Leaders can be charming. Back in the 1930s lots of people — right wingers, mostly — thought Hitler was a reasonable fellow. I remember reading that the first time Harry Truman met Joseph Stalin, Truman thought Stalin was an OK guy. This World Leadership thing isn’t as easy as it looks.

But righties have always been advocates for premeditated ignorance. I recall back in the 1950s and 1960s American conservatives would, from time to time, erupt into outrage mode upon learning that American colleges required students to learn something about Communism. Since Communism was the major threat to the planet at the time, one would think knowing something about it would be useful. But no; teaching students about Communism is teaching Communism. And Communism was, apparently, so inherently evil that merely learning about it was corrupting. Better to stay ignorant.

And it’s better not to get too close to whackjob World Leaders, even in a classroom, so that when the time comes that you actually have to deal with whackjob World Leaders you won’t know what you are doing and will have no recourse but to bomb them.

See how that works?

But back to the Ground Zero visit — I’m reminded of a story. Back in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev toured America and expressed a desire to visit Disneyland. He was denied entrance to the Magic Kingdom, probably for security reasons, or maybe the Seven Dwarfs threatened a protest strike. In any event, Khrushchev’s disappointment became an international, big-bleeping-deal Issue with the bulk of global sympathy siding with Khrushchev. And some American editorialists suggested the experience might have taught the Communist dictator something about the superiority of capitalism and the American way of life.

Here I have to enter another disclaimer, that I am not comparing Ground Zero to a theme park. I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and am, therefore, better acquainted with what happened there than Michelle Malkin or anyone else who merely watched on television. I’ve seen Ground Zero many times since. It doesn’t look quite as sad as it used to, since they’ve finally started building stuff. Still, seeing the place might have given Ahmadinejad a sense of the scale of the disaster that photographs cannot provide. Maybe someone could fly him over the site in an unmarked helicopter. It might give him a glimmer of an idea why Americans are hostile about terrorism. Just don’t put out a press release this is happening, or some whackjob rightie will show up in Manhattan to shoot down helicopters.

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22 Comments

21 Comments

  1. just my 2 cents  •  Sep 20, 2007 @10:58 am

    really, I think Bloomberg should have said ok and made extreme conditions to the visit — with heavy security and so forth. Assuring the safety of all, not allowing long winded speeches, secrecy regarding the time of the visit and so forth — keeping protesters at bay without resorting to force

    IMHO generally Bloomberg’s judgment is pretty bodhisattvic — here I’m not seeing the skillfulness that usually characterizes his actions. perhaps the security needed couldn’t be provided. I don’t think he’s pandering here — could be, but, not his m.o.as i have observed
    theres clearly more to this than meets the eye

  2. Donna  •  Sep 20, 2007 @11:24 am

    That damn Ahmadinejad. First Iran helps us with the run up to the Afghanistan fight…..then Ahmadinejad lets those British sailors go home…..now he wants to offer a wreath at the site of 9/11…… Why can’t these bad guys do a better job of totally molding themselves to the strawman images so essential to the black/white thinking of pandering politicians?

  3. Dave  •  Sep 20, 2007 @12:01 pm

    Oh Lord, Barbara, we can’t talk to bad people! Must KILL bad people. Us good, them bad, kill them. Make world good place for mountain biking.

    This isn’t even as intractable as in Iraq where we have set the Iraq government an actual goal of making the Shia and Suni set aside centuries of conflict and learn to get along, and until we do we’ll kill people from one side or the other of that conflict, depending on what day of the week we’re on. We were actually quite friendly with Iran up to a few decades ago. You’d think we could find some ways to have a little positive dialog on a few subjects in common and then work to expand that and maybe avoid conflict?

    Nixon went to China. Things got better. Maybe this is Ahmadinejad’s “Nixon moment”. Clearly, we have to shoot him for it. Sigh.

  4. D.R. Marvel  •  Sep 20, 2007 @1:03 pm

    Maha…You interrupt yourself too often with your pre-emptive apologies for not following the VRWC script…

    Fuck them righties…They ain’t never gonna get it anyway…

    Let ‘em holler…It’s what they do best…

  5. biggerbox  •  Sep 20, 2007 @1:11 pm

    Having not stewed in right-wing rage juice for months or years, my first reaction to the idea of A. placing a wreath at Ground Zero was “That’s a nice gesture.” I mean, isn’t it a good thing for Iran to at least symbolically express sympathy for our loss, and acknowledge that 9/11 was a terrible tragedy? Even if Iran IS a state sponsor of terrorism, shouldn’t it be a good sign that they think flying planes into the World Trade Center was too much?

    Even in the height of the Cold War, when we and the Soviets had thousands of men and (actual!) nukes poised to incinerate each other at a moment’s notice, laying wreaths was an understood diplomatic nicety. Of course, that was back when we understood that diplomatic petulance and rhetorical tantrums were the road to thermonuclear extinction, not an effective approach to influencing policy.

    I can certainly understand that organizing such a wreath-laying would be a security nightmare, and I don’t blame Bloomberg for refusing to sign up for it. Especially if, as seems clear, the Feds aren’t willing to lift a finger to support it. NYC pays enough for the privilege of hosting the UN as it is.

    Chalk it up as another ‘success’ for diplomatic petulance and rhetorical tantrums, I guess. Sigh.

  6. erinyes  •  Sep 20, 2007 @4:31 pm

    Right-o Marvel!
    My work partner was pissed that Ahmedinejad had the nerve to want to pay respects at the WTC ruins, he said the man said he wanted Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
    My response was “he didn’t say that exactly, and who gives a flyin’ fudgesicle anyway”! Crap, I hear people say retarded shit like Kill this person or bomb that nation all the time. Then the dude went on to rag on Hugo Chavez.
    My opinion is that both Chavez and Ahmadinejad are “a bit quirky”, but they are not a threat to the U.S., quite the contrary, they aren’t running the show.The U.S. under Bush is a HUGE threat to both Venezuela and Iran (and US!).
    I’m quite sure that if the U.S. were not bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq (and Colombia, and Mali, and Somalia,and Pakistan, and the Philippines) that the bombs would be falling on Caracas and Tehran.
    Our problem is Bush. The idiot has started a massive fire that is out of control, not only with the wars,but with our economy. The dollar is crashing against other major currencies and gold is the highest in many years.This time next year we may all be foraging to supplement our incomes (no shit!).
    We need to engauge Ahmadinejad, not insult and degrade him.
    We don’t need no stinkin “Nookular” war with Iran.

  7. We Are The 801  •  Sep 20, 2007 @4:55 pm

    Maha: “Please note: I dislike groupthink a lot more than I dislike Ahmadinejad.”

    Two thumbs up!

  8. felicity  •  Sep 20, 2007 @5:33 pm

    How about this. Years ago I got stuck teaching American history to a class of 6th graders. Two or three days into the unit on the
    American Revolution I got a phone call from an irate parent who accused me of being a Communist. I asked for further information and was told that I was teaching ‘revolutionary’ claptrap in my class. I reminded him that some of the ‘best’ people were revolutionaries as I ticked off Washington, Jefferson, Madison…He hung up,

    One could send a tow-truck for those types, but they’d actually prefer to stay stuck in the mud spinning their wheels.

  9. Swami  •  Sep 20, 2007 @8:19 pm

    I see Ahmedinejad as more sincere in laying a wreath at the twin towers site then I see sincerity in Bush laying a wreath for the American soldiers who have been killed in Iraq.
    The bible says*..a slave cannot serve two masters.. so how can Bush cause their deaths through his lies and mourn their deaths with sincerity? It doesn’t work unless you’re a severe psychopath..

    * sorry about the biblical reference..I’m not trying to evangelize, It’s just an easier source of reference to express the paradox.

  10. AnonymousCoward  •  Sep 20, 2007 @8:55 pm

    What a breath of fresh air is it to read this. I am really dissapointed at the amount of energy spent by the right on this non issue. We have people dying in Iraq or a crappy health care system and to waste time on this is nauseating.

  11. D.R. Marvel  •  Sep 20, 2007 @9:28 pm

    St. Ronnie of Reagan laid a wreath (at Pat Buchanan’s suggestion) at the Nazi cemetary at Bittburg…

    Paid his respects to some of the SS who murdered bound American prisoners at Malmedy…

    None of the righties complained……

  12. Doug Hughes  •  Sep 20, 2007 @10:35 pm

    I accepted an offer to one of those timeshares last year. The facilities were nice; they rolled out the red carpet. It’s damn HARD to say ‘no’. There is a powerful psychology to hospitality.

    Ahmadinejad is going to visit New York Great! Roll out the red carpet; show him as much of this country as his agenda allows. Try to find the right person to be his guide, and impress upon him what the USA is, and how it is in his best interests to get along with us. We can hold firm on Israel’s right to exist and our commitment NOT to allow Iran to develop the bomb. Outside of those two items, anything is on the table for negotiation.

    But kill him with kindness, hostility won’t frighten him.

  13. Lynne  •  Sep 21, 2007 @7:26 am

    If we can work with North Korea, why not Ahmadinejad? All these suggestions are good; “kill” him with hospitality.

  14. KingGeorgeTheTenth  •  Sep 21, 2007 @11:35 am

    To Doug Hughes, bravo, my sentiments precisely. Iran was the worlds only predominantly Muslim nation to hold a candle light memorial to the US. Follow this link for photos of that memorial:

    http://www.bestirantravel.com/culture/wtc-vigil.html

    Since our country in all of our diplomatic ineptitude has no embassy in Tehran they had to march to the US observation office in the Swiss Embassy. If I recall correctly the only videos that got on our network news casts were a bunch of Palestinian refugees dancing in the streets with joy. Not the Persians showing grief.

    Prior to the introduction of Islam the Iranian culture had far more similarities to Western cultures than it did to Arabic cultures. For instance, the Iranian language (Farsi or Persian) is a branch of the Indo – European language family, unlike Arabic which is part of the Semitic language family. Zoroastrian, an early Persian religion incorporates a story of a women giving birth to an important boy after bathing in a lake. This is the root of the Virgin Mary story.

    My point is that Iranian people are very western – just because their government reflects poorly on them doesn’t mean we should start bombing the shit out of them. I can think of another country where the government does not reflect the will of the people all too well, but we aren’t about to bomb the shit out of ourselves (at least I hope not). The fact we do not try to advertise a positive image of ourselves is crazy – as biggerbox and Doug Hughes have already said, we can only gain from giving Ahmadinejad a good picture of the US.

    Remember, the Iranian people are stupendous and LOVE the US. When we call them “evil” we are making enemies out of people who would otherwise be our friends. How does that make any sense?

  15. darrelplant  •  Sep 21, 2007 @11:50 am

    seeing the place might have given Ahmadinejad a sense of the scale of the disaster than photographs cannot provide

    I’d think that someone who lived through the Iran/Iraq war and the bombing and missile campaigns known as the “War of the Cities” and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people might already have a pretty good sense of scale for disaster.

  16. maha  •  Sep 21, 2007 @12:10 pm

    might already have a pretty good sense of scale for disaster.

    (Sigh) I know it’s de rigueur to to dismiss September 11 itself as a minor distraction, but it really was a big deal in its own way.

  17. Peter  •  Sep 21, 2007 @2:39 pm

    I have one additional thought to add to Mahablog’s great post at http://itsbetterleftsaid.blogspot.com/2007/09/i-agree-with-everything-mahablog-says.html

  18. Marshall  •  Sep 21, 2007 @9:02 pm

    Nikita Khrushchev was denied a visit to Disneyland supposedly because it would be a security issue to get him (and his airplane) too close to the missile factories in Southern California, but I heard it was really a tit for tat because of the travel restrictions of our diplomats in the USSR.

    I also heard that when Khrushchev was told he was going to Camp David, a remote government facility in the woods far from DC, he got really offended as he thought that it was some sort of quarantine facility, until someone told him it was the President’s personal dacha (an invitation to someone’s dacha is of course a honor in Russia).

  19. priscianus jr  •  Sep 23, 2007 @12:02 am

    I think the reasoning goes this way: if he goes to Ground Zero he wins, and if he doesn’t, he wins in a different way. Of course, if he goes, we win too. But it’s better we shouldn’t be seen “letting” him win. Even though by us “not letting” him win, he still wins.
    What they don’t see is that, by us not letting him, he wins, but WE LOSE in the eyes of the world. We win only for our little group of political hacks — but that’s all that matters in the narrow world of American politics. Diplomacy? They don’t even know how to spell it.

  20. KingGeorgeTheTenth  •  Sep 23, 2007 @2:44 am

    bravo priscianus jr. couldn’t have said it better myself.

  21. diane  •  Sep 23, 2007 @7:47 am

    It is sad to see that people don’t consider the US a Democracy any more.
    Why not welcome him? Let him experience a free society where people who make bad choices get to be questioned by students in a free and open society?
    Does anyone else get the irony that our own president has not or chose not to do the same thing?
    Why the hell are we suppose to be spreading democracy in the Middle East if we can’t /will not show a supposed terrorist nation what it looks like?
    WHAT DO WE HAVE TO HIDE?????

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