Ahmadinejad defiant 298..
(photo credit: AP)
Unsurprisingly, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a few whoppers to his disconcertingly appreciative audience at Columbia University in New York on Monday.
The man who has purged awkward academics from his country's universities, closed down troublesome newspapers, and jailed a range of journalists, intellectuals and other critics, asserted that his country was a bastion of personal and professional freedoms.
He ridiculed the notion that homosexuals had been executed in Iran, documented evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
He shrugged off incontrovertible charges of sponsoring terrorism and, turning the question back on his accusers, depicted Iran as "a victim of terrorism... the first nation affected by terrorism."
And having declared a month ago back home that he would place his country's nuclear technology "at the service of those who are determined to confront the bullying powers and aggressors," he now insisted time and again that Iran's nuclear program was "peaceful." How could it be, he asked, all injured innocence, that the very nations which had themselves utilized the right to peaceful nuclear power were now seeking to deny it from his people?
But it wasn't all big lies from Ahmadinejad. He didn't deny his determination to question the fundamental facts of the Holocaust. And he didn't deny his regime's strategic hostility to the existence of Israel - "the Zionist regime" which, along with the now disappeared apartheid South Africa, was specifically exempted from the readiness he otherwise declared "to negotiate with all countries."
Indeed, he predictably airbrushed the Jews out of Middle East history and misrepresented the Jewish nation's claim to a homeland in Palestine as deriving solely from Jewish suffering in Europe under the Nazis. He then dismissed that false claim as unfair to the Palestinians. And, finally, he specified a "solution" to the Palestinian conflict that would constitute the elimination of the Jewish state.
And he was applauded. He was applauded when complaining that he had been given a critical reception by the university's president. He was applauded at the end of his exposition on Palestine. There was even admiring laughter when he smoothly parried the demand for a "yes or no" answer to the question of whether he sought the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
There was applause for his assertion that "we do not believe in nuclear weapons, period." And there was sustained applause for him at the close of the event, after he had wished peace, brotherhood and friendship upon us all. Only when he strayed to assert that Iran doesn't "have homosexuals, like your country," did he misjudge his audience and attract some booing.
The president of Iran, a nation disseminating a perverted Islamist ideology that obligates the indiscriminate killing of non-believers, a country directly encouraging the deaths of American soldiers right now in Iraq, came to a prominent institute of American learning. Canny, well-prepared and sharp, he emerged, there should be no doubt, with greater legitimacy than when he went in, and thus strengthened his standing back home and his capacity to engineer more harm.
But perhaps saddest and most worrying of all, much of his audience was not only deluded and swayed by the big lies, but was evidently unperturbed by some of the despicable truths he vouchsafed as well.