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Let the man speak: Iran’s president vs. media distortion

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on March 9, 2010 at 2:40 am

“Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Why does the American government so fear speech in opposition to its own?

Point in case: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I’ll be the first to admit Ahmadinejad is no benevolent leader whose heart’s desire is world peace. But let’s be honest — the guy has not been given a fair shake.

First there was the media-misconstrued “wipe Israel off the map” rumor. If you were listening to the mainstream machine, you probably believed Ahmadinejad unveiled his evil desire to annihilate Israel while giving a speech at a conference in Iran. In actuality, the president of Iran was quoting leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and said:

“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”

Hmmm. Doesn’t exactly sound like a declaration of war.

And then there was the designed to be ill-fated visit to Columbia University where the president famously denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. But more offensive than Ahmadinejad’s ridiculous claim was the introduction given to him by University President Lee Bollinger.

“Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” were the words Bollinger chose to open with. He continued insulting Iran’s president for more than six minutes; even having the audacity to ask President Ahmadinejad if he plans “on wiping us off the map too?”

He concluded with this disrespectful gem:

“Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer theses questions. But your avoiding them will, in itself, be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.”

Talk about an introduction. If only U.S. politicians were so lucky to be prefaced in such a way.

Not only did Ahmadinejad try to reach out to the American people during his visit to the U.S., he also challenged President George W. Bush to a live TV debate that “should be uncensored, above all for the American public.”

Of course, the administration declined; dismissing Ahmadinejad’s invite as a “diversion.”

But Ahmadinejad did not only attempt to communicate with President Bush on live TV. He also addressed to him a lengthy letter in which he challenged Bush’s claim of Christianity.

“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, make “War and Terror” his slogan?” he asked in the letter.

Perhaps realizing his efforts to communicate with the president would be ignored, Ahmadinejad attempted to communicate directly with the American people. In his open letter, Ahmadinejad expressed sadness over the Iraq war and sympathy toward both the Iraqis and American soldiers.

“American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq,” he said.

Ahmadinejad went on to condemned all terrorism because “its victims are innocent” and posed this question to the American people:

“Is there not a better approach to governance? Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?”

Surely such humanitarian ramblings can not be that of the “insane dictator” otherwise known as Mamoud Ahmadinejad? Doesn’t he want to build a nuclear arsenal with the intention of launching World War III? On the contrary, Iran’s president has vehemently denied such accusations.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapon ambitions. He called such weapons “outdated” and said Iran is ideologically opposed to them.

“We’ve said many times before, we don’t need the weapon,” he said. “It’s not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense, and ideologically we don’t believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically we know that it’s useless. It’s useless.”

However, the president did defend Iran’s right to develop it’s own nuclear energy without dependence on foreign powers.

“You should not have the ability to developed the nuclear fuel cycle yourself,” he said.

Ahmadinejad also pointed out the often-ignored fact of Iranian non-aggression. The president is correct in claiming that Iran historically has not invaded other nations. However, as he points out, his county has been the target of foreign attacks — including those financed by the United States. And let’s not forget the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government in 1953.

To be sure, Ahmadinejad is not to be trusted. But then again what politician is? What is clear is that the United States’ government, using media as a weapon of distortion, has twisted and largely silenced the message of Iran’s president. Ahmadinejad deserves a fair shake. More importantly, the American people deserve to hear what he has to say, uncensored, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

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