Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the United Nations has been met with fierce opposition, including a 30-nation walk-out during his address to the international body. That childish protest, led by the U.S., was exactly what transpired during his previous visits when he spoke at both the U.N. and Columbia University.
People can protest all they want. That’s their right in this country, and Ahmadinejad has certainly provided enough material. But a distinction has to be made as to what is being protested.
If people want to voice disapproval of Ahmadinejad’s totalitarian policies and inflammatory statements, great. If, however, the walk-out was to (ultimately) criticize the organization’s decision to allow an unpopular figure to speak, that’s a different story.
Why are we so scared of Ahmadinejad? What frightens us so much that we demand his viewpoints be silenced? He is the undisputed leader of a sovereign nation, a man whose words and decisions have significant weight on the world stage. Like him or not, he’s the president of Iran, and the West has no choice but to deal with him and his government.
And if the criteria for a walk-out are fanatical statements made by the ranting leader of a second-rate country, then UN delegates better get comfortable shoes, because they’ll be doing a hell of a lot of walking.
Walking out on Ahmadinejad is completely counterproductive, as it gives him a public relations bonanza. Like eating the forbidden fruit, Ahmadinejad’s remarks will now be heard by many who otherwise would not have cared, being attracted by the "If it’s bad enough that the U.S. walked out, I must hear what he said" mentality. And it permits our enemies to label us hypocritcal; we jettison free speech whenever convenient.
It’s exactly like those who protest KKK and neo-Nazi marches. The louder the protesters, the more energy and media coverage is given to those groups. They feed off the attention. Stay home, and they go away. It’s that simple.
And it’s a horrible example for our children. Don’t like what the professor has to say? Leave. Mom and Dad trying to enforce the rules? Walk out. Disagree with what your political opponent says about you? Throw out some invectives and storm away.
In 2007, despite getting hammered by protesters and politicians, Columbia played it right by affording Ahmadinejad a platform, but equally important, chose not to give him an award. It is one thing to allow someone to speak, but quite another when accolades are bestowed upon individuals who don’t deserve them.
The larger question centers on free speech. Aren’t we always told that America sets the standard for the free exchange of ideas? Don’t we teach our young people to keep an open mind and question everything? Isn’t it invaluable to hear opposing points of view, and ultimately form one’s own opinion?
Failure to maintain an open atmosphere leads to close-mindedness and ignorance. The world is increasingly "flat," in that we live in an ever-expanding global economy. Traditional borders and cultural barriers continue to be dismantled. Therefore, it’s imperative that Americans understand the value of listening, are open to constructive dialogue, formulate tough questions, and refuse to live in fear.
Narrow-mindedness will only make the road ahead more difficult.
This is not a call for appeasement, nor is it running from reality. Iran’s posturing—and actions—have made the West very uncomfortable, and if that nation continues on its current path, especially with regard to its nuclear program, the situation may well become bloody.
Is Iran an "enemy," whose leaders should be banned from entering America, as some contend? Depends on your definition. But if that’s the case, then kick out France, which aided and abetted Iraq leading up to the war (in many cases illegally). And China, since it massacred citizens at Tiananmen Square, among its other heinous transgressions. And Syria, given the ongoing slaughter of its citizens.
And let’s not forget to look in the mirror, as America’s role in overthrowing the sovereign regime in Libya—which we had repeatedly praised as a nation reformed and a partner in rooting out terrorism—was nothing more than an inexcusable oil grab for our European allies. Where do you draw the line?
We are not at war with Iran. If Ahmadinejad wants to make ludicrous statements amounting to Holocaust revisionist history, the absence of homosexuality in Iran and who was really behind 9/11, he does so at his own peril. He needs Western investment and petro dollars to survive, and such rhetoric only undermines his credibility and jeopardizes the economic stability of his country. The more Ahmadinejad speaks, the more he hurts himself.
While he advocates much which we abhor, it is the strength of America that allows him to express himself without fear of repercussion. That is why we are still the envy of the world.
It’s time to start effectively dealing with Iran—politically, diplomatically, economically, and yes, if necessary, militarily. For that to happen, we need to act like grown-ups and dispense with second-grade games that make Khrushchev’s shoe-banging outburst look respectable.
The United States should run from no one, least of all Mr. Ahmadinejad. In the words of FDR, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, FreindlyFireZone.com. Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all 50 states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller Catastrophe. Freind also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].