Ahmadinewho?

If you were an editor of a respected news magazine, would you publish a guest editorial from the leader of a religious fundamentalist government that recognizes no secular rule of law or traditional concept of natural rights? What if this regime was known for torture of its citizens, suppression of the press and harassment of minority groups? That is a good description of Iran’s real political government.

Your answer to the above question might be “No.” Newsweek said “Yes.” It recently ran online a guest editorial by Iranian President  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While I am all for equal time and a diverse viewpoint, I wonder where news organizations should draw the line. Would newspapers today let Stalin or Hitler have access to its editorial pages? While I would not put Ahmadinejad in the category of those two men, I certainly wouldn’t think of him as a guy you can trust either.

Amnesty International (www.amnesty.org) recently had this to say about Iran. It reported, “Scores of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continued to serve prison sentences imposed following unfair trials in previous years. Thousands more arrests were made in 2006, mostly during or following demonstrations. Human rights defenders, including journalists, students and lawyers, were among those detained arbitrarily without access to family or legal representation. Torture, especially during periods of pre-trial detention, remained commonplace. At least 177 people were executed, at least four of whom were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence, including one who was under 18 at the time of execution. Two people were reportedly stoned to death. Sentences of flogging, amputation and eye-gouging continued to be passed. The true numbers of those executed or subjected to corporal punishment were probably considerably higher than those reported. ”

Sure, the United States does not have a spotless record when it comes to human rights. But at least we don’t harass people for changing religions or throw people in prison for blog posts.

One of the things that makes America great is its free press. Does Iran have a free press? Would it allow President Bush to write a guest column in its major newspaper or magazine? I kind of doubt it. Amnesty Intl. recently reported, “Freedom of expression and association was increasingly curtailed. Internet access was increasingly restricted and monitored. Journalists and webloggers were detained and sentenced to prison or flogging and at least 11 newspapers were closed down.”

Ahmadinejad has made deliberate threats against Israel and even questioned the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad said some interesting stuff in his Newsweek column. I don’t believe that he really believes a lot of what he said. Of course, the Iranian president did his share of Bush bashing. He also warned about U.S. “unilateral action” in the Middle East. But he also talked a lot about peace, eradicating poverty and injustice, mutual respect, human rights, etc. That last part was the section I found difficult to swallow given Iran’s record in the past. 

Ahmadinejad wrote, “It was hoped that the new world would enable all nations, in light of universally accepted humane norms and mutual respect, to advance together, eradicate poverty and injustice, and set aside bitter memories of the past that were nothing but war, bloodshed, violence and tension.”

Wow, it sounds like the Muslim fundamentalists in Iran have become peace makers. Get your shovel ready. There’s more.

Ahmadinejad also wrote, ” I think the common denominator of all these problems is distance from religious values, ethics and spirituality. With such distance from ethical and spiritual values, human dignity, love and kindness—which are the common elements of all great Abrahamic religions—and humanity’s moral, material and civic achievements have been jeopardized. The best way to avoid the deadlock is to emphasize common values and the natural desire of all human beings for perfection, benevolence, justice, brotherhood and kindness. These values can help us find solutions to all problems facing humanity. Global, sustainable peace and security will be realized only through the establishment of true justice and brotherhood. How can we expect to reach sustainable peace and security by humiliating others and acting in ways that depart from ethical and spiritual values?”

Well, let’s all grab hands around the camp fire and sing cumbaya. I believe the Iranian president showed his true colors when he commented on Israel.

Ahmadinejad wrote, “The U.S. government has succumbed to the demands of the Zionists and the Zionist regime. This is a lethal ailment that afflicts U.S. administrations. The American people do not like to see their leaders fall captive to the Zionist network. Surely the American people would prefer U.S.-inspired policies to those perpetrated by the Zionists… The U.S. government will bear the heavy responsibility for the Zionist regime’s massacre of Palestinian women and children in their homes and territory.”

Okay, that sounds more like the Iranian ruler we have all come to know and love. Well, maybe we don’t really love him. But you get the point.

Ahmadinejad makes it sounds like Jerusalem is running America’s foreign policy. That is just laughable. I wonder if he really believes what he is shoveling. I hope not or he might be crazier than we first thought.

All of this gets back to my original question. Should Newsweekhave given Admadinejad access to its pages? I have a hard time thinking this was the right decision. It’s one thing to interview someone for a story. It is another thing to give them cart blanche to say whatever they want in an editorial.

Critics might say that I have done the same thing. That is somewhat true. But at least, I am encouraging everyong to keep their BS detector on when they read what he wrote. I believe media outlets must be careful what they cover because they have a responsibility to the American public.

Knowing where to draw that line can be tough. It is one thing to let your crazy neighbor tell you what he thinks about your car. It is quite another to let him have the keys and take it for a lap around the block.

You can read more at http://www.newsweek.com/id/77945

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