Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to the United Nations was met with fierce opposition, including a 30-nation walk-out during his address to the international body.
People can protest all they want. That's their right, 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 U.N. walkout 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 must deal with him and his government.
And if the criteria for a walkout are fanatical statements by the ranting leader of a second-rate country, then U.N. delegates better get comfortable shoes, because they’ll be doing a hell of a lot of walking.
Walking out is completely counterproductive, as it gives Ahmadinejad a public relations bonanza. Like eating the forbidden fruit, his remarks will now be heard by many who otherwise would not have cared, 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 as hypocritcal, jettisoning free speech whenever convenient.
It’s exactly like those protesting KKK marches. The louder the protesters, the more media coverage is generated. If protesters stayed home, the groups go away. It’s that simple. So by walking out, we are playing Ahmadinejad’s game, giving him exactly what he wants.
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 intense criticism, 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 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. 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.
This is not a call for appeasement, nor is it running from reality. Iran's actions have made the West very uncomfortable, and if that nation continues on its current path, especially regarding its nuclear program, the situation may 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. 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 nation of Libya (which we had repeatedly praised as a country reformed and a partner in rooting out terrorism) was nothing more than an 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 Iran’s economic stability. The more Ahmadinejad speaks, the more he hurts himself.
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.”
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com.
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