City of Roses
|Look, I think a vast majority of Americsns are going to reasonably come to the conclusion that both Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei have a very abysmal and unacceptable record when it comes to practicing what they preach on human rights, women's rights in particular. It's been well-documented that the latter, especially, has jailed and punished journalists and writers who have openly criticized him, including Mojtaba Saminejad, who in November 2004 was arrested after accusing Khamenei of harming Iran's national security and insulting the prophets, and was subject to beatings and torture for 86 days.
Ahmadinejad is very unpopular in his own country as it is, both for fusing most of his energy toward verbally challenging the United States rather than focus on the domestic priorities of Iranian citizens (vegetable prices tripled there within just a few months for one example) as well as his fork-edged rhetoric such as saying "In the world, there are deviations from the right path: Christianity and Judaism. Dollars have been devoted to the propagation of these deviations. There are also false claims that these religions will save mankind. But Islam is the only religion that save mankind." back in June of this year.
I believe even most Iranians are uncomfortable with Ahmadinejad, and it reflects in the national polls there. Last December, we saw many moderate conservatives (statistics show 40% of Iranians regularly vote for moderate candidates) head to the polls and win national elections for local councils, rejecting the hard-line antagonistic policies Ahmadinejad represents. One of those moderate conservatives, Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, won seven of fifteen council seats in Tehran alone. So Ahmadinejad may still have great power and influence, but he is by no means popular either at home or on the world stage.
CBS News: September 20th, 2007
Having said that, while I believe Ahmadinejad is crazy and Columbia University should never have invited him to their campus, I also believe it is very dangerous for the media to run on hypothetical situations, and I believe Scott Pelley in that "60 Minutes" interview was irresponsible himself in asking questions based on hard-line hypotheticals. It was more a cross-examination than anything, and regardless of how unlikeable or even crazy the individual is, I found the journalistic quality appalling that evening and, by the end, I swore I felt the "interview" was more about Pelley trying to make a point and say: "See, I can try and be an aggressive journalist!" rather than trying and find out what Ahmadinejad had to say, and that's just another of a series of discouraging signs of the state of journalism today.
In saying this, I am by no means defending Ahmadinejad's spewing of propaganda on the program and elsewhere, nor him personally for any matter. What I'm criticizing is how Pelley was clearly not interested in asking the tough questions while maintaining a polite tone and dialogue, and rather was intending to coercively interrogate him from the beginning and making dangerous hypothetical assumptions that our two nations are potentially going to go to war with each other and such.
I'd take this a step further and insist there is a blatant double-standard here as well, where journalism is about seeking the truth and being willing to ask the tough questions, which also means not being afraid to ask our own government and its representatives the tough questions. And recently, time and time again, from the months leading up to the war in Iraq, to every six months when the president moves the goalpost on Iraq while continuing a "stay the course" policy in Iraq and then begs us to wait another six months under the same strategy without a plan for victory, to warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, etc........virtually everyone in the media continues to roll over and suck up to the soundbytes, such as phrasing a drawdown of troops to a pre-surge level as a "troop withdrawal" that was required to happen anyway because we can't sustain a force of 160,000 for too long, or saying that the surge is what has made the al-Anbar Province much more quiet again, despite the fact the Sunni tribal leader revolt pre-dated the surge by three months because many Sunni tribes rejected the violent authoritarian tactics of al-Qaeda operatives there, or saying that there has been a 75% reduction in violence in Iraq since the surge began despite re-defining the definition of "sectarian violence" down to the difference of being shot in the front of the head or the back of the head.
So, I say this not to mean to digress from the real topic here, but I do believe there is a double standard in our media where it is willing to get all bombastic in interviews against foreign leaders, but when it comes to our own leaders, the media doesn't have the guts to ask our President and Vice President serious, unscripted questions, and I believe that's also very troubling, as journalism should be about seeking the truth regardless of who the person being asked is, in a civil manner.
Public Agenda: Spring 2007 Foreign Policy Poll
What I saw in that "60 Minutes" interview was that familiar saber-rattling ritual, just like in the lead-up to the war with Iraq, and that is what scares me especially here. As it is, a vast majority of Americans, who themselves have reasonably said in many other polls that they do believe Iran is a threat of some sort, nonetheless also believe that we must exercise all diplomatic options we have rather than resorting to pre-emptive military strikes and such, including holding direct talks with Iran and Syria, which we simply haven't even done yet.
Just this spring, nearly half of Americans polled believe we must use diplomacy first and foremost, while a mere 8% believe we take military action at this point. And yet, it really feels to me at least that the media is behaving as though talks never solve anything, and wants to rush to that last resort before even trying any other option out; despite the fact most Iranians are reasonable, tolerant individuals who regular prefer moderate candidates as they demonstrated last December, despite the fact that our military is already stretched way thin as it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I certainly am not suggesting we sit back and behave as though nothing is going to happen in the next fifteen years, but constant saber-rattling I believe is just as dangerous as inactivity, and while I'm sure we can all agree Ahmadinejad is one not to be taken seriously here who is absent of credibility, I also believe it was irresponsible how Pelley handled that interview, and running on hell-bent hypotheticals will only make us appear more intolerant throughout much of the world.
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other"