Much attention is being given to the visit that Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has undertaken to the US. I won't waste my time debating the relative merits or possible purposes of this visit, or indeed, the relative merits of Ahmadinejad himself. Ken L of Surfdom has already provided a pretty reasonable summary of reactions thus far (here and here).
Needless to say, nobody on either side of politics is holding up Ahmadinejad as a poster-boy for democracy. Even if they did, this would be largely irrelevant, given that the Ayatollah is the supreme ruler of Iran in any case.
What's amusing is the hypocrisy that has accompanied this little visit by the Iranian. Ahmadinejad wanted to visit the site of the September 11 attacks, and bleeding-heart conservatives united with cruise-missile liberals in the collective victimhood (and amnesia). Naturally, this sense of victimhood is predicated on the (false) notion that Iran is behind the insurgency in Iraq. Or else, these US victimologists justify their pious outrage on the pretext of Ahmadinejad's alleged human rights abuses. No doubt such abuses have occurred in Iran, but it is noteworthy that this latter country receives far more indignation than does Saudi Arabia, the rulers of whom make Ahmadinejad look like Gandhi.
As is often the case, the most amusing quotes came from Dr Condoleezza Rice, who said that any attempt by Ahmadinejad to visit Ground Zero would have been a 'travesty'. She explained:
"I think this is somebody who is the president of a country that is
probably the greatest state sponsor of terrorism, someone who is a Holocaust
denier, someone who has talked about wiping other countries off the map," Rice
told an interview with CNBC television network. (source).
At least Rice managed to get her first 12 words right.
If being the 'greatest state sponsor of terrorism' was a universal criterion for say, denying visas to the aggrieved countries, then post-WWII US politicians might find much of Latin America, South-East and Central Asia and Africa off their travel itineraries. Furthermore, whilst Ahmadinejad might (supposedly) talk of 'wiping other countries off the map', the US remains the only post-WWII power to have put this policy in practice, repeatedly.
The most ridiculous sight of all was that of the Columbia University students protesting Iran's human rights record. (Remember, 'human rights' only becomes an issue with regimes that our Government's don't like. Hence the silence about Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Colombia, or numerous others).
Many of the world's cities, including in the Middle East, and particularly in Asia and Europe, are safer and no more discriminatory than cities in the US. Iran, with its addiction to state censorship, is hardly a stellar example these days, but it still does not imprison and execute its citizens on anywhere near the same scale as the good ol' US of A.
But we should let the protesters enjoy their faux-outrage, and give our blessing to this rare and pious unity of 'conservative' and 'liberal'.