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Posted by on Sep 21, 2007 in At TMV | 7 comments

Iran’s President And 9/11’s Ground Zero: Bomb Site Is No Disneyland


Was this deja vu all over again?

Not quite. But there did seem to be some whispers from the past….

On Sept. 19, 1959, at the height of the Cold War, then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was barred from visiting Disneyland, leading him to explode in a verbal rage. Pundits (and comics) had a field day. So the second most powerful man in the world was mad because he couldn’t ride the teacup ride? The grounds for the nix on Nikita: security problems.

Fast forward to September 2007, at what appears to be the height of the War on Terror and this time Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been barred from visiting 911 Ground Zero. The news media, perpetually-outraged bloggers and politicos jumped on the story. The grounds for barring this leader who doesn’t get many Happy Hanuka cards: security concerns.

But, in the end, the Ground Zero Controversy seems to have proven to be a tempest in a Persian teacup: because Ahmadinejad, who has seldom been accused of passing up a chance to inflame passions, polarize parts of the world, and hurl stumbling blocks in the path of attempts at serious negotiation, seemingly said OK…so I won’t go there. The New York Times:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran indicated to CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that he would not insist on his plan to visit ground zero if the New York authorities objected. CBS released a partial transcript of the interview by Scott Pelley, which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday.

In the interview, Mr. Ahmadinejad said he just wanted to pay his respects at the site and was “amazed” by Americans who viewed his plans as insulting.

In reality, he shouldn’t have been too amazed….

Various books written before 9/11 and since have noted that Iran is believed to be a major sponsor at best and an enabler at least of worldwide terrorism. Plus, Ahmadinejad’s comments about how nice the world would be if only Israel (and presumably the “Zionists” who populate it and support it ) were gone from the face of the earth have not endeared him to many.

Taken together, it’s not incomprehensible that some would feel that a site marking where nearly 3,000 innocent souls had their lives brutally snuffed out on an otherwise routine morning due to a cowardly terrorist sneak attack would be defiled by his visit.

Or that perhaps others might be suspicious of any wreath he left (would it say “Israel did it!” on it?).

Or that it would be the ultimate, perverse photo op — someone heading a nation believed to play a key role in terrorism getting tons of ink, still photos and videotape showing him paying homage to people who died from tactics that many Americans believe he secretly (or perhaps not too secretly) condones.

Reaction to his planned visit was nearly foaming at the mouth — and this time, for once, it wasn’t from the outrage-a-second blog community as much as New York’s mainstream media and from the candidates of both parties who yearn to be President.

The New York Daily News’ front page said “Go to hell” and for once that didn’t refer to an American politician. Most candidates had something to say but varied in tone. Moderate (Hillary Clinton’s “unacceptable” to Barack Obama’s “must not be a backdrop for President Ahmadinejad to posture”) to angry (Rudy Giuliani’s “outrageous.”)

But the award for the best quote came from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:

“If he has any extra time, why doesn’t he go visit the Holocaust museum instead?” Mr Romney told a cheering crowd in Florida.

The hubbub was further accentuated by continued reports that Iranians are helping Iraqis who kill Americans. According to one recent report, the U.S. military arrested an Iranian who is believed to belong to an elite Iranian force smuggling roadside bombs into Iraq.

President George Bush made his feelings known about Ahmadinejad’s proposed visit and New York authorities:

A spokesman for the police force says they denied the request because of ongoing construction and security concerns. But President Bush indicated there may be emotional reasons as well in a city that suffered so much at the hands of terrorists.

“I would understand why they would not want somebody running a country that is a state sponsor of terror there at the site,” Mr. Bush said.

So was this akin to 1959? Not quite.

Khrushchev wanted to visit Disneyland, an enchanting, family-friendly place where people could leave their cares and thoughts of the outside world behind and step into a fantasy world. It’s a place that causes children of all ages to smile.

Iran’s President wanted to visit an all-too-real reminder of the post-911, brutal “let’s kill the innocents” world — a reminder of horrible deaths, a nation caught off-guard, human carnage, economic devastation and a symbol that sparks feelings of anguish, rage, lost national innocence (or naivety) and revenge in many Americans. It’s a place that caused thousand of children (whose parents were murdered) to cry.

And, in the end, Khrushchev “lost” and didn’t get what he wanted.

But Iran’s President?

Did the big fuss (that continues as this is written) over Iran’s President, as New York officials looked for grounds to turn him down, play into his hands? Time Magazine thinks so:

The shrill reaction to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s request to visit Ground Zero is playing right into the Iranian President’s hands. He faces growing unpopularity at home, thanks to a dire economy and mounting religious and cultural repression. But his power base is made up mainly of Iranians who participated in the 1979 revolution, among whom the loathing of the U.S. runs very deep. Nothing energizes them more than the sight of their leader being excoriated by the hated Americans.

In other words, just as Ahmadinejad has known that he’d score points at home if he blames everything but Britney Spears’ catastrophic MTV Video Awards performance on the Jews….and just as he realized that if he plays “chicken” with the U.S. over Iran’s nuclear program he’d win support as sure as as Bush will mispronounce “nuclear”…he knows nudging things towards a little confrontation while in the U.S. will do one thing:

It would toss in THE NATIONALISM card at home and link his name and image with nationalism and defiance of the United States. Time goes on:

There’s little reason to believe the Iranian President really wanted to visit the site of the World Trade Center’s twin towers. He didn’t ask to see it on his previous trip to New York. When TIME interviewed him last year, we asked if he had visited the site. His response: “It was not necessary. It was widely covered in the media.” And he once wrote a letter to President Bush, suggesting that the attacks on the towers were the work of unspecified “intelligence and security services.”

So why would he ask to visit now? It is a transparently political stunt, aimed at the audience back home.

So just as Bush, and Democrats, and Republicans know how to play to their constituencies, so does Iran’s President.

So was 1959 akin to 2007?

Khrushchev wound up just being p.o.’ed.

Ahmadinejad managed to p.o. the New York media, Democratic and Republican candidates, a large chunk of the blogosphere (particularly conservative ones), George Bush — and most likely wind up with his own voters p.o.’ed at the United States.

Not bad for a day’s work….

P.S: He’ll probably take a rain-check on that visit to the Holocaust Museum. And why shouldn’t he?

One day, if he’s true to his word, he’ll have his own Holocaust Museum.

With his own name on it.

Here’s a cross section of some other blog opinion:

Josh Marshall:

Am I the only one embarrassed by the dingbat brouhaha over Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s attempt to visit Ground Zero to lay a wreath? Given relations between our countries I could see denying him a visa, but as long as we’re hosting the UN that’s not an option… Sen. McCain said that Ahmadinejad should be “physically restrained if necessary” from visiting the site. The National Review’s Kathryn Lopez got worked up in such a lather that she begged Rudy Giuliani to “lead a human blockade keeping Ahmadinejad from getting to Ground Zero” — thus demonstrating once and for all Rudy’s true calling as the surrogate id of right-wing nerds everywhere.

So what’s the problem exactly? Presumably we can be frank enough to acknowledge that the real issue here is that while Ahmadinejad is not Arab to most of us he looks pretty Arab. And he is Muslim certainly — and pretty up in arms about it at that. And we officially don’t like him. And we classify the country he runs as a state sponsor of terrorism. So even though he has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, when you put all these key facts together, he might as well have done it himself. And what business does anyone with the blood of the victims of 9/11 on his hands have going to Ground Zero?

Nonparty Politics:

Why is this about Republicans? Bush Derangement Syndrome and multilateral political correctness has reached new heights among the morally bankrupt and excusatory left.

–911 widow Kristen Breitweiser has a MUST-READ post that should be read in full. Here is part of it:

So, no, I wasn’t angry that Ahmandinejad wanted to visit Ground Zero. I was angry, however, at the “pack mentality” of our leading journalists. I was also dismayed — but not surprised — at the similar mentality of our current crop of political officials and presidential candidates, several of whom provided the same predictable, politically-correct sound-bite: “We are OUTRAGED!”

What I would have preferred was some real statesmanship….

….Can you get the visual? Extending hands like an olive branch — saying to the world that it is high time for Iran and the U.S. to join together to end terrorism, root out rogue extremist groups, and combat the injustice that nurtures them? That would be bold action, not cheap, tough talk. It would show the world that we are strong and confident enough to deal directly and squarely with our enemies, inviting them to join these common battles.

Imagine Rudy or Hillary actually engaging Ahmandinejad in a dialogue at Ground Zero, asking him tough questions about what his real intentions are, explaining the pain that Ground Zero represents to Americans, and why we all must work together to root out terrorism.

Political Scientist Steven Taylor:

Perhaps my outrage-o-meter is busted, but I just don’t see the point to the apoplexy that is roiling through certain elements of the rightward Blogosphere today over the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to visit Ground Zero and will speak at Columbia University.

Part of my basic response is to wonder why some think that we are so weak as to be unable to withstand this man’s presence and his words. It seems to me that the whole thing (and the responses of various presidential candidates) just makes us look petty and frightened.

Classical Values:

If my understanding of the command structure is correct, the Secret Service is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, which answers to the president.

In other words, President Bush has the power to deny Secret Service protection to Ahmadinejad.

Assuming he has that power, I think he should use it. He could always issue a formal executive order forbidding the Secret Service from protecting Ahmadinejad if he attempts to visit Ground Zero.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I like my tax dollars being used to protect this genocidal maniac at all. Maybe Bush should issue an executive order denying him any protection at all.

–Michelle Malkin has a long roundup and asked whether it might be time to organize a “welcoming party” for Iran’s president.

James Joyner:

Either we have diplomatic relations with Iran, and allow its head of state to visit, or we don’t. But it’s rather silly to deny him access to public areas out of pique

Blue Crab Boulevard:

Frankly, a man who expresses nothing but hatred and contempt for America has no place at that spot where so many of our people died. There is no reason to accommodate Mahmoud’s attempted stunt. And that is quite surely what it is..

…I will also point out that Iran took Americans hostage. Iran bankrolled the murder of Americans. Iran has called repeatedly for the downfall of America. And Ahmadinejad is one of the most vocal. This is not a good time for a chorus of Kumbaya.