Tuesday, September 25, 2007


An edited version of the President of Columbia University's introduction to Ahmadinejad.

"... a petty and cruel dictator" - "... brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated" - "... yearning to express the revulsion for what you stand for"

Thanks to sandbasher in comments at the Drink-soaked Trots.

Will links to a good article by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post here.


Anonymous said...

mother of god! talk about being taken to task, haha!

Larkers said...

Regrettably, I feel the little creep has got away with it. Notice how the West's liberalism is used as a tool for its own deconstruction. That's what thirty five years of political relativism can achieve.

Will said...

Larkers listen up!

*Not* 'political relativism'"...

Political Relativism is a good thing! For fuck's sake! Let us not abandon our critical faculties!

"Moral relativism" is what you mean... and you are confusing Cultural Relativism with Moral Relativism to make matters even more complicated.

Cultural relativism is the principle or critical category, that understands, or proposes, that an individual's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture -- this is quite plainly correct. EG. an American working class person views the world in a way that is somewhat different to an Indian subsistence farmer (how could they not)?

I am not being a *moralising* relativist by utilising comparative methodology (i.e cultural relativism) as a way of examining the concrete -- eg. to show, and understand why, and how, the US political system is no more bankrupt and in many ways is superior to comparable nations.

Historical Materialism -- which is the best method yet devised for understanding our world and the history of our world - is only another way of saying, or comprehending, historical relativism -- this is truth.

The Plump said...

Been on the Pimms Will?

Larkers said...

Apart from the expletive, I think you make a point, at least as far as I am able to follow you.

What I suppose you may agree with is, however, the rise of equivalence as an argument of first resort. By this, Margaret Thatcher, and latterly, Blair and Bush, was the 'same' as Hitler. Interestingly, The Union of Democratic Mineworkers thought Arthur Scargill represented 'another Hitler'. Such statements are unworthy of seriousness, but that is not the end of what might be derived from reading them. In fact they destroy meaning and significance in their wake. If Hitler can be compared with an obtuse leader of a political grouping with which one disagrees, what does that imply for 'historical process'? This is much more than sloppiness.

I was drawing attention to what I see as the by product of the War on Terrorism, a 'natural' series of arguments which, amongst others equates, for example Israel with totalitarianism, or Bush with Saddam Hussein. (Only among those who have not lost complete touch with reality; others see Saddam some way above Bush, purely as a victim; Galloway, for example).

Western universities have, in recent decades, churned out tens of thousands of the semi-educated who have been not so much taught as knocked into shape. This is a consequence of the late sixties in the schools and has effectively replaced probity and veracity in scholarship with allegiance, substituting comment for enquiry. Blandishing a few modish post modern concepts about helps, like garnish on a limp salad. But what of truth? Alas, that too is 'relative.' By this, the Israeli conscript soldier and the concentration camp guard are 'the same.'

Now, Ahmadinejad benefits from this ''equivalence' method as he smiles his way around the west, and so few are able to observe what is happening. My hearing is in fact somewhat defective, but I can see what is front of my eyes.

Jon said...

Thanks for posting the video. Bollinger gave a mostly good account of the injustices of the Iranian regime, although it was so reliant on applause-seeking that the subtleties of the translation of the alleged call for "Israel to be wiped off the map" was not given. My understanding is that Ahmadinejad said that "the regime must vanish from the page of time". This is an important distinction, as comments of that kind that would encourage Israel to participate in a military attack on Iran.

That said, the first half was pretty good. I only hope that, if criticism like this can be conceived as a softening of public opinion prior to war, CNN gives equal prominence to opinion condemning a potential war on Iran. Iraq was an oil-rich state that was refusing to kow-tow to the American line under Saddam (especially in relation to the monetary denomination of oil); it would be disgraceful if videos like this are used blindly to drum-up support for *another* resource-war.

However, the speaker in a later segment discredits himself by publicly supporting a handful of neo-conservative foreign policies, as if Iran's opposition to them was as bad as persecuting women, or denying that the Holocaust took place. In particular, if Iranians are supporting the resistance movement in Iraq, it is because Iraq has been illegally invaded by a foreign country using humanitarian propaganda to disguise base financial motives. Criticism for those fighting for Palestine, similarly, is incomplete if it does not recognise the full picture, such as the social services provided by Hezbollah et al. For the record, I deplore their terrorism, and regard it as misguided at the very least, but equally I wonder how the Davids in Palestine can prevent the Goliaths in Israel from continuing the persecution of the Palestinian people. It would therefore have been a saving grace if Israeli violence was condemned at the same time as militant violence, but unfortunately, no mention of this is made.

The Plump said...

Thanks for your contribution Jon,I disagree on a couple of points though.

if Iranians are supporting the resistance movement in Iraq, it is because Iraq has been illegally invaded by a foreign country using humanitarian propaganda to disguise base financial motives.

First, even if resistance is legitimate we have to ask the question about the type of resistance movement. For example, the Khmer Rouge were anti-American at the time of the really illegal bombing of Cambodia. Supporting genocidal maniacs purely because they are a resistance movement is hardly a model of sense.

Second, there was substantial support amongst Iraqi people for the initial invasion and a majority voted for a democratic constitution. Iran's involvement is to back movements which wish to destroy democracy and impose a theocratic tyranny. Being pro-democracy and anti-theocracy is hardly neo-conservatism, but is closer to democratic socialism!

Third, the question of motivation is not clear cut. I dislike monism and feel that there was both idealism and self-interest combined in the action taken. Certainly there were deep concerns about oil security. However, identifying that the best method securing of oil supplies was democratisation was a pretty spectacular departure from the cynical foreign policy pursued by successive post-war governments. In that sense it was what the left had been calling for for ages but they were caught on the hop when it was delivered by the right.

alleged call for "Israel to be wiped off the map" and such as the social services provided by Hezbollah et al

On the first, I don't speak Farsi so I cannot comment on the long and contested debate over translation but I would argue that the attempt to justify his statement by questioning the translation is let down by many subsequent statements of hostility to Israel. Statesmen often use coded language, I think his meaning would be clear to his audience, even if it was phrased more delicately. Secondly, the argument about social services always reminds me about how at least Mussolini made the trains run on time. A minor consideration and a tactic to win communalist support by fascistic movements. What matters is the terrorism and their plans for their own populations if they were to gain power, and those are distinctly sinister and hardly liberal.

Larkers said...

When I read Jon's posted comment about Hamas' social service provision I too, like the plump, recalled Mussolini. I have a brother who has lived in Germany for many years. He tells me how he met Germans who grew up before and after National Socialism and told him how Hitler transformed the lives of the poor before 1939. I hope the point is made.

As for the translation of Ahmadinejad's exact meaning I am sceptical that an accurate semantic interpretation is what is left wanting here. Let us take, for example, the famous remark of Margaret Thatcher "There is no such thing as society."

The import of this remark is still chewed over, but I think it is clear what she meant; more importantly, what the consequences of such a view encapsulated, and that these were to be welcomed. Other readings are possible but unconvincing.

Therefore, taking Ahmadinejad at his word, I have no doubt at all that the present government of Iran desires the destruction of the state of Israel regardless of the consequences.

Yet in all this one yearns for a Left undivided, eager once again to build a better world.