The part about wiping Israel off the map received widespread attention. But our mainstream news media seemed less interested in the other part of Ahmadinejad's speech, in which he looked forward to a "world without the United States."
Bellicose statements from Iran are certainly nothing new. "The non-Muslims are [like] those animals that graze, chew their cud and cause corruption," said Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. (The non-elected Guardian Council is the most influential body in Iran, with six clerics capable of blocking any legislation they deem inconsistent with Islam.) And, in the state-run Iranian reformist daily newspaper, Sharq, Assembly of Experts Head Ayatollah Ali Meshkini said, "The Iranian people must know that America and England are two cancerous growths, and [they] will destroy any country if they enter its body."
On state-run Iranian television early this year, political analyst Dr. Majid Goudarzi stated, "The [Zionists] claimed that they had to be the rulers of the world. . . . They wrote instructions how to gain control of the global media, and how to control the world's natural resources. . . . They want to write history as they wish, and in light of their unparalleled power in the media . . . they have managed to impose the [Holocaust] issue, and to depict themselves as oppressed."
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said, "A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, but it is not just unacceptable to Israel and to the United States. It must be unacceptable to the entire world, starting with the European governments and people." Yet she criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough, even as her colleagues on the Left criticized Bush for war mongering. "I believe that we lost critical time in dealing with Iran," said Clinton, "because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations."
"The White House chose to downplay the threats"?
Recall that President Bush, amid much criticism, called Iran part of the "axis of evil." In the president's 2002 State of the Union speech, he said, "States like [North Korea, Iran, Iraq], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." His critics called it war mongering.
The New York Times editorialized, "The application of power and intimidation has returned to the forefront of American foreign policy. That was the unmistakable message delivered by President Bush in his State of the Union address when he labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea an 'axis of evil.'"
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said using the label "axis of evil" was "a big mistake," and that "the international community thinks we have lost our mind."
"It was reckless rhetoric," said Rep. James Moran, D-Va., "to lump all three countries together." And Warren Christopher, secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, said, "It was a speechwriter's dream and a policy-maker's nightmare."
Former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., called for a "global test" in determining the rightfulness of our actions, thus attacking Bush for his "swaggering" go-it-alone foreign policy. But now Sen. Clinton whacks him for "outsourcing" the problem with Iran to the French, the Germans and the British.
The Iranians claim they intend to pursue a nuclear capability for peaceful reasons. The Iranian parliament, however, provides little comfort, given that their meetings frequently include chants of "Death to America." During military parades, the Iranians show off enormous missiles, painted with charming phrases: "We will crush America under our feet," and "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Experts disagree on how long it would take before Iran develops a bomb, but the disagreement stands on when, not whether. Given cries of "Bush lied, people died," expect much of America to discount any statement by the president. After all, goes the line, we got Iraq wrong, how do we know the truth about Iran? Even French President Jacques Chirac now seems to get it. He recently warned, "Leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against us, as well as any that may be envisaging, in one way or another, using weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposing themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our behalf," said Chirac. "That response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature," clearly referring to France's nuclear weapons.
What would Israel do? What would the Europeans do? In the end, however, expect America, as usual, to do the heavy lifting -- no matter the criticism. The question remains: Will the worldwide hostility toward President Bush, and the desire to interpret everything he says as "a lie," prevent rational people from doing rational things to prevent the irrational people from committing mass murder?