I’ve watched both 60 Minute interviews with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Each time I came away thinking, this guy is the 21st century’s Hitler—only a little more charming.
Hate was written all over Hitler’s face—you can see it every time you watch an old newsreel. Ahmadinejad hides his hatred behind a seemingly friendly face, almost always smiling. His eyes dark and congenial—hardly ever expressing what’s going on in the brain their fronting.
Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad thinks God is on his side and that his lies are the truth. But Iran’s president has also learned from the past. He’s mastered the American political art of never answering a question.
On this past Sunday evening’s 60 Minutes broadcast, Scott Pelley pressed him for a yes or no answer about pledging not to test nuclear weapons. In response, Ahmadinejad wondered if Pelley was a CIA investigator simply because the reporter was doing his job—trying to get to the truth.
Clearly, Ahmadinejad doesn’t value a free press—there really isn’t one in Iran—so the notion of being aggressively questioned by a reporter was obviously shocking.
“This is not Guantanamo Bay,” he said. “This is not a Baghdad prison. Please, this is not a secret prison in Europe. This is not Abu Ghraib. This is Iran. I'm the president of this country!"
In other words, I’m the President of Iran. In my country the press doesn’t get to ask me these types of questions and I’m certainly under no obligation to answer yours. And, if reframing the argument to make you seem like the tyrant—an interrogator from some of the United States’ worst prisoner embarrassments—then that’s what I’ll do to not answer your question.
Like I said, he’s mastered the art of not answering the question. But even in our country, that only goes so far. After a while, the press and the people see through the act and demand answers. We’re seeing that today with the country turning its back on our failed Iraq war. We’re no longer willing to listen to “mission accomplished,” “need more time,” or “troop surge.” We know its not working and we’ll make our voices heard loud and strong in 2008.
Ahmadinejad thought he could use that political trick at Columbia University this week when he answered some questions after his address at the school’s World Leaders Forum.
When asked about the treatment of gays in Iran, he said “We don’t have homosexuals like in your country . . . We don’t have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you we have it.”
Well he must have thought the sexual cleansing that has been going on under his regime was complete. Thankfully, it’s not.
There are still plenty of gays and lesbians that his death squads haven’t rounded up yet for torture, jailing and killing. But, they live a persecuted life. They live underground. They live in constant fear that the next knock on the door will be a policeman dragging them from their homes to probably never be seen again until they’re hung in the public square.
Yes, that’s the truth about Iran’s gay community. A truth he doesn’t want to speak. The transcript from the Columbia event was printed in its entirety on Ahmadinejad’s English website, www.president.ir. However, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, when you go to the Persian-language site—the place where his country’s media goes for authoritative transcripts of his speeches, any and all references to gays in Iran have been purged.
If Iran’s president doesn’t officially talk about gays in his country, then they must not exist. And, if they don’t exist, then the reality of his sexual purge of gays and lesbians won’t come to light. Not a single Persian-language media outlet in Iran has reported on his comments.
But, it is getting a lot of play elsewhere. The September 25th New York Times’ article about the event at Columbia lead off with “He said that there were no homosexuals in Iran—not one—and that the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews should not be treated as fact, but theory, and therefore open to debate and more research.”
Opening the event, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said to Ahmadinejad, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.”
Like I said--the 21st Century’s Hitler.