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Shirin Sadeghi

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Don't Dismiss Ahmadinejad's UN Speech

Posted: 09/22/11 04:51 PM ET

He is religious -- dogmatically so. He is controversial -- discussing the innocent loss of life from the Holocaust and the September 11th attacks in ways that are deeply hurtful to many people. He also remains mum on the situation in his own country. But Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is audacious and a voice that should be paid attention to because it has a great deal of influence.

Amidst the soporific array of diplomatic "courtesy" that rains upon the UN General Assembly's annual speeches, his is a speech apart.

Only from him will you hear a reference to historical global colonialism. Only from him will you hear that the descendants of slaves in the United States should be given reparations. Or that the atomic bomb was a travesty of humanity and a war crime that remains unaddressed and unresolved.

It is easy for mainstream media to dismiss Ahmadinejad -- his over-the-top references to the Hidden Imam of Shiite Islam and persistent imposition of himself as an authority on the Holocaust and 9/11 make his speech controversial and hurtful to many, especially those who lost loved ones in these terrible acts. But an objective media - since that is what the mainstream media purports to be - is not in a position to decide what its public should know.

It's like taking a State of the Union speech by a President Bush or Obama and dismissing the important discussions about jobs, economy and education by focusing headlines and news coverage on the outrageous claims of foreign policy victories which most Americans by now know to be false.

Ahmadinejad started off by rattling statistics that the United Nations prides itself on changing:
"Approximately 3 billion people of the world live on less than 2.5 dollars a day, over 200 million live without even one sufficient meal on a daily basis. More than twenty thousand innocent and destitute children die every day in the world due to poverty."

Then he spoke of American and European slavery of Africans:
"Who abducted forcefully tens of millions of people from their homes in Africa and other regions of the world during the dark period of slavery, making them a victim of their materialistic greed in the U.S. and Europe."

He spoke of the deadliest wars of the 20th century:
"Who triggered the first and second world wars that left 70 millions killed?"

He addressed a U.S. and European foreign policy legacy that still haunts most of the world to this day:
"Who imposed and supported for decades military dictatorships in Asian, African and Latin American nations?"

He even questioned the U.S. government's democratic values by asking "why should it not have been allowed to bring [Osama bin Laden] to trial?"

And then he got into the nitty gritty, talking about the imbalanced military expenses of the United States which -- even at a time of massive joblessness, foreclosures and depression -- still exceeds that of all other countries in the world combined. He mentioned the fact that long before Saddam Hussein was an enemy, he was an ally of the United States and some European powers who was "provoked and encouraged to invade" Iran and use chemical weapons against Iran's population -- most of whom were in the Kurdish region of Iran. And then he reminded all of the other governments of the United Nations that "the majority of nations and governments in the world have had no role in the creation of the current global crisis."

To top it off he hit at the heart of the institution at which he was speaking when he mentioned the hypocrisy of a United Nations that is not united and not democratic because a handful of nations "continue to control the Security Council".

But you will hear and read very little of any of the substance of Ahmadinejad's speech. The headlines will focus on his comments about the "mysterious" September 11th attacks -- as he referred to them -- and the usual delegates who walked out while he was speaking. There will be no reference to the delegates seen in the video coverage of the event who were enthusiastically clapping.

He is not, as you might be led to believe by the mainstream media, a pariah.

He is a controversial figure who refuses to address the serious issues in his own country but even there he is far from alone -- not one UN speaker troubles him or herself to discuss the serious inherent rights issues in their country, the class struggles, the poverty, the inequality and everything else that the government he or she leads is so intrinsically a part of.

Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic and leader of a country where people are regularly tortured and killed in political prisons, corruption is widespread, and the wealth disparity is enormous. He has angered and hurt many people with his controversial statements. And he also spoke some truth at the UN General Assembly about war and the distribution of wealth and power.

It is undemocratic and trite to dismiss the value of those words, even if he doesn't practice what he preaches.

It is a sad state of world affairs when there is only one person who takes the UN and its handful of leaders to task when given the opportunity. It is an even sadder state of affairs that one man's words will change nothing for the powerless, poor and devastated majority of this world who suffer from those leaders' sins.

 

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