You may have heard an important statement by our new secretary of state, John Kerry: “Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations.” Okay. But on this matter of “elected,” I think of something that Jim Woolsey, the old CIA chief, once said.
“Arafat was essentially ‘elected’ the same way Stalin was, but not nearly as democratically as Hitler, who at least had actual opponents.”
It matters, what Kerry said. It matters greatly to Iranian oppositionists and political prisoners. They are no doubt extremely disheartened. The American secretary of state has blessed the dictatorship that rules them, and against which they’re struggling, as elected and legitimate.
Prisoners find out about such things, as we know from Natan Sharansky and many, many others. In his Gulag memoir, Sharansky remembers how “the KGB guys” taunted him about the death of Andrei Amalrik, an exiled dissident. By the same token, he and his fellow prisoners were heartened by good news.
In their cells, they somehow found out that President Reagan had declared 1983 the Year of the Bible. For a while, Sharansky was able to study the Bible with a prisoner named Volodya. They called their sessions “Reaganite readings.”
Andrei Sakharov once told Jeane Kirkpatrick that her name was known in every cell of the Gulag. Why? Because she had named the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.N. Kirkpatrick was a very different kind of official from John Kerry.
What do you think they know in Evin — the prison in Tehran that is one of the darkest and most evil places on earth? Many people would rather be shot in the head on Evin’s steps than enter that place, for even a day. Do the prisoners know what Kerry has said?
Would he ever mention their names, à la Kirkpatrick? Would President Obama?
Be very clear that what American leaders do matters greatly. Every word is heard, every gesture is noticed. George W. Bush used to send Nowruz greetings — i.e., New Year’s greetings — to the Iranian people. Barack Obama, when he came in, sent them to “the people and leaders of Iran.” He also referred to Iran as “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which is what the mullahs insist that country be. He said that he sought engagement “grounded in mutual respect.”
Mutual respect. Between a free, democratic country and a regime that, among other things, stones girls to death for the crime of having been gang-raped? Really? Mutual respect?
When protesters massed in the streets after Iran’s fraudulent election in June 2009, they chanted, “Obama, Obama! Either you’re with them or you’re with us!” Two years later, Sharansky called Obama’s stance during all this “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history.” At the critical moment, “the leader of the Free World said, For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.”
It seems that the United States does not really do freedom anymore. Freedom is passé. That’s just fine with most of our Left, and with significant portions of our Right. Too bad. But maybe some others will hold high the torch?
Stephen Harper of Canada?
Moore refers to a certain British parliamentary district, or constituency, as “almost the truest-blue in the country” — that is, one of the most Conservative. In my piece, I say that Harper has spoken of painting swaths of Canada blue — that is, making them Conservative, instead of Liberal. In Britain and Canada, red is the color of the Left, and blue is the color of the Right.
Just as Nature intended. Just as the centuries have decreed. Here in America, somehow, we got our colors reversed. It’s so unnatural, and so wrong. I’ve had several years to get used to it, I know. Still not there yet.
A friend of mine in Canada e-mailed me a tweet from Prime Minister Harper. My friend said, “Most Canadian tweet ever?” You decide. The prime minister tweeted, “Stopped by @ifstc2012 in Woodbridge today and met some students — sorry for interrupting your class.”
For a picture, in conjunction with the tweet, go here.
In my piece, I mention a Canadian prime minister of the past — John Diefenbaker, known as “Dief,” or “The Chief,” or “Dief the Chief.” He was a Conservative who held the top office during the time of Eisenhower and Kennedy (1957–63). (Leave it to me to date history by U.S. presidents.) (I’m at a loss before the 1790s.)
The Canadian government has made a video, emphasizing freedom as a national value. As I understand it, the video uses words that Diefenbaker spoke when introducing the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960.
I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.
The video does not use the words “for myself and all mankind.” The Harper government is bold — very bold — for a Canadian government. It is less politically correct than any government we’ll have up there. But “all mankind” would be going way too far . . .
Something that happened last week caused a flashback in me. Let me explain: Speaking at a U.N. event in Vienna, the Turkish leader Erdogan blasted Zionism as “a crime against humanity.” Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, sat on the stage with him, silent.
Erdogan and Ban Ki-moon shared a stage in Davos, in 2009. Ban blasted Israel, though in indirect terms. Erdogan blasted Israel. Amr Moussa, still the Arab League boss, blasted Israel. The room was thick with lies and moral perversity.
Then it was time for Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, to speak. He blasted back. He spoke basic truths, passionately, clearing out, for a while, the lies and perversity.
I’m pretty sure this was the most thrilling and gladdening thing I have ever seen in public life. I don’t believe I have ever witnessed a performance so great and gratifying as Peres’s. I know that righties like me are supposed to dislike the oft-dovish, though not always dovish, Peres. Be that as it may . . .
I wrote up the experience for NR, here.
While we’re talking of Israel: A friend of mine sent me an article and said, “Remember, Israel is racist. Very racist.” The article explained that a 21-year-old Ethiopian immigrant had been crowned Miss Israel. She will compete in Miss World next September.
Well, I don’t see why that’s a big deal: I mean, Arab states — or Turkey or Iran — would award a black woman such a crown too, wouldn’t they?
Remember: Israel is racist, very racist. If you’re tempted to forget, the U.N. (among others) will remind you.
Let’s have a little music: For my “New York Chronicle,” in the new New Criterion, go here.
I enjoyed reading something in an obit of Dale Robertson, an actor in many a western. (It sounds wrong to say you enjoyed reading something in an obit, but you know what I mean.) “Mr. Robertson never made any bones about his desire to get out of show business one day. He said movies had gotten too sexy for his tastes. He said he got tired of having to hold his stomach in. Mostly, he wanted a ranch.”
End on a little golf — and tennis? As we learn in this report, Serena Williams was in Tiger Woods’s gallery at the Honda Classic last week. At one point, she took a picture, and was scolded by security. She tweeted, “Apparently u can’t take pics. This security . . . yelled at me.” She subsequently tweeted, “In my Defense peeps always take pics of tennis players.”
I love that. Thanks for joining me, dear readers, and catch you soon.
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.