It’s only fair that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be subject to a fawning puff piece the Washington Post. After all, Stalin’s greatest p.r. agent was a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist at the New York Times. Stalin’s guy was Walter Duranty, and Ahmadinejad’s is Karl Vick, who began his long wet kiss Wednesday with:
On the afternoon of Jan. 4, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reached for the phone and got Latin America on the line. In quick succession, he chatted with President Fidel Castro of Cuba, rang up President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and, sensing yet another kindred spirit, reached out to Evo Morales, the young firebrand who had just been elected president of Bolivia.
I suppose it would be bad form to point out that the three Latinos are united in their hatred of the United States, or that Castro and Chavez are distinctly anti-democratic. And indeed, Vick does not annoy his readers by mentioning either fact. Instead he calls them “relatively poor, disempowered nonaligned nations” who “glory in defying the West.” Which is not at all true; all of them, including Iran, have long courted Europe, old and new alike. Their venom is reserved primarily for us.
Vick describes this as a revival of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, which despite its title was a useful tool of Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War. But Vick treats it with respect, the same sort of respect he reserves for Ahmadinejad. “His speeches are great, fantastic, kind of ’60s Third World stuff,” a Tehran-based European diplomat says.
And of course Vick blames us for any rhetorical excesses coming out of Tehran. After all, he says, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, tried to establish a “dialogue of civilizations aimed at rapprochement with Europe and even Washington,” but it failed, Vick says, “especially after President Bush lumped Iran with North Korea and Iraq in an ‘axis of evil’…” which, in Vick’s apologia, “strengthened hard-liners who argued that the country must define itself in opposition to the United States.” He never mentions that Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, the driving force behind Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, which is what bought its ticket to the Axis of Evil.
Nor does bother with the dark side of the Iranian president. Vick briefly mentions “the controversy enveloping him personally after questioning the Holocaust and saying Israel should be ‘wiped off the map,’” but he goes on to say that, after all, the man is a populist reformer with profound religious values: “Elected….on a populist platform that promised poor Iranians a share of the country’s oil wealth,” Vick coos that Ahmadinejad “often speaks expansively of the human appetite for ’spirituality’ and ‘justice,’ and refers to himself as ‘just a teacher.’”
Nothing about the systematic crackdown on independent newspapers and blogs, nothing about the brutal oppression of critics of the regime, and not a word about the recent bloody crackdown on the working class, as evidenced in the smashing of the bus drivers’ union in Tehran in recent weeks. True, Ahmadinejad offered goodies to the people, but so did every other candidate, and there is no sign that the new president has any intention of delivering on his promise. The bus drivers were asking for decent wages, not for revolution, and they were beaten, arrested, and tortured.
Ah, well, it’s all in a day’s work for a newspaper that, like Big Brother up in Manhattan, increasingly defines itself as the attack dog of the opposition. Which is, I think, why such newspapers are losing subscribers and advertisers, and their market caps are shrinking. And it is why blogs are increasingly the source of reliable analysis for millions of concerned citizens all over the world. I mean, it’s hard to take seriously a newspaper that likes this guy.