Thursday bore the ripely rotten fruit of a now-yearly autumnal Manhattan ritual—Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke before the United Nations General Assembly, vilifying the West and being vilified by the West in return. He said “hateful” things and in turn was hated for it. For the third consecutive year, Western delegates stormed out in a tiff during his speech—or at least the ones who bothered to show up. Israel and Canada chose to play hooky from the start.
For someone who purportedly hates Jews so much, Ahmadinejad always seems to be flying to New York. His speech came a day after Iran released a pair of American hikers they’d held captive for over two years. It also came a day after Iranian officials publicly hanged a 17-year-old for murdering an athlete known as “Iran’s Strongest Man.” Proving once more that the United Nations ain’t so united, Ahmadinejad hammered away at his familiar bêtes noires: Western economic imperialism, America’s use of nuclear weapons, and the cynical employment of the Holocaust as a pretext “to pay [a] fine or ransom to the Zionists.” As he did in last year’s speech, he questioned “the hidden elements involved in [the] September 11 incident” and whether it had been staged to excuse full-blown Western military intervention in the Middle East.
Judging from the infantile mass walkout and the hyperbolic verbal fallout, one might think Ahmadinejad was purposely trying to be an asshole—an unapologetic Ahmadinejerkoff—rather than honestly speaking his mind. US mission spokesman Mark Kornblau accused him of tossing out “abhorrent anti-Semitic slurs and despicable conspiracy theories.” With robotic predictability, he was labeled a fascistically tyrannical poison-peddling hatemongering WWIII-precipitating Demon Seed of Hitler.
But is he a madman…or just a mad man? We get the message LOUD AND CLEAR that we’re supposed to hate him, but it’s not as if there would be any financial, political, ethno-religious, or military-industrial complex reasons for misrepresenting him…right? After viewing a series of online videotaped interviews, we found him to be undeniably dogged, resolute, feisty, and scrappy, but he always winds up seeming less flustered than his interrogators. He tends to ask questions they prove incapable of answering. He displays a refreshing absence of the will to please. He appears to be more of a sincere ideologue than a crafty politician, which is always fatal in politics.
His comments on Israel and the Holocaust have earned him worldwide condemnation—or, you know, that’s at least the impression that the, eh, running lapdogs of the filthy satanic bloodsucking Zionist regime would have you believe. But the ideological climate, at least in the West, is absurdly repressive—it’s one where you can’t question specifics about the Holocaust or even allege it is cynically and unfairly being used as a political cudgel without being falsely accused of saying IT NEVER HAPPENED and that no Jew was ever killed in WWII. To even dare challenging the officially sanctioned version is to touch the third rail on the Last Train to Dachau.
Still, Ahmadinejad is bold enough to ask uncomfortable questions about it. Why is it unique among historical events in that one can be imprisoned in certain countries merely for questioning it? If 40 to 50 million civilians died in WWII, why are only six million ever remembered? And since the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust, why were they uprooted from their ancestral homelands to atone for it?
He makes a similar sort of queasy sense regarding nuclear weapons. Back when the US invaded Iraq under the pretense that they possessed weapons of mass destruction, we never heard our supposedly truth-seeking Fourth Estate ask our politicians a howlingly obvious question: Are we accusing Iraq of having any kind of weapons that we don’t already have? And if not, doesn’t that undermine the charade that we have the moral authority to invade them? Likewise, when continually pressed, quizzed, inspected, and sanctioned over Iran’s nuclear program, Ahmadinejad points out that America has thousands of nuclear weapons and has already used a couple of them to blast cities to dust. It’s commonly believed, although not publicly admitted, that Israel sits on nukes, too, so at the moment, who’s a more legitimate danger to whom?
When it comes to civil liberties, Ahmadinejad cuts a bit less of a sympathetic figure.
Depending on how his Farsi gets parsed, his infamous comments at Columbia University in 2007 about how “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country” may have been, pardon the expression, overblown. If they didn’t have any homos, they wouldn’t be executing them, now, would they? He may have simply meant that Iran doesn’t have randy hordes of mincing, screaming, leaping pink gazelles clogging the streets as we do here in America. It’s also little known that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the ersatz George Washington of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, openly sanctioned sex-change operations for men who desire sex with men, in which case they become women and are therefore no longer, you know, homosexuals. Iran appears to be slightly—confused?—regarding sexual matters. In August 2009, Iranian cleric and alleged Ahmadinejad cohort Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi reportedly told a crowd he approved of prison rape unless “the prisoner is aroused and enjoys the rape.”
Ahmadinejad also appears to wield the hairy hand of a totalitarian. His henchmen infamously cracked protesters’ skulls in the streets following his highly contested 2009 reelection, and they also crushed copycat demonstrators emulating the Arab Spring earlier this year. Iran is also said to censor more websites than every other country on Earth besides China. Jazz music has also been banned from Iran’s state-sponsored radio airwaves for decades, but we don’t like jazz music, so we’re not complaining.
We’ve covered the good and bad. Now comes the ugly.
Whether Ahmadinejad’s opinions are ugly is up for debate. Whether his face is ugly is not to be questioned—it is. Omar Sharif he ain’t. “Dashing” is not the word to describe him. His is an unfortunate face rimmed by unfortunate hair and an unfortunate beard. It looks like the fleas of a thousand camels infested his face. He looks like one of those coconuts carved to resemble a human. He resembles the missing twin jihadist brother of Maynard G. Krebs. He looks like Dracula and the Wolfman had a baby that was delivered by a pterodactyl rather than a stork. Although it once seemed inconceivable, his part of the globe may have belched up a visage even uncomelier than Yasser Arafat’s. And don’t even get us started on his wife—her mug is a compelling argument for a full-faced Darth Vader burqa. This may seem petty, but he has grievously offended our eyes. After all, standards are standards. We would prefer that our villains be handsomer than this.