Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a unique way of making it hard to agree with him.
The Iranian president graced the UN stage today and raised several valid areas of injustice: the Western imbalance towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the disproportionate death-toll between 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And with US President Barack Obama highlighting progress in these theaters amid a flood of doubt, then admonishing the Palestinians while keeping silent on Israel’s behavior, Ahmadinejad had the West aligned in his sights.
Then, somewhere between defending Iran’s nuclear program, Ahmadinejad accused elements in the US government of orchestrating 9/11 to save “the Zionist regime.” US, EU, and allied officials staged a premeditated walkout, and the media predictably devolved into Ahmadinejad’s rant.
US officials correctly observed that his time would have been better spent addressing and expressing the will and needs of the Iranian people to the international community. Fortunately for them Ahmadinejad didn’t address Palestine and Afghanistan with any real design either. He had ample material from next door as Afghanistan’s parliamentary election steams toward a messy outcome and US generals evaporate Obama’s July 2011 deadline. He could have simply read the latest Associated Press report indicating that Israeli settlement construction hasn't been “significantly reduced,” as Obama and Israeli officials claim.
Instead Ahmadinejad skewered his own red herring, distracting his audience rather than forcing them to confront the ugly reality that America still faces in the Middle East. His 9/11 conspiracy even drowned out what could have been a sensible argument that, as Ahmadinejad alluded to, many Americans and non-Americans find the entirety of 9/11 suspicious.
“The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians,” don’t see 9/11 as a Zionist plot, as Ahmadinejad apparently believes. On the other hand, given its exploitation in justifying Afghanistan, Iraq, and a seemingly endless “Global War on Terror,” many do believe 9/11 has sanctioned potentially illegal wars and operations. Afterward PJ Crowley, a spokesman for the US State Department, denounced Ahmadinejad’s speech as "totally outrageous."
"[Those killed in the attacks] were people of all faiths, all nationalities. They were killed by 19 people, a plot perpetrated by al-Qaeda," he said. "We know who did it and they have admitted who did it. This idea that nine years later there is still some debate about who did it and why is outrageous."
But the main conspiracies don’t revolve around who did it - rather who in Washington allowed it to happen and why. Ahmadinejad should have concentrated his energy here to avoid a US/EU walkout while accurately framing the conspiracy. Ask why years of intelligence were ignored or suppressed in the run-up to 9/11, both on al-Qaeda in general and its plotters. Raise the very awkward question of why US military jets, which normally deploy with unshakable swiftness, were nowhere to be found during the events of 9/11. Explain how al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden had become a burden for the Taliban, who attempted to unload him in the moments before and after 9/11.
And forget Israel for once. Obama had dealt more damage with his one-sided address to the UN than Ahmadinejad is capable of.
The power of rhetoric proved itself today. Wrapped in an optimistic glow and once again rejecting his favorite punching bags - skeptics and cynics - Obama declared the time ripe for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That many are skeptical of Washington’s mediation, not just Israeli or Palestinian leadership, went unmentioned in the US media, as did Obama’s imposed, one-year deadline for his own political agenda.
He also expended one line on Iraq, which still lacks a government, and another on Afghanistan, where US forces are, “pursuing a strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and security forces.” And as we will get to shortly, Obama "accidentally" left the word Kashmir while championing for human rights.
Ahmadinejad, conversely, scarred reality with his own distortions and turned himself into an international mockery. Truth can be hidden by beauty and grime. A typical day at the UN though - more bark than bite.