On April 27, 1987, as director of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in the Justice Department, I notified the INS that Austrian President Kurt Waldheim was to be placed on the “Watchlist” of persons barred from entering the United States.
Secretary of State George Shultz and Attorney General Edwin Meese had concluded, after an investigation and report by OSI, that Waldheim’s participation in the persecution of civilian populations while serving as an officer in the army of Nazi Germany left them no choice.
It mattered not that he was the leader of a friendly country or that a firestorm of diplomatic protests would ensue; the law was the law. Thus, a loud and clear message was sent from Washington that the United States truly is a nation of laws, above which stands no man.
The time is now for the Bush administration to reiterate that worthy principle and place another head of state – President Ahmadinejad of Iran – on the same Watchlist of criminals, Nazis and other unsavory characters. The grounds are clear, as our immigration law unambiguously excludes any person who has engaged in or incited terrorist activity, or who “has used his position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.”
The evidence against Ahmadinejad is overwhelming and irrefutable, precluding any serious argument that he is not covered by these prohibitions. The public record is replete with his repeated threats for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and his calls for the inevitable “disappearance” of the American and British infidels. All this, as he rushes to develop nuclear weapons while providing extensive weaponry, training and funding to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, each of which officially has been designated a terrorist organization by our government.
Indeed, last March Secretary of State Rice effectively made the case for barring Ahmadinejad as she aptly described his Iran as a “central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hizbullah, in the Palestinian territories,” noting her “deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq.”
A month later the secretary’s conclusions were reinforced in the Report of the State Department’s Office of Coordinator for Counterterrorism, which found that under Ahmadinejad “Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism… and [was] directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts and continued to exhort a variety of groups, especially Palestinian groups… and Lebanese Hizbullah, to use terrorism in pursuit of their goals…. In addition, [Iran] was increasingly involved in supplying lethal assistance to Iraqi militant groups which destabilizes Iraq….”
Last month, prominent human rights lawyers, scholars and activists convened in New York to present a powerful case that Ahmadinejad should be indicted under Article 3 of the Convention to Prevent and Punish the Crime of Genocide, which makes punishable the “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”
Noting recent examples of inaction and delayed responses in confronting genocide, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs released a manuscript that convincingly sets forth the bases for handing up such charges in the hope that “if the world wakes up and enforces its law, the future of genocide will read quite differently, and perhaps not at all.”
In the 1930’s Hitler left no doubt about his genocidal intentions. The U.S. and the free world reacted with deafening silence while some embraced appeasement. In the end, entire Jewish communities and a staggering portion of European Jewry were, as the Iranian president would put it, “wiped off the map.”
If history has taught us anything, it is that menacing threats of mass murder must be taken seriously. Silence, in the face of Ahmadinejad’s threats, accompanying terrorist crimes and a feverish push to obtain nuclear arms, is unacceptable.
For starters, and at a very minimum, the administration should follow the Waldheim precedent by putting Ahmadinejad where he belongs: among the rogues’ gallery of criminals and undesirables who cannot set foot on our soil.