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The UN’s Dictator Tour 2006


Chavez’s close ally, President Ahmadinejad, received similarly deferential treatment. Blogging at the Huffington Post, Nathan Gardels, editor of the left-leaning New Perspectives Quarterly, asserted that the Iranian leader, like Chavez, had accurately diagnosed the world’s reaction to “George Bush’s unilateralism” and “Anglo-Saxon dominance.”

“When Ahmadinejad railed against U.S. and UK attempts to dominate the world through the Security Council as if this were the early post-WWII era instead of the 21st century it was a message that resonated globally,” Gardels claimed, adding that “[i]t would be a big mistake to dismiss their comments as the ravings of madmen”

All Ahmadinejad had done, according to Gardels, was express what the “rest of the worldactually thinks.”

Many on the Left agreed. Indeed, Ahmadinejad became something of an overnight celebrity among New York’s liberal establishment. The venerable center-left think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), invited him to attend a special question and answer session. The diplomatic gesture backfired disastrously, as Ahmadinejad took the occasion to call for “more impartial studies to be done” to determine whether the Holocaust actually occurred, defended Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium, and chastised his hosts – among them insurance mogul and Holocaust survivor Maurice Greenberg – for being puppets of the Bush “government position.” CFR’s communications director, Lisa Shields, nevertheless defended the council’s decision to grant Ahmadinejad yet another forum to promote his cause: “We’ve had Castro. We’ve had Arafat, and Mugabe. We’ve had Gerry Adams,” she noted, an explanation that did not reflect nearly as well on the center as she may have supposed.

Columbia University showed only marginally more sense, canceling a planned visit by the Iranian president, officially for lack of security. Considering Ahmadinejad’s views on academic freedom – he recently enacted a purge of liberal and secular faculty in Iranian universities as part of a campaign to bolster Islamic fundamentalism across the country – his appearance would have put the school, which already boasts a not-unjustified reputation for anti-Semitism, in an awkward position. But the very fact that the university offered to play host to Tehran’s theocrat speaks volumes about its priorities.

Most noteworthy is that the initial invitation was extended by Lisa Anderson, dean of the School of International and Public Affairs. It may be recalled that in the spring of 2005, Anderson emerged as a vigorous defender of Columbia professor Joseph Massad, her onetime graduate student, against the complaints of Jewish students that he routinely used his classroom as a platform to inveigh against Israel. That same month Anderson signed a letter to Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, dismissing complaints about anti-Israel professors as “the latest salvo against academic freedom at Columbia.” But Ahmadinejad, unlike Columbia students apparently, deserved the benefit of the doubt. “I think we ought to be open to hearing things we don’t ordinarily hear and that we find objectionable,” she told The New York Times.

As a relative newcomer to the America-bashing circuit, Evo Morales didn’t quite attract the following of his more notorious co-speakers. He did, however, succeed in breaking American law, when he held aloft a green coca leaf, a main ingredient in cocaine production and banned in the U.S., to protest American criticisms of his country’s failing anti-drug policies.

In the hypocritical spirit of the occasion, Morales also lectured the United States about the need to respect laws and human rights, an amusing complaint coming from a socialist authoritarian who used revolutionary violence ascend to power and has repeatedly cracked down on independent institutions. Not coincidentally, Morales has for months been the subject of glowing profiles in left-wing periodicals. Writing in the Nation, for instance, Tom Hayden heaped praise on Morales’ “anti corporate, pro-indigenous, pro-democracy agenda.”

As last week’s outpouring of political support demonstrates, the notion that the likes of Morales, Chavez and Ahmadinejad represent the authentic voice of America’s global victims remains, for many on the Left, too appealing to surrender. Countless failings aside, then, the UN at least serves the useful purpose of putting the far Left’s political sympathies in sharp perspective. Maybe there’s a case to be made for it after all.

Jacob Laksin is a senior editor for FrontPageMagazine.com, where this column originally appeared.

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