Saturday, 24 September 2011

Enough hypocrisy to go around

One of the articles I read this morning when I got to work was about a walkout at the UN after the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made a speech criticising the US. The article was quick to point out the hypocrisy of the speech, coming from the leader of a country whose last election was highly questionable, where protests are crushed by the military and where there is a great deal of political unrest. It also makes much of the conspiracy theories, such as the claim that most Americans and most outside the US as well believe that 9/11 was staged to ensure the survival of Jerusalem. There seemed to be a fairly decent amount about Zionist conspiracies.

But then near the bottom, Philippe Bolopion (Human Rights Watch's UN director) gives us this with no apparent sense of irony:

"The world assembly should take with a grain of salt the remarks of a leader who said nothing about the public hanging yesterday of a 17-year-old in his own country," he said.

I'm sure everyone knows what I'm getting at with this, but on the off-chance that sometime in the future someone comes across it and can't recall, yesterday also happened to be the day that Troy Davis was executed in Georgia (the US state) despite seven out of nine witnesses recanting and alleging police pressure*, one of the two remaining witnesses being a primary alternate suspect, and three jurors saying that they would change their votes if they could do it again. As far as I'm aware, Obama has made no comment on this.

(*another source I read said ten witnesses had signed affidavits recanting - either way, it is a considerable number)

Ahmadinejad's speech pitted the poverty and unhappiness of most countries against the riches and power of the US and unnamed European nations that he accused of perpetuating wars, causing the current global economic crisis and infringing on "the rights and sovereignty of nations."

He attacked the United States and European colonial powers for abducting tens of millions of Africans and making them slaves, for their readiness "to drop thousands of bombs on other countries," and for dominating the UN Security Council He singled out the US for using a nuclear bomb against Japan in World War II and imposing and supporting military dictatorships and totalitarian regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

"It is as lucid as daylight that the same slave masters and colonial powers that once instigated the two world wars have caused widespread misery and disorder with far-reaching effects across the globe since then," Ahmadinejad said. "Do these arrogant powers really have the competence and ability to run or govern the world?"

Honestly, he may be a complete douche, but I can't say he's entirely wrong here. I do note that there is plenty of poverty and unhappiness in the US and other Western countries as well, of course, this isn't an East-West divide, and I doubt that Iran would do any better if it were suddenly put into a position of global power. But that doesn't make his criticism automatically invalid. And this isn't all distant past, either. There are plenty of people alive who remember WWII, and the propping up of dictatorships is still going on today. It's been a few hours since the House of Representatives cut off a bill that would have continued funding the government past the end of the month, which is a pretty huge deal for the economy of, you know, the world, and it was only a day or two ago too that Obama tried to convince the Palestinians not to approach the UN with a request to become a member state, which unless there's some kind of sudden death double or nothing clause I'm not aware of is not actually going to cost them that much even if it's a no, so I can only assume the only advantage in them not asking is that the chance of it actually happening is vastly decreased.

And really, next to the funding and support of dictators and other such meddling in outright wars for people's very existence, I don't exactly feel right getting into new information about their demands in treaty negotiations. We'll just leave it at: the US does not inspire happy feelings in me, and it's disappointing that it was Ahmadinejad who brought this up simply because he's so easy to dismiss.


  1. Ahmadinejad is easy to dismiss because he's irrelevant: The mullahs in Iran call the shots, and he's their useful idiot, their court jester saying all sorts of outrageous things the world rightly condemns and ignores.

    To suggest that anything he says is worthy of attention is to say that everything he says is worthy of attention—including that there are no homosexuals in Iran (what he meant was, none they haven't yet identified to murder).

    The USA is actually 50 sovereign republics. The federal government has no authority or power to stop an execution in any state, no matter what. Criticise THAT if you want, but don't blame the entire US because some inbreds in Georgia have bloodlust.

    The other problems you cite—such as poverty—exist in all Western democracies, including New Zealand (let he who is without sin, and all that…). The US' Republican Party steadfastly blocks all attempts to make things better for mainstream Americans, in much the same way as National does that in New Zealand. That isn't the sin of all Americans any more than all New Zealanders can be blamed for National being in government.

    My point is simply this: We in New Zealand are far from perfect. Before we look to despicable demagogues like Ahmadinejad to criticise our friends, perhaps we ought to look at our own first.

  2. I fundamentally disagree with "let he who is without sin...". Certainly hypocrisy deserves to be called out, but since the whole point is that no one is without sin it proposes to have a world in which no one is ever allowed to be confronted with their bad behaviour, and therefore in which nothing ever changes. Very, very few people are capable of changing their ways without outside impetus.

    I also didn't say Obama could stop the execution. I don't know that Ahmadinejad could have stopped the hanging, either, because I don't know the details of it. But the accusation was that he didn't mention it, and Obama also didn't mention the execution, thus making them equally culpable. (Incidentally, blaming it on "inbreds" is a nice way of making it look like normal people could never have let it happen. Like it or not, normal people do let these things happen. A lot. That's why they happen, a lot.)

    But then, you seem to have a bizarre all-or-nothing attitude that makes no real sense whatsoever. It's very easy to say something that is worthy of attention even if everything else you say isn't. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and all that.

  3. I can't remember a US President mentioning an execution (I may have forgotten) for the same reason they don't usually talk about bills before a state legislature: The US federal system in which there's nothing any presidential administration can do to stop a state execution. They can't even extend a pardon or clemency because the executions are state matters.

    The only way an execution can be stopped is if the US Supreme Court intervenes, which hardly ever happens; they do so only when a condemned person's rights under the US Constitution appear to have been violated, even if only in a procedural matter or fine point of law. Usually, though, the Supreme Court stays out of it.

    So if you think that President Obama not mentioning the execution makes him culpable, it can only be in the sense that ALL silent Americans are culpable. As an aside, I applaud your use of the word "culpable" which is correct; many people use "responsible", which is clearly not correct.

    My "all or nothing" attitude, as you call it, boils down to practicality. When anyone praises Ahmadinejad for one thing they believe to be "true" or "correct", that person is seen as implicitly condoning everything he says.

    I bet that if you looked back at all the things despicable despots have said, you're bound to find something worth quoting. But there's a reason why most people don't go around quoting Hitler, or Stalin or Pol Pot or whoever, and it's that quoting those people calls their entire argument into question. It's no different with Ahmadinejad.

    Putting aside whether there were any valid points in his arguments, it is inescapable that they are tainted because he made the points. The very people you or I would most want to reach to get them to help end the death penalty will simply tune out.

    You acknowledged he's easy to dismiss, and I get that your point was more that his points shouldn't be dismissed just because he said them. The reality is, however, they certainly will be.

    I apologise for being long-winded, but I value this discussion, so thanks for the response.

  4. Basically I think the point is that Ahmadinejad not commenting on the hanging of a 17 year old in his country is irrelevant, much as Obama not commenting on Troy Davis is irrelevant. It shouldn't be in the article, because all it does is say "We in the West are so much better than those silly Iranians. We don't do things like that." Certainly there is a lot wrong in Iran and the rest of the Middle East, but using that example on that day seemed particularly egregious.

    "You acknowledged he's easy to dismiss, and I get that your point was more that his points shouldn't be dismissed just because he said them. The reality is, however, they certainly will be."

    That's what I really hate about this. The US plutocracy harms everyone (I draw a hard distinction between Americans and the US government - most US citizens+residents are victims of the system as well) but the people who would be most listened to are too busy trying to get in on it, like National. If anything, Ahmadinejad saying this makes it harder to make the point, because while people remember the incident it will boil down to this overly simplistic US-Iran thing where if you criticise the US you're implicitly on Iran's side, when there should be plenty of room in the middle to say "You know, most of that is clearly pretty delusional, but as for the rest, he's not wrong." And instead people will see him saying it and decide that it must be wrong simply because he said it.