Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad in NY

Iran's president spoke at Columbia University today, opening a sluice chute of supposed "controversy" over whether the event should be allowed to happen. My own feeling is that it is better to be speaking than bombing or shooting at each other; perhaps this is why the neo-conservatives who favor war with Iran are so upset with the event, as it does not directly further their cause. It is why they try so hard to generate controversy around the mere fact that he has come here to speak, since he is a figure they want to demonize.

An awful lot of the accusations employed against Ahmadinejad as a justification for war have little substance behind them. For one thing, the president is the highest elected official in the Iranian system, with powers that are limited to some domestic areas, not international affairs. He does not have control over the Iranian military, for example. This calls into question the relevance of what Ahmadinejad has to say about international concerns, Israel included, since he has no real authority on the subject; it also leaves accusations of "dictatorship" open to question, since Iran's president is at least directly elected (unlike the religious clerics who make the central decisions affecting the country) . These are things the neo-cons and other right-wingers invariably omit when they beat their drums for war.

It's also interesting to learn that Ahmadinejad was denied a visit to ground zero when Iran (along with many other countries) expressed sympathy with the US after 9/11, and the Iranian people held candlelight vigils for the victims.

Here is a transcript of the Columbia talk.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nationalism and Culture

Just as "the will of God" has always been the will of the priests who transmitted it and interpreted it to the people, so "the will of the nation" could only be the will of those who happened to have the reigns of public power in their hands and were, consequently, in a position to transmit and interpret "the common will" in their own way. This phenomenon need not necessarily be traced to inherent hypocrisy. Much more reasonably can we in this instance speak of "deceived deceivers"; for the more deeply the enunciators of the national will are convinced of the sacredness of their mission, the more disastrous are the results springing from their inherent honesty. There is deep significance in Sorel's remark: "Robespierre took his part seriously, but his part was an artificial one."

-- Rudolf Rocker