Hypocrisy and cowardice were on full display in New York City on September 22. The United Nations was once envisioned as a forum for dialogue and peace-building, but it’s clear that the governments of Canada, the United States, Australia, and the European Union only subscribe to these ideas insofar as they benefit them. As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the podium and entered into the core of his address to the world, the delegations from Western countries walked out.
The audacity of Ahmadinejad to question the supposed “truth” that Western countries have tried to impose on the world and to illustrate the problems of Western hegemony and abuse of power was too much for the remarkably sensitive world elite to bear. The fact that most of the world’s developing countries did not walk out on Ahmadinejad’s speech played perfectly into the Iranian president’s hands and served to reinforce his message that the current global power structure is deeply and unmistakeably unjust.
Western governments and media frequently paint themselves as heroes, and as the coordinated force of liberty in the world while insulting the integrity of foreign governments and peoples. Ahmadinejad echoes the sentiments of people worldwide – the villains of CNN fame are not the only abusers of human rights and manipulators of mankind. The leaders of very nations that have appointed themselves the leaders of the “free world” also abuse human rights and manipulate individuals.
Spin doctors like Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said: “Mr. Ahmadinejad had a chance to address his own people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity, but instead he again turned to abhorrent anti-Semitic slurs and despicable conspiracy theories.” But of course, lies and propaganda cannot cover the truth. While President Ahmadinejad has made anti-semitic remarks in the past, he refrained doing so in this speech, and he posed legitimate questions that run through the minds of the majority of the world’s population. Ahmadinejad did, in fact, address his own people’s aspirations for freedom and dignity. He addressed the entire developing world’s desire for liberation from neocolonialism and crippling inequality. Somehow, that message was lost in our newspapers and reports.
The mass walk-out of Western diplomats served to prove that the United States and the European Union continue to masquerade as upholders of freedom when, in reality, they have contributed very little to the freedom of man. As Ahmadinejad correctly pointed out, the legacy of the Western world includes slavery, colonialism, mass murder, environmental degradation, and crony capitalism. Our leaders criticize Ahmadinejad for his questioning of 9/11 and the Holocaust, and these criticisms are then used to unjustly delegitimize the crux of Mr. Ahmedinajads argument: that western governments are just as oppressive as those they condemn.
Haaris Khan is a U2 International Development Studies student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.