First, let’s start with what should be the starting point, not someone’s preferred interpretation, not a gloss, not a twist, nor an inventive rewording or taking of words out of context–but the actual spoken statement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the 65th session of the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2010, with particular attention to what you hear being said starting at 09:05, and which is identical to the actual text of the speech provided by the UN, and filed with it by Iran’s Permanent Mission to the UN. I encourage readers to download it, open it, and follow along with the spoken speech, starting on page 3, or else trust the exact copy of the relevant section of the speech reproduced below:
One can analyze the current governance of the world by examining three events:
First, the event of the 11th September 2001 which has affected the whole world for almost a decade.
All of a sudden, the news of the attack on the twin towers was broadcast using numerous footages of the incident.
Almost all governments and known figures strongly condemned this incident.
But then a propaganda machine came into full force; it was implied that the whole world was exposed to a huge danger, namely terrorism, and that the only way to save the world would be to deploy forces into Afghanistan.
Eventually Afghanistan, and, shortly thereafter, Iraq were occupied.
Please take note:
It was said that some three thousands people were killed on September 11th, for which we are all very saddened. Yet, up until now, in Afghanistan and Iraq hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions wounded and displaced and the conflict is still going on and expanding.
In identifying those responsible for the attack, there were three viewpoints.
1- That a very powerful and complex terrorist group, able to successfully cross all layers of the American intelligence and security, carried out the attack. This is the main viewpoint advocated by American statesmen.
2- That some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime. The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.
3- It was carried out by a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation. Apparently, this viewpoint has fewer proponents.
The main evidence linking the incident was a few passports found in the huge volume of rubble and a video of an individual whose place of domicile was unknown but it was announced that he had been involved in oil deals with some American officials. It was also covered up and said that due to the explosion and fire no trace of the suicide attackers was found.
There remain, however, a few questions to be answered:
1- Would it not have been sensible that first a thorough investigation should have been conducted by independent groups to conclusively identify the elements involved in the attack and then map out a rational plan to take measures against them?
2- Assuming the viewpoint of the American government, is it rational to launch a classic war through widespread deployment of troops that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people to counter a terrorist group?
3- Was it not possible to act the way Iran countered the Riggi terrorist group who killed and wounded 400 innocent people in Iran. In the Iranian operation no innocent person was hurt.
It is proposed that the United Nations set up an independent fact-finding group for the event of September 11th so that in the future, expressing views about it is not forbidden.
If Ahmadinejad Said Something About 9/11, It Must Be Inflammatory!
Very clearly, if one is calm, sensible, rational, and without a comprehension disorder brought on by severe ideological conditioning, Ahmadinejad has said there are three different views about the events of 11 September 2001, with reference to those responsible for the attacks. He has not said which one he endorses. If you accuse him of endorsing one view, then one can just as easily say that he is endorsing either of the other views, or even less logical, that he endorses all of the competing views. Ahmadinejad states, in his second point under “identifying those responsible for the attack” that the “majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree” that it was orchestrated by the U.S. government. One wonders where he gets the idea that the majority of Americans are “9/11 truthers” (not that he is known for the high esteem in which he holds American beliefs), but the point is that he is not making an argument that the number of believers in a claim makes that claim correct.
That is not what significant elements in the mainstream U.S. media heard. They heard Ahmadinejad, 9/11, inside job, and they were done with it.
The New York Times said “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran made a series of incendiary remarks in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, notably the claim that the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to rescue its declining economy, to reassert its weakening grip on the Middle East and to save Israel.”
So eager was NYT to add its condemnation, in its own editorializing article, that it was later forced to print a “correction“–see the bottom of the page: “In his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad asserted various theories about the origin of the attacks, including the possibility that they had been planned by the United States. He did not say that the United States had planned the attacks.” That’s a pretty big correction, considering that it completely contradicts and invalidates the very start of the article! The correction should appear at the top of the page.
The NYT’s Neil MacFarquhar also notes that his statement prompted 33 delegations to get up and walk out on Ahmadinejad. For those who like myself followed the speech live, you will recall that almost as soon as Ahmadinejad started to speak about 9/11, the U.S. delegation rose to leave, and had left well before he could finish his remarks–they were waiting for the first chance to do so, as keen as they claim to be about dialogue and diplomacy, and gave in to their reflex, now virtually instinctive reactions: Ahmadinejad, Iran, 9/11, intolerable.
The U.S. Mission, as NYT notes, “swiftly” issued a “terse response”: “Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable.” Now they are hearing Ahmadinejad also attacking all Jews, and presumably Palestinians as well, because his remarks were “anti-Semitic.” He chose to “spout vile conspiracy theories”…and yet at least one of the views presented by Ahmadinejad was the U.S. government’s own preferred view, which is a rather clumsy statement to make for those trained to represent their country as diplomats. They have now added their government’s view to the list of conspiracy theories.
CBS News was at least a little clearer and more careful than the NYT was: “The U.S. delegation walked out of the U.N. speech of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday after he said some in the world have speculated that Americans were actually behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks, staged in an attempt to assure Israel’s survival.” Thus they walked out because Ahmadinejad said what we already knew: that some, including many (not the majority though) of Americans, believe that the 9/11 attacks were staged by the U.S. itself. They thus also walked out on a segment of American public opinion, for which Ahmadinejad gets the blame, because apparently it is highly offensive to even observe that some speculate about the attacks in this manner. By the same logic, had Ahmadinejad referred to the fact that some Americans are racist, that would have also made him a racist.
CBS was also careful to note that “the Americans stood and walked out without listening to the third theory that the attack was the work of ‘a terrorist group but the American government supported and took advantage of the situation’.” In other words, they walked out before they even heard everything Ahmadinejad had to say on the matter, which was not much.
TIME did the best job in subjecting Ahmadinejad’s words to the kind of torture that would get them to hear what they wanted: “The Iranian leader’s U.N. General Assembly address included the bizarre — and, in Obama’s words, ‘inexcusable’ — allegation that the U.S. government had orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.” Obama also called Ahmadinejad’s statement “offensive” and “hateful.” Remarkable.
The New York Daily News published this headline: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: United Nations needs to investigate my 9/11 conspiracy theory.” Investigate my conspiracy theory? Again, what he actually said:
“It is proposed that the United Nations set up an independent fact-finding group for the event of September 11th so that in the future, expressing views about it is not forbidden.”
About Those Conspiracy Theories…
Even more, the New York Daily News charges Ahmadinejad as follows: “he accused the US government of having a hand in the attacks.” They then add, quoting him from a news conference:
“An event occurred, and under the pretext of that event two countries were invaded and up to now hundreds of thousands of people have been killed as a result. Don’t you feel that that excuse has to be revised? Why do you assume that all nations must accept what the US government tells them?”
Having first planted the suggestion in readers’ heads that Ahmadinejad is speaking of 9/11 as an inside job, the hope is that they will miss the nuance of an unrelated statement. Ahmadinejad is referring to facts: now two U.S. governments, and a countless number of official speeches and articles in the media have drummed up the idea that because of 9/11 the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan (in Bush’s case), or at least Afghanistan (Obama’s case). “The excuse has to be revised” –yes it does, because now it is accepted fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, even though more Americans still struggle with the fact that the Taleban also had nothing to do with 9/11 nor were the attacks launched from Afghanistan, nor were the alleged key actors Afghans, yet here we are occupying Afghanistan. If this is “controversial” it shows just how willfully blind, ignorant, and self-deceiving some are, ever trusting of what the state tells them.
And speaking of conspiracy theories, some would be well served to remember that when the Taleban leadership first asked the U.S. to provide evidence that their guest, Osama Bin Laden, was ultimately responsible for the attacks, that none was provided. The Taleban were being asked to hand over someone alleged of great crimes, without any evidence. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to harbour two terrorists, whose acts of terror are documented and factually incontestable, refusing official extradition requests: one being Luis Posada Carriles, guilty of having bombed a civilian passenger jet, killing all 73 people on board, sought by Venezuela; and Emanuel Constant, Haitian death squad leader whom Haiti has repeatedly asked be deported back to Haiti to stand trial.
Another way of putting this is that the Taleban could just as easily have accused the U.S. of plotting illegal aggression based purely on a conspiracy theory, without any kind of evidence, with five repeated denials by Bin Laden. Only after years had passed did the U.S. ever furnish anything resembling an attempt at evidence, and a lone mysterious statement allegedly by Bin Laden now suddenly claimed responsibility for 9/11, even though he continues to not be listed by the FBI as wanted for that crime. Indeed, the FBI first said there was “no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11,” then later clarified that 9/11 was not listed among the crimes for which Bin Laden is sought because “no formal charges” against him have been made, according to the Washington Post.
Given these details alone is it at least reasonable to say that questions can be asked? And can one just ask those questions without being confronted with the orthodox, not to mention hysterical response that one is alleging 9/11 was an inside job? Apparently not.
When You Start Hearing Things, What Should That Tell You?
Many Americans, and some others beyond the U.S., need to hear certain things in order to feel reassured and safe in their preferred self-perception and their preferred representation of dark and evil enemy Others. This is about myth making. Ahmadinejad is the state-designated enemy. Hating him on cue means loving America without hesitation. Unlike the U.S., which both has nuclear weapons and has used them against civilians, Iran has none. Unlike the U.S., which has invaded and occupied other nations, Iran has not. Unlike the U.S., which has threatened Iran with military action, Iran has never threatened the U.S. This is precisely what nationalistic, true believing Americans do not want to hear. Telling them such things provokes the same reaction as if you had poured acid into their ears. They would rather pick up a sharp object and ram it into their eyes than see Ahamdinejad as anything other than an evil enemy, driven by the worst intentions. This is not restricted to followers of any one partisan ideology either: you can hear these views of Iran being rejected by conservative Republicans such as Ron Paul, as you can hear them instead being endorsed by self-described Marxists.
As an example of not wanting to listen to what you would rather not hear, there is Matt Armstrong, a pseudo-academic suspended in a web of mystification spun by the powers that be, and reproduced by him and his self-styled “Mountain Runner Institute.” Armstrong prefers to fix himself within a mist of preferred representations of the U.S. and its designated enemies, in an act that he champions as “public diplomacy,” which is little more than a nice way of not saying state-sanctioned propaganda. The difference between him and a Soviet apparatchik is that the latter had guaranteed employment and free medical care, and in the end probably had a more critical mind. A transcript of our “conversation” on the topic of Ahmadinejad’s statement can be found here. Confronted with the facts, Armstrong turns to his usual tactic: resorting to insults. I am thus “ignorant,” a poor anthropologist, who engages in willful distortions and falsification. Indeed, for referring to the actual transcript of Ahmadinejad’s speech, I am accused of “removing words AND meaning” –i.e. I do not echo what he asserts without basis. If Armstrong is uncomfortable with objectivity, he finds honesty to be a loathsome stranger. One must repeat after him, word for word, or be accused of lying–he sets the bar high for himself, and very low for Ahmadinejad.
In a discussion about Wikileaks, with Armstrong desperately clawing at its surface in the vain hope of a “take down,” Armstrong invents a new meaning for “expression”: it must be “labeled” and “framed” or it is not expression. Providing him with established definitions of expression earns you the charge of “manipulating vocabulary,” of propaganda (an Orwellian charge at best from a servant of a war state). Providing dictionary definitions earns you the accusation of playing with “ambiguity,” being “lazy” and “manipulative.” He deleted a tweet (talk about “removing words”) where he called Julian Assange narcissistic, a propagandist, and criminal (but he retained his response to my challenge, and others remain as well: see here and here)–perhaps because he later said he wanted Assange on a panel. The fact that the same could be said of Obama, Hillary Clinton, Stan McChrystal, seems lost on him. He complains about Wikileaks’ release of the Collateral Murder video, but not of the crimes committed against unarmed and wounded civilians as shown in the video. It’s a crime to talk about “our” crimes. He complains that Wikileaks editorializes, then complains about the absence of framing; he complains that it is not a whistle blower organization, then calls it a whistle blower for the Taleban (of course, Assange must be added to the list of state-designated enemies, what an effective way of aligning him with those the U.S. thinks it has a right to kill)–confronted with his obvious contradictions, he denies them. If you address the subject when it is changed, he accuses you of changing the subject. I would prefer not to think of him as a mere idiot (but who obviously thinks everyone else is an idiot), but the practice of an Orwellian liar is quite unmistakable here, and not without its consultancy rewards. If there is one thing the U.S. State Department loves to hear it is to hear those who sound like the U.S. State Department.
As the U.S. faces the reality of its loosening grip on the world, some are clearly losing their grip on reality and good sense. Empires degenerate fastest when they collapse from within, and there is no mistaking the rot that exists in imperial heads as they collapse in on themselves. I would encourage other anthropologists to begin their salvage ethnography on American exceptionalism before it dies out and becomes a dusty relic in some freak show.