In a recent post, Josh Marshall mentions discussions with his readers about reactions to the President of Iran’s request to visit Ground Zero.
Apparently most readers felt that we shouldn’t allow him the propaganda victory. Josh asks if he’s alone in supporting the idea that we should ignore him, that we’re bigger than that. “Why should we care what he says?” is Josh’s view, and I think there’s a lot to that.
In fact, I’d go beyond that to say that we should escort him there, and give him access to the press. Make sure he gets a good view of our gaping national wound.
If we were strong and proud and sure of ourselves, that’s what we’d do. In fact, we’re a nation scared stiff, not unlike our Congressional representatives, strutting and puffing ourselves up but secretly afraid that we’re about to lose it all. We’ve got an incurious faith-based windshield cowboy at our head, our general’s an ass-kissing little chickenshit, and most of the rest of us watch the soap opera on TV, seemingly unaffected except that our economy is ruined as our liberties disappear and our representatives cower.
Ironically, here’s where the argument against letting Ahmadinejad make a propaganda point holds up best. If we allow him to see our national wound, for which some of us seem to bear him ill will, what’s to keep him from pointing to one of Iran’s most grievous wounds, the destruction of the elected government of Mossadeq and its replacement with the brutal Shah and his secret police? And where did Savak learn its “interrogation” techniques?
A case can be made that the United States has wounded Iran more than Iran has wounded us. And we don’t want to think about that. That’s the propaganda victory that would hurt, because it would break the spell of American exceptionalism, which we’ve tried so hard to re-weave after the revelations of Abu Ghraib.
We used to be brave because we were sure we were good. Lots of times we weren’t, but we were sure we were anyway. Now we know we’re not, and we’re frightened.