Borrowing a leaf from Cuban leader Fidel Castro's playbook almost 50 years ago to the date, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met on September 21 with leaders and representatives of President Obama's former political base, the progressive left, in New York. On September 19, 1960, Cuban President Fidel Castro met with civil rights leaders, including Malcokm X, in Harlem after he was banned from attending a luncheon for Latin American leaders hosted by President Eisenhower. Some of those who worked with Malcokm X attended a dinner meeting at which Ahmadinejad carefully listened, sometimes even taking notes, to the problems in the United States brought forth by many speakers, including former Green Party presidential candidate and congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
Ahmadinejad's meeting with representatives of the U.S. anti-war and peace movements, some coming from as far away as Iowa; labor; disaffected Democrats; African-Americans; military veterans; Iranian-American; Palestinian-American; and alternate media, including WMR, contrasted with Obama's meetings in New York with the global elites, U.S.-backed client dictators, and the leader of NATO military allies. The contrast was strikingly similar to that in 1960 of Eisnehower meeting with Latin American junta leaders while Castro was meeting with civil rights leaders at the Theresa Hotel in Harlem.
Ahmadinejad's speech to the progressives was lacking in any of the vitriol usually ascribed to him by the Western media. The Iranian president waxed about faith in God, justice, and the wonders of the universe. He also defended the right of every nation to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
On the issue of violent capitalism, Ahmadinejad condemned a system that sees the United States as the world's largest producer of military weaponry and starting wars to put money in the pockets of the wealthy investors in the firms that manufacture the weapons. Ahmadinejad cited the one million people who have been killed in U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the same military interests who supported Iraq's Saddam Hussein with weapons sales during the long and bloody war launched by Iraq against Iran in the 1980s.
Ahmadinejad also referred to the deplorable conditions faced by the people of Gaza, although there was no rancorous denunciation of Israel or "the Zionist entity" by name.
Several civil rights leaders told Ahmadinejad that it was hypocritical for the United States to condemn human rights abuses in Iran when the United States has the largest prison population in the world. One Iranian-American pointed to the fact that such "progressive" organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International carry out the bidding of people like George Soros when they condemn Iran's human rights policies. Ahmadinejad nodded his head when it was stated by the Iranian-American representative that Soros just gave Human Rights Watch a $100 million grant. Soros was a major bank roller of the failed themed "Green Revolution" against Ahmadinejad after his re-election last year.
Ahmadinejad said that Iran was the victim of a propaganda campaign waged by the Western media. One speaker cited the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The case that received worldwide attention and saw pleas for clemency from Pope Benedict XVI, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Amnesty International and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The woman's death sentence was later suspended by Iran. The Rupert Murdich-owned Times of London reported that Ashtiani had been lashed by Iranian authorities and showed a photograph of her unveiled. The Times was later forces to admit that both the photograph and the lashing stories were fakes. Ashtiani, who is from East Azerbaijan, was said to be sentenced to death for carrying on a relationship with a man after the death of her husband, however, she was originally charged with conspiring with another man to murder her husband.
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused a stay of execution by Virginia of Teresa Lewis, 41, who was convicted in 2003 of conspiring to kill her husband and stepson with two other men. Lewis, who will be the first woman executed by Virginia in 100 years, is considered mentally retarded. Ahmadinejad referred to the hypocrisy demonstrated by the West over the two cases.
Ahmadinejad, Iranian Foreign Minister, and Iranian ambassador to UN listen intently to concerns of leaders of American progressive left.
Several speakers pointed to the presence of political prisoners in the United States, including native American activist Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and others.
Ahmadinejad expressed anger at the United States continuing to launch military attacks on Pakistan during the worst floods in the nation's history. He also pointed to the nature of U.S. military attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. "Someone says there is one terrorist in an Afghan village and the United States responds by attacking the entire village and killing innocent people," he said. Ahmadinejad said that as a neighbor of Afghanistan, Iran is fully aware of what the United States is doing in the country.
The Iranian president also expressed solidarity with the goals of the American progressive left in fostering peace and social justice in the United States and abroad. When one speaker, a Christian clergyman from Iowa was introduced, Ahmadinejad respomded by holding the palms of his hands upward, a Muslim prayer gesture.
The Iranian President was provided a copy of this editor's book, "Jaded Tasks," the history of the Bush-Cheney administration's crimes against humanity, around the world and in the United States. Other copies have been given to Hugo Chavez; Muammar Qaddafi; Turkish President Abdullah Gul; former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti; and Prachanda, the Maoist leader and former Prime Minister of Nepal.