Saturday, September 26, 2009


I'm not sure who's madder. The speaker or those who listened to him. Marty Peretz of the New Republic tries to answer this vexing question - NOTES FROM THE CUKOO'S NEST.


Wilbur Post said...

Here's an interesting article to which Peretz refers in writing on the Iranian crackpot -

An insult to history that demands a response
By Simon Schama
Published: September 22 2009 20:38 | Last updated: September 22 2009 20:38
Not the least repellent aspect of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s reiteration, on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah Jewish holiday, that the Holocaust was a lie, was the muffled response to it by western media and governments. Statements were duly forthcoming in Berlin deploring the Iranian president’s speech, while in Washington it was left to Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, to do the official tut-tutting.

But it was as though the moral atrocity of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s speech was barely worthy of comment being, in the first place, nothing new, and in the second place, incidental to the practical dilemma of how to “engage” with him during his visit to the United Nations this week. Well, one way would be to send Mr Ahmadi-Nejad copies of the 2005 General Assembly resolution repudiating Holocaust deniers and instituting a day of remembrance on January 26 encouraging all member nations to educate their people in the genocide so that future acts of comparable barbarity might not recur.

But then the mere facts of the matter are unlikely to make much impression on a man and a regime lost in paranoid derangement. The pressing issue is how to contain the consequences of anti-Semitic fantasy and recover the moral credentials of a General Assembly that will have listened to someone in such flagrant contradiction of its own resolution. Besides, there is a practical urgency for abhorrence. Far from being some sort of antic sideshow to his regime’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, the obsession with annihilating Israel, it ought generally to be acknowledged, is the prime reason for it. A nuclear Iran, the theocracy may calculate, would be in a position to terminate Israel’s existence by merely threatening a strike unless its Jewish population departed forthwith for places the mullahs recommend as suitable for their deportation. Hence their creature’s cheerful optimism that the days of the Zionist entity are numbered and his cheerfulness that Iran will be honoured in Islam as the heroic enabler of that happy outcome.

The cowardice of embarrassment; the pragmatic humming and hawing about what to do about the buffoon frontman of a tyranny that endures through brutality and torture, is itself a depressing sign of moral collapse. The victims of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s onslaught on truth include not just the outraged memory of the murdered millions but history itself, the integrity of which is at the heart of the western political tradition. The most absurd affront to reality in his remarks may have been the Iranian president’s complaint that research into the history of the Holocaust was being thwarted by a conspiracy of its purported victims. What he has in mind of course is the kind of history he wants to read.

It is the great glory of the project inaugurated by Thucydides that it endeavoured to disentangle fact from fable and to make history the instrument of honest self-criticism rather than idle self-congratulation. Thus sternly conceived, it was to be the torment of despotisms. This was something fresh and breathtaking in the world, the conviction that the authority of history based on an unflinching scrutiny of evidence would always prevail over fantasies derived from claims of revelation.

(to be continued)

Wilbur Post said...

But then perhaps we have already abandoned history as the rough upbraider of moronic turpitude. Perhaps it is easier to digest history as costume pabulum, a stroll with Dame Vera Lynn down memory lane; endlessly rerunning the Good War and wallowing in harmless period romance courtesy of Jane Austen, while tough history gets thinned and thinned until it is finally put out of its misery and the age of national amnesia is enthroned.

“Facts are stubborn things,” said one of the flintier Founding Fathers, John Adams, who well understood that democracy stands or falls with the courage of its history. His remark was made in defence of British soldiers accused of deliberately shooting down civilians in the streets of Boston. Prudence would have advised the young lawyer to look the other way in a city lit by hatred of the redcoats. But he did not. History beckoned him to be brave, eloquent and indignant on behalf of the imperishable truth. Would that the same could be said of those who at this moment should confront the perversion of history with something less craven than a polite demur."