Ahmadinejad "Is Making Sense"?

Like many observers, The Scrapbook read with rapt attention the letter sent by Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President George W. Bush. Amir Taheri reports that in Tehran, "the Persian text of the letter has become a favorite topic at dinner table conversations and is often the source of much mirth because of its flowery style, its numerous spelling and grammatical errors and, above all, the insight it offers into the mind of a man who clearly sees himself as an agent of the Hidden Imam in hastening the end of the 'Infidel' domination of the world."

The reaction in The Scrapbook's circle in Washington was much the same, although before seeing Taheri's commentary, we had to wonder if something had been lost in translation. One thing that comes through loud and clear is Ahmadinejad's ongoing obsession with Israel, the Holocaust, and the Jews. He writes to Bush:

Students are saying that sixty years ago such a country [as Israel] did not exist. They show old documents and globes and say try as we have, we have not been able to find a country named Israel.

I tell them to study the history of WWI and II. One of my students told me that during WWII, which more than tens of millions of people perished in, news about the war, was quickly disseminated by the warring parties. Each touted their victories and the most recent battlefront defeat of the other party. After the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed. Six million people that were surely related to at least two million families. . . .

Et cetera, et cetera, et--at great and whacky length--cetera.

What we found more surprising than the Iranian president's letter, though, was the enthusiastic reception it received over at the website of the American Prospect, which bills itself as "an authoritative magazine of liberal ideas." Don't liberals dislike authority? Well, we don't pretend to understand modern liberal ideas.

For instance, here is how one-Prospect writer, a fellow named Matthew Yglesias, reacted to the letter:

Mahmoud Ahmad-inejad is making sense. It's probably contrary to interest to point this out, but I think Iran's president is making a lot of sense in at least this portion of his letter: 'If billions of dollars spent on security, military campaigns and troop movement were instead spent on issues including health and aid to the poor,' he wrote, 'would there have been an ever increasing global hatred of the American governments?' This is curiously similar to my TAP Online column from last week. At any rate, say what you will about Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitism and the whole dictatoring business, he's still right about this.

Well, that's the authoritatively liberal take. For our part, we can't imagine that our reaction--upon finding ourselves in even a tiny bit of agreement with a fanatic like Ahmadinejad--would be to swell with pride at the coincidence. Guess that's just one more reason we'll never call ourselves a liberal.

Ethics Expert

Last November, Michael Scanlon, once press secretary for soon-to-be-ex-Rep. Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to bribe public officials and, along with his partner-in-crime Jack Abramoff, defrauding several Indian tribes operating casinos of tens of millions of dollars. Ever since, Scanlon has spent most of his time cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors.

Turns out, that's not all he's been doing. According to Roll Call's Mary Ann Akers, Scanlon was recently spotted in a classroom on Johns Hopkins's Washington campus. Scanlon finished his classwork for a master's degree in government some six years ago but never got around to defending his thesis. Now, he's finally found the time. In early May, according to Akers, Scanlon presented the paper to a classroom filled with professors and fellow grad students. The topic? Congressional ethics.

No one can doubt his expertise on the subject. Scanlon should receive his degree right around the time he receives his prison sentence.

New Home for Uighurs

The resettlement in Albania of five Uighur men who had been detained in Guantanamo long after being found to pose no security threat to Americans ends a legal battle over the men's incarceration. Last August, Ellen Bork wrote in these pages about the plight of these men, Turkic Muslims from China's far west, who fear persecution should they ever again fall under the rule of Beijing.

U.S. authorities acted shortly before a new hearing on two of the men was to be held in federal court in Washington. An asylum request by a third was preempted by the transfers to Albania. Lawyers for two of the men were informed of the transfer only after it had taken place and have gone to Albania to investigate the conditions they face there.

The choice of Albania appears to have been a fall-back. Germany and Turkey, both of which have Uighur communities, refused Washington's entreaties. In some respects, Albania is an understandable choice. Formerly part of the Ottoman empire, it is 70 percent Muslim, and ethnically, the Uighurs should fit in passably well. Language, however, will be a problem, especially as there is no local Uighur community. The men would have had better prospects in this country, where other Uighur exiles had pledged to support them and help integrate them into American society.

The U.S. embassy spokesman in Tirana said that the men had requested to be settled in a European country. In fact, they hoped to be placed in a powerful country, capable of resisting pressure for their return from Beijing, which considers them political criminals. Beijing is already putting pressure on Albania to turn over the men. Will the Albanians be strong enough to resist?

Meanwhile, several more Uighurs who have been determined to be no threat reportedly remain at Guantanamo. For political reasons the Bush administration does not want to settle them here. It's a lamentably small-hearted decision.


The Scrapbook's good friend and colleague, Weekly Standard contributing editor John Podhoretz, has just published an important book that belongs on every conservative's desk: Can She Be Stopped? Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States unless. . . . We hear an echo of our favorite political novel--Trollope's Can You Forgive Her?--in the title (although, of Trollope's great female leads, the one Hillary reminds us of most is not Alice Vavasor but Lizzie Eustace). And the answer, in both cases, is yes. But you'll have to read the book to find out how to stop Hillary. We predict you'll finish it not just girded for combat but surpassingly well entertained. While there will only ever be one Trollope, Podhoretz brings great good humor, uncommon wit, and a novelist's flair to his task.

A.M. Rosenthal, 1922-2006

At a time when the future of newspapers is the subject of serious debate, it is especially pertinent to note the death of the greatest newspaper editor of his generation, A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times. Abe Rosenthal was 84 when he died last week, and had ceased being editor of the Times nearly 20 years ago. But somehow, the Rosenthal era in daily journalism seems far more distant from the present day. Though Rosenthal was not an easy man to know or work for, he had the quality all great editors possess: a vision of what a distinguished journal should be, and the energy, intellect, talent, and ruthlessness to bring it to life.

As a columnist, he had a capacity for outrage--against terrorism, tyranny, and religious persecution--matched by the passion and bravery of his words. In awarding him the Medal of Freedom four years ago, President Bush declared that Rosenthal's "outspoken defense of persecuted Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has truly made him his brother's keeper." But his legacy lives in his tenure as an editor. The Times, under Rosenthal, was a reader's, not a writer's, newspaper. He was less interested in the goodwill of his staff, or the good opinion of other journalists, than in serving the people who bought the New York Times every day to learn about the world. Whatever troubles the Times has since endured may be traced to its betrayal of Rosenthal's standards.

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