Michael Totten

More on Roger Cohen

There have been some very interesting comments on Roger Cohen. His support for ordinary, decent Iranians is welcome. What is interesting is how he covered Iran previously, which is separate from the question of why he covered it that way (a question that too easily becomes _ad hominem_).
Here is the example of when he covered Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech in March, during which Khamenei responded to President Obama’s Iranian New Year message. Roger Cohen wrote “that”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/opinion/l23cohen.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=all:
bq. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded to Obama with a scathing speech at the country’s holiest shrine in Mashad, recalling every past U.S. misdeed, describing prerevolutionary Iran as “a field
for the Americans to graze in,” and demanding concrete steps — like a lifting of sanctions — rather than words.
bq. View all that as an opening gambit. Khamenei also quieted the crowd when it began its ritual “Death to America” chant and he said this: “We’re not emotional when it comes to our important matters. We make decisions by calculation.”
bq. That’s right: the mullahs are anything but mad. Calculation will demand that Iran take Obama seriously.
Here is Khamenei’s speech from his official website. What is interesting is that official English translation changes “Death to America” to “Down with America.” Here is the relevant “section”:http://english.khamenei.ir//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1076&Itemid=4 (Persian is “here”:http://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=6082 and clearly includes the words “Marg bar Amrika”):
bq. The new US President insulted the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic right after he was inaugurated as President and delivered his inaugural address. Why? If you really believe there has been a change, show us. We cannot see any change. I would like to tell everybody – including US government officials as well as others – that the Iranian nation will neither be deceived nor intimidated.
bq. First of all, verbal change is not enough. Of course I have not noticed much verbal change either. There must be genuine change. I would like to tell American government officials that the kind of change to which they only pay lip service is a necessity for them. You have no other choice: You must change. If you do not change, the divine laws of nature will force you to change. Nature will force you to change. You must change, but this change must not be in words only and there must be no ulterior motives. You cannot talk about change if you only change your policies and pursue the same goals. This kind of change does not constitute genuine change: That is deception. If there is any genuine change, it must manifest itself in action. I advise the US government officials or whoever makes the decisions there – be it the President, the Congress, or other people – that the situation in which the US government is involved is harmful to the American nation as well as the US government. You ought to know that you are one of the most hated countries in the world. Other nations burn your flag. Muslim nations shout “Down with the US” throughout the world. [Howard Baskerville note: at this point the crowd shouted “Death to America”]
bq. What is the reason behind so much hatred? Have you ever tried to investigate this issue? Have you ever scrutinized it? Have you learnt any lessons?
That’s right. Khamenei did not quieten his listeners’ chants of “Death to America.” He incited them.