Durban II Diary - Part 2: Sleeping with Ahmadinejad
Ahmadinejad is staying in my hotel.
I had no idea this would happen, but (name-dropping alert) I was standing with Alan Dershowitz and his wife Caroline and author Shelby Steele in our Geneva hotel lobby, exchanging pre-dinner pleasantries - if such a word is even vaguely apropos at the Durban Review Conference - speculating on the days to come, when we noticed a number of what could only be Iranian security people milling about. (They weren't hard to spot. They wore Iranian flag lapel pins.) Alan wandered over and engaged them in conversation. He was a Harvard professor, he told them, and offered them his card, noting that their President had already spoken at Columbia and that he might be interested in a "debate" (as if) at Harvard.
Some Swiss security people suddenly materialized. They didn't seem to like Alan's fraternizing and started edging us all backwards. There were sirens, the sound of motorcycles. It was clear who was arriving. We were pushed further back by the security types who were turning stern and warned us not to take pictures, to put our cell phones away. Momentarily the motorcade pulled up, about forty men getting out, all Iranian, flanking the relatively diminutive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yes, it was he, walking into the hotel - with his posse.
He crossed not ten feet away from me, smiling and waving to the sixty or seventy people in the lobby. As far as I could tell, no one waved back. But I can tell you that being up close and relatively personal with Ahmadinejad is not a pleasant experience, far from it. It's not like seeing a normal political adversary, someone from the other political party or whatever. It's rather like being in the presence of pure evil, at least it was for me, or what I imagine that to be. Pure evil come to address a human rights convention! I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. I also felt nauseated.
Ahmadinejad and his entourage passed by quickly into the elevators. He was giving some kind of press conference. We weren't invited. But this didn't stop Dershowitz who wanted to confront the man. He headed up after him.
I'm not sure what happened next, but fairly soon the largest Swiss government security guy was muscling, well not quite muscling but lightly pushing, Alan out the front door of the hotel where we were all staying. I followed along with the others and took a few iPhone photographs of the ensuing confrontation. It was tense, but didn't get truly out of line. Tomorrow I will interview Dershowitz about this. We will also be at Ahmadinejad's speech and other events, including his main press conference, after which Dershowitz, Steele, Jon Voight and others will comment. Ahmadinejad dominating the UN's biggest human rights conference in beyond Orwellian. No wonder I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach.
I will have more to say tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out the photos below. Right now I'm more than a little jetlagged. What time is it in LA? (Can't believe I only just got here!)