Monday’s Piers Morgan interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered plenty of thrills, chills and excitement for American viewers of all ages, especially the uneducated and paranoid among them, which includes most of America when it comes to the country of ancient Persian, modern day Iran. For those in the know — Morgan clearly not in that circle (though one doesn’t doubt his sincerity) — there were few surprises. Though CNN tried to promote the interview as “a world exclusive”, the truth is that this is the eighth such annual interview we’ve seen with this Iranian president on CNN, at the least, and considering that he also gave one to Charlie Rose the day before made Morgan’s boyish excitement all the more sophomoric. Every year Ahmadinejad attends the same United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York and every year he endures an endless series of torturous interviews with attention hungry journalists desperate to create any kind of controversy while he is here. And endure he does, with compassion, respect and tolerance. Considering how his country is being treated by the United States and Israel currently it is surprising he comes here at all; the fact that he grants so many interviews with usually ignorant journalists is generous and admirable.
As exciting as the opportunity may have been for Piers (and we don’t want to take that away from the man — let us remember his humble beginnings as a judge on America’s Got Talent just a few short years ago, or even worse his editorial position at a Murdoch owned British tabloid. Edward R. Murrow he is not), I had a similar encounter with President Ahmadinejad in 2008; at the same event, a UN General Assembly meeting, where a small group of us, leaders of the peace activist community gathered at an undisclosed location in Manhattan to discuss and strategize peaceful relations between our respective countries. I’ve also visited his country a few times and met with many of his fellow co-leaders and his predecessor, former President Khatami. One thing that can be said about Ahmadinejad is that he is trustworthy and consistent. Unlike what we are accustomed to in the United States with our own presidents and political leaders, where every other word out of their mouth either contradicts something they said the day before or the cold hard facts in front of us all (making the phrase “fact checker” a necessary household word in this year’s presidential election), the Iranian president has been saying the same things year after year since the moment he took office nearly eight years ago.
Over the last 48 hours I have received numerous text messages and emails from folks asking for my opinion about the Ahmadinejad interviews, most from compassionate people whose main concern has been about what I thought about one of the only voices of leadership in the world today willing to stand up to the frighteningly powerful nation of the United States of America; by far the most murderous and barbarous countries militarily since the end of the World War II era. Though as the years have passed and Ahmadinejad nears the end of his presidency, one notices the man has tired slightly, and yet he also possesses a healthy wisdom and maturity is now gracing his ideas and demeanor as with most two term presidents. He also still exudes strength and courage when discussing the overt double standards that seem only to apply to the State of Israel and the United States government.
At one point he asked Morgan: “In order to avenge the blood of three thousand people, a million people shouldn’t give their lives, should they? The behavior of the United States in our region encourages extremism. Perhaps because they don’t know the people. So they do need to reform their behavior. There was no need for five or six thousand young American men to lose their lives in these wars your country started in our region of the world.” You could hear a pin drop as Morgan attempted to regain his composure after internally recognizing that he agreed with the Iranian President.