Could it be that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually has a point? There's been a lot of talk about the fact that Barack Obama gave his first interview to a foreign network, an Arab network no less. Of course the American networks felt slighted, with some, OK, one, the FOX "network" going so far as pretending to not be able to pronounce Al-Arabiya (check it out here, was she being ignorant or condescending?). As expected the right's response is to scream about being weak in the face of the enemy - remember talking and exchanging ideas is a Republican weakness - but I want to focus on the comments made by everyone's favourite Persian leader.
In his first public address since Obama's inauguration and interview, Ahmadinejad said:
"Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologise to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation."
Here's the thing: he's right. While Obama took the first step by reaching out his hand, much of the Muslim world still sees that hand as a clenched fist. How could they not when one considers some of the things that the US has done to Iran and other countries over the years, most of which many Americans themselves have no idea about. If one wants to get a small idea of the propaganda and censorship that forms the world view of many Americans, this is a quick and easy start. Ahmadinejad listed some of the grievances of his people that he wishes an apology for, beginning with American support for the 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who ruled until he was ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Also on the list is the shooting down of an Iran Air Airbus A300 by the United States Navy’s missile cruiser Vincennes over the Persian Gulf in 1988, killing 290 people. American military commanders said at the time that the passenger plane had been mistaken for an F-14 fighter jet, and they defended the warship’s actions.
Oh, and there was that little thing where the US backed Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the 1980's in the war against Iran leading to the deaths of over a million people. Of course over on FOX "news" (read story here), the only US 'crime' that is mentioned is trying to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That's the only bad thing America has done, ever.
The truth is, without American intervention there would be no Ahmadinejads, Bin Ladens or Kim Jong-ils in this world and therefore not only owes the Iranian people, but the whole world a big sorry. Yes, the world also owes America a great big thank-you for all the good it's done as well. However, she must face up to the fact that much wrong has resulted from her actions. From genocide at home to Chile through Iraq, America has made it's share of errors (pretty good list here, CIA interventions here). The last eight years saw a dangerous shift in American foreign policy, specifically the pre-emptive war doctrine and increased support for Israel in their genocidal fight against the Palestinian people. The predictable result has been the increase in radicalism seen in the Muslim nations, making the world a much more dangerous place. Now there's news that the Obama administration is drafting a letter to the Iranian people in response to a letter of congratulations received after the election victory in November. What should the letter say? What tone should it strike? Should it be addressed directly to the people of Iran? All important questions, but I think one word would go a long way to healing the wounds: Sorry.