This morning, I woke up to headlines in Google Reader, where I subscribe to stories about Iran, that Iranian leader Ali Khamenei had said that although Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons, no nation could stop it from getting them if it wanted to. That angle seemed a tad sensationalist, and I decided to listen to Khamenei’s speech in its entirety, in the original Persian. It was nearly an hour long, and he substantially addressed Iran’s position on nuclear negotiations with the United States. I then went back to Google Reader to look at press coverage of the speech, and the first article I found was Thomas Erdbrink’s article, “Ayatollah Says Iran Will Control Nuclear Aims” in the New York Times.
Erdbrink’s byline is Tehran, and his Twitter profile indicates that he has lived in Iran for a decade. So I was surprised to see him report that Khamenei’s remarks were made to “a group of visitors to his home in Tehran.” Khamenei’s remarks were
actually made before a large audience in Tabriz indeed, as illustrated in this photo published on the Iranian leader’s official website:
But what most struck me about Erdbrink’s report was reading this: “[Khamenei] called on the United States to show ‘logic’ while talking to Iran, without further elaborating.” I found this remarkable because Khamenei had elaborated at length about what he termed America’s lack of logic. Had Erdbrink heard the same speech I had? I raised the topic with him in a series of Twitter posts (newest at top):
Erdbrink tweeted back the following:
I take Erdbrink’s word for it that processing of speeches takes time, and they are not released in full immediately. But I would expect a correspondent for America’s paper of record
to get the facts right about where a speech was given, to indicate that the reporting was based on preliminary reports if such were the case, and to not aver that the speaker had not elaborated further on a point without knowing whether or not that was true.
As I indicated earlier, Khamenei in fact expounded at length on what he termed America’s lack of logic. Here is a rough translation that I have prepared of the portion of Khamenei’s speech to which I referred Erdbrink:
How are they illogical? The evidence for their being illogical is these contradictions between their words and their deeds. They speak in one manner and behave in another. Well, there is no clearer evidence than this for their being illogical. A logical person says something persuasive and then acts in accordance with what he has said. These gentlemen — the American political leaders and their Western followers — are not like this. They say one thing, they make one claim, but in practice, the do precisely the opposite. Let me now give several examples:
They claim, “We believe in human rights.” Indeed, the Americans have raised the flag of human rights. They say “We believe in human rights” — not only in their country, America, but in the whole world. Well, this is a statement, a claim. What about in practice? In practice, it is they who strike the most blows againstÂ human rights, who show the greatest disrespect to people’s rights in various countries, to different nations. Their secret prisons throughout the world, their prison at Guantanamo, their prison in Iraq — Abu Ghraib, their attacks against civilians in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in various places. These are examples of the Americans’ so-called human rights! Their drones take off, they spy and pressure people, which you hear about every day in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But these very drones, in the words of one American magazine written just a few days ago, will cause headaches for them themselves.
They say, “We are committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” The pretext for their attack against Iraq eleven years ago was precisely that they said Saddam’s regime in Iraq was making nuclear weapons. But they went and didn’t find any, and it became clear that it was a lie. They say, “We are committed to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” At the same time, they defend and protect a nefarious government that both possesses nuclear weapons and threatens to use them, that is, the Zionist state. That is what they say, this is what they do.
They say, “We believe in spreading democracy in the world.” Let’s not get into what sort of “democracy” America itself has. We won’t get into that. Despite this claim, America is constantly opposing and confronting a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has the plainest and clearest democracy in this region. At the same time, they line up behind countries in this region that have seen neither hide of democracy nor hair of elections, voting, and ballot boxes — and defend them with utter shamelessness. This is their commitment to democracy! See how great is the gap between word and deed.
They say, “We want to settle our issues with Iran.” This is something they have said many times. Lately, they are saying it even more. They are saying, “We want to negotiate and solve our issues with Iran.” This is what they say. But in practice, they resort to sanctions, they resort to false propaganda, making inappropriate statements, and constantly publishing falsehoods regarding the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Just a few days ago, the American president gave a speech and talked about Iran’s nuclear issues as if the dispute between Iran and America is that Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. He says “So far as we are able, we will not permit Iran to build a nuclear weapon!” Well, if we wanted to build a nuclear weapon, how could you “not permit” us to do so? If Iran wanted to have a nuclear weapon, America could by no means stop it from doing so.
We do not want to build a nuclear weapon. Not because it would upset America. This is our own conviction. We believe that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity and should not be produced. Those that already exist in the world must be eliminated and destroyed. This is our conviction; it has nothing to do with you. If we did not hold this conviction and decided to build a nuclear weapon, no power could stop us, just as in other places they could not stop it: they couldn’t in India, they couldn’t in Pakistan, they couldn’t in North Korea. The Americans were opposed, but they still built nuclear weapons.
Their saying, “We will not permit Iran to build nuclear weapons” is deceptive speech. Is the controversy over nuclear weapons? In Iran’s nuclear case, the controversy is not over nuclear weapons, the controversy is over the fact that you want to prevent the Iranian nation from exercising its absolute and incontrovertible right to nuclear enrichment and peaceful use of Iran’s own domestic potential. But of course, you cannot do this either, and the Iranian nation will do that which it is its right to do.
American politicians speak illogically. One cannot sit and rely on logic in speaking with an illogical interlocutor. He is illogical, after all. Illogical means unreasonable, idle-talking. This is a reality that we have clearly understood throughout these thirty past years in confronting various world issues. We understand with whom we are dealing and how to deal with him.
As we see, Erdbrink’s reporting that Khamenei “called on the United States to show ‘logic’ while talking to Iran, without further elaborating” is patently untrue. I think the New York Times owes its readers a correction.
Update: I mistakenly inferred from the opening lines of an article on Iranian leader Ali Khamenei’s website, which speaks of Khamenei having “an enthusiastic visit with thousands of people from Tabriz” that his Saturday speech was delivered in Tabriz, and I chided Thomas Edebrink for getting the location of the speech wrong. It appears that it is I who was mistaken. Eredbrink corrected me in a tweet, and the English language Tehran Times confirms that the audience was indeed held in Tehran.