If I believed in conspiracies, I might say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s rightist president, was a CIA agent, working to isolate his country from the civilized world and set the stage for a military attack on it.
Ahmadinejad’s government held a “conference” on the Holocaust, as the World War II fascist genocide perpetrated against Europe’s Jewish people is universally known. It was advertised as an event that would present “both sides” on the issues — which is like saying that one might have a conference assessing both sides of slavery in the U.S. that featured only praise of slavery’s “positive accomplishments” and denial of its critics and the millions who perished under its brutal sway.
The Tehran meeting included no one defending the indisputable historical facts — that the Hitler regime and its allies organized a war of extermination against all Jewish people whom they could hunt down in their occupied areas, that the methods they used ranged from roaming murder detachments, to mobile poison gas vans, to what became the major and most efficient means of slaughter: poison gas chambers in concentration camps in which millions were exterminated and cremated after gold teeth and anything else of possible value was taken from their corpses.
That is history. Its causes and consequences may be debated, but not the fact that it happened.
The number 6 million, which derives from analysis of the Nazis’ own records, may if anything have been an underestimation, since recent figures on the Soviet Union have raised the death toll from 20 million to 27 million.
But numbers aren’t the central point. Neither are “interpretations” that the gas chambers could not have been constructed and other absurdities that Hitler fascist supporters have subsidized for decades and which were again paraded in Tehran.
The point rather is that Ahmadinejad believes he can influence world public opinion by bringing to Tehran KKKer David Duke and others of his ilk rather than U.S. and global peace activists (some of Jewish background) who have actively opposed Bush administration maneuvers to launch a war against his country.
If he were interested in helping the Palestinian people, why did his government block the attendance of Khaled Kasab Mahameed, who directs the Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education in Nazareth, which studies the effects of the Holocaust on Israeli-Palestinian relations? Mahameed was prepared to challenge directly the motley crew of Holocaust deniers from Europe, Australia and the U.S.
Instead Ahmadinejad greeted and tried to legitimize thinly disguised racists and fascists from many countries as if he were their patron and supporter, even though most of them espouse “theories” that would portray virtually all Muslims, including his own people, as racial inferiors.
In 1953, the CIA with British support overthrew Iran’s elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and in effect made the Shah into an all powerful dictator, savagely suppressing the Tudeh (Communist) Party and all secular center and left forces. In the political vacuum created by the dictatorship, a section of the Islamic clergy became a center for opposition, and when the Shah was overthrown in 1978, a clerical Islamic Republic was established.
What would Iran be like today if Mossadegh had not been overthrown and the nation’s oil wealth had been used for social development? What if the Reagan administration had not supported Saddam Hussein’s war of aggression against the clerical regime after the overthrow of the Shah? It is very doubtful that the Iranian people would be suffering today under the unpopular regime of Ahmadinejad, which has imprisoned labor leaders and suppressed student dissent.
Like David Duke, for whom anti-Jewish and anti-Black racism has been a racket for 30 years, Ahmadinejad has invested in anti-Semitism to try to distract his people from their deepening economic crisis and perhaps to “corner the market” in this niche of the racist business. In the process, he has given the Bush administration a major propaganda victory and insulted his own people, all Jewish people regardless of their views, and all anti-fascists and progressives of all backgrounds and nationalities.
In a sense, Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad need and reinforce each other. The American and Iranian peoples need neither one.
Norman Markowitz is a history professor at Rutgers University.