Commentary Magazine


Congratulations, President Ahmadinejad

The American administration is now wholly complicit in the brutal travesty that was June 12 in Iran:

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “the elected leader” of the Islamic republic.

Gibbs was asked Tuesday if the White House recognized Ahmadinejad as the country’s legitimate president.

“He’s the elected leader,” Gibbs responded.

Our elected leader, Barack Obama, vowed to “bear witness” to the Iranian regime’s violent — indeed, homicidal — snuffing out of the collective democratic spirit in Iran. But even that feat of cowardly indifference proved too great a burden in the age of smart power and endless diplomacy. So hear this, all you protesters and sufferers being beaten and corralled into pens in Tehran. Listen up, all you Iranians who say “Neda lives”: President Obama, leader of the most robust democracy in history, says you’re wrong. It turns out that you’re protesting in error. This was an election, not an “election,” after all. In democracies, populations accept fair results, and you are expected to accept this one. We do.

Of course, this has made something of a liar out of Hillary Clinton. On Meet the Press about a week ago, the secretary of state was asked about the unseemliness of the U.S.’s engaging a regime that Iranian democrats sought to overthrow. She answered: “I don’t think so, David, because you can go back in history — and not, you know, very long back — where we have negotiated with many governments who we did not believe represented the will of their people.” She’ll have to take this up with Robert Gibbs, who has now certified that the regime does represent the will of the Iranian people.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter whether the U.S. accommodates vicious autocrats through chilling realism or blunt endorsement. Either way, it makes us liars. American exceptionalism, that concept Obama doesn’t grasp, is founded upon the belief that all people have the right to freedom. It is a conviction consecrated in our founding documents and one that’s been defended with American lives. When we authenticate the rule of freedom’s enemies, we become the hollow jingoists they say we are.

Oh yeah, and it condemns millions to open-ended persecution and suffering.