I was puzzled by Cohen’s strange reaction to Iran until an audience member asked a question about the notorious public hangings in that country. Astonishingly, Cohen muttered something under his breath about us killing people in Texas. Now as someone who opposes capital punishment I can say this: Anyone who sees even remote moral equivalence between a culture that executes convicted murderers after appeal and one that hangs homosexuals for their sexual preference and stones women to death for adultery has, to be kind, a rather bizarre world view. This is cultural relativism run amuck.Video feed available from the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, here.
It’s hard to like someone who makes statements like that and it’s hard to give his opinions much credence. Nevertheless, what Cohen apparently derived from his visit is that Iran is a complex society (whoever thought it wasn’t?) and that we should be negotiating with their government. When asked by another audience member what he made of the years of failed negotiations with the European Union, he dismissed them out of hand. The Europeans have no army. We are the big guys.
Again, no mention of the obvious - that we and, of course, the Iranians knew full well that the Euros were representing us and that at the slightest hint of a concession we would have come running to the table, just as we had with the North Koreans. Moreover, we have already been holding limited negotiations with the Iranians in Iraq for some time and, I would bet my house, have been holding back channel negotiations with them for years. As most of us, and I assume Cohen, know – almost all significant discussions of this nature go on out sight.
Still, I have no argument against negotiation. The only harm is that it buys the Iranians time to continue building an atomic bomb. This does not overly alarm Cohen who believes the mullahs to be pragmatists. He doesn’t seem disturbed by their eschatology or, I guess, really thinks they believe it. I assume he knows about it, although he did not demonstrate any background or interest in this area. That fundamentalist belief system, however, does concern me. It wasn’t that long ago (1980s) that Ayatollah Khomeini drove hundreds or thousands of ten-year old boys to their deaths as human mine sweepers for the greater glory of the Mahdi (to bring forth the hidden Imam – a form of Shia messiah). These are not exactly the people you would like to have a nuclear weapon.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Roger Simon went to see Roger Cohen speak to Iranian Jewish exiles at LA's Temple Sinai and filed this report: