Iran’s president appeals to 9/11 Truthers.
Let’s put a few facts on the table.
• The recent floods in Pakistan are acts neither of God nor of nature. Rather, they are the result of a secret U.S. military project called HAARP, based out of Fairbanks, Alaska, which controls the weather by sending electromagnetic waves into the upper atmosphere. HAARP may also be responsible for the recent spate of tsunamis and earthquakes.
• Not only did the U.S. invade Iraq for its oil, but also to harvest the organs of dead Iraqis, in which it does a thriving trade.
• Faisal Shahzad was not the perpetrator of the May 1 Times Square bombing, notwithstanding his own guilty plea. Rather, the bombing was orchestrated by an American think tank, though its exact identity has yet to be established.
• Oh, and 9/11 was an inside job. Just ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The U.S. and its European allies were quick to walk out on the Iranian president after he mounted the podium at the U.N. last week to air his three “theories” on the attacks, each a conspiratorial shade of the other. But somebody should give him his due: He is a provocateur with a purpose. Like any expert manipulator, he knew exactly what he was doing when he pushed those most sensitive of buttons.
He knew, for instance, that the Obama administration and its allies are desperate to resume negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programs. What better way to set the diplomatic mood than to spit in their eye when, as he sees it, they are already coming to him on bended knee?
He also knew that the more outrageous his remarks, the more grateful the West would be for whatever crumbs of reasonableness Iran might scatter on the table. This is what foreign ministers are for.
Finally, he knew that the Muslim world would be paying attention to his speech. That’s a world in which his view of 9/11 isn’t on the fringe but in the mainstream. Crackpots the world over—some of whom are reading this column now—want a voice. Ahmadinejad’s speech was a bid to become theirs.
This is the ideological component of Ahmadinejad’s grand strategy: To overcome the limitations imposed on Iran by its culture, geography, religion and sect, he seeks to become the champion of radical anti-Americans everywhere. That’s why so much of his speech last week was devoted to denouncing capitalism, the hardy perennial of the anti-American playbook. But that playbook needs an update, which is where 9/11 “Truth” fits in.
Could it work? Like any politician, Ahmadinejad knows his demographic. The University of Maryland’s World Public Opinion surveys have found that just 2% of Pakistanis believe al Qaeda perpetrated the attacks, whereas 27% believe it was the U.S. government. (Most respondents say they don’t know.)
Among Egyptians, 43% say Israel is the culprit, while another 12% blame the U.S. Just 16% of Egyptians think al Qaeda did it. In Turkey, opinion is evenly split: 39% blame al Qaeda, another 39% blame the U.S. or Israel. Even in Europe, Ahmadinejad has his corner. Fifteen percent of Italians and 23% of Germans finger the U.S. for the attacks.
Deeper than the polling data are the circumstances from which they arise. There’s always the temptation to argue that the problem is lack of education, which on the margins might be true. But the conspiracy theories cited earlier are retailed throughout the Muslim world by its most literate classes, journalists in particular. Irrationalism is not solely, or even mainly, the province of the illiterate.
Nor is it especially persuasive to suggest that the Muslim world needs more abundant proofs of American goodwill: The HAARP fantasy, for example, is being peddled at precisely the moment when Pakistanis are being fed and airlifted to safety by U.S. Marine helicopters operating off the USS Peleliu.
What Ahmadinejad knows is that there will always be a political place for what Michel Foucault called “the sovereign enterprise of Unreason.” This is an enterprise whose domain encompasses the politics of identity, of religious zeal, of race or class or national resentment, of victimization, of cheek and self-assertion. It is the politics that uses conspiracy theory not just because it sells, which it surely does, or because it manipulates and controls, which it does also, but because it offends. It is politics as a revolt against empiricism, logic, utility, pragmatism. It is the proverbial rage against the machine.
Chances are you know people to whom this kind of politics appeals in some way, large or small. They are Ahmadinejad’s constituency. They may be irrational; he isn’t crazy.
Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal