The guide of the perplexed

The Guide of the Perplexed is what the Jewish sage Maimonides titled his esoteric masterpiece. The State Department’s “Press Guidance” of this past Tuesday regarding former former Iran President Khatami’s visit to the United States anticipates perplexity, but it displays more perplexity than enlightenment:

Q: Why have you issued a visa to Khatami and what are your views about his trip?

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has requested a visa to come to the United States, where he plans to attend the Alliance of Civilizations meetings at the UN, as well as other U.S.-based speaking events during the first two weeks of September.

Former President Khatami has been invited by private organizations in the United States.

We are an open society, tolerant of diverse viewpoints.

Q: Why are other Iranian Government officials not allowed to travel beyond the 25-mile ban?

Khatami is a former Iranian official. He is not part of the current Iranian regime.

Q: Why let the former head of a terrorist regime into the country at a time when his successor stands in total defiance of the international community on Iran’s nuclear program, support for terror, etc.? What are we hoping to accomplish?

We recognize that former President Khatami headed a regime that is a leading sponsor of terrorism, human rights abuses, and, presided over Iran’s secret nuclear program which is now the focus of possible UN action.

After careful deliberation, however, we determined that issuing Mr. Khatami a limited visa, and allowing Mr. Khatami to present his views directly to the American people, will demonstrate to Iran that the United States upholds its commitment to freedom and democracy.

We expect that Khatami will face tough questions from his audiences in the United States about the past and present behavior of the Iranian regime.

Q: Has the Administration’s view of the Iranian Government changed?

No. Khatami’s visit does not signal a change in U.S. policy toward Iran. Should we grant this visa, it would not alter our concerns about the regime that Mr. Khatami led. Should Mr. Khatami visit the United States, we trust this occasion would send a message to all Iranians that the United States is an open society, tolerant of diverse viewpoints.

As we have said repeatedly, the United States remains gravely concerned about the regime’s violent rhetoric and its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

Iran continues to flout international norms and its responsibilities to the international community. We remain deeply concerned about the regime’s violent rhetoric and its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

As the President and Secretary Rice have made clear, America stands with those who are striving to expand democracy and build a better future.

Q: Will Khatami meet with Administration officials during his visit?

There are no plans for Mr. Khatami to meet with any Administration officials during his visit.

Q: Who will provide security for Khatami during his visit?

Per diplomatic protocol, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security will oversee security arrangements for Mr. Khatami during his visit.

Q: What kind of visa will Mr. Khatami receive?

A G-4. We are obligated to issue Mr. Khatami a visa under the U.N Headquarters Agreement. The U.N. has invited him to come to the U.N. to attend a meeting of the “Alliance of Civilizations”, a high level panel set up by U.N. Secretary General Annan, who appointed Khatami as a member.

The State Department “guidance” confuses the boundary between what is obligatory and what is discretionary in the visa it has issued Khatami. The State Department defends Khatami’s appearances beyond official UN business outside New York, and Khatami will appear to speak at a CAIR dinner in Arlington, at the National Cathedral in Washington and at the Kennedy School in Cambridge. Today’s New York Sun carries an editorial condemning Khatami’s Kennedy School appearance. Although the editorial doesn’t directly address the doubletalk and confusion in the State Department “guidance,” it speaks to the abomination at issue and touches on related themes we have previously explored here:

The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, fresh from having established itself as a headwater of anti-Israel agitation, is choosing to mark the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in an astounding way — by hosting Mohammed Khatemi, a former president of Iran, an enemy state levying a terrorist war against America. Mr. Khatemi has been invited to speak on, of all things, “Ethics of Tolerance in the Age of Violence.” The title insults the intelligence of all those who would attend. What in the world is a man who presided over the July 9, 1999, crackdown on Tehran University, where hundreds of students were arrested and tortured, doing speaking about “tolerance” at a university?

What a disgusting way for Harvard to mark the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of a war that has claimed thousands of American lives and is still in full tilt. Not that Mr. Khatemi won’t feel right at home at the Kennedy School. A professor there who had served as its academic dean, Stephen Walt, co-wrote a paper earlier this year that sounds pretty much like what Mr. Khatemi says. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

• Mr. Khatemi told CNN in January 1998, “The impression of the people of the Middle East and Muslims in general is that certain foreign policy decisions of the United States are in fact made in Tel Aviv, and not in Washington.” Mr. Walt wrote, “The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress.”

• Mr. Khatemi told CNN, “I regret to say that the improper American policy of unbridled support for the aggression of a racist, terrorist regime does not serve the United States interest, nor does it even serve those of the Jewish people.” Mr. Walt wrote, “This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for sustained U.S. backing. But neither rationale is convincing.”

• Mr. Khatemi told CNN, “Israeli intransigence and the course of the current peace process and its failure to honor its own undertakings has enraged even the United States’ allies in the region.” Mr. Walt wrote of “the obvious need to rebuild America’s image in the Arab and Islamic world.”

• Mr. Khatemi has spoken of “the criminal Zionist regime.” Mr. Walt said: “the creation of Israel entailed a moral crime against the Palestinian people,” and earlier this week, Mr. Walt appeared at the National Press Club in Washington at a forum sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and cited Human Rights Watch’s reports accusing Israel of war crimes in Lebanon. Mr. Walt also cited a review praising his paper that appeared in Foreign Affairs, a journal edited by the vice chairman of Human Rights Watch, James F. Hoge Jr.

• In April 2001, the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mr. Khatemi as saying, “As a parasite, Zionism is founded on the fallacious concepts of superiority and the transgression of human rights.” Mr. Walt wrote, “Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship.”

• Mr. Khatemi, in Japan last week, said the West had nothing to fear from Iran’s nuclear program. “We are seeking a peaceful kind of use of nuclear technology,” Mr. Khatemi said, according to AFP. Mr. Walt has also written, “Iran’s nuclear ambitions do not pose an existential threat to the United States. If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China, or even a nuclear North Korea, then it can live with a nuclear Iran.”

The Kennedy name that sits on Harvard’s Kennedy School was tarnished by Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s appeasement of the Nazis, but redeemed by the sacrifice of Kennedy’s oldest son, Joseph, and by John F. Kennedy’s heroism in the combat of World War II. In that war against fascism, Harvard itself was slow to realize the threat but eventually mobilized. In this war, the danger is the opposite: Harvard’s president at the start of the war, Lawrence Summers, recognized the threat, but now that the war is under way, Mr. Summers has been ousted and Harvard is wavering and even inviting an enemy representative to speak on campus.

This tragedy couldn’t come at a worse time, for we are at a moment when American needs, above all else, clarity of understanding. The comprehension that America is at war with Islamic fascists is not new. As far back as 1979, Michael Ledeen wrote about the fascistic nature of the clerics bidding for power in Iran; in the adjacent columns, we reprint, from the Wall Street Journal, one of his early, prophetic warnings. [The column is accessible here.] President Bush has recently been more consistent in using precise language in naming the enemy for what it is. It may be that Mr. Khatemi will surprise us all and defect while he is at Harvard. If he doesn’t, he will have achieved a victory for enemy propagandists.

Our friend Hugh Hewitt comments (with links) here and here. The State Department’s action as well as the defense of its action are profoundly demoralizing and frankly disgusting.

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