The freedom thing, &c.

Reading accounts (such as this one) of John Kerry’s whirlwind trip to the Middle East has got me thinking about the Obama administration’s top foreign policy/national security team of Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and, if confirmed as DCIA (which I hope he isn’t), John Brennan. Don’t they deserve some kind of a nickname? I’m thinking of something along the lines of Axis of Stupid. It probably doesn’t work, because the obtuseness of their views reflects Obama’s desires, and whatever else you might say about him, Obama isn’t stupid. He knows exactly what he is doing.

Anyway, I’m thinking Axis of Stupid — Kerry would be Big Stupid — and then along comes Jay Nordlinger with this item in his Impromptus column this morning:

You may have heard an important statement by our new secretary of state, John Kerry: “Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations.” Okay. But on this matter of “elected,” I think of something that Jim Woolsey, the old CIA chief, once said.

“Arafat was essentially ‘elected’ the same way Stalin was, but not nearly as democratically as Hitler, who at least had actual opponents.”

It matters, what Kerry said. It matters greatly to Iranian oppositionists and political prisoners. They are no doubt extremely disheartened. The American secretary of state has blessed the dictatorship that rules them, and against which they’re struggling, as elected and legitimate.

Prisoners find out about such things, as we know from Natan Sharansky and many, many others. In his Gulag memoir, Sharansky remembers how “the KGB guys” taunted him about the death of Andrei Amalrik, an exiled dissident. By the same token, he and his fellow prisoners were heartened by good news.

In their cells, they somehow found out that President Reagan had declared 1983 the Year of the Bible. For a while, Sharansky was able to study the Bible with a prisoner named Volodya. They called their sessions “Reaganite readings.”

Andrei Sakharov once told Jeane Kirkpatrick that her name was known in every cell of the Gulag. Why? Because she had named the names of political prisoners on the floor of the U.N. Kirkpatrick was a very different kind of official from John Kerry.

What do you think they know in Evin — the prison in Tehran that is one of the darkest and most evil places on earth? Many people would rather be shot in the head on Evin’s steps than enter that place, for even a day. Do the prisoners know what Kerry has said?

Would he ever mention their names, à la Kirkpatrick? Would President Obama?

Be very clear that what American leaders do matters greatly. Every word is heard, every gesture is noticed. George W. Bush used to send Nowruz greetings — i.e., New Year’s greetings — to the Iranian people. Barack Obama, when he came in, sent them to “the people and leaders of Iran.” He also referred to Iran as “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which is what the mullahs insist that country be. He said that he sought engagement “grounded in mutual respect.”

Mutual respect. Between a free, democratic country and a regime that, among other things, stones girls to death for the crime of having been gang-raped? Really? Mutual respect?

When protesters massed in the streets after Iran’s fraudulent election in June 2009, they chanted, “Obama, Obama! Either you’re with them or you’re with us!” Two years later, Sharansky called Obama’s stance during all this “maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people’s freedom in modern history.” At the critical moment, “the leader of the Free World said, For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don’t want a change of regime.”

It seems that the United States does not really do freedom anymore. Freedom is passé. That’s just fine with most of our Left, and with significant portions of our Right. Too bad. But maybe some others will hold high the torch?

Stephen Harper of Canada?

Jay’s closing question alludes to his cover story on Harper in the current issue of National Review (digital subscription required for access).

One more note. John somehow overlooked the news from Israel last week that an Ethiopian immigrant had been crowned Miss Israel. I’ve put up a thumbnail photograph of her as the featured image for this point. Jay makes the point:

While we’re talking of Israel: A friend of mine sent me an article and said, “Remember, Israel is racist. Very racist.” The article explained that a 21-year-old Ethiopian immigrant had been crowned Miss Israel. She will compete in Miss World next September.

Well, I don’t see why that’s a big deal: I mean, Arab states — or Turkey or Iran — would award a black woman such a crown too, wouldn’t they?

Remember: Israel is racist, very racist. If you’re tempted to forget, the U.N. (among others) will remind you.

The new Miss Israel is Yityish Titi Aynaw. She said during the competition that she hoped to go into modeling “to change attitudes to dark-skinned models. I’d love to become the first Israeli (TV) host, the Tyra Banks of Israel.”

Miss Israel also has some words of wisdom that those of us in the United States might take to heart:

Interviewed on Thursday, Aynaw, who served as an officer during her military service, said her integration into Israeli society had been greatly eased because she had been “thrown into the deep end” in the state school system, “and I learned to swim,” rather than placed in separate Ethiopians-only classes.

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