Khatami at Harvard

The informal monthly meeting of knuckle-dragging Neanderthal New England bloggers was held in Cambridge MA today. The unusual venue was chosen to take advantage of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami’s visit to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We did not attempt to get tickets for the lecture, which was to feature the fruits of Ayatollah Khatami’s lucubrations on Tolerance. Perhaps when Madonna comes to lecture on personal modesty, or Donald Trump on humility, or Bernie Ebbers on business ethics, we will try harder.

The protest against Khatami’s visit was remarkable. It was a revolt of the reasonable, and the participants seemed to be trying hard to avoid inconveniencing anyone. They did not block the entrance; instead, they assembled farther down the street where the sidewalk widened into a little brick-laid park, right next to the semi-organic farm stand. There was a cordon of Cambridge policemen (no women) in their special black uniforms, but they were quite unnecessary. The speaker used a bullhorn, but the volume was set so low that it was impossible to hear her 20 feet away.

Pictures and a little commentary on the extended link. Flickr is having issues, so check back for more pictures later.

The bloggers included Teresa of Technicalities, Miss Kelly, Steve from Pardon my English, Jay from Accidental Verbosity, Richard Landes from the Augean Stables, the organizer and motive force, Sol of Solomonia, and a couple of familiar faces I just couldn’t place:

The Boston Globe article described the protest as being student-led, but students seemed to be a minority.

The speaker had a portable PA system, but it was inaudible. Not that this travesty required much comment.

There were, of course, protest babes. It’s nice to see common sense so well represented.

There were a few well-behaved moonbats. They seemed to attract more than their share of TV reporters. The Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty was apparently more than a fluke, as the enduring affection the Left holds for fascists demonstrates.

The crowd was relaxed and peaceable. A few signs appeared to have been prepared ahead of time; most looked like they were done on impulse. Most of the protesters would not have looked out of place at a suburban Tee-ball game.

Teresa says the fellow in the center with the sign is talk-show host Michael Graham. Graham got fired from a DC-area radio station for saying bad things about Muslims, which is apparently ever so much worse than saying bad things about Americans or Jews. That only gets you invitations from the Kennedy School of Government. Talk radio always sounds to me like the guy in Dunkin Donuts you wish would just eat his donut and shut up. Nice sign, though.

We also met Diane Covert, whose The X-Ray Project shows the results of suicide bombings through the medical records of the survivors. Her matter-of-fact presentation only makes the horror more clear.

Yet another update: the “Jay” referred to was actually Viper1. Sorry for the confusion.

20 thoughts on “Khatami at Harvard”

  1. Mitch,

    Is that leftist counter-protester on the right (5th pic down) carrying a poster showing a bullet hole superimposed on Gov. Romney?

  2. Correction: I was on the regular invite list, but I didn’t attend. I had to work, but otherwise it would have been tempting under the circumstances. I mean, besides being a blogger get together and all. Plus I went and looked at the designated meetup restaurant’s menu and was intrigued by that too. Heh.

  3. Jonathan – I’m not sure what that picture was supposed to mean. There was more greenish stuff on Romney’s picture and some comments on the bottom that did not make much of an impression, and I didn’t get them in the photo. Maybe the green stuff was supposed to represent kryptonite or something.

    Robert – Pleased to meet the back of your head. I hope we can see more of each other. Is it possible that half the crowd was made up of bloggers?

  4. Can anyone please tell me exactly what is wrong with Khatami? He was a cultural and religious progressive who clashed hard with the religious conservatives, and he attempted a whole lot of positive reforms both within Iran and in Irans international relations. Most of these reforms got screwed, either by the mullahs and “guardians” of Iran, or by the isolationist policy that other countries deafly continued to play toward Iran.

    If this was Ahmadinejad, or Khamenei, then I would understand all the opposition – but isnt this guy like, the best hope we have for a decent reformist Iranian leader?

  5. The concern with Khatami is that he is not what he appears on superficial examination to be, and that not enough Americans realize this. In particular, his latest visit to the USA looks like part of a carefully orchestrated, and so far largely successful campaign by the Iranian regime to advance its image in the democratic West. However, many of the anti-Khatami protestors point out that there was much suppression of dissent in Iran under Khatami, belying his characterization as a moderate. I think the question one has to ask is, If Khatami is not allied with the current regime and does not share its interests, why is he visiting now when doing so does the regime the most good by helping to lessen US scrutiny and pressure at a critical time?

  6. Jonathan (and all)

    Perhaps he is concerned that Iran is about to get the Iraq treatment, and he wants to highlight the fact that reformists and liberals do exist, in huge numbers, all over Iran? And they they are waiting, begging, for a helping hand from outside?

    I don’t know why he is there, but the general rhetoric of the anti Iran people in the US – referring to him as a terrorist leader and a hitler-esque fascist, doesnt exactly strengthen the hand of the liberal majority in Iran.

    The fact that so many on the right are so quick to demonise Khatami is very indicative of your real feelings toward the Iranian reformist movement – it seems that you would sooner bomb them as “terrorists” than empower them to gradually play a more influential role in their country.

    There was plenty of horrible things happening in Iran during his term, none of them under his control. The President of Iran has a very weak hand in the countries political system, and the people with the real power continued their repression during his term, as they did before, and as they have done since.

    Perhaps if the international community rushed to strengthen Khatami’s hand things would have been different, but we didnt, we gave him a total cold shoulder. And you are doing it again.

  7. Tom, there are plenty of reports that Khatami was involved in the arrest and torture of Iranians. In fact, he has been served with a summons for these crimes. See this post.

    “Seven Jewish-Iranian families have filed suit in an American federal court against former President Mohammad Khatami over charges that he is responsible for the kidnapping and torture of their missing family members. The families, currently residing in Los Angeles and Israel, contend that Khatami instituted the policy of imprisoning their relatives without trials and refusing to provide them any information concerning their whereabouts. The Jews were arrested on different occasions during the years 1994 through 1997, as they sought to leave Iran across its border with Pakistan.”

  8. The fact that so many on the right are so quick to demonise Khatami is very indicative of your real feelings toward the Iranian reformist movement – it seems that you would sooner bomb them as “terrorists” than empower them to gradually play a more influential role in their country.

    Because it’s all about us and our motives, not about the behavior of the mullahs, right?

    Why do you think we have any ability to “empower” the Iranian democratic opposition by deferring to Khatami? You assert that he was weak as a president but assume that he is now influential. That doesn’t make sense.

    Why do you think he visited us at this particular time — to oppose the Iranian regime or on behalf of the Iranian regime? Which is the more likely explanation?

    To me it seems that by far the most likely explanation for his behavior is that he is acting as the good cop to Ahmadinejad’s bad cop. Such behavior is consistent with Iran’s bad-fath conduct during the past several years of negotiations over its nuclear-weapons program. His behavior fits the classical pattern of dictators in sowing doubt and confusion among the voters of enemy countries. That is why Iranian democrats were protesting his visit.

    Why do you think that you are right about Khatami and that the Iranian protestors, who have actual experience with the Iranian regime under Khatami, are wrong?

  9. Leaving aside the wrongs he committed against his countrymen, the Iranian nuclear project began during Khatami’s rule. The IRGC was deployed in Lebanon alongside Hezballah throughout his terms of office.

    Tom, five years after the atrocities, I am no longer willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those who hate us and have worked for our destruction. You may believe in such a thing as a moderate fascist, but I do not. Neither am I going to be grateful and eager to hear soothing words from them. As far as I’m concerned, he is still an enemy. When Rudolf Hess parachuted into Britain with a half-baked armistice proposal, was he given a podium at Cambridge or Oxford?

  10. Tom, these Jewish-Iranian families, who still do not know the fates of their kidnapped relatives, disagree with you about how “moderate” Khatami is.


    I also remember reading periodic reports of the imprisonment, torture and killing of Baha’is and other followers of other “unapproved” faiths.

  11. Don’t Muslims have something in the Quran that lets them lie, make legal deals with, and cuddle up to us ‘infidels’ if those actions will give them the leverage to one day be able to take us down and further their religious chest-beating victories? That to me is not moderate! Iran is like Iraq, Indonesia, China, etc. in that they murder people who will not convert to being a Muslim.

  12. college hippies have a hard time rousing themselves to protest someone who deserves it. but invite a halliburton exec to harvard and the commies would be frothing at the mouth!

  13. As for not blocking the doorway and demonstrating farther down the street, that was where the police sent the demonstrators. The area near the doorway was tied up with the line of ticket-holders waiting to get in and then as a protected area for the theatrical production which conveyed Khatami and his entourage from the Charles Hotel, one block away, past the demonstrators to the entrance.

    It’s worth noting that there’s a courtyard and KSoG between the entry on Brattle St. and the bricked area, and KSoG’s main entrance is from the courtyard. The steps down to the courtyard were blocked off and guarded, and a metal, trellis like structure was covered with blue, plastic tarps to obstruct the view of the courtyard from the street. Security was tight.

    The black police uniforms were labeled TPF. My guess is that it stands for Tactical Police Force, and they’re Cambridge’s SWAT team. Many, if not all, wore body armor under their black shirts.

    Yes, the butt-hole moonbat was indeed carrying a picture of Romney. No bullet hole on his face, just egg. Maybe green eggs and ham.

    Even more amazing was the fact that the moonbats didn’t start rioting with murder and mayhem in response to the poster with one of the inflammatory Danish cartoons. It was one of the cartoons that really got the Muslims’ panties in twists. This image really pissed them off, maybe because it was so spot-on. It’s one with the drawing of a mullah who has a bomb with lighted fuse in his turban. (Sixth pic down from the top or the one before the last.)

    I don’t know what, if anything, the Arabic-looking calligraphy on the bomb says — if you look closely, it’s not just an abstract filigree design. Maybe that Al’s great, there’s no other alpha-dude but Al and Muhammad is his mouthpiece. Or maybe something touching and poetic about peace. The notorious cartoon poster is next to one with a nicely Photoshopped Khatami, tongue out, drooling and flipping the bird at us.

    Before the parade — first the Cambridge Police motorcycles with lights and sirens, followed by Cambridge Police Squad Cars with with more lights and sirens, followed by US State Department Diplomatic Security Service’s black Chevy Suburbans with darkened windows, then the big, black, armored limo with Mr. K inside, and finally more black Suburbans — carrying Khatami from the hotel to the KSoG venue until well after he was safely inside, teams of snipers with scoped rifles were on the rooftops over the entryway and on the building across the street. After K was inside and the snipers had lowered their rifles, I asked one of the TPF if the snipers were Cambridge TPF or from the State Dept. He said he thought some of each but also that they were just spotters surveilling the crowd and didn’t have weapons. He didn’t seem surprised when I pointed to them so he could see the rifles with scopes.

    I didn’t see the procession through the hotel lobby to bring Khatami to the limo or his arrival at KSoG, but having seen similar movements of foreign, protected dignitaries close-up, that would have been a nice piece of theater too. I’ll bet it was all very carefully choreographed. The State Dept’s security dudes look just like the secret service, complete with earpieces and curlicue wires. They would have stopped all the elevators, commandeered one and prepared every step of the passageways at both ends of the parade before Mr. Big & Co. could come out of their rooms. Khatami and sidekicks walked inside a phalanx of these Secret Service types, heads going this way and that, eyes quickly and systematically scanning the crowd, looking for unusual movement or behavior that might indicate a threat.

    As the demonstration was breaking up, I chatted briefly with the Iranian students. They’d forgotten to check the batteries and found out too late they needed replacing. The low volume was a disappointment, but there was nothing they could do about it. I had stood nearby and could see the speaker clearly, but I couldn’t hear the statement she read. On being asked about it, the guy who’d held the bullhorn said the Arabic script on his green shirt shirt was a famous Arabic saying about freedom.

    Note to Tom: Khatami’s biggest domestic reform was to discourage — but not stop or ban — the stoning of women accused of adultery. Just about a week before Khatami’s trip to the States, an Iranian Islamic court sentenced another woman to death by stoning. Newsworthy only because it had hadn’t happened lately. The bigger headline was that the court also ordered the woman’s husband and brother, who had murdered the alleged adulterer, to be arrested and tried. Huh? What’s up with that? They had a right and duty to kill him! It was their arrest that was shocking and unusual. So if the authorities are cracking down on honor killings, maybe Iran is transforming itself into a more moderate, civil society after all.

    Tom, if Khatami is as moderate as you profess, why did his administration send the arms-laden Karin-A ship to Yasser Arafat’s PA during the Terror War? Khatami is Hezbollah’s godfather, and his support for terror and violence belie any naive and foolish notion that he’s a moderate. That a leader of one of the world’s most intolerant regimes and a promoter of violence came here to lecture us about tolerance in a violent time was utterly absurd. That his speech at Harvard was on the eve of 9/11’s fifth anniversary just added insult to injury. It was a really bad joke.

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