It would be hard to say it better than Marc Cooper
reading today's news reports of the menage-a-trois taking place among Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad....
I would think that any liberal, any progressive, and certainly any radical would have to be sickened to watch Hugo Chavez embrace and celebrate a right-wing fundamentalist, a holocaust-denying obscurantist like Ahmadinejad. Does Venezuela have the right to build an economic alliance with Iran? Certainly. But Chavez calling the President of Iran a "brother" and a "revolutionary" ought to turn one's stomach.
There are, indeed, few regimes on earth more hostile to leftists, socialists, gays, atheists, liberals, and, um, women and, let's say, Jews, than that of Iran. We rightfully worry over violation of civil liberties by what goes on Guanatanamo. But that prison camp looks like Club Med compared to the Iranian judicial system that hangs gays and imprisons young people for holding hands in public.
Ahmadinejad was also friskly patted on the tummy by the rather pathetic Daniel Ortega, who just re-assumed the presidency of Nicaragua (after being voted out in 1990). Is calling Ortega "pathetic" a smear? That's a thought-crime I have been accused of at times from out in the left-field bleachers. Hardly. in Ortega's case, it's going light on him. He will be remembered, eventually, as the grave-digger of the Sandinista movement which he helped lead to power in 1979. Every single Nicaraguan intellectual who joined up with the Sandis back then has since quit. They have been appalled by Ortega's steam-rolling of all internal debate, by the Sandinistas' rampant corruption and grotesque self-enrichment. And by Ortega's, well, pathetic political opportunism which has given him a reptation roughly equivalent to a local boss of the Mexican PRI.
I read that Ortega took the Iranian president on a tour yesterday of the slums and shantytowns around Managua. Perhaps they had time during that ride to explore just how much they might, in fact, have in common in spite of apparent and rather superficial ideological disagreements. Reaching a new cyncial depth, Ortega and his wife (both long-time Marxists) campaigned this time around as no less than Bible-thumping Christians defending family values (this in spite of Ortega hiding behind parliamentary immunity to avoid prosecution on charges of incest from his step-daughter). On the eve of the recent presidential election, Ortega led his parliamentary delegation to vote for a seal-proof ban on abortion -- with no exception for rape, here we go again, incest. That's certainly a measure that Brother Ahmadinejad greets with approval. Some might say that chiding Ortega plays into the hands of the "enemy." But it was Ortega, not me, who ran with a vice-presidential candidate who was a former, and unrepentant, leader of the CIA-backed contras.
In today's news accounts, I see that the miserable folks who live in the Managua slums (among the worst in the hemisphere -- I also toured them with Ortega) were given (by Ortega's ruling party) thousands of portraits of Ahmadinejad to be waved as he rolled through with Ortega. Can you imagine that inidgnity?
I won't go on. I only wonder how hard it must be today to be an 18 or 19 year old college kid who, jolted into consciousness by the war in Iraq, or by the images from Abu Ghraib, to find those sort of psychic links that my generation did. Can you be inspired by the anti-semetic front man for the Mullahs? By the blustering Venezuelan demagogue who now seeks to rule by decree? By the aged Nicaraguan comandante running on the backs of unwed Managua teenagers?
Sometimes, like these times, it's really good to be old.
[For the younger readers, the title of Cooper's blog post "Sunday Morning Sidewalk" is a reference to the Kris Kristofferson song "Sunday Morning Coming Down." which was a big hit for Johnny Cash.]