While there are nonetheless moral distinctions to make, Murray Sabrin’s argument is worth taking a minute to ponder.
President Ahmadinejad has made provocative statements, to say the
least, about the Holocaust and the State of Israel. As a savvy
politician Ahmadinejad knows how to push the international community’s
buttons. But if he is a Holocaust denier, someone who has called it a
“myth,” then his understanding of European history is shallow, at
However, there are American politicians — and scholars — whose knowledge
of our own history is shallow or wrapped up in myth: Lincoln is the
“great emancipator,” Teddy Roosevelt was a great president because he
was a “reformer,” Woodrow Wilson was a great leader because he wanted
to spread democracy, FDR saved American from the Great Depression with
the New Deal, Truman had to nuke two Japanese cities to end Word War
II, LBJ was a compassionate architect of the Great Society, etc, etc.
Yet, not only do American politicians get air time to repeat these
myths of American history but some of them are revered by the media
and are running for president.
Ahmadinejad’s great sin is to deny one of the worst acts in human
history. If he had said Lincoln’s crushing of the South during the
Civil War was just and righteous, he would have been hailed a hero.
Or, if he said the civilian population of Hiroshima and Nagaaski
deserved to be incinerated, he would be called a wise leader who
understands when state power is legitimate.
I think a careful reading of Lincoln’s own words demonstrate that his aim in initiating a war that killed over half a million Americans was simply to preserve the political structure of these United States — and his power over the whole of them. And was it really necessary to incinerate nearly a quarter of a million civilians to end the war in the Pacific? Would we have nuked Germany had the bomb been developed a year or two earlier? Doubtful, and so you must ask yourself why.
These are difficult moral issues, because while such possible atrocities on "our" part don’t measure up to a calculated conspiracy to exterminate a whole race of people, it’s not hard to make a compelling argument that what the U.S. state did was in some measure evil. So, rather than simply admit that there are levels of atrocious and evil, we create narratives that serve to stand in place of what actually happened: why, who, what, when, where, etc. "The civil war was a just war to free the slaves," we tell ourselves and our children. "Nuking Japan was necessary to save the tens or hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who would have had to invade the mainland." Nope. Lincoln didn’t want the southern states to secede from the Union and Japan was already crushed, with almost no offensive capability remaining, and with an extended empire across Asia that would have fallen out of an inability for Japan to support and sustain it.
I must conclude that the only way to get closer to an understanding of what actually happened is to have these narratives challenged and debated — both for us, and for and Iranian president.
Update: Warren Meyer with a smart take. It’s for the same reason that I encourage people to visit neo-Nazi websites and such. Remove the mystique; see how moronic they are in their own fully integrated context.