That didn't last long. Remember how Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said his country's nuclear deal with the United States and our Western allies opened a "new chapter" in his country's dealings with the world?
It was just a few months back -- in July -- when diplomats in Washington and Tehran were all smiles as they raised their glasses to toast this brave new world of peace and harmony. And our own president assured us he'd secured Peace in Our Time.
But when Iran's president turned up at the UN's General Assembly he inserted a little hate speech into his formal address -- just to make it clear that the mullahs in Tehran still call the shots when it comes to that country's foreign policy. The insertions took aim at the same old Satans -- the United States and Israel -- so you can turn the page on that "new chapter" in Iran's history. The new chapter turns out to be the same as the old chapter, and as regularly punctuated by diatribes against these "newcomers" to the Middle East who are causing all the trouble.
Newcomers? Who knew the Jews were newcomers to the Middle East? Their connection to that part of the world, and with the Iranians, then known as Persians, goes back at least to the Book of Esther -- and as for the Americans, this country only filled the vacuum left when the British and French were chased out. We were even welcomed when the Soviets threatened to seize Iran's oilfields in the aftermath of the Second World War.
But it's a different, simpler, black-and-white story the way Hassan Rouhani tells it: "If not for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and its unwarranted support for the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime against the oppressed nation of Palestine, today the terrorists would not have an excuse for the justification of their crimes."
Oh, what a beautiful world it would be if that "Zionist regime," aka Israel, were wiped off the map -- just as Iran's leaders have regularly promised it would be. For bad measure, Iran's president threw in this demand: "It is urgent for the United States government, instead of explaining the truth of the region and throwing about baseless accusations and pursuing other dangerous policies in defense of its regional allies, who only cultivate the seeds of division and extremism -- this must be brought to an end and its actions must be made compatible with the realities of the region."
It was all enough to bring back the bad old days at the height of the Cold War when no article in Pravda was complete without a little standard boilerplate thrown in about Western imperialism and those conniving capitalists plotting against a peace-loving Soviet Union. The party line in this case is just as simplistic, and as hateful: All the trouble in the world is the fault of the Jews and/or Americans, or just fill in the blank with your own nomination for scapegoat du jour.
Why the Jews? Well, isn't that their traditional role in history -- as scapegoats? As history's demagogues from Haman to Hitler have well understood.
And why the Americans? What have we done to merit such hatred? Nothing. There was even a time (during the shah's reign) when Washington and Tehran were allies. But hatred needs no reason, only an excuse. It is its own reason for being. And in our case, the assumption of innocence until proven guilty was long ago replaced by the assumption that Americans, and the West in general, are guilty until proven innocent.
W.H. Auden, the English poet, understood how this game works. To quote his poem "There Will Be No Peace":
What have you done to them?
Nothing? Nothing is not an answer:
You will come to believe -- how can you help it? --
That you did, you did do something;
You will find yourself wishing you could make them laugh,
You will long for their friendship.
There will be no peace.
Fight back, then, with such courage as you have
And every unchivalrous dodge you know of,
Clear on your conscience on this:
Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now;
They hate for hate's sake.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.