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A U.N. comedy act
Scripps Howard News Service


September 21, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The United Nations may be ineffectual, but this past week it proved to be vastly entertaining, playing host as it did to the comedy of Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who have taken their act out of the Third World rooms where it normally plays.

Iran's president preceded his revival with a loopy 21-page letter to President Bush last spring, an offer to meet, an offer to debate on TV and, finally, an offer to debate before world leaders at the United Nations.

For whatever reason, the Bush White House saw fit to decline these attractive offers. There were fears of an awkward face-to-face confrontation between the two, which the Bush people wanted to avoid.

In fact, President Bill Clinton would have been the better choice for an impromptu hallway meeting with Ahmadinejad. He would have swept the little guy up in a bear hug and set off on a long discourse about health-care policy, AIDS in Africa, SEC basketball and Social Security until the Iranian leader was sobbing, "Please, please, take our nukes. Just don't force me to listen to the future of the Democratic Party."

As it was, Ahmadinejad didn't attend Bush's speech and Bush didn't attend his. The Iranian also didn't attend a lunch given by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan because, it was said, he does not attend events where alcohol is served.

Our diplomats should keep this in mind. If ever relations with Ahmadinejad get too testy, they can whip out their flasks and dump three fingers of Knob Creek into their water glasses.

The Iranian president elected for a '70s look at his speech, an open-collared pink shirt and an off-white sport coat that screamed, "Appearing at the Off Ramp Lounge of the I-70 Holiday Inn all this week."

At times, Ahmadinejad came dangerously close to making sense - not a problem for his ally and fellow funnyman, Hugo Chavez.

He opened up by waving a copy of a book by Noam Chomsky and recommending it to the assembly. Veterans of the '60s muttered to each other, "Bet you anything he hasn't read it and never will," but Chavez went on to say, "The hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species," so maybe he had.

After that blast from the past, the Venezuelan president got down to the point of his speech: George Bush is Satan. Even the Democrats don't go that far, although you never know the way our political discourse is headed.

"The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house," said Chavez, although Bush by that time was back in Washington. "And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." As a precautionary measure against Bush's dark powers, he crossed himself before winding up, "And it still smells of sulfur today."

Chavez had two main aims coming to the world agency. He wants a seat on the Security Council - which given the United Nations' convoluted politics, he may get - and to have U.N. headquarters moved somewhere else, preferably Venezuela, which hasn't a prayer but would serve him right if it did.

But the Venezuelan rather undercut his case with the delegates when he said, "Let's be honest. The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It's worthless."

Somehow it puts you in mind of the Groucho Marx line that he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. Put your hands together, ladies and gentlemen, for Mahmoud and Hugo.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
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