I accidentally caught tonight's 60 Minutes interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I found him to be an honest, intelligent and thoughtful person who does not, contrary to the invective of the Bush-Cheney-Fox News cabal, have horns and a trident. Most tend to forget that he is the democratically elected leader of an ancient, very large and diverse country.
It is because I have great fear that the U.S. government is imminently planning to wage an unprovoked war against this peaceful nation that I wanted to share some of the exchanges that President Ahmadiejad had with CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley. His sincere and unrehearsed answers showed me that Iran has no intention of waging any kind of a war against the U.S. or building a nuclear bomb.
Am I just a dumb and deluded rube? If so it is far preferable to being swept up in a frenzied wave of hate and paranoia that will blindly support the senseless bombing of innocent people that have done nothing to harm anyone.
I found President Ahmadiejad in possession of the unique ability, for a politician, to accurately separate out the contrary interests and intentions of the American people from that of the lawless warlords that supposedly rule them. In fact he said some of the most intelligent things I've heard so far about the current mess in Babylon that is costing the American taxpayer $720 million a day. It was refreshing to hear a politician speak so freely and with such assured conviction.
I found his words and reflections encouraging and hope and pray that they will convince more of my fellow citizens to see him and the Iranian people as human beings just like us, who deserve respect and the dignity due to a sovereign people.
Pray for peace!
PELLEY: But the American people, sir, believe that your country is a terrorist nation, exporting terrorism in the world. You must have known that visiting the World Trade Center site would infuriate many Americans, as if to be mocking the American people.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, I'm amazed. How can you speak for the whole of the American nation?
PELLEY: Well, the American nation . . .
AHMADINEJAD: . . . you are representing a media and you're a reporter. The American nation is made up of 300 million people. There are different points of view over there. I would like to think that the points of view of the American people is very close to the points of view of the Iranian people. The American people are very much against and opposed what certain American officials are saying and their points of view. And they're also, the way that the people have voted in the American elections is very telling. And we are criticizing such behavior on the part of the American government. We believe that if anyone just allows himself to accuse others, there will be no possibility for peace and friendship.
PELLEY: What do you mean the American election is telling? What did you take from it?
AHMADINEJAD: What I'm saying is that the American people very clearly have shown that they do not endorse what certain American officials are saying and doing. I remind you of the rallies in Washington a couple of days ago. What were they saying and shouting? Perhaps 70, 80 percent of the American people are against their troops, their sons and daughters being in Iraq and war. And as I said, they're very much against war. And for that matter, the American people are peace-loving people. You shouldn't think that what the American officials are doing and their behavior reflects completely the mood of the American people. And American officials must not make the American people a victim of their wants and wishes. And we make a distinction between the American people and American officials. And the American people are opposed to occupation, the use of force, and also terrorism, the killing of the people of other nations. And this is what we are saying. This is what we believe in. With that in mind, we feel very close to the American people. And I'm sure that this is reciprocal. A couple of days ago, an American scientist, a scholar, wrote to me saying that he has a great love for Iran. And once he passes, he wants to be buried in this country. The two nations are very close to one another.
PELLEY: Mr. President, you say that the two nations are very close to one another, but it is an established fact now that Iranian bombs and Iranian know-how are killing Americans in Iraq. You have American blood on your hands. Why?
AHMADINEJAD: Well, this is what the American officials are saying. Again, American officials wherever around the world that they encounter a problem which they fail to resolve, instead of accepting that, they prefer to accuse others. We basically are very much opposed to any kind of insecurity inside Iraq. Because once we have insecurity in Iraq, the first party, if I can use the word, that will be affected would be Iran. Having said that, we fully oppose occupation and also military attacks. In Iraq we don't need to do that. For that matter, in any part of the world we don't need to do that. When it comes to war, we don't think that war, belligerence, is a good solution for differences of opinion. We have said this in the past to American officials that the Iraqi people very much oppose occupation. And they will not accept this. And experience tells you this. This is a nation with many thousands of years of history. They have stood up to occupiers in the past, and they will stand up again. I'm very sorry that, because of the wrong decisions taken by American officials, Iraqi people are being killed and also American soldiers. It's very regrettable. And, again, I'm saying that why should they be killed? Why should these boys and girls be killed? Why should we have war in Iraq and insecurity? I believe that the people behind the insecurity are those who, from thousands of kilometers away, have brought in troops. First, they said that they want to topple the dictator and find WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]. They didn't find WMDs and there's no dictator there anymore. So the question is: What are American troops doing right now in Iraq? They have to answer, respond to these questions. We are not interfering in Iraq. The Iraqi people are our friends. And the president, the prime minister, the speaker of the parliament are our friends. We don't need to interfere in Iraq. We are two nations which have been connected through history. Each year millions of Iranians go to Iraq for pilgrimage. And in a number of these bombings inside Iraq, Iranian citizens have been killed. We want peace; we want security in Iraq; and it only serves our own interests. And those American officials who see the interest in a continued occupation of Iraq, I ask them to reconsider. They should leave alone the Iraqi nation and also their own soldiers. And they shouldn't accuse others needlessly. We basically oppose the killing of any person, innocent persons, from any race or community. As I said, the Iraqi people have been victimized. We feel very sad for them. Equally, we feel sad for American soldiers and troops because they don't know why they're there. They are the victims of the, if you will, the wants and wishes of certain American officials.
PELLEY: Mr. President, American men and women are being killed by your weapons in Iraq. You know this.
AHMADINEJAD: No, no, no.
PELLEY: Why are those weapons there?
AHMADINEJAD: Who's saying that?
PELLEY: The American Army has captured Iranian missiles in Iraq. The critical elements of the explosively formed penetrator bombs that are killing so many people are coming from Iran. There's no doubt about that anymore. The denials are no longer credible, sir.
AHMADINEJAD: Very good. If I may.
AHMADINEJAD: Are you an American politician? Am I to look at you as an American politician or a reporter? This is what the American officials are claiming. Well, we don't need to arrest many people to prove that Americans are occupying Iraq or produce fabricated documents. If you go to the streets of Baghdad, you will see American helicopters and tanks and Humvees, so on and so forth. So the Iraqi people are just defending themselves. I think the way out for the American official from this problem that it has created for itself shouldn't be in accusing Iraq, Iran, rather. You need to understand the realities of the region and also respect the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people, like other people, want to have security, want to have peace, want to be free. When they see that soldiers come into their houses, they react. So if the American government does accept this reality, this truth, everything will changes. If they accuse us 1,000 times, the truth will not change. They need to accept the truth and also the wishes of the Iraqi people. That is a way out of this deadlock.
PELLEY: For the sake of clarity, because there is so much concern in the world about this next question, please give me the most direct answer you can. Is it your goal to build a nuclear bomb?
AHMADINEJAD: What are you driving at?
PELLEY: Simply that, sir. Is it the goal of your government, the goal of this nation to build a nuclear weapon?
AHMADINEJAD: Do you think that the nuclear technology is only limited in a bomb? You can only build a bomb with that?
PELLEY: No, I appreciate the differences, sir, but the question is limited to the bomb.
AHMADINEJAD: It has different uses. Well, you have to appreciate we don't need a nuclear bomb. We don't need that. What needs do we have for a bomb?
PELLEY: May I take that as a "no," sir?
AHMADINEJAD: Please, let me finish my thought. It is a firm "no." I'm going to be much firmer now. I want to address all politicians around the world, statesmen. Any party who uses national revenues to make a bomb, a nuclear bomb, will make a mistake. Because in political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful, it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union. If it was useful, it would have resolved the problems the Americans have in Iraq. The U.S. has tested new generations of bombs, many thousands of warheads you have in your arsenals. It's of no use. And also the Zionist entity, they have hundreds of warheads. It's not going to help them. The time of the bomb is past. The parties who think that by using the bomb you can control others, they are wrong. Today we are living in the era of intellectual pursuits. You should spend your money on your people. We don't need the bomb. For 28 years we have defended ourselves in the face of enemy onslaught. Every day we are becoming more powerful. And, again, we don't need such weapons. In fact, we think that this is inhuman. So can you please tell me why the U.S. government is fabricating these bombs? Do you want to provide a more welfare, happiness to the people through the bomb? Are you going to deal with global poverty? Or do you want to kill people? So our belief, sir, tell us and also our culture, because of these, we are very much opposed to the killing of people. This is very clear.
PELLEY: Mr. President, I just have a few questions. We have appreciated your answers very much, and I know we're pressing on time here. We would be very grateful if you wouldn't mind taking just a few more. Will you, in this interview tonight, rule out the possibility of a nuclear test of an Iranian weapon during your presidency?
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, we don't have any plans.
PELLEY: But rule it out. Say that "we will not test a nuclear device as long as I am president." Can you say that?
AHMADINEJAD: Please, please, let me finish my thought. Actually, I very much oppose this behavior. Picture it. If an Iranian reporter kept repeatedly asking the same questions from a U.S. official, how would you feel? Would you feel good about that?
PELLEY: I would.
AHMADINEJAD: I think that instead of going astray here and misleading the public, we should try to help with the uncovering of the truth. You are a member of the media. You are not a government official. You should be concerned with the truth. We should all be concerned with the truth. We don't need such weapons. Those who don't have anything to say to other nations and deal with them, they resort to atomic weapons. We are a cultured people and we have good relations with all nations. And the status of a country has nothing to do with atomic weapons, rather its culture and its civilization. And whenever we make a decision, we are courageous enough to come out and say that we have made such a decision. Whatever we want to do, we have nothing to hide. We clearly will announce that. Well, I said sometime ago that if you sanction us, we are going to take the production to an industrial scale, and we did that. And we said that we will continue to push ahead undaunted. We did that. We have no problems. When it comes to that, we are very transparent and we have a frank tone of voice. Let me be frank and very straightforward here. I oppose the unilateral policies and bullying policies of the American administration. I believe that these lead to war, leads to greater poverty and killing. I believe that you can manage the war better through friendship, mutual respect, and by respecting laws and also fair play. Again, I'm being very frank here. I oppose the very idea of the bomb. I have nothing to hide. Also, I oppose the policies of the American administration.
PELLEY: Would an attack on your nuclear sites, in your opinion, give you leave to attack U.S. forces in the region or the U.S. mainland?
AHMADEINEJAD: Who is going to attack this country?
PELLEY: President Bush has pledged that you will not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon and will use military force if necessary.
AHMADEINEJAD: I think Mr. Bush, if he wants his party to win the next election, there are cheaper ways and ways to go about this. I can very well give him a few ideas so that the people vote for him. He should respect the American people. They should not bug the telephone conversations of their citizens. They should not kill the sons and daughters of the American nation. They should not squander the taxpayers' money and give them to weapons companies. And also help the people, the victims of Katrina. People will vote for them if they do these things. But if they insist on what they are saying right now, this will not help them. Again, nobody can hurt the Iranian people. And history tells us that the people who have been less than kind to the Iranian people, they have lost out. What I'm saying, I am being very sincere here. I'm a Muslim. I cannot tell a lie. I am supposed to tell the truth. What I'm saying is that President Bush's conduct in Iraq is wrong. And his wrong conduct is behind his party losing the previous elections. This is very clear. The American people are very much dismayed with the behavior and the conduct of the present administration. They are not dismayed with Iran. In fact, the two nations are very close to one another. An example of that would be the letter sent to me by an American scholar a few days ago.
PELLEY: You mentioned telling the truth as a Muslim, and as you know so much better than I do, Verse 42 of the second sura: "The truth shall not be obscured by falsehood, and those who know the truth must tell it." But when I ask you a question as direct as "Will you pledge not to test a nuclear weapon?" you you dance all around the question. You never say "yes." You never say "no."
AHMADEINEJAD: Well, thank you for that. You are like a CIA investigator. And you are . . .
PELLEY: I am just a reporter. I am a simple, average American reporter.
AHMADEINEJAD: This is not a Baghdad prison. Please, this is not a secret prison in Europe. This is not Abu Ghraib. This is Iran. I'm the president of this country. Well, I think that I've gone beyond what you've asked me, above and beyond. And I think that if you speak to your job as a reporter, what I have said so far, again, goes above and beyond what you ask me.
The full interview: http://snipurl.com/1r53x