Countering the Drift

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

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President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who plans to come to New York City for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly from September 18 to 21, is spouting ominous nuclear rhetoric — proof positive that this is a dangerous world. Yet the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attack on this city showed that many are content to forget the horror of that day and are intent on replacing the majestic twin towers with two gigantic, flower-strewn potholes.

I stopped watching the memorial service a few years ago because it was being held in a place that showed no progress of being rebuilt. This is unacceptable in a city where buildings crop up overnight in the blink of an eye. What has been more disturbing is how far removed from reality many New Yorkers have drifted.

The cable History Channel dared to show “102 Minutes That Changed America,” a presentation of archive footage shot on September 11, 2001. As the enormous implication of the attack set in on the viewers on 42nd Street watching the World Trade Center evaporate, they could be heard saying things like, “we’re going to war; let’s kill the bastards; bomb them where they live.” The old cliché about a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged was proved wrong here, because this city was mugged in the worst way and the conversion only lasted a short while. Before long, many who had first agreed with the president that the war on terrorism would be a long and difficult one changed their mind. This complacent crowd doesn’t think it’s ever right to fight a war for freedom. They are also vulnerable to deceit.

Not long ago there was an anti-war rally in Times Square protesting a possible war with Iran. I asked my Persian dissident friend, who knows more about what’s happening in that country than any newspaper pundit or television anchor, what he thought about this. He told me that the Iranian mullahs have lobbyists around the world and here in the United States that organize such gatherings to sway public opinion and buy time for the mullahs because the economic situation in Iran is increasingly tenuous.

According to my friend, whom I cannot name for his own safety, there has been a resurgence of the Persian identity. Many Iranians have converted back to the Zoroastrian faith and secretly burn the Koran. Every spring here in Manhattan, the Persian Day Parade grows larger and more colorful. Beautiful women in colorful garb dance to joyous music and the symbol of the ancient faith is everywhere.

Last year on October 15, the day celebrating the international day of Derafshe Kaviani, a plane carrying the Persian flag flew around the Statue of Liberty and dipped its wing over Ground Zero to honor the innocent victims of September 11. It read: “Free Iran.” Don’t believe me? Check out the flight on YouTube. The event was also covered on Channel 9.

My dissident friend tells me that most of what we read about Iran is disinformation planted by the ruling mullahs of Iran. Many Web sites have been established that pretend to be anti-mullah but are actually meant to trap dissidents. That is how they captured Dr. Froud Fouladvand, the man who attempted to educate Iranians about their glorious Persian roots. He founded the group Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran and had many followers. It is believed that he was kidnapped and murdered in Turkey last January, but stories of his imminent execution were leaked recently to various news sources as a means of locating dissidents seeking more information about their missing leader.

What should the United States do to help, I asked my friend? “There are two ways to treat cancer,” he said. “You can surgically remove it, or you can help strengthen the body so that it can fight the cancer itself. What we need are supplies to help communicating with the various groups and the Iranian people.”

We need to improve our communication here as well because many regard the truth as “scare tactics.” The Democrats charged that the Republican convention exploited September 11 by showing graphic footage of the attacks. Wrong. We’ve grieved for seven years, and now it’s time to focus on making sure it never happens again. Next month when that Free Iran flag flies over Ground Zero, let’s add one that reads: “Rebuild the Towers Now.”

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