Inflating a Little Man

The neoconservatives want you to think Ahmadinejad is another Hitler. That's dishonest, and plumps for war

AP Photo / Richard Drew

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to a question during an interview at his hotel in New York, Monday Sept. 24, 2007.

A long time ago, when the Soviet Union was beginning to shatter, a Russian friend cracked a joke, and I doubled up laughing on a snowy street in Moscow. "I wish I could smile the way you Americans do," he said. I asked why he couldn't. He said he'd been trained by his parents never to show emotions in public. A stray smile could be misinterpreted, could mean the Gulag. I realized then that my reaction to his joke had been a political statement — a reflexive demonstration of my freedom. I thought about that when the laughter began at Columbia...

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