Ted Koppel’s most dangerous nation

Last night’s Ted Koppel Discovery Channel special on Iran was both interesting and annoying. The former ABC Nightline host took a camera crew inside the charter member of the Axis of Evil, and produced the two-hour documentary, “Iran: the Most Dangerous Nation.”

The annoying part, of course, was the oozing moral equivalence with which Koppel felt he must litter a documentary aimed at Americans. After seeing a large group exiting a mosque chanting “death to America,” Koppel remarks, “we are prisoners of our stereotypes of each other–they do it, we do it.”

Sure, Iran–US relations have had sore points over the last 50 years, but this is a country in which children on their first day of school are taught to chant “death to America.” To say that we view each other with this same spirit of vitriol is to make a mockery of the term “equivalence.” If you don’t believe me, just imagine the uproar — both international and national — if American churchgoers chanted “death to Iran” as they left the sanctuary each Sunday.

The danger within Iran is seen everywhere — from Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani’s audacious claim that America benefited from 9/11, to the concern by Massoumeh Ebtekar (the “Sister Mary” translator from the 1979 hostage crisis) over President Bush’s religious views, as if Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s religious views were of no consequence.

There were some bright spots. Like the one person Koppel interviewed who said he liked President Bush (I’d like to see a follow-up on that guy…). And the over 70,000 blogs which operate out of internet-censored Iran (many are listed here). Oh yeah — there was also the kid who liked American music. See, they don’t really hate us after all…

Koppel’s conclusion, which abruptly emerges in the last minute of the documentary, seems to be that yes, they’re bad, but we’re bad too. Sanctions haven’t been working. Sure there is the military option, but what we really need is to go talk to the Iranians like Koppel did.

To be fair, Koppel did ask a few tough questions to some key Iranian voices (see videos here). But it seems to me awfully naive to think the buddy-buddy style that Koppel uses to get in to the country and get good interviews should be applied to foreign policy.