The Ahmadinejad alternate-reality show is now playing in New York, and earlier this morning, David Bradley, the proprietor of The Atlantic, and James Bennet, its editor, spent some time with the great man at a breakfast meeting for journalists. (I've been invited to these seances in the past, but the Iranian government refused my request to attend this morning's gathering.) James asked Ahmadinejad to respond to Fidel Castro's recent request -- passed to him through this blog -- to lay off the Holocaust denial, and to respect the history of Jewish suffering. Ahmadinejad ducked the question: "Mr. Fidel Castro is a recognized figure; he can have his views, we do not fight over views." Ahmadinejad also said that an unnamed Cuban official informed Iran that "Mr. Castro said nothing in the recent interview except to support Iran." This is not true, of course. Ahmadinejad went to say that he would have to speak to Castro or the Cuban foreign minister to get their views directly.
Then, as is his practice, he questioned the historical truth of the Holocaust. "The question is, why don't we allow this subject to be examined further... It is incorrect to force only one view on the rest of the world." He then asked, hilariously, "How come when it comes to the subject of the Holocaust there is so much sensitivity?" He also said that he was not an anti-Semite, but merely opposed to Zionism, which is "based on racist thoughts and ideas."
According to James, Ahmadinejad provided a glimpse into his thinking when Joe Scarborough asked him if he would consider it an act of war if the U.S. allowed Israeli warplanes to overfly Iraq on their way to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. "Do you think anyone will attack Iran to begin with?" Ahmadinejad asked. "I really don't think so. The Zionist regime is a very small entity on the map, even to the point that it doesn't really factor into our equation." He continued -- in a way that clarifies for me his fundamental misunderstanding of just about everything -- "The United States has never entered a serious war, and has never been victorious." And, in what James reports was his most ominous statement, Ahmadinejad said, "The United States doesn't understand what war looks like. When a war starts, it knows no limits."