Nobody will ever give Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad any awards for being a humanitarian. His leadership in Iran has been marred by vote fraud, allegations of human rights violations and a constant desire to build a nuclear weapons program.
The list of his policy mistakes is lengthy and includes denial of the Holocaust, a belligerent attitude towards Israel and a propensity to spread 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Once a year, he travels to New York City and addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations, prompting mass walkouts of delegations. This year's speech, delivered on Thursday, was no exception. Almost all of the nations he accused of wrongdoing left the hall while he was speaking. The media coverage was scathing in its condemnation.
But just as good ideas can come from bad people, tyrants can also speak the truth. What much of Ahmadinejad said was worthy of much more attention than the coverage it received in the American press.
After thanking his hosts, he began to speak some hard truths:
"Approximately three billion people of the world live on less than 2.5 dollars a day, and over a billion people live without having even one sufficient meal on a daily basis. Forty percent of the poorest world populations only share five percent of the global income, while 20 percent of the richest people share 75 percent of the total global income.
"More than 20,000 innocent and destitute children die every day in the world because of poverty. In the United States, 80 percent of financial resources are controlled by 10 percent of its population, while only 20 percent of these resources belong to the 90 percent of the population."
He then went on to ask a series of rhetorical questions that left no doubt whom he felt was to blame for these injustices.
"Who abducted forcefully tens of millions of people from their homes in Africa and other regions of the world during the dark period of slavery, making them a victim of their materialistic greed? Who imposed colonialism for over four centuries upon this world?
"Who occupied lands and massively plundered resources of other nations, destroyed talents, and alienated languages, cultures and identities of nations?
"Who used nuclear bombs against defenseless people, and stockpiled thousands of warheads in their arsenals? Whose economies rely on waging wars and selling arms?"
No surprise that he blames the United States, given his history, but these points are indisputably true. Our history has been bloody and our self-image of an always righteous, peace-loving nation must be reconciled with the hard truths of our past.
He's correct in that it was America that abandoned the gold standard and began printing trillions of dollars, destabilizing the world economy. And it's been America's military adventurism around the world that has cost us in prestige, human lives and money that might have been better spent elsewhere.
He asked, "If only half of military expenditures of the United States and its allies in NATO was shifted to help solve the economic problems in their own countries, would they be witnessing any symptom of the economic crisis? What would happen if the same amount was allocated to poor nations?"
He raised the point that instead of fully determining the facts behind 9/11 and bringing those responsible to trial, we killed Osama bin Laden and dumped his body in the ocean. Is it possible that a trial would have been more beneficial in the long run?
His resolution for these problems is a restructured United Nations, one that gives non-aligned and emerging nations a more equitable role in forming and shaping international policy. Despite his eccentricities, are his demands that unreasonable?
Is it fair that certain nations have veto power in the Security Council and can defeat the aims of the majority of countries with a single vote? Would the Palestinian issue have been settled by now if the UN had been allowed a more active role without the United States vetoing every policy with which it disagreed?
The Iranian president has raised some very provocative and inconvenient questions that have gone almost completely unreported in the American media. The answers to these questions, however, could be key in achieving lasting peace and prosperity.
As stated above, I hold alleged terrorists and megalomaniacs in no high regard. Ahmadinejad is not without blood on his own hands. He is a most imperfect messenger for world peace.
But can we continue to deny the existence of the problems he outlined? By dismissing him as a lunatic, do we improve our own lives even one bit?
International issues are key for resolving our external political problems, building a foundation for economic growth and development and creating a future of prosperity and peace instead of war and misery.
In those senses, the Iranian president's words bear closer examination and reflection instead of reflexive condemnation and dismissal.