Last night David Cohen, Under Secretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, spoke for an hour at NYU Law School about everything he is doing to crank up international pressure on Iran. But when three reporters tried to ask questions after the speech, Cohen couldn’t take the heat. He refused to answer questions, and gave the reporters the number of the Treasury Department press office.
This guy obviously feels no public accountability for his actions. For 45 minutes Cohen read a speech that had been simultaneously published on the Treasury website. Could have saved me a trip to the city! Then he answered a few questions, including from a woman who said that Ahmadinejad is Hitler, but Cohen was careful not to call on anyone in the back two rows, reserved for the press. At this time he made his only spontaneous remark, that sanctions are harsh measures, and hurt innocent people, but they are designed to forestall violence. (My argument about boycott and sanctions for Israel, by the way).
Then– well ahead of the advertised 8 o’clock ending for the event– Cohen announced that he had to run. At least three reporters accompanied him up the stairs from the hall and out on to W. 3rd Street. Ali Gharib of Daily Beast asked Cohen about the human cost of the sanctions. I asked Cohen, Does Israel have nukes – and is our double standard here an issue when he seeks international partners to turn up the heat on Iran? Chase Madar, author of the recent book on Bradley Manning and a frequent contributor to this site and the American Conservative, pulled up the rear. He wanted to ask Cohen how the sanctions compare to what we did to Iraq, where the punitive measures were said to have killed hundreds of thousands.
Cohen ignored the questions, but he obviously felt queasy about doing so, or maybe he felt rude. When we got out to the sidewalk, he turned to us and told us to call his spokesman, and gave Gharib the telephone number for the Treasury Department press department.
I did not have the presence of mind to say to him what I am saying now: You don’t seem to feel any sense of public accountability for your actions.