"A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory," Mark Twain once quipped.
That astute observation comes to mind in the wake of Iran's outrageous and revealing selection of their new United Nations ambassador. He is an official linked to the notorious 1979-81 U.S. embassy hostage crisis.
Iran's supposed moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who made this disgraceful appointment, may very well have a clear conscience about naming such an envoy to sit in New York City. The would-be ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, who has understandably played down his role during the hostage crisis, also has a clear conscience.
But we, as Americans, and as people with a memory as well as a conscience, cannot allow such an official on our soil, except to be brought to trial for his participation in illegally holding our diplomats hostage.
While the U.S. is required to allow UN diplomats to come to New York, it has the right to refuse visas to those seeking to work as diplomats in the UN.
We in Congress are, in a bipartisan manner, urging the State Department to refuse entry to Mr. Aboutalebi due to his past behavior.
The president can deny visas to diplomats for spying. Terror activities by diplomats, past or present, should be dealt with just as severely.
Diplomatic immunity should not apply to terrorists and to their accomplices.
While the would-be ambassador has downplayed his role in the hostage crisis suggesting he was but a "translator," he was indeed part of the radical student group, the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line. This is the group which occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979. Tellingly, his photograph is still on the group's official website.
Understandably, many of the 52 former U.S. hostages held captive for 444 days are furious over the matter. One former hostage, Barry Rosen, said it would be "like spitting on us" and "a travesty of justice" if the Iranian diplomat was granted entry. Others described it as a "slap in the face" to the hostages and their families, who never received reparations for their ordeal.
For them -- and for us -- we cannot allow such an individual in our homeland. President Obama must deny him a visa to come onto our soil. Our conscience will not allow it.
Lambon has represented Colorado’s 5th Congressional District since.2007. He sits on the Armed Services; the Natural Resources; and the Veterans’ Affairs committees. He also co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus.