Axis of Antics Absent from UN General Assembly

PHOTO: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moammar Gadhafi, Hugo Chavez at U.N. General Assembly
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images | Timothy A. Clary/AFP

Though this year's U.N. General Assembly promises high political intrigue, it will likely lack the political theatre and hijinks that have made the annual meeting of the world's leaders one of the most entertaining spectacles in international diplomacy.

Gone from the world's stage, for the first time in years, is a trio of colorful tyrants who reveled in visiting New York mostly to complain about the United States.

The exploits, both behind and away from the podium, of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Libya's Moammar Gaddafi and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, annually grabbed headlines, as each used the spotlight for provocative self-promotion rather than thoughtful pronouncements for peace.

Laid low by cancer, revolution and term limits, the Axis of Antics won't be stealing the show this year.

But at least we can remember all the America-hating, Israel-bating, weapons-proliferating good times.

PHOTO: Hugo Chavez
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Hugo Chavez

Venezuela's long-serving president Hugo Chavez died earlier this year after a lengthy battle with cancer. The Venezuelan socialist had a reputation for incendiary and unsubstantiated remarks, but at the podium of the UNGA he raised the bar.

Speaking in 2006, the day after U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the plenary, Chavez wasted no time going on the attack.

"Yesterday, the devil came here," Chavez said of Bush. "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of."

In 2009, after Bush was out of office, Chavez still took aim at his former nemesis. "Please, don't anybody throw a shoe at me," he joked, referring to the Iraqi who had heaved a pair of shoes at Bush.

He then turned his taunts towards President Obama.

"Come over to the socialist side," he said addressing Obama. "Come join the Axis of Evil over here."

As recently as 2011, Chavez who once blamed capitalism for ending life on Mars and called Halloween a gringo custom to "spread terror," blamed the U.S. for ushering in a "new Armageddon."

PHOTO: Moammar Gadhafi
AFP/Getty Images
Moammar Gaddafi

Despite ruling Libya for more than four decades, Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi did not address the General Assembly for the first time until 2009. He made sure to make it memorable.

Before even taking the podium, Gaddafi stole headlines. Famously afraid of elevators, Gaddafi refused to stay in a hotel and chose instead to pitch a large Bedouin tent in a tony New York suburb on a parcel of land owned by Donald Trump.

He travelled to New York with his all-female detachment of body guards and his personal nurse, long rumored to be one of many mistresses.

Introduced at the U.N. as "leader of the revolution, the president of the African Union, the king of kings of Africa," Gaddafi, who was killed by his own people during a 2011 uprising, was allotted 15 to speak, but spoke instead for 90.

Dressed in flowing robes with an outsized brooch shaped like Africa pinned to his chest, Gaddafi rambled and shuffled papers for 20 minutes before getting to a coherent point, that an African country should have a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

PHOTO: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The world will be watching this week as newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the plenary for the first time. Rouhani has signaled a more conciliatory approach than his predecessor, and could potentially meet with President Obama, the first time the leaders of the U.S. and Iran have met in more than 30 years.

In order for U.S. officials to meet with the Iranian president, they will first have to hear what he has to say, a stark contrast from the past eight years, in which American diplomats left the hall after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began speaking.

An unapologetic Holocaust denier, Ahmadinejad would routinely use the forum to attack Israel, and the United State.

At last year's assembly, he said the U.S. and European Union "have entrusted themselves to the devil."

Following a particularly fiery speech he made in 2005, he told supporters that during his address he was surrounded by a halo of light, and that the foreign leaders in the hall were so transfixed they were unable to blink for a half hour.

Every year Ahmadinejad would visit New York, newspapers followed his efforts to find a hotel room. In 2009, three hotels denied him a place hang his khaki windbreaker or hold events.

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