"Crimes of America Conference?" Did someone say "Crimes of America?" Now where did that disheveled crowd of mediocre graduate students now running progressive Iran get the idea to hold a highfalutin confabulation like this? The sight of several hundred peppy conventioneers jetting into modern Tehran, unpacking their bags at the local Hilton and swarming into the Hilton's climate-controlled conference hall, there to bloviate and pound fists on table tops of simulated wood and marble puts one in mind of nothing so much as Indianapois in summertime, its streets full of Shriners. American civilization still has its small triumphs even on the Holy Man's Islamic turf.

Was the thing duly run through a Tehran Convention Bureau? Are the conventioneers paying with their American Express cards or with Visa? We are told that many of the participants swathed their heads in "red-checked scarves," revealing only their ever-vigilant eyes. Yet who doubts that on their chests were worn little plastic name tags whose large letters proclaimed "HELLO, MY NAME IS. . ."

This kind of goof-ball jamboree has grown ever more frequent under our president's populist foreign policy, notwithstanding all the blah about Andy Young's charm with the Third World. Even the extravagant rubric -- Crimes of America -- is not all that alien to our populist president. One can easily see White House speechwriters sitting over in the Executive Office Building and thinking to themselves, "Well, the Iranians do have a point." One can even imagine Jimmy, in the high fever of Campaign '80, blurting out such guff. American crimes are pondered very carefully amongst the forward-lookers nowadays.

Ramsey Clark's appearance in Tehran nails down my point. After all, Clark, who in 1972 made a similar appearance in Hanoi, was our president's first minister plenipotentiary to the Holy Man after the brave conquest of our embassy. Now he has appeared in Tehran to espouse his "belief that dialogue between all people is essential for understanding and respect." This specimen of 1960s bromide could issue from our president himself at any moment.

On his way home perhaps Clark will stop off to reestablish dialogue with Hanoi's progressives. I have just returned from Paris, and twice in the past nine months friends in the French media have reminded me of the 30 or so Americans whom the North Vietnamese still retain in their prisons just to keep our government on its toes. Is Clark's dialogue honeyed enough to spring these chained Americans?

Truth to tell, the idea of convening a conference on the crimes of America could as easily have been hatched right here in America as anywhere else. The institute for Policy Studies could organize it, and may already have, for that matter. The National Council of Churches could fund it, and doubtless many good capitalists would gladly cater it, dutifully attending to the logistics for the honored guests. One sees them being chauffeured to and Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus.

True, much of Southeast Asis is either a bone heap or concentration camp. The Soviet Union, now the most brutal empire on earth, employs poison gas and other ghastly tools to continue its conquest of reluctant subjects. Yet in America there remain nitwits and scoundrels obsessed with these American infamies: the CIA, the multinationals, the Rockefellers, commie-baiting.

The Third World enrages owe more to American civilization than merely our genius of conferences. The most avid audience in the world for anti-American tracts is right here between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Many, perhaps a majority, of the nations on earth are ruled by petty jailers and grafters, yet we still publish nearly as many tomes on American peccancy as on dieting and sexual hygiene.

America is now nearly as fertile a source of anti-American propaganda as the U.S.S.R., and the Yankee howlers are more celebrated and prosperous. Of course, their sophistries have all been unhorsed by serious scholars like John Lewis Gaddis, but the books still pour forth for the credulous, and among the credulous are numbered thousands of envious and bewildered foreign students like the 60,000 or so Iranians who still attend our universities and who huff and puff about the reactionary shah, even as the Holy Man cuts back their scholarships -- scholarships the nefarious shah gladly gave them notwithstanding their hostility to him.

The unspoken truth of the hysteria that now seizes Iran and lies nascent throughout many of the nations of the Third World is that their anti-Americanism is made in America.