I watched President Lee Bollinger of Columbia University introduce Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the podium at Columbia University this afternoon. I also subsequently watched the madman himself speak (what passes for) his ‘mind’.
President Bollinger delivered a fairly powerful address, but its impact for me was greatly tempered by the fact that I believe he was playing to a world audience, attempting to defray much of the justified criticism of his decision to invite Iran’s president to speak on his campus. Much of what he said was diluted by his, and his university’s, history of -- and continuing notable deference toward -- anti-American, left-leaning ideology and policymaking. Today’s words did not match yesterday’s, or tomorrow’s, deeds.
His speech’s impact was also tempered for me by the questionable reputation of some of its references/sources.
With that said, I have transcribed below what I believe were his most important, and most powerful, points – many of which I, and most of the readers here, might well have written ourselves (no doubt with much more sincerity).
As for Ahmadinejad’s speech, I’ll not grant it space here except to say that I deeply resent his blatant attempt to proselytize, his convoluted, perverse references to Holy Scripture amid those egregious attempts, his gross inability to appear ‘learned’, and his hypocrisy in attempting to lecture Americans on the path to world peace. He is nothing more than a vile, vicious, bloodthirsty, delusional megalomaniac.
The final affront of the afternoon was, post-speeches, watching the media interview snot-nosed, know-it-all Columbia students who were urging us -- the great unwashed, in their minds -- to 'give peace a chance', open up dialogue and diplomacy, and remember that communication with our enemies is our best means of obtaining world peace.
I, and most readers here, lived through the debacle that was Vietnam, and all I have to say to those arrogant young know-it-alls is ...
Below are President Bollinger’s generally truthful (if insincere) remarks:
Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
The arrest and imprisonment of Iranian Americans for no good reason is not only unjustified; it runs completely counter to the very values that allowed today’s speaker to even appear on this campus.
But at least they are alive. According to Amnesty International, 210 people have been executed in Iran so far this year – 21 of them on the morning of September 5th alone. This annual total includes at least two children -- further proof, as Human Rights Watch puts it, that Iran leads the world in executing minors.
There is more.
Iran hanged up to thirty people this past July and August during a widely-reported suppression of efforts to establish a more democratic society. Many of these executions were carried out in public view, a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.
These executions and others have coincided with a wider crackdown on student activists and academics accused of trying to foment a so-called ‘soft revolution’. This has included jailing, and forced retirement of scholars …
… There are not enough prisons to prevent an entire society that wants its freedom from achieving it.
We at this university have not been shy to protest and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won’t be shy about criticizing yours.
Let’s then be clear at the beginning:
Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. And so I ask you, why have women, members of the Bahá’í faith, homosexuals, and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?
Why, in a letter last week to the Secretary General of the UN, did Iran’s leading political dissident and over three hundred public intellectuals, writers and Nobel laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the west is distracting the world’s attention from the intolerable conditions in your regime in Iran? In particular the use of the press law to ban writers from criticizing the ruling system.
Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?
In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the holocaust as a ‘fabricated legend’. One year later you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers. For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda. When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous.
You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated …
… The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history. Because of this, and for many other reasons, your absurd comments about the ‘debate’ over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanity’s capacity for evil shudder at this closure of memory, which is always virtue’s first line of defense.
Will you cease this outrage?
Twelve days ago, you said that Israel cannot continue its life. This echoed a number of inflammatory statements you have delivered in the past two years, including in October 2005, when you said that Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’.
My question then is, ‘Do you plan on wiping us off the map too?’
According to reports by the Council on Foreign Relations, it is well-documented that Iran is a state sponsor of terror that funds such violent groups as Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran helped organize in the 1980s, Palestinian Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad …
… Your government is now undermining American troops in Iraq by funding, arming, and providing safe transit to insurgents like Muqtada al-Sadr and his forces.
There are a number of reports that you also link your government with Syria’s efforts to de-stabilize the fledgling Lebanese government, through violence and political assassination.
My question is this: Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?
A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of the military who are serving, or who have served, in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands, and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy.
Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi’a militia, targeting and killing U.S. troops?
This week the United Nations Security Council is contemplating expanding sanctions for a third time because of your government’s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification, in defiance of agreements that you have made with the UN Nuclear Agency? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic sanctions … and threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation?
Let me close with the comment – frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will, in itself, be meaningful to us.
I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately, I am told by experts on your country that this will only further undermine your position in Iran, with all the many good-hearted and intelligent citizens there.
A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements at one of the meetings of the Council on Foreign Relations so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party’s defeat in the December elections.
May this do that … and more.
I am only a professor, who is also a university president. And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world, yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.