Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad is a Bigger Liar, Charlatan and Demagogue than Bush!

Lee Bollinger, Smackdown Artist

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, gave one of the most lengthy and hostile introductions on record when he introduced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs World Leaders Forum today.

Here are my excerpts:
.....Before speaking directly to the current president of Iran, I have a few critically important points to emphasize.

First, since 2003, the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.

Second, to those who believe that this event never should have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech and academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is "an experiment, as all life is an experiment." I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can, that this is the right thing to do and, indeed, it is required by existing norms of free speech, the American university and Columbia itself.

Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this day, I say on behalf of all of us we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.

Fourth, to be clear on another matter -- this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any "rights" of the speaker but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves.

We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.

Lastly, in universities, we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power. We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds. And to do this we must have the most full freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Bollinger proceeded to cite at length Iran's record on human rights, including Amnesty International's statistics. And then the University president posed a battery of questions for the Persian to answer:
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 Baha'i 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 U.N. did Akbar Gangi, Iran's leading political dissident, and over 300 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 your regime has created within Iran? In particular, the use of the Press Law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system.

Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?

In our country, you are interviewed by our press and asked to speak here today. And while my colleague at the Law School Michael Dorf spoke to Radio Free Europe [sic, Voice of America] viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenets of freedom of speech in this country, I propose going further than that. Let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your university about free speech, with the same freedom we afford you today? Will you do that?
Additional questions from President Bollinger followed on:
  • The Denial Of The Holocaust
  • The Destruction Of Israel
  • Funding Terrorism
  • Proxy War Against U.S. Troops In Iraq
  • Finally, Iran's Nuclear Program And International Sanctions
And then, just before turning the podium over to Columbia University's guest speaker, President Bollinger concluded:
Let me close with this 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 mind-set that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately, I am told by experts on your country, that this only further undermines your position in Iran with all the many goodhearted, intelligent citizens there. A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country (as in your meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations) so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral 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.
Just a few comments are in order.

IMO, his dissing of Columbia U's distinguished guest was appropriate. I think it was absolutely correct for Bollinger to open up on human rights issues. But I, personally, would differ on the specific terms he used in addressing his questions on funding terrorism, the proxy war against U.S. Troops in Iraq, and Iran's nuclear power.

In his answering a question to the issue on Iran's suppression based on gender and sexual orientation, Ahmadinejad denied the existence of "homosexuals":
And was greeted with howls of derision. I was disappointed not to hear what I was listening for: some one to yell out that, "That's because you've hung them all!" According to some estimates, around 4,000 gays and lesbians have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.

I was disappointed but not surprised with Condoleezza Rice's statement about rejecting Ahmadinejad's request to pay his respects at the World Trade Center:
As to the World Trade Center, though, I think it would have been a travesty. I think this is somebody who is the president of a country that is probably the greatest sponsor of -- state sponsor of terrorism, someone who is a Holocaust denier, someone who has talked about wiping other countries off the map. I think it would have been a travesty.
This rejection was part and parcel of our current policy of conflating al Qaeda with the Hezbollah and denying the fact that Iran initially expressed sympathy with us Americans in the wake of 9-11 attacks and assisted in our invasion of Afghanistan.

To pull this together, I'll use the same standard I have used with Bush: once a liar, always a liar. Both Bush and Ahmadinejad are state-based liars. If the guy can lie about the holocaust and suppression of human rights of academics, women, and gays, this Persian liar can lie about anything. Bank on it.