There is a suicidal mania that tends to grip the American media and academia from time to time, and it has happened again with the American visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the poster boy for state sponsors of international terrorism. It’s bad enough that Ahmadinejad was among friends when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in late September, but when major American newspapers, several American TV networks including CBS’s “60 Minutes”, the National Press Club and a major Ivy League University give a significant propaganda victory to a man who is arguably the most dangerous man alive, that’s a problem. Yet, that’s precisely what Columbia University and the others did by providing a public forum to the views of the Iranian President.
Ahmedinejad – “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” of course – was involved in the taking of American hostages at our embassy in Tehran in 1979, has repeatedly threatened America, provided the munitions that kill U.S. troops in Iraq, has denied the first Holocaust and all but promised a second one by advocating the destruction of Israel, has engaged in the massive repression of human rights (particularly women’s rights) in his own country, has imprisoned journalists and scholars (including one of Columbia’s own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh), is the President of the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, and with each passing day, comes closer to the development of an Islamic bomb that he states unequivocally will be used against Israel and as a shield to further his stated goal of establishing a global Caliphate under Shari’a. Such a person belongs in the dock of the accused rather than on the podium of the UN General Assembly and an Ivy League university.
To add insult to injury, he was introduced by no one less than the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger who, despite his efforts to confront the man, only played into his hands as subsequent press reports in the Iranian media confirm. Iranian citizens did not hear the criticism of Ahmadinejad by Bollinger. Rather, all they heard and read was of his ‘unmitigated triumph’ at a major American university. Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post got it right. “Ahmadinejad is not interested in convincing the US government or even the majority of Americans to convert to Islam,” she wrote. “He is interested in convincing adherents of totalitarian Islam and potential converts to the cause that they are on the winning side. He is interested in demoralizing foes of totalitarian Islam within the Islamic world and so causing them to give up any thoughts of struggle.” What the naive folks at Columbia never considered was that Ahmedinejad would win the propaganda war the moment he ascended their podium.
Equally irresponsible were the comments of John Coatsworth, Interim Dean of Columbia’s School of International Public Affairs, who claimed students needed “opportunities to hear, challenge and learn from controversial speakers of different views.” He’s wrong. Inviting hate speakers to a public forum is not exercising free speech. It is simply promoting hate to a larger audience. So why is it essential to the learning experience of Columbia’s students to listen to a man such as this? What could possibly be learned from him – how to hate Jews, how to pretend the Holocaust didn’t happen, how to plot nuclear genocide, how to murder Americans, how to threaten to kill those who “insult” Islam?
As World War III approaches outside the ivory towers of our Ivy League colleges, Columbia’s concept of ‘resisting’ Islamic Hitlers like Ahmedinejad is to debate with them and give them a national platform. If you know that your guest will not answer any of your questions, nor engage in the university’s favorite activity – ‘dialogue’ – then the rationale for the invitation falls apart. Ahmadinejad scored quite a coup at Columbia and the university board of directors knows it. The decision to hide the university’s name and logo under a black sheet draped over the podium behind which Ahmadinejad lectured, speaks volumes. I can only imagine how our major newspapers, TV networks and universities would jump at the chance to invite Josef Goebbels to lunch and to offer him a national podium from which to ‘debate’ his theories on racial superiority to an American audience. If the Iranian President ever thought his enemies were fools, he surely knows it now. As a result, from the caves in Afghanistan and the cells in Baghdad to the training camps in Gaza and the missile batteries in Syria, the terrorists and their state sponsors can take comfort in Columbia’s act of academic naivety.
It should go without saying that the appropriate response that should have been made when the Iranian ambassador called Columbia to set up the lecture should have been an emphatic, NO. But perhaps that would have been too much to ask from one of today’s Ivy League university presidents. If we really wanted to do something constructive, we should have charged Ahmedinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the UN Charter because of his calls for the destruction of Israel. Or maybe, as former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler suggests, he should have been declared an inadmissible person and placed on the “U.S. Watchlist” of persons barred from entering this country (like former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim for his participation in the persecution of civilian populations during World War II). American law excludes from entry any person who has engaged in, or incited to terrorist activity, or who “has used his position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States’ efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities.” Or perhaps he should have been served with a subpoena as a material witness in the billion dollar lawsuit brought against the Islamic Republic of Iran by former U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran from 1979-1981. Rather, he scored a propanganda coup. Despite what the intellectual gurus at Columbia might think, by allowing this man a podium at some of the most distinguished institutions in America, they have created the illusion of real dialogue – of Ahmadinejad legitimizing the notion (for example) that Holocaust denial is now a subject of legitimate and reasonable debate.
I wonder how receptive Ahmedinejad would be to a U.S. senator or congressman being allowed to speak at Tehran University to deliver America’s message of freedom and self-determination. You’re right Mr. President, there are no homosexuals in Iran. That’s because you’ve executed them all – or at least the ones you can find. And what about that recent report in Iran Focus about the 13-year-old Iranian girl who was raped by her brother, became pregnant, gave birth to his child and was subsequently sentenced to death by stoning by an Iranian court for shaming her family while her brother received 150 lashes? Or what about your recent crackdown on dress deemed to be un-Islamic which has already seen warnings issued to over 100,000 women. Or what about the order that issued just this past August from your Ministry of Science, Research and Technology ordering 81 Iranian universities to expel any student discovered to be a Baha’i, or the order issued this past April from your Public Intelligence and Security Force demanding that 25 Iranian industries deny business licenses to Baha’is. And what about all those Iranian banks that are busily closing Baha’i accounts and refusing loans to Baha’i applicants. Please, Mr. President, tell us more about your views on women’s and minority rights in your country. I must have missed it in your tirade against the “Great Satan” at Columbia! And lest I forget, perhaps you’d like to debate your belief about bringing on nuclear Armageddon to pave the way for the Coming of the Mahdi – the Shi’ite Messiah – aka the 12th (Hidden) Imam – the core belief behind your jihad against us. In fact, why don’t we all just sit down together with the Bin Ladens of the world and debate our problems like rational, normal people?
“Why not give Iran’s president a chance to be educated and transformed?” they ask. I’ll tell you why not. Because their vision of the future is a universe apart from ours. Our vision is to spread freedom, democracy, free enterprise, globalization and peace. Their vision is to humiliate us and drive us from the Middle East as the first stage in establishing a global Islamic Caliphate. For Ahmedinejad, the dominance of the West is over, the End of Times is at hand, and Islam is set to win the coming war. His is a martyrdom tradition, and there are plenty of “martyrs” on his side. There is absolutely nothing to debate. There is no middle ground. There is nothing to be learned here. He is the enemy whose primary goal is to destroy our way of life. Is that so difficult to understand? Or is his vision simply too “ridiculous” for us to believe? If so, we’re in for a rude awakening. Ahmedinejad understands our vision of the future very well. It is we who fail to understand his. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is done in the name of Islam and Allah and therefore it is inherently legitimate. Period. As far as he is concerned, refusing to allow Iran to pursue nuclear weapons is tantamount to an assault on God. End of discussion. Nothing to debate. So why waste everyone’s time by turning our respectable institutions into propaganda instruments for our enemies? It’s beyond treason. It’s gross stupidity.
Columbia University and our major TV networks have honored the dishonorable by opening the public forum to his voice. By allowing this man a podium from which to spew his hatred of all things Western and his belief in the inevitability of Islam’s final victory over us infidels, they have abetted the isolation of reformist Muslims who believe that the only salvation for Islam (and for us) in the modern era is an Islamic Renaissance. They have also insulted our country and disgraced the memory of those who have died as a result of his jihad against us. If Columbia cared so much about freedom of speech, it should have done more for those who don’t have it, rather than give a forum to those who have denied it to others. Columbia’s prattle about free speech is more than ‘a tale told by an idiot.’ It may be full of sound and fury, but it does signify something. It signifies that those who provide a podium to our enemies and who teach our children at some of our finest universities are fools who cannot be excused from the dishonor they have brought to their institutions and to their fellow citizens by the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing. Paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling, this whole sordid event is nothing short of “twisting the truth by knaves to make a trap for fools.” There is academic freedom. And then there’s academic lunacy. If anything, we owe these institutions a debt of gratitude for so carefully differentiating the two for us.
A New York Times reporter at the lecture estimated that 30% of the audience was pro-Ahmadinejad. That more than anything else should send a chill down their spines. Let them debate that!