Posted by: Tony Carson | 26 September, 2007

Snippets of opinion on Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Gleanings from the NY Times Letters to the Editor about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia University:

• The Iranian president’s words and actions did more to discredit him than all the declamations in Washington ever could. Such is the beauty of free speech in an open democracy: intelligence is rewarded; irrationality is not.

• The eloquent and on-target attack on the Iranian president by Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia, lacked the impact that similar words would have had when courageously voiced by Iranian academics in Iran, where they would face imprisonment.

• Lee C. Bollinger’s speech before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s showing at Columbia was another display of America’s foreign policy of late: If we don’t like your policies or your president, we insult, we bully and, just maybe, we bomb. Then, as Mr. Bollinger did, we applaud ourselves and our actions because we support freedom. Constructive dialogue: never heard of it. If Mr. Bollinger didn’t really want to open dialogue, as was clear from his speech, he shouldn’t have extended the invitation.

IBy attacking and vilifying Mr. Ahmadinejad, an invited guest to Columbia, Mr. Bollinger distracted from and tainted what could have been a different showing from Mr. Ahmadinejad and effectively dashed any hopes of the lecture’s being a constructive one — and one that could have perhaps been the beginning of substantive dialogue with Iran.

• In allowing him to speak, the Columbia president, Lee C. Bollinger, made the most important point of all: that the American democratic system is superior to Iran’s current political system.

It’s as simple as this: an American political leader would have never been allowed to freely address the Iranian public, unfiltered and in real time.

• Lee C. Bollinger’s “introduction” of the president of Iran was outrageous. There’s a lot to be said about Mideast politics and the Iranian and United States entanglements there.

• The emotional, irrational and hateful reaction of certain aspects of the American media, as well as the public, particularly in New York and at one of its esteemed academic institutions, against the visiting Iranian president is a sad reminder of the forces of intolerance in the bosom of American civil society.

From the CBS “60 Minutes” reporter who opted to speak for the “American people” to express his outrage at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s simple request to lay a wreath at ground zero, pursuant to his letter to American people last year, where he condemned the 9/11 atrocities in the strongest language, to the impolite and outright rude introduction by Columbia University’s president, reeking intolerance has become all-infecting and, obviously, in dire need of rethinking by those who spew it.

• We need to thank Columbia University for inviting to serious discussion Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, something our national leaders should be doing.

• Columbia University’s treatment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is appalling. It would have been understandable had Columbia simply condemned Mr. Ahmadinejad’s ideas or remarks in a debate or discussion forum.

However, not only did the university set the tone for the forum by launching ad hominem attacks, but the school then asserts that the forum was intended for the ideal of open discussion of ideas — a discussion that Columbia aborted in its infancy.

In doing so, Columbia has demonstrated again the temptation of Orientalism: for us to humiliate and caricature a feared Other, put it on open display, and then pat ourselves on the back for being enlightened enough to make the display case.

• Will George W. Bush appear at an Iranian university and take questions from Iranians? They surely would like to ask about C.I.A. activity in their own and surrounding nations, about our support of “our” shah and Savak, about American aid to Iraq during the war in which Iranians were victims of poison gas, about “coalition” attacks on and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, about corruption and contracts, and about human rights at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and secret prisons.

• But when was the last time President Bush appeared before an audience that laughed at him? His audiences are always screened for potential troublemakers. People wearing T-shirts or carrying signs with critical messages are kept out of view. He barely has to face a difficult question from a member of the public.

It would be nice if we could exercise the right to laugh at our leaders where they might actually hear the cackles.



  1. Hello dear friend. I am a Persian citizen and it is the first time that I visited your blog. As I invite you to take a visit of my blog, let’s inofrm you about a doubtless reality. Ahmadinejad is not the symbol of Iran as Bush is not the symbol of US. do you want the global opinions know your country and call it with Bush, the great terrorist who sent more than 200,000 militants to Iraq and killed the Iraqi people? It is the same for Iran. Maybe Ahmadinejad is the president now, but he is not the symbol of Iran… beleive this. Pasargadae, Persepolis and Cyrus the great are Iranian symbols, if you beleive. The glorious 7000 years old civilization and peaceful kings with constructive poeple, these are real Iranians and we are trying to show this to the world although our politicians are doing worse…

  2. Columbia University claims they are America’s best and brightest?

    Did you see the way they applauded Ahmadenijad?

    They are just a bunch of filthy Little Eichmanns.

    It is too bad that Cho Seung-hui didn’t go to Columbia University!

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