Ambush flattens Ahmadinejad
David Nason, New York correspondent | September 26, 2007
A WEEK ago, Lee Bollinger was dismissed as a terrorist-coddling liberal egghead whose invitation for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University was a monument to everything wrong in American academia.
Today, after his brutal and unexpected denunciation of Ahmadinejad as a cruel and ridiculous tyrant, the Columbia president has suddenly gone from a leftie pariah to a rolled-gold American hero.
Carried live on cable TV around the world, Bollinger's Charles Spencer moment was not just a surprise, it was also one of the great political ambushes of modern times.
Sitting alone under a spotlight on the darkened stage, Ahmadinejad looked silly, vulnerable and under arrest as Bollinger coldly and methodically demanded the Iranian leader explain his Holocaust denial, his support for terrorism, his crackdown on academic dissent and his threats against Israel, the country he wants "wiped off the map".
As much accusation as inquiry, the questions seemed to go on forever, before ending with a putdown that was the verbal equivalent of being beaten with a baseball bat.
"Frankly, and in all candour, Mr President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions," Bollinger said.
"But your avoiding them will itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterises so much of what you say and do.
"I feel all the weight of the modern civilised world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better."
Bollinger had promised to open Ahmadinejad's appearance with "a series of sharp challenges" and had been adamant that a critical premise of free speech was that the dishonourable could not be made honourable simply by allowing it to be heard.
But nobody had expected Bollinger to pre-empt Ahmadinejad with such venomous language and in universities across the US, questions are being asked: Did the attack go too far? Was it so personal that it became culturally insensitive? Did it compromise the academic search for greater knowledge and understanding?
The concerns resonated within Columbia's own academic staff, with Hamid Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies, describing Bollinger's comments as "very harsh".
"Inviting him (Ahmadinejad) and then turning around and alienating and insulting an entire nation whose representative this man happens to be is simply inappropriate," he was reported as saying.
Not surprisingly, this was also the view of Ahmadinejad himself.
"In Iran, tradition requires that when we invite a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment," he said. "We don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty."
The debate lit up the blogosphere, where opinion was divided between those applauding Bollinger for his courage in confronting Ahmadinejad, and those scornful of strong-arm tactics that have no place in academe.
"Was it rude? Can the truth be rude?" one asked. "He IS a petty dictator. He DOES deny the Holocaust, ridiculously. He DOES imprison dissidents, journalists and scientists. Bollinger's speech proved to me that the freedom of speech is alive and well in America's universities."
Others were not so kind. "Afraid of losing contributions and of being denounced from all sides as 'soft on terrorism', he (Bollinger) blinked as soon as the first shot was fired," one wrote.
"Even if he believed what he was saying, his ad hominem displayed a gross indifference to the principle of academic freedom. Bollinger has disgraced Columbia."
Another accused Bollinger of a disgraceful "bait and switch" exercise aimed at appeasing US Islamophobes.
"Ahmadinejad reminded me of the Saddam execution, when he was the only one to keep his dignity, while surrounded by a pack of rabid dogs," he said.
But dignity is an elusive concept and any claim Ahmadinejad had was probably lost amid the laughter that accompanied his claim that Iran did not have any homosexuals. "I don't know who's told you that we have this," he said.
Today, the madman of Iran heads to the UN to register his world view adding his name to the long list of tyrants who stood at the raised podium in the General Assembly in the building that will someday (with G-d's help) make a great real estate development in midtown. Undoubtedly, he has prepared a sermon to absolve the Persian Islamic movement while vilifying the west and Israel.
Yesterday, Imanutjob did not leave Columbia unscathed. According to the reports in the media, Columbia, former home to Edward Said, (y'mach shmo) an early author of the palestinian myth, did not receive a warm and fuzzy welcome. The Jimmy Carter-like bashing American hegemony, pro-enemy soap box that was expected was not to be found.
Then again, if I were Mahmoud, I would have expected such a verbal assault from "heathens". His comments seem to imply that he wasn't surprised:
"...when we invite a speaker, we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment"
"We don't think it's necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of claims and to attempt in a so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty."
Uh, since when does Islamic fascism permit a person to "..make their own judgment"? Vaccination? You mean like killing and torturing people who speak words or espouse ideas which might represent a threat to the regime? See the links at the bottom of this article at Gatewaypundit and wonder why Imanutjob thinks the world is vaccinated from events in Iran. It is not so startling that a ruthless dictator would lie, but that he would do so when everyone with a computer has the evidence to disprove the lie a mere click away!
This event gives the US a glimpse into the psychiatric condition of the madman or the nature of his state. It is further proof that he and Iran must be dealt with as soon as possible. Who can believe any threats to destroy Israel or the west are rhetorical when the villain so easily dismisses reality, dispite the revisionist interpretations?
And, even though Bollinger did his best to save face, lets look at the invitation and the very idea of freedom of speech.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Columbia University can ask whomever it wishes to speak to any assortment of it's constituents. The general argument for no restrictions is based upon the belief that through intelligent free debate, the decent will surface and the bad will be scorned. It is a nice idea. Unfortunately, it is not reality.
It is proven by history that bad ideas and visions can be infectious, impervious to the vaccines mentioned by Imanutjob. Without too much of a stretch, the best evidence of this danger is the Torah's call for judges to distance themselves from bribery, not to recognize one over another, etc.
Ex 23:8 Do not accept bribery. Bribery blinds the clear-sighted and twists the words of the just.
Deut. 16:19 Do not bend justice and do not give special consideration [to anyone]. Do not take bribes, since bribery makes the wise blind and perverts the words of the righteous.
But why bribery? Columbia was bribed to recognize the face of a tyrant for publicity. To uninvite the President of Iran would look shameful, weak and bring charges of kowtowing to the shouters. Columbia, you should know, doesn't have to answer to anyone. Those who choose to blind themselves and take at face value the words of a maniac are bribed by their yetzer hara.
Now please recognize, I am in no way what so ever being critical of free speech. However, free speech does indeed require a playing field which sorts the chicken salad from the, well you know what. The problem with bringing disingenuous ideas or those so laced with sympathetic sophistry into a legitimate debate is that the genuine discussion which is intended is stymied, and the exchange of ideas in the laboratory of collegial give and take is suppressed.
In short, have you ever tried to debate with a conspiracy nut. You know the type. Everything that happens has more to it than YOU really know but the "true believer" has access to information that no one else has or has dismissed as phony. The theory can be simple or convoluted but is un-debatable because it takes an exceptional person to argue against a myth.
Iranian Islamo Fascism is itself no myth - a very real danger, but is held together by a myth. Only those who want to see the "truth" Imanutjob espouses will listen and believe, all others will toss it in the trash where it belongs. Ahmadinejad is the kind of guy who speaks to the "true believers".
Columbia and Bollinger did not score points for the free speech argument, 220 years of the Constitution speaks for itself.
When you need a victim to hang your failure upon, find a conspiracy. When you need a victim to express your outrage, find a Jew. Ahmadinejad can rationalize both "victims".