President Bollinger's Statement About
President Ahmadinejad's Scheduled
On Monday, September 24, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to appear as a speaker on campus. The event is sponsored by the School of International and Public Affairs (see SIPA announcement), which has been in contact with the Iranian Mission to the United Nations. The event will be part of the annual World Leaders Forum, the University-wide initiative intended to further Columbia’s longstanding tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues.
In order to have such a University-wide forum, we have insisted that a number of conditions be met, first and foremost that President Ahmadinejad agree to divide his time evenly between delivering remarks and responding to audience questions. I also wanted to be sure the Iranians understood that I would myself introduce the event with a series of sharp challenges to the president on issues including:
the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust;
his public call for the destruction of the State of Israel;
his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and
American troops; Iran's pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to
his government's widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women's rights; and
his government's imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia’s own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh (see President Bollinger's prior statement).
I would like to add a few comments on the principles that underlie this event. Columbia, as a community dedicated to learning and scholarship, is committed to confronting ideas—to understand the world as it is and as it might be. To fulfill this mission we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes. Necessarily, on occasion this will bring us into contact with beliefs many, most or even all of us will find offensive and even odious.
We trust our community, including our students, to be fully capable of dealing with these occasions, through the powers of dialogue and reason. I would also like to invoke a major theme in the development of freedom of speech as a central value in our society. 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.
That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today sharpens the point of what we do here. To commit oneself to a life—and a civil society—prepared to examine critically all ideas arises from a deep faith in the myriad benefits of a long-term process of meeting bad beliefs with better beliefs and hateful words with wiser words.
That faith in freedom has always been and remains today our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world.
This is America at its best.
Well, he's almost right, It's America at its most vulnerable. President Bollinger might believe that his intention to voice "sharp challenges" to "the President" in his introduction will prevent this from being a public relations victory for this caliphatist, murdering, genocidal thug. But this is always the way with leftist academics who are so used to being able to intimidate American politicians with their "sharp remarks" that they have no idea how impotent and risible they are in the eyes of the Muslim fanatics who view talking as weak and (as they would say) womanly- tantamount to surrender. While women whose only crime is dressing so that they can be recognized as a human female on the street are beaten, molested and arrested by the religious police and men who want to speak freely about the Iranian government are hung in the public squares in Iran President Bollinger feels that it is "America at it's best" to allow this two-bit religious dictator, this organ-grinder monkey of the Mullahs to take the podium of one of the most prestigious Universities in the nation and then strut home with that on his resume.
A few questions for President Bollinger:
Do you think it is even remotely possible that your pathetic little "sharp remarks"will make it into the state-run news in Iran?
Do you understand that his appearance there will be used as a propaganda victory for him at home and that it will feed the fanatical faction's certainty that their victory is inevitable?
How would you feel if you were an Iranian patriot, or simply an Iranian woman with a mind of your own, who was in danger of being arrested at any moment and you saw this tyrant smiling, waving and prevaricating within the ivy covered walls of that great Institution whose name you are lending to him to sully with his posturing?You say, "I would also like to invoke a major theme in the development of freedom of speech as a central value in our society." You can invoke it if you want but I would answer you by saying that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not a member of our society and he is demonstrably not a subscriber to even the most basic and rudimentary assumptions of a society of free speech. I would propose that the right to free speech is one that America has won over the likes of your guest By insisting that he be granted this right while he denies it to everyone under his rule you are prostituting it for very dubious purpose.
You insist that "we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes." That's all well and good but will you next encourage the medical school to invite the smallpox virus to an afternoon tea and release it for every one to sample? If the "Polly Sci" students at Columbia want to be "...committed to confronting ideas—to understand the world as it is and as it might be...," They can damn well read about this guy in the newspaper and see what he says at the UN, why should you willingly give him the prestige of Columbia for his next Parade in Tehran.
The silliest part of your statement though is this paragraph:
That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today
sharpens the point of what we do here. To commit oneself to a life—and a civil
society—prepared to examine critically all ideas arises from a deep faith in the
myriad benefits of a long-term process of meeting bad beliefs with better
beliefs and hateful words with wiser words.
When the world attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin there was much the same kind of rationalization. It was thought that exposure to the Olympic ideals would somehow confront and change the Nazi regime. Of course, it was an idiotic charade in the end- Hitler wasn't interested in ideals he only wanted to promote the next step in his conquest of the world. The "one-worlder" Olympic promoters couldn't step back from their sincere but foolish belief that athletic competition could transcend fanaticism and so were turned into useful idiots.
You, sir, are also a useful idiot. You are ready to play a role (however small and irresolute) in martyring the Iranian people, Israel and Western Civilization in the service of a pathetic misapprehension of what civil discourse in a civil society really is. Civil discourse, President Bollinger, is a two-way street. Your "deep faith" in that "long term process" is indefensible without an appreciation for the fact that when you are not dealing with a fellow believer in that process, you must be exceedingly careful not to allow him to use your openness against you and those who are fellow believers. When you invite a genocidal despot into your University you are inviting death, repression and intolerance into your home. There are no sharp remarks that will take the stench out of the walls.