Ahmadinejad At Columbia
The picture at the right shows a grinning Ahmadinejad and was taken some time ago. But the photo could well have been taken yesterday in New York City after his doings yesterday at Columbia University. In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum writes as follows (emphases mine):
...Ahmadinejad's agenda...differs from that of the traditional autocrat. His goal is not merely to hold power in Iran through sheer force, or even through a standard 20th-century personality cult: His goal is to undermine the American and Western democracy rhetoric that poses an ideological threat to the Iranian regime. Last winter, when he invited a host of dubious Holocaust-deniers to discuss the Holocaust in Tehran, he claimed that it was in order to provide shelter for the West's "dissidents" -- that is, for Western thinkers "who cannot express their views freely in Europe about the Holocaust." This week, he declared that his visit to New York would help the American people, who have "suffered in diverse ways and have been deprived of access to accurate information." Thus the speech at Columbia: Here he is, the allegedly undemocratic Ahmadinejad, taking questions from students! At an American university! Look who's the real democrat now!Check out the end of his speech, which I found at Little Green Footballs:
This sort of game is both irritating and dangerous, particularly when it is being played by a man whose regime locks up academics for the " crime" of organizing academic conferences and regularly arrests the Iranian equivalent of the students who listened to him speak yesterday. Iran is experiencing an unprecedented wave of political executions and death sentences -- more than 300 since January, according to the Boroumand Foundation...
...[T]he university should have demanded genuine reciprocity. If the president and dean of Columbia truly believed in an open exchange of ideas, they should have presented a debate between Ahmadinejad and an Iranian dissident or human rights activist -- someone from his own culture who could argue with him in his own language -- instead of allowing him to be filmed on a podium with important-looking Americans. Perhaps Columbia could even have insisted on an appropriate exchange: Ahmadinejad speaks in New York; Columbia sends a leading Western atheist -- Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens or, better still, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- to Qom, the Shiite holy city, to debate the mullahs on their own ground.
I realize that isn't likely. But neither is it likely that this past week's free-speech-vs.-nasty-dictator debate, complete with sputtering New York politicians and puffed-up university professors, achieved much either. On the contrary, it focused attention in the wrong place.
Instead of debating freedom of speech in Iran, here we are once again talking about freedom of speech in America, a subject we know a lot more about. Which is exactly what Ahmadinejad wanted.
Ahmadinejad's final words were "Best of luck to all of you." And just what is this man's definition of "luck"?
As this posting at the Center for Vigilant Freedom states the following about Ahmadinejad's speech:
[H]e seems quite pleased with himself...Despite Bollinger's antagonistic introduction, Ahmadinejad won the propaganda skirmish and Columbia served the position of pawn yesterday in what amounted to a perversion of the concept of free speech.