Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad is a Bigger Liar, Charlatan and Demagogue than Bush!

Lee Bollinger, Smackdown Artist

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, gave one of the most lengthy and hostile introductions on record when he introduced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs World Leaders Forum today.

Here are my excerpts:
.....Before speaking directly to the current president of Iran, I have a few critically important points to emphasize.

First, since 2003, the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia's long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. 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.

Second, to those who believe that this event never should have happened, that it is inappropriate for the university to conduct such an event, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech and academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is "an experiment, as all life is an experiment." I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can, that this is the right thing to do and, indeed, it is required by existing norms of free speech, the American university and Columbia itself.

Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this day, I say on behalf of all of us we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.

Fourth, to be clear on another matter -- this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any "rights" of the speaker but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves.

We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the American idea of free speech.

Lastly, in universities, we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power. We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds. And to do this we must have the most full freedom of inquiry.

Let me now turn to Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Bollinger proceeded to cite at length Iran's record on human rights, including Amnesty International's statistics. And then the University president posed a battery of questions for the Persian to answer:
Let's, then, be clear at the beginning, Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.

And so I ask you:

Why have women, members of the Baha'i faith, homosexuals and so many of our academic colleagues become targets of persecution in your country?

Why in a letter last week to the secretary general of the U.N. did Akbar Gangi, Iran's leading political dissident, and over 300 public intellectuals, writers and Nobel Laureates express such grave concern that your inflamed dispute with the West is distracting the world's attention from the intolerable conditions your regime has created within Iran? In particular, the use of the Press Law to ban writers for criticizing the ruling system.

Why are you so afraid of Iranian citizens expressing their opinions for change?

In our country, you are interviewed by our press and asked to speak here today. And while my colleague at the Law School Michael Dorf spoke to Radio Free Europe [sic, Voice of America] viewers in Iran a short while ago on the tenets of freedom of speech in this country, I propose going further than that. Let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from Columbia to address your university about free speech, with the same freedom we afford you today? Will you do that?
Additional questions from President Bollinger followed on:
  • The Denial Of The Holocaust
  • The Destruction Of Israel
  • Funding Terrorism
  • Proxy War Against U.S. Troops In Iraq
  • Finally, Iran's Nuclear Program And International Sanctions
And then, just before turning the podium over to Columbia University's guest speaker, President Bollinger concluded:
Let me close with this comment. Frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mind-set that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately, I am told by experts on your country, that this only further undermines your position in Iran with all the many goodhearted, intelligent citizens there. A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country (as in your meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations) so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party's defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more.

I am only a professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
Just a few comments are in order.

IMO, his dissing of Columbia U's distinguished guest was appropriate. I think it was absolutely correct for Bollinger to open up on human rights issues. But I, personally, would differ on the specific terms he used in addressing his questions on funding terrorism, the proxy war against U.S. Troops in Iraq, and Iran's nuclear power.

In his answering a question to the issue on Iran's suppression based on gender and sexual orientation, Ahmadinejad denied the existence of "homosexuals":
And was greeted with howls of derision. I was disappointed not to hear what I was listening for: some one to yell out that, "That's because you've hung them all!" According to some estimates, around 4,000 gays and lesbians have been executed since the Ayatollahs seized power in 1979.

I was disappointed but not surprised with Condoleezza Rice's statement about rejecting Ahmadinejad's request to pay his respects at the World Trade Center:
As to the World Trade Center, though, I think it would have been a travesty. I think this is somebody who is the president of a country that is probably the greatest sponsor of -- state sponsor of terrorism, someone who is a Holocaust denier, someone who has talked about wiping other countries off the map. I think it would have been a travesty.
This rejection was part and parcel of our current policy of conflating al Qaeda with the Hezbollah and denying the fact that Iran initially expressed sympathy with us Americans in the wake of 9-11 attacks and assisted in our invasion of Afghanistan.

To pull this together, I'll use the same standard I have used with Bush: once a liar, always a liar. Both Bush and Ahmadinejad are state-based liars. If the guy can lie about the holocaust and suppression of human rights of academics, women, and gays, this Persian liar can lie about anything. Bank on it.


  1. Vigil:

    I appreciate your posting of President Bollinger's excerpted remarks. Thank you for publishing (some of) his eloquent and courageous words.

    But, with all due respect, I think you are guilty of some conflating here yourself. Why throw in Hezbollah? What's that got to do with Ahmadinejad??

    I don't think Ahmadinejad should go to Ground Zero for the very same reason that I think "The Shrub" should be forbidden to return there. Both men, as you stated, are liars (and, I would add, manipulators who seek to use Ground Zero to puff up their empty selves). Their very presence at Ground Zero is an affront to the memory of the sacredness of the lives so tragically destroyed on 9-11.

  2. Muslims Against Sharia condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the decision of Columbia University to provide a speaking venue for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Apparently letting Akbar Rafsanjani speak at the National Cathedral was not the height of American Dhimmitude, because providing a venue for the world's foremost anti-Semite, whose proclaimed goal is the destruction of the USA and Israel, definitely takes the cake. What is surprising is that we don't hear any complaints from Columbia alumni who should be ashamed of their silence.

    More on the subject: Why Does Columbia host Ahmadinejad?

  3. Hopefully, the United Nations and world community can spare some attention from Iran, this week, and direct some focus on Burma.

  4. All Ahmadinejad is calling for with respect to Israel is regime change. That's not the same thing as genocide.

  5. The stock and trade of politics is lying. All politicians.

    Whether its Hillary, Bush, Fred, Ahmadinejad, Obama -

    Global capital is administered by that process.

    Next down the food chain are the religious manipulators, and then the military that will shoot those that do not obey.

    More recently the Political and Belief system operators have blended more, into a even uglier animal hybrid.

    When these vicious animals are not attacking each other they attack the people in their domain.

  6. Maybe not, Boris. But to doubt the fact of the holocaust is to perpetuate the atrocity of of the original genocide.

  7. The scope of free speech and academic freedom should itself always be open to further debate.


    It's time for Bush to pay a visit to Baghdad University.

  8. As a way to bolster my observations above about the sympathies of the Iranian people, MadMike has posted a couple of photos of people in Tehran maintaining a vigil by candlelight on the night of September 11, 2001.

  9. He would only embarrass us further, M.D. Most Iranians probably speak English more clearly than he does.

  10. What bizarre theater. The leaders of the academic world condemn the fascist man that they have asked to speak in front of them, and the world, "Let us give this monster a forum, for it is the right thing to do." I just can't justify this action in any moral system--free speech does not justify the elaborate elevating of demagogues.

  11. A bizzar theater indeed.

    I guess Bollinger could have said all those things about Ahmadinejad at any time or place, but I think his words would have been lost in the babble from any other stage.

    There's a whole generation of Iranians who want to join the 21st century and heard his message loud and clear.

    Now if only the Dems. would learn from his example and hound the republicans likewise, we could start making progress.


  12. I have to agree with Urban Pink. Columbia U. invites A-Jad to speak, thus elevating him on the world if not the academic stage, and then the U. Pres kicks him rhetorically in the balls. They can't have it both ways.

  13. I agree with the above sentiments by Urban Pink and Mad Mike.

    Boris, there are two Irans: the civilized and educated one by which they seek democracy and held a vigil on 9/11 and the psycho, murderous thugs ruling them. They do no advocate regime change in Israel. They seek its ultimate destruction. Don't be lulled into believing anything else.

    Vigil, you had me until that last paragraph. It's all the rage to equate Bush to sorts of unsavoury characters. Maybe he lied but it still doesn't make him the Iranian president. Gosh, what does that make Putin, Chirac (I know he's gone but that guy was pure corrupt) and other so-called great leaders?

    Did anyone catch his interview on 60 Minutes? Creepy feller that guy. That smirk. Yeesh.

  14. Commentator, Vigilante called Ahmadinejad a bigger liar than Bush. What more do you want? Bush is a serial liar. Ahmadinejad is a dogmatic liar. Both of them are constitutional usurpers. Just a matter of degrees, IMO. Eight more years of a GOP White House and who knows how much closer we'll be to the Iranian model? Or the Russian model. Or the Venezuelan model for that matter. We are light years away now,, but we, in the USA, have no reason to feel complacent about how WE are not like THEM. Slippery is the sloping road to hell.

  15. Additionally I agree heartily with C.W. Vet and disagree with Urban Pink and Mad Mike.

    Ahmadinejad was already going to appear 'on the world stage' at the U.N., making a big speech written out for him on the teleprompter. Big deal.

    We know from bitter experience with our home-grown domestic liar-in-chief that we can't tell anything from prepared remarks. The truth gets separated from untruth like water and oil when the Q & A starts. When hardball questions are followed up heat is generated and lies get all lit up. Ahmadinejad's hair was on fire before he left the stage at Columbia, as well as it should be.

    I say all of this as someone who agrees with some of the applause Ahmadinejad drew from his university audience.

  16. Boris: Regime change does not have to be genocide, maybe. But regime change via international invasion did not work out to be all that different in Iraq, did it? Of course, it should be added that Israel has ample resources for deterrence, too, to avoid Iraq's fate. Huh? What with 100-500 nuclear war heads?

  17. Caught Pat Buchanan's column this morning on the little dude from Iran. I have to admit that what he says about Ahmadinejad reducing many to hysteria is valid. Of course Bushy like the hysterics cause its serves his purpose.

    Some of Buchanan's column:
    Does this generation possess the gravitas to lead the world?
    Considering the hysteria that greeted the request of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, the answer is no.
    What is it about this tiny man that induces such irrationality?
    Answer: He is president of a nation that is a "state sponsor of terror," that is seeking nuclear weapons, and is moving munitions to the Taliban and insurgents in Iraq.
    But Libya was a "state sponsor of terror," and Col. Khadafi was responsible for Pan Am 103, the Lockerbie massacre of school kids coming home for Christmas. And President Bush secretly negotiated a renewal of relations in return for Khadafi giving up his nuclear program and compensating the families of the victims of that atrocity. Has Ahmadinejad ever committed an act of terror like this?
    Richard Nixon went to Moscow and concluded strategic arms agreements while Moscow was the arms supplier of the enemy we were fighting in Vietnam that used, at Hue, mass murder as a war tactic.

  18. A great contribution, Beach. Let me quote further from this Buchanan column because it's a perfect response to Emily's criticism of me at the top of this thread. Speaking of denying Ahmadinejad a side trip to Twin Towers site, Buchanan writes:

    That the Iranian president has PR in mind is undoubtedly true. Much of what national leaders do is symbolic. But that wreath laying would have said something else, as well.

    It would have said that, to Iran, these Americans were victims who deserve to be honored and mourned and, by extension, the men who killed them were murderers. Bin Laden celebrates 9/11. So do all America-haters. By laying a wreath at Ground Zero, the president of Iran would be saying that in the war between al-Qaida and the United States, he and his country side with the United States.

    How would we have been hurt by letting him send this message?

    Beach has found us an excellent piece of writing here and I'm sure he joins me in recommending readers to read the whole thing.

  19. Bigger than Bush? I'd call it a dead heat, Vig.

  20. I thought it was the height of tacky. The only thing it proved was that a respected US institution of higher learning has no grasp of the most basic concepts of etiquette. It made Americans look like country bumpkins and I resent Columbia for putting me in a position where I feel obligated to apologise for anything related to this person.

    Personally I would not have invited this fool but so far this is still a free country so I support their right to invite him but in choosing to do so they were obliged to behave in a courteous manner which they did not by any measure.

  21. Mama, The Iranian regime is as vulnerable with regards to its domestic policies as America is with regards to its foreign policy and war in Iraq. It was right - right as hell - for Bollinger to hit Ahmadinejad hard on Iran's domestic authoritarianism and its phobia of what it calls a Western conspiracy to foment a soft revolution. (WTF is that?)

    But let's talk about foreign policy, for a moment. How many militarily aggressive acts have the Iranians engaged in since the Islamic Revolution by the Ayatollahs in 1979? Did they plant mines in the harbors of Nicaragua (1981-90)? Did they land troops and engage in naval bombardments in Lebanon (1982-1984)? Did they invade Grenada (1983-4)? Did they invade and occupy Panama (1989)? Did they land troops in Somalia (1992-4)? In Haiti (1994)? Did they invade and occupy Iraq (2003 - 2015)?

    All of these actions are higher than the threshold of the actions Iranians are currently being accused of in Iraq.

  22. Howabout Ahmadinejad, himself, Messenger?

    At the risk of coming across snarky, I can't resist calling Tom Maguire to task for noting at JustOneMinute:

    "...10 of the hijackers traveled through Iran en route to the US while Iranian border officials waved them through without leaving any eyebrow-raising passport stamps. Now, Ahmadinejad was not in power in 2000/2001, but as the current leader of the Iranian state he certainly bears symbolic responsibility."

    Since 19 Hijackers got waved through U.S. customs, by the same standard George W. Bush should be awarded 200% of the same "symbolic responsibility."

  23. Messenger: it's all true my point was, why bother to invite him? There was not going to be any new or meaningful "dialogue" and they knew that so it was a publicity stunt. It would be the same if Iran invited Condi Rice to speak and introduced her with insults...pointless & tacky.

    If I want to insult someone I don't invite them to my home to do it.

  24. No of course not.
    You do it on The Vigil.

  25. TomCat may have something when he says above, about these two state-based liars,

    Bigger than Bush? I'd call it a dead heat

    Juan Cole concludes his translation and review of the recently disclosed Bush-Aznar Transcript (Crawford Texas 22-Feb-03) with these words which are in total agreement with what I have always said in these pages, especially here.

    The transcript, Cole says,

    . . . . shows that Bush intended to disregard a negative outcome in his quest for a UN Security Council resolution authorizing a war against Iraq. Bush wanted such a resolution. He expressed a willingness to use threats and economic coercion to secure it. But he makes it perfectly clear that he will not wait for the UNSC to act beyond mid-March. He also explicitly says that if any of the permanent members of the UNSC uses its veto, "we will go." That is, failure to secure the resolution would trigger the war.

    Uh, that is the opposite of the way it is supposed to work. If you can't get a UNSC resolution, and you haven't been attacked by the state against whom you want to go to war, then you are supposed to stand down.

    . . . . because he specified a UNSC veto as a signal for his launching of the war, Bush made it very clear that he was willing to trash the charter of the United Nations and to take the world back to the 1930s,to an era of mass politics when powerful states launched wars of choice at will on the basis of fevered rhetoric and fits of pique.

    . . . . This is one of the greatest crimes any US president ever committed, and it is all the more contemptible for being rooted in mere pride and petulance.

    . . . . No one can read it without recognizing that Bush was champing at the bit to go to war; that he only wanted the UNSC as a fig leaf and was determined to ignore it if it did not authorize the war. . .

    Not at all an overstatement. Bush lied. People died.

  26. Messenger: thank you for your response.

    Vigil, thanks for the links on my blog. I responded to each.

  27. I'd just like to say something to Mama on politeness and decorum and hospitality. Yeah, I'm in favor of it. But when it comes to people with blood on their hands like Bush and that Ahmad-guy, I'm in favor of socking it to'em. I mean, that's how these guys - these wanna be demigods or whatever Vigil calls them - that's how they got to where they are. Is people making nice to them. Fuck that. The media and their hosts gotta pitch'em hardballs, high & tight chin music. Make them answer. Embarrass the hell outta them.

  28. Now that goes for Burmese students in the USA, too. How many are they? I don't know. But I say, send them back. They are the children of the upper crust in Burma. They are the children of privilege. They are the children of the top brass of the Burma military. They are going to do nothing for democracy. Their daddies are the top fascist brass in Burma. Send them back. No Visas for fascists or the children of fascists. Embarrass them. Hound them off the ivy fucking league colleges campuses. Make them go back and stew in the same medieval juice that their less-fortunate peers have to suffocate in. When those fucking generals see their sons and daughters coming home with their suitcases full of their finery, they'll understand that there is no escape from Burma - even for their children - other than change.