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September 25, 2007

Columbia Privileges Dictator Over His Victims

Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a dressing down yesterday, calling him a petty and cruel dictator who lacks the intellectual integrity to respond to questions put to him. It made for a dramatic confrontation, but President Bollinger's challenge to Ahmadinejad raises a few questions.

If Ahmadinejad is an intellectually dishonest and cruel tyrant who oppresses his people, denies the Holocaust, intimidates scholars and intellectuals and is intent on destroying Israel, as Lee Bollinger says he is, then why give the man a podium at Columbia University? Isn't the UN enough?

And while we're at it, why not give his victims a chance to speak? Why not invite them to speak in response to Ahmadinejad's appearence at the UN?

Gays and lesbians live in fear for their lives in Iran. Representatives of the Bahai faith here in the U.S. have been working tirelessly to generate coverage of the mistreatment their co-religionists have suffered in Iran. The Bahai are denied access to colleges, vocational education and to jobs in Iran. They are subject to routine attacks. Read the reports and you'll see that the treatment of the Bahai in Iran is eerily similar to the treatment of the Jews in 1930s Germany.

Who has a greater moral claim to podiums at prestigious universities like Columbia -- Iran's persecuted religious and sexual minorities or Ahmadinejad, the public face of the regime that terrorizes them?

It's a simple question.

The sad fact is, the official news agency in Iran has spun Ahmadinejad's appearence at Columbia into a public relations coup, stating that he got a standing ovation.

Institutions like Columbia that enjoy freedom in the West have an obligation to those who do not. At the very least, they should not help legitimize or mainstream cruel and petty tyrants. They also have an obligation to allow victims of tyrants to speak on their own behalf.

The testimony of Ahmadinejad's victims would have been much more powerful, meaningful, and educational than any dressing down given to Ahmadinejad by a university president looking to salvage his school's reputation.

Posted by dvz at September 25, 2007 10:13 AM


I am amazed that so many people are giving Bollinger kudos for what seemed to me like nothing more than a desperate attempt to save face. The applause Ahmadinejad received after Bollinger's remarks indicate that he got the upper hand. Once you let a fanatic like Ahmadinejad open his mouth, you've already lost. He is just not susceptible argument or reason, and unfortunately his platitudes about peace, however absurd, play well with the left and the anti-U.S., anti-Israel crowd.

Posted by: Dave at September 25, 2007 04:58 PM

The guy who invited the madman from Teheran was quoted as saying he would have invited also Hitler.

Need one say more?

Posted by: Dan at October 18, 2007 08:01 AM

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