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September 24, 2007

Proud to be a SIPA Alum Today
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I'm glad they let him speak.  I'm glad Lee Bollinger opened with this statement.  Exposing this guy to a real dialogue makes him look like the silly man he is. 

And his comments about homosexuals really were ridiculous


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It's very simple. Lee Bollinger showed what a narrow-minded, closed society the US is. He went against educational openness by delivering a hate-filled, uninformed diatribe against a guest in his university before the invitee had even spoken, basically parroting the government/MSM propaganda line of falsehoods and innuendo. He did this because state and city lawmakers in New York are threatening to punish Columbia University by withholding public funds from the school. Additionally Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said he will move in Congress to "cut off every single type of Federal Funding to Columbia University.”

United we stand against a government which threatens US hegemony in the Middle East. Columbia University, despite Bollinger's feeble, wrong-headed attempt for salvation, is now part of the Axis of Evil and must be punished. Look for his resignation because his BS probably didn't save him.

First they politicized, marginalized and regimented the universities, and then . . .

The clip with his comments on homosexuals are an excellent defense of the entire venture. Inviting him to speak under conditions where he could be questioned was critical to further revealing his buffoonery.

A sad day for Columbia University, Bollinger, and for US academia. Bollinger's vitriol against an invited head of state shows that it is we, in the United States, that are losing our ability to reason in the face of resistance and opposition to our policies. Instead, we are resorting to insults and attacks, a sign of weakness and decline. More frightening is the state of free thought and openness to dialogue in this country. We can be sure that our own US-funded despots would not get this treatment even though the societies they rule (with tax-payer dollars) are far worse than Iran on human rights. This does not go unnoticed in the Middle East. All in all, a very unfortunate episode for Columbia University, demonstrating only that we are in no position to teach civility to the Iranians, nor offer them lessons on civil society.

Perhaps I will be able to view these comments again on C-Span later tonight, in a calmer moment, but for now I am so floored by the obtuseness of Bollinger's comments and the blinkers on his perspective that I can't bear to listen to them a second time.

Bollinger's comments on the Holocaust were well-taken, and Ahmadinejad's statements about the Holocaust and idiotic Holocaust revisionism conference - attended by such scholarly luminaries as David Duke - have indeed made him look like an ignorant buffoon. But most of the rest of Bollinger's comments are an cringe-inducing embarrassment, ill-informed and obsequious grandstanding and polemical hack work full of misquotations, lawyerly buncombe and tabloid-generated piffle. If Ahmadinejad is a buffoon when it comes to the Holocaust, Bollinger shows equal clownishness when it comes to swallowing and repeating every piece of faux news coming out of the White House. He's either a stooge or a liar.

I'm really so angry I can barely write. But I'll try to make a few coherent points before lying down to compose myself.

The Ganji letter, which Bollinger cites with such apparent approval - though his initial mispronunciation makes it pretty clear he only recently learned the man's name - contains this passage: "All the legal and extra-legal powers are in the hands of the Iran's top leader, who rules like a despotic sultan." Of course, Ganji is speaking of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Yet just before citing this letter, Bollinger ridiculously claims that Ahmadinejad displays "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator". Now correct me if I have failed to grasp some of the subtleties of the innovative new forms of comparative politics taught at Columbia, but is it not metaphysically impossible for a country to have two despotic dictators? If "all of Iran's legal and extra-legal powers", rest in Khamenei's hands, then it follows logically that none of those powers rest in Ahmadinejad's hands. Somebody is exaggerating here.

In fact everyone is exaggerating. Propagandists make it up as they go along, And "dictatorship" is just a convenient label applied to Iran by the propagandists of the moment in order to provoke the desired emotional responses. Iran's government is quite a complex and divided affair, with several competing sources of power, and even scholars who devote their career to understanding it are often unable to say which decisions are made where. If Bollinger truly thinks Ahmadinejad is the "dictator" of Iran, then he knows nothing about the country. Columbia should have perhaps put these opening statements in the hands of a credible scholar who actually knows what he is talking about, rather than a lawyer delivering what appears to be a very hastily prepared opening statement.

Bollinger also misrepresents the tone and content of the Ganji letter when he says "your inflamed dispute with the west is distracting the world's attention" from the evils of the Iranian regime. "Your" inflamed dispute. This studied carelessness is clearly designed to lead the uninformed listener to conclude that Ganji locates the source of the inflammation in Iran, when if fact his letter lays much of the blame for the inflamed dispute at Washington's doorstep.

One other point for now: Iran, to the extent it is fighting a "proxy war" in Iraq, is working with a variety of Shia groups in that country, most of whom are represented in the elected government, and are nominally on our side in the Iraq war. They are doing this to prevent a victory by the insurgency and a return to power of the despotic minority Sunni clans and their butchering Shia-hating minions, who ruled Iraq before the war and were a persistent threat to Iran's Shia Muslims and the other Shia Muslims in the region. If our country was not so twisted up in double-think, and if its foreign policy had not degenerated into an ever-shifting, incoherent Machiavellian flux, it would welcome this assistance. But instead the Bush administration has betrayed the Iraqi government and the startup democracy it made such a show of promoting, and is now working with the very insurgents who have been killing our soldiers and the constituents of the elected government, in their efforts to restore the old order. And they call this an "awakening"!

The hypocrisy of this spectacle is breathtaking. How many times do we have to listen to these middle-aged stuffed shirts feigning concern for the condition of women in Iran? The condition of woman in Iran is not great, but their social and educational opportunities are far better than the opportunities of women in Saudi Arabia, a country where our own Secretary of State and possibly even our next President could not even drive a fucking car, and where women have to do almost everything in a separate world apart from men. And yet when Turki al-Faisal spoke at Columbia last year, did the university's president feel the same compulsion to engage in pre-emptive executive bloviation?

I have an idea. When you invite people to speak at your university, just let them speak and thank them for coming. Then if you feel it is important to challenge, discredit or deplore some of the things that were said, you can hold subsequent panel discussions, invite other speakers with contrary points of view, and schedule special topic seminar classes. You can even invite the invited speaker to engage in a colloquium. If he declines, go ahead without him. But this sort of pre-emptive, hit and run framing of the talk, with camaras rolling and media hordes watching, is cowardly and disreputable.

We are once again going through all the same horseshit we went through before leading up to Iraq: liberal stooges paving the way for their war-mongering masters by strutting their credulous, self-indulgent outrage on the stage. This is one of the many reasons I know longer call myself a "liberal".

A sad day for Columbia University, Bollinger, and for US academia.

This is just one of several events that has marked Columbia in recent years as a place of hyper-politicized intellectual intolerance, on both the right and the left.

Bollinger is simply embarrassing. Perhaps he got his speech from Scott Pelley. What a bunch of cowards we have become. Our media and our "leaders" go limp in the face of the slugs in the administration, but feel no compunction in assaulting the nominal head of state of Iran.

Ahmadinejad said he was taken aback that Columbia's president would attack his speech before he had even delivered it. "In many parts of his speech there were many insults and claims that were incorrect". He's right:

1. Denial of holcaust

What possible difference does it make if Ahmadinejad denies the holocaust or not. In any case, he stated that he doesn't deny the holocaust, and that he can't understand why Palestinians must suffer for something that happened in Europe long ago. Jews, get over it.

2. Destruction of Israel

"The Imam [Khomenei] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,"--Pres Ahmadinejad--again, the "regime" must vanish, just as the US has called for (and helped) regimes to vanish. The "wipe off the map" came from the translation service MEMRI, started by an ex-member of Mossad.

3. Support for Iraqi occupation resistance

"You know, we've got munitions experts, EOD experts, who study these IEDs once they're found and cleared and look very closely at them and look very closely at the rockets themselves. And there are indeed manufacturing marks on these munitions that could only have come from a place like Iran, the only place they could have come."--MajGen Lynch, speaking of "a place like Iran". Bollinger also criticized Iran for supporting Muqtada al-Sadr, probably the most popular political figure in Iraq, and his party is #2 in the Iraqi government. Actually, al-Sadr is anti-Iran, President Bollinger.

4.Iran refuses to adhere to international standards on nuclear weapons.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said that Iran does not currently [Sep 21] pose an immediate threat to the international community. 'Iran does not constitute a certain and immediate threat to the international community,' the UN nuclear chief said Thursday in an interview with Italian RAI television while in Italy for an IAEA conference. In fact, Iran has complied with all NPT requirements.

5. What's really going on

"With such a long and rather unsavory tradition, the US media have once again fallen victim to an orchestration of 'enemy image' that aims to vilify, intimidate, deface and demonize a Middle Eastern leader who, ironically, has been unusually forthcoming in his expressions of warm feelings toward the American people (though not the US government and its policies)."--Asia Times

Iranaphobia--is this a staple at SIPA "The world's most global public policy school" where they specialize in rude, misinformed and insulting behavior toward invited guests?

I agree with the embarrassment felt by many from Bollinger's remarks. First the ignorance in calling him a "tyrant" despite the fact that he holds an ostensibly elected office and could be removed by either Khamenei or elections, and Second the terminology that would make Said spin in his grave:

"today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for."

civilized world? oh no you didn't.

'And his comments about homosexuals really were ridiculous'

How about his comments on Israel? Don't want to go there do we, Lobby-funded pseudo-progs? Let's tippy-toe around the guts of his comments, eh?

'Inviting him to speak under conditions where he could be questioned was critical to further revealing his buffoonery.'

He does not have a patent on buffoonery in leadership, and I wonder how well, in comparison, your nations's own lead idiot would perform, under the same conditons. He'd need another one of those prompters wired on to his back, but he'd still buger it up.

American behaviour toward this man marks a nadir for your country; a big statement in these times, but I think decent people will look back in horror at the Two Minutes Hate he was subjected to for days.

Most of the rest of us, rather than pining for regime change in Tehran, would prefer to see regime change in Washington - I mean real regime change, not the other wing of the Janus faced War Party this site operates for, but some actual political representation for the 70% of people who disagree with the bipartisan push to Empire.

Dan K - do you have a blog?

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