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If there ever was topic for discussing freedom of speech or what is
accepted as a proper response between opposing forces on this planet,
the Iranian President's attendance at Columbia University certainly
fits. Polarizing opinions, outrage, indifference and a broad
mixture of undefined responses fill the media this day. So what
is one to make of all this?
An opinion column by Arthur Herman at the New York Post no doubt falls
on the outrage side of the debate.
ACADEMIA'S UGLY BLINDNESS
By ARTHUR HERMAN
September 25, 2007 -- COLUMBIA University Presi dent Lee Bollinger
yester day made some cutting criticisms while introducing Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - but that doesn't make the school's
decision to offer a platform to the head of a violent terrorist state
any less abject, squalid or shameless.
Who knows what Columbia University's real motives were for inviting
Iran's President to speak. At least a couple of reports indicate the
expressed reason was to allow differing points of view. It seems when
the person speaking in public is extremely notorious for holding
beliefs or values others find deplorable or equally disturbing, the
standards or principles guiding the public view are withdrawn.
That is to say people allow other people to speak or express themselves
as long as that person does not exceed certain limits.
My first question would be why were those who are so enraged by this
event not equally vocal in objecting to Speaker of the House Nancy
Pelosi and her trip that included Syria and at least some discussion
with heads of state there?
The next reference from various sources is a contrast to Herman's
opinion column at the NT Post. Carefully reviewing sound bites
from the Iranian President and comparing them to related events in
Iran, the author reminds the reader of the amateur attempt by this
week's headline grabbing foreign visitor to misinform the
audience. But maybe the Iranian is getting exactly what he
wants. What would be a larger problem with his visit is not what
people appear to be angry about but if his plan is successful in his
own mind. Perhaps all this angst and attention is exactly what he
wanted. A person would have to be extremely ignorant to believe
he could come here and not receive the reaction he did from the
outrageous statements he expressed.
Live From New York, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Unreality Show
By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, September 25, 2007; Page A02
"For hundreds of years, we've lived in friendship and brotherhood with
the people of Iraq," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the
National Press Club yesterday.
That's true -- as long as you don't count the little unpleasantness of
the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when a million people died, some by
poison gas. And you'd also have to overlook 500 years of fighting
during the Ottoman Empire.
Certainly everyone is entitled to their opinion and The Wall Street
Journal is no exception. This being the third reference for this post
is a reminder that as stated earlier the mixture of opinions is quite
varied although most have an obvious negative reaction to that guy from
Iran that everyone loves to hate.
Without previous knowledge of the article and its information below,
the same thought had probably crossed many minds after hearing
explanations from Columbia for their choice of speaker this week.
Would you have acted the same if the potential speaker would have been
Adolf Hitler? A better question might be asked about how the rest
of the world responded to Hitler before he was completely in a position
to do the things he did? The Iranian President or anyone else can
be allowed to speak. Words are not the problem here. How
the rest of the world responds to the actions of the Iranian President
and people like him is the problem. As has been said many times, those
who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
Exactly what would it have accomplished to "engage in a debate" with
BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
On Saturday John Coatsworth, acting dean of Columbia University's
School of International and Public Affairs, made the remark that "if
Hitler were in the United States and . . . if he were willing to engage
in a debate and a discussion to be challenged by Columbia students and
faculty, we would certainly invite him." This was by way of defending
the university's decision to host a speech yesterday by Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Enough with the news around the planet about this situation with
Iran. No one should be overly concerned about what transpired at
Columbia University this week or the UN, etc. How the world leaders
will handle their responsibilities as leaders and getting a grip on war
and terrorism as well as the other critical matters facing us is the
real concern. The visit by and actions of the Iranian President during
his visit pales in comparison to other risks.