Skip to main content

Belligerence towards Ahmadinejad won’t solve anything

  • Author:
  • Updated:

By Ben Cohen

There is not doubt that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a bad person. He has absurd delusions of grandeur, ridiculous views about the Holocaust, does not believe that homosexuals exist in Iran, and is pursuing a dangerously aggressive stance against the west.

However, his recent treatment at Columbia University by the faculty was beyond pathetic. The President of Columbia, Lee Bollinger essentially gave a political speech slamming Ahmadinejad that tried to justify his heavily criticised decision to invite the Iranian leader to the university.

Said Bollinger in anticipation of Ahmadinejad's speech:

"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."

Bollinger went on to list Iran's terrible human rights record, and scolded Ahmadinejad's efforts at suppressing freedom of speech. In fairness, these were issues Ahmadinejad needed to hear, as people in his own country cannot openly discuss them.

However, Bollinger then put on his cap as official spokesperson for the U.S government....


"In a briefing before the National Press Club earlier this month, General David Petraeus reported that arms supplies from Iran, including 240mm rockets and explosively formed projectiles, are contributing to “a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support”, he told the Iranian leader.

"A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of our military who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy."

"Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi’a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?"

And here, Bollinger's diatribe falls flat on its face. The esteemed professor seems to have swallowed the ridiculous notion that the United States in not itself fighting a proxy war against Iran. To boot, he does not acknowledge that his country is trying to start an actual war with Iran.

Having specifically called Iran part of 'The Axis of Evil", invaded its neighbour then threatened it with military action, it would probably be fair to call U.S the aggressors in this situation. If Iran had invaded Canada, and then made noises about attacking the U.S, would it be reasonable for the U.S to fund anti Iranian forces? Most Americans would probably think so.

However, this type of logic appears to have escaped the Ivy League academic, who seems to believe the U.S is fighting for the freedom of Iraqis (a notion ridiculed recently by the right wing former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan). Bollinger is appalled at the sophisticated attacks on American soldiers, but does not mention the sophisticated war these soldiers are waging in Iraq. The truth is, the U.S has no more right to be in Iraq than Iran does, and chastising the Iranian leader for doing the same thing his government has (with probably more legitimacy given its proximity to Iran), is extremely hypocritical.

Bollinger finished his speech with another tart insult.

"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 mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. "

Predictably, Ahmadinejad avoided most of the questions put to him, but perhaps Bollinger could have found the intellectual courage to apply the same standards to his own government.