Responses to Ahmadinejad

Photos by Nashid Chaudhury.

First came the now infamous vicious introduction by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger where he called guest speaker Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "a petty and cruel dictator," talked about homosexual and underage persecution and called for complete release of Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.

Ahmadinejad then took the stage, quoted passages from the Koran that weren't translated, commented on the show of disrespect from Bollinger and proceeded to
speak about nuclear power, the absolute lack of homosexuals in Iran, the need to research to confirm facts about the Holocaust, terrorism and many other things.

The New York Sun, obviously, loved Bollinger's introduction, calling the invitation to Ahmadinejad a "blunder" and focusing on the Jewish reaction to that "tragedy" as they state in the editorial. They even ran portions of Bollinger's introduction in the Opinion section under the headline "Cease This Outrage." To their credit, they do feature another opinion piece and another article about Bollinger's disrespectful prologue.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post took more reasonable stances.

Dana Milbank got it right when he said, "Without listening to Ahmadinejad, how can the world appreciate how truly nutty he is?" Maureen Dowd also put it perfectly when she wrote, "[regarding Bollinger] Once you’ve made the decision to invite a tyrannical leader, you can’t undo it by belittling him in public. Universities are supposed to be places where you can debate and hear dissenting voices; it would have been far better just to hand the mike to the students and let it rip."

By extending an invitation to someone, a foreign head of government nevertheless, calls for diplomacy and politeness. Common sense, no? By attacking him before Ahmadinejad even speaks is just plain wrong.

The Sun's editorial calledfor Bollinger to, essentially, pick a side: Israel or Palestine, and that it is duty as Columbia's president to do so, instead of being a "more neutral–we would say 'morally equivalent'—educator," as they write. That, I think, is ridiculous. As the president of Columbia, is duty is not to publicize and promote his views, but instead to bring the university together. And the Sun (I've recently become fascinated and more-than-slightly repulsed by this newspaper, hence my constant references to it, especially after reading several of these columns, but that's another story) has a little advice for Bollinger with dealing with his upset Middle East professors. Very subtle, Sun, very subtle.

Clever protest signs at Columbia.