Bollinger Gets an A

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bollinger.jpg
Every time I think Columbia University could not possibly be the subject of more controversy relating to Middle Eastern politics, another controversy emerges. Columbia has been in the news most recently for its decision to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of its annual World Leaders Forum, at which Heads of State in New York for the UN General Assembly stop by Morningside Heights each fall to give a talk.
The way Columbia President Lee Bollinger has dealt with, and in some cases, invited these controversies has surely made him many enemies, but I admire his even-handedness and courage to speak hard truths to people on all sides of the issues. His approach has likely made him many enemies and lost Columbia a few donors, but it has made me extremely proud to be an alum.
The atmosphere at Columbia surrounding the discussion and study of Middle East issues has been toxic long before Bollinger arrived from Michigan Law School in 2003. Student groups organized around Israeli-Palestinian issues have failed to treat each other with even a modicum of respect and have polarized the environment to such an extent that virtually no reasoned discussion is possible. Dialogue at the facultly level is not much better.
Bollinger has not demonstrably improved this situation, but in my opinion (my organization has nothing to do with this) displayed a great deal of leadership and courage when he has weighed in on Middle East politics.
First, Bollinger stood up to Daniel Pipes’s witch hunt in Columbia’s Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department. Pipes’s initiative, Campus Watch, is dedicated to “improving” Middle Eastern Studies departments across the United States. The actual aim of Campus Watch is to expose outspoken, anti-Israel faculty members.
Scholarship of Middle East issues might indeed benefit from more diverse perspectives, but Campus Watch is more interested in intimidation than engaging in two-way dialogue. It sponsored Columbia Unbecoming, a documentary chronicling accusations against MEALAC faculty, and launched the Columbia Project, a campaign to single out Columbia faculty and its most notorious member, Professor Joseph Massad. The overview of the Columbia Project reveals immediately that it presupposes its conclusions; it also terribly (and possibly deliberately) misconstrues the the ideas and legacy of Edward Said, Columbia’s late public intellectual.
I took a class with Professor Massad in 2001. I found many of his ideas very distasteful. He urges students to see insurgent violence in the context of the relationship between the oppressed and their oppressors. He ascribes ulterior motives to ideological opponents far more than I think is justified. And he has a view of Israeli-Palestinian history and current affairs that is, in my view, overly simplistic. Professor Massad also aggressively challenges students with whom he disagrees.
But Massad is fair, approachable inside and outside of class, and devoted to his students. He understands that his views are not shared by most people in the class and invites students to engage with him in the best tradition of the academy. Furthermore, he graded my work based on my understanding of the material and ability to analyze it, not ideological considerations. He and (and other faculty) may be highly enthusiastic and radical, and he may occasionally been excessively zealous, but Massad does not attempt to intimidate students who hold opposing views.
Massad has been public enemy number one for Pipes and a number of Jewish organizations. When students came forward with complaints against Massad, Bollinger organized a committee to investigate, which contacted me at the time. The process satisfied neither Massad nor his accusers, but the committee’s report ultimately failed to find any systematic abuses. To the great dismay of the inquisition, President Bollinger rightly accepted the report and put the issue to rest.
While the process wasn’t smooth and, frankly, neither the MEALAC faculty nor Campus Watch and its allies were happy with it. What’s important is that Bollinger ultimately stood up for free speech by refusing to go after Massad and Co.
He did so again when he issued a statement rejecting the British University and College Union’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions. His statement was applauded by the many of the same Jewish organizations so livid over the conduct of Columbia’s MEALAC department. Here it is:

“As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain’s new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.
“At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate — as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government’s policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish. Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education.”

Over 159 university presidents have endorsed Bollinger’s statement since it was issued and I hope more still join the roster.
That brings us to today, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia at Bollinger’s invitation. The invitation was consistent with Bollinger’s views on free speech and, despite the uproar, was entirely appropriate.
I agree entirely with Steve’s assessment that Ahmadinejad is Iran’s Cheney. Guess what? Cheney speaks regularly in the United States and the American public disapproves of no individual in public life more than him.
Bollinger’s introduction of Ahmadinejad today was extremely antagonistic, but it serves to underscore the point of the invitation: just as everyone should be heard, everyone should be forced to confront direct and unfiltered criticism. It should also serve to remind people — Bush administration officials in particular — that hearing the ideas of others is not the same as endorsing those ideas.
In his four-year tenure at Columbia, Bollinger has probably disappointed most students, faculty, and alumni at one time or another. Still, he has navigated at least three controversial high-profile guided primarily by his concern for free speech, intellectual honesty, the open exchange of ideas, and and the best interests of the university. It’s also important to note that Bollinger could easily have avoided controversy by doing nothing, both on the Israeli universities boycott and Ahmadinejad’s visit. Instead, he bravely spoke up and did the right thing in both cases.
Columbia may be losing money and credibility with Israel’s most ardent supporters and its most vocal critics. But Bollinger is making a believer out of me.
— Scott Paul
Update: A few readers have taken issue with the hostile nature of Bollinger’s introductory remarks. They are quite confrontational. And Bollinger’s comparison of Ahmadinejad to a dictator is clearly off base.
But it’s important to see these comments in context. Bollinger told Iranian officials explicitly that he would make a critical introduction and “pose sharp challenges and questions.” None of this was a surprise. And, for that matter, the rules of diplomatic protocol don’t apply here and Bollinger is under no obligation to be courteous in his remarks. Ahmadinejad was invited to spur dialogue, not to be honored or toasted — and he knew it.
Moreover, the purpose of his comments is neither to advance the war agenda nor to placate the hawks, as some have suggested. Rather, they represent the flip side of Bollinger’s point on free speech: anyone who wants a public forum must be willing to endure public criticism, however unpleasant or even rude it may be. Point well taken in my book.

Comments

68 comments on “Bollinger Gets an A

  1. Kathleen says:

    I tooooo would like answers to the following questions….
    Iranian University Presidents Have 10 Questions for President of Columbia University
    Submitted by davidswanson on Thu, 2007-09-27 03:23. Iran
    IRAN UNIVERSITY CHANCELLORS
    Fars News Agency report from Tehran that in response to the whole Columbia University kerfuffle, now seven chancellors and presidents of Iranian universities and research centers, have come up in a letter addressed to their counterpart in the US
    Columbia University President
    We, the professors and heads of universities and research institutions in Tehran , hereby announce our displeasure and protest at your impolite remarks prior to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at Columbia University.
    We would like to inform you that President Ahmadinejad was elected directly by the Iranian people through an enthusiastic two-round poll in which almost all of the country’s political parties and groups participated. To assess the quality and nature of these elections you may refer to US news reports on the poll dated June 2005.
    Your insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with a population of 72 million and a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful.
    Your comments, filled with hate and disgust, may well have been influenced by extreme pressure from the media, but it is regrettable that media policy-makers can determine the stance a university president adopts in his speech.
    Your remarks about our country included unsubstantiated accusations that were the product of guesswork as well as media propaganda. Some of your claims result from misunderstandings that can be clarified through dialogue and further research.
    During his speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad answered a number of your questions and those of students. We are prepared to answer any remaining questions in a scientific, open and direct debate.
    You asked the president approximately ten questions. Allow us to ask you ten of our own questions in the hope that your response will help clear the atmosphere of misunderstanding and distrust between our two countries and reveal the truth.
    1- Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr.Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?
    2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran’s national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah’s dictatorship?
    3- Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?
    4- Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it oppose Iran ‘s proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?
    5- Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even with all its advanced equipment? How do you justify the old friendship between the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals? How can you justify the Bush administration’s efforts to disrupt investigations concerning the September 11 attacks?
    6- Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq? Why does the US refuse to allow Iran ‘s current government to act against the MKO’s main base in Iraq?
    7- Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did international institutions support it? What was the real purpose behind the invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives? Where are the weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?
    8- Why do America’s closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?
    9- Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than Israel?
    10- Why is the US displeased with Iran’s agreement with the IAEA and why does it openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the nuclear issue under international law?
    Finally, we would like to express our readiness to invite you and other scientific delegations to our country. A trip to Iran would allow you and your colleagues to speak directly with Iranians from all walks of life including intellectuals and university scholars. You could then assess the realities of Iranian society without media censorship before making judgments about the Iranian nation and government.
    You can be assured that Iranians are very polite and hospitable toward their guests.

    Reply

  2. arthurdecco says:

    Thank you for your post, Carroll. It helped.

    Reply

  3. Jefferson says:

    From today’s NYT:
    “Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Mr. Bollinger’s speech was counterproductive.
    “If you invite someone, you have to be polite,” he said. “Ahmadinejad scored points, especially in their culture. If you permit an enemy to come into your home, you still treat him with dignity and respect. Therefore, we lost. The points that President Bollinger made were fine. But to close with insulting words almost undid everything he said before. It was not a good teaching experience.”

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  4. Carroll says:

    Well if tough guy Col Lang says Ahmadinajad triumphed over Bollingers Orwellian “Two Minutes of Hate” than I think the verdict is in.
    “What Ahmadinajad said at Columbia”
    I listened to it all.
    His remarks were “bracketed” for me by those of Bollinger (the Columbia president) who sought to distance himself from any possible accusation of hospitality and Nora O’Donnell (MSNBC anchor) who sought to distance herself from any possible accusation of neutrality.
    Ahmadinajad said:
    – Scholars should seek the truth.
    – That he does not dispute the facts of the Holocaust, but that he thinks that scholarship should continue on the details and on the effect on his part of the world. He particularly stressed the innocence of the Palestinian people in the matter of the Holocaust. Since scholarship continues on the matter of this subject (the Holocaust) under the sponsorship of the US Holocaust Museum, this was an interesting point.
    – He said that the nature of Palestine/Israel should be determined by referendum among “Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians.” This is a variation on the long standing Arab desire for either a bi-national state or a state that is not specifically a Jewish state. He did not specify whether his referendum would include Palestinians of the diaspora. That, of course, would make a difference in the outcome.
    – He said that the Iranian nuclear enrichment program was forced on them by foreign defaults on agreements for nuclear electric assistance. He said that the Iranian sites are all under IAEA inspection and will remain that way. He also said that the concentration level of their enrichment did not meet the requirement for weapons production.
    – He abjured the idea of nuclear weapons and said they do not want any. Presumably the IAEA inspection regime applies.
    – When challenged on Iranian government support of international terrorist groups, he said that Iran herself is the victim of extensive terrorist attack sponsored by foreign governments. He clearly had in mind the MEK. He said that all parties should stop this kind of activity. There may have been an implied offer in that. The Persians are subtle people. Perhaps they are too subtle for his audience
    – He accepted the idea of wide negotiations with the US to resolve all differences..
    – In response to a challenge by Bollinger, he invited Columbia to send delegations of faculty and students to any or all of Iran’s 400 universities.
    – He insisted that Iranian women are free.
    – He made a lame joke out of Iranian capital punishments for homosexual behavior. The esoteric gist was, “we don’t care what you think about it.”
    – He made some goofy reference to “the real story on 9/11.” This was at the end and I guess he just couldn’t “hold it together” any longer.
    It was quite a performance. If this were a presidential debate, I would judge him the winner based on rhetorical skill and coolness under fire. The student audience got quieter and quieter as he spoke. There was no booing at the end.
    On the whole I think this event was meaningless. I think that the die is cast and that this will have no effect on the international game. pl

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  5. The Community says:

    We have assumed control.

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  6. Dennis says:

    I am a little late in entering my comment, but I agree with those who feel that Bollinger, although his comments may have been pretty much on the mark, was totally out of line to speak so in publlic to an invited guest.
    In polite society, Bollinger made an ass of himself.
    You don’t have to be a blind conservative not to see it, just an ignorant one to deny it.

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  7. erichwwk says:

    Touche. Here is one link of Bollinger praising a real dictator when he spoke at Columbia University:
    http://tinyurl.com/2o6ae9
    So much (little) for scholarly honesty at Columbia.

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  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile, up to now, the Bush Administration, (and this blog), have been completely silent about Mushariff jailing political opponents that may challenge him in the upcoming “elections”. Yesterday this administration said they were “confused” by Mushariff’s actions.
    Hmm.
    Whats so confusing about a military dictatorship?
    Oh, I forgot, he’s our “ally”.

    Reply

  9. erichwwk says:

    For readers wishing to read an outside view of how this plays, try Pepe Escobar’s: ‘Hitler’ does New York @ http://tinyurl.com/23dkow

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  10. Ian Lucas says:

    I have to say that I read Bollinger’s remarks as cowardly mutton (placating his critics) dressed up as courageous lamb (defending free speech).
    I eventually found the transcript of what Ahmadinejad had to say. I haven’t noticed many hyperlinks to it in commentaries (then again, I haven’t checked all that thoroughly). Strange, given how passionate we are supposed to be about free speech…
    For me, the transcript shows that Ahmadinejad certainly ain’t no oil painting – his views on the Holocaust, his dissembling on gays and his regime’s treatment of gays are appalling. But I don’t think he’s as demonic as he’s been represented to be, compared to some other leaders much closer to home that I can think of.
    As for lecturing leaders of other countries on how to behave (oh sorry, asking them tough questions), maybe the Christian Soldiers among us might want to revisit Matthew 7.5.

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  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gee Scott, it seems you’re running pretty dismal stats on the ‘ol popularity rating, eh? Wouldn’t possibly be because you are completely out of touch with the general populace would it? Must be the air in Washington, its making the think tankers grow wool. If I was you, I’d disable the B, A, and H keys on your keyboard, because the inevitable conclusion of your evolution will be an inability to do anything but bleat.

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  12. Jefferson says:

    This is, by far, the most disappointing post to appear in The Washington Note.
    There is no context that justifies Bollinger’s rude treatment of an invited guest and head of state. “Diplomatic protocol” may not apply, but common courtesy at a great university always does. Did Bollinger think that none of his valid points could have been made by the eager and ready audience? He could take some lessons in deportment from SIPA’s interim dean, John Coatsworth, who treated Ahmad-i-Nejad with respect but insisted on clear answers to questions the audience posed.
    The “purpose” of Bollinger’s preemptive strike, if you can call it that, was to run away from the university’s invitation as quickly and as far away as possible without actually withdrawing it. This was not courage, but cowardice. Bollinger’s conduct is not praiseworthy and it’s embarassing to see the Washington Note spin it as such.

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  13. Dave Huntsman says:

    The invitation to Pres. A. was correct. The Q&A session was honest – which was good. But the intentional deliberate insulting of an invited guest – before the guest even had a chance to speak – was not something admirable. It was: 1. Discriminatory; since to my knowledge no Univ. President has ever done that to any other national politician – ever. 2. Dumb – because the deliberate insults of a guest – and that guest’s calm demeanor in the face of the surprise attacks – could not have been better sripted to enhance Pres. A.’s stature across the entire muslim world if his handlers had orchestrated it themselves. 3. Shameful – since Pres. A. showed himself better able to handle hostile ambushes better than our two cowardly lead politicans, Cheney and Bush; who would never allow themselves to be put in front of a non-hand-picked, free-thinking crowd- much less a foreign one.
    Contrary to the reporting of most of our media, Pres. A. ‘won’ this past week, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Please, oh please, America – can we PLEASE stop this continuous screwing-up of everything we touch nowadays??

    Reply

  14. Jefferson says:

    This is, by far, the most disappointing post to appear in The Washington Note.
    There is no context that justifies Bollinger’s rude treatment of an invited guest and head of state. “Diplomatic protocol” may not apply, but common courtesy at a great university always does. Did Bollinger think that none of his valid points could have been made by the eager and ready audience? He could take some lessons in deportment from SIPA’s interim dean, John Coatsworth, who treated Ahmad-i-Nejad with respect but insisted on clear answers to questions the audience posed.
    The “purpose” of Bollinger’s preemptive strike, if you can call it that, was to run away from the university’s invitation as quickly and as far away as possible without actually withdrawing it. This was not courage, but cowardice. Bollinger’s conduct is not praiseworthy and it’s embarassing to see the Washington Note spin it as such.

    Reply

  15. Dave Huntsman says:

    The invitation to Pres. A. was correct. The Q&A session was honest – which was good. But the intentional deliberate insulting of an invited guest – before the guest even had a chance to speak – was not something admirable. It was: 1. Discriminatory; since to my knowledge no Univ. President has ever done that to any other national politician – ever. 2. Dumb – because the deliberate insults of a guest – and that guest’s calm demeanor in the face of the surprise attacks – could not have been better sripted to enhance Pres. A.’s stature across the entire muslim world if his handlers had orchestrated it themselves. 3. Shameful – since Pres. A. showed himself better able to handle hostile ambushes better than our two cowardly lead politicans, Cheney and Bush; who would never allow themselves to be put in front of a non-hand-picked, free-thinking crowd- much less a foreign one.
    Contrary to the reporting of most of our media, Pres. A. ‘won’ this past week, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Please, oh please, America – can we PLEASE stop this continuous screwing-up of everything we touch nowadays??

    Reply

  16. Dave Huntsman says:

    The invitation to Pres. A. was correct. The Q&A session was honest – which was good. But the intentional deliberate insulting of an invited guest – before the guest even had a chance to speak – was not something admirable. It was: 1. Discriminatory; since to my knowledge no Univ. President has ever done that to any other national politician – ever. 2. Dumb – because the deliberate insults of a guest – and that guest’s calm demeanor in the face of the surprise attacks – could not have been better sripted to enhance Pres. A.’s stature across the entire muslim world if his handlers had orchestrated it themselves. 3. Shameful – since Pres. A. showed himself better able to handle hostile ambushes better than our two cowardly lead politicans, Cheney and Bush; who would never allow themselves to be put in front of a non-hand-picked, free-thinking crowd- much less a foreign one.
    Contrary to the reporting of most of our media, Pres. A. ‘won’ this past week, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Please, oh please, America – can we PLEASE stop this continuous screwing-up of everything we touch nowadays??

    Reply

  17. FurGaia says:

    A couple of takes well worth reading:
    ‘Hitler’ does New York.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/II26Ak01.html
    Missing the Point
    http://fanonite.org/2007/09/25/missing-the-point/

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  18. FurGaia says:

    A couple of takes well worth reading:
    ‘Hitler’ does New York.
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/II26Ak01.html
    Missing the Point
    http://fanonite.org/2007/09/25/missing-the-point/

    Reply

  19. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    Mr. Paul:
    If President Bush went to a foreign country and was treated that way by the head of a university in that country, would you have the same reaction? Would you think it is okay? Or would you decry the lack of respect. Bollinger could have taken the high road and he chose not to. He couldn’t even get his facts straight.

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  20. susan says:

    This short video is a gem. If these people could talk to us, what would they say?
    http://www.lucasgray.com/video/peacetrain.html

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  21. Sandy says:

    Read this if you have any doubts:
    http://tinyurl.com/yrgew4

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  22. Sandy says:

    Exactly what I thought…and posted…easy e….when I read Steve’s now often referred to column.
    Glenn Greenwald at today’s Salon.com has an excellent assessment of inside-the-beltway pundits you may want to read.
    Drinking the Kool-aid.
    What will they do when Iran is nuked? Scrub the website?

    Reply

  23. Carroll says:

    And the Lieberman-Kyle resolution that just passed by a 90% majority is the perfect prelude to the “accident” waiting to happen.
    The accident will most likely start as described below, the perfect set up to start war with Iran.
    Do not be misdirected into thinking Cheney is the sole key force behind attacking Iran. Congress has been setting the stage for this for months. Cheney might have some General’s in his pocket that he directed to congress but congress has willingly taken them to use in their own scheme for an attack on Iran.
    http://www.antiwar.com/orig/giraldi.php?articleid=11666
    “It might start with a minor incident, possibly involving an American Marine patrol operating out of the new base at Badrah near the Iranian border. The Marines are surrounded by superior Iranian forces claiming that the Americans have strayed inside Iranian territory. The Marines refuse to surrender their weapons and instead open fire. The Iranians respond. Helicopter gunships are called in to support the Marines, and artillery fire is directed against Iranian military targets close to the border. President Bush calls the incident an act of war and, in an emotional speech to the nation, orders U.S. forces to attack. A hastily called meeting of the UN Security Council results in a 17-1 vote urging the United States to exercise restraint, with only Washington voting “no.” In the UN General Assembly, only the U.S., Israel, Micronesia, and Costa Rica support the military action. The U.S. is effectively alone.
    In the first few days, overwhelming American air and naval superiority destroy Iran’s principal air, naval, and army bases. Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities are particularly targeted and are obliterated, as are the known Iranian nuclear research and development sites. Population centers are avoided, though smart weapons destroy communications centers and command and control facilities. There are nevertheless large numbers of civilian casualties and widespread radioactive contamination as many of the targeted sites are in or near cities. Infrastructure is also hit, particularly bridges, roads, and power generation stations close to known nuclear research centers and military sites. The U.S. media, which had supported the administration’s plans to engage Iran, rallies around the flag, praising the surgical attacks designed to cripple Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
    Congress supports the bombing, with leaders from both parties praising the president and commenting that Iran had it coming.”
    >>>>>>>>>>
    Just remember this, remember what 90% of congress voted for in this resolution. They are doing Iraq all over again.

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  24. Sandy says:

    Hear! Hear! Carroll…and others here….I shudder to think where we will be as a country a year from today.

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  25. easy e says:

    Could it be TWN & New America Foundation aren’t really what they proclaim to be? Or are they more a part of the extensive PR apparatus used by the ‘complex’ to perpetuate American hegemony and imperialism?

    Reply

  26. Carroll says:

    Posted by easy e at September 25, 2007 02:17 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Thanks, easy.
    Let’s even spell it out from easy’s link.
    This resolution just passed in congress 300 and some yays to 19 nays.
    Think about that.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Webb: Lieberman And Kyl’s Hawkish Iran Amendment Is ‘Cheney’s Fondest Pipe Dream’
    On the Senate floor today, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) made an impassioned appeal to his fellow senators, declaring that the Lieberman-Kyl amendment on Iran should be “withdrawn” because the “proposal is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.” Webb cautioned that the “cleverly-worded sense of the Congress” could be “interpreted” to “declare war” on Iran. He continued:
    Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach. Because, in my view, it has the same potential to do harm where many are seeking to do good.
    “At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy,” said Webb. “At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining Congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.”
    Here’s what it says:
    In reality, the amendment is a clear call for military action against alleged Iranian agents inside Iraq. From the text of the legislation:
    (3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and [stop] the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
    (4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    And all this Cheney, Cheney, Cheney fixation being parrotted lately by the blogs like this one as Cheney being the one and only and “sole” force behind attacking Iran that we have “watch” is bullshit and smells. It is a pitiful attempt to not mention or include the “Jewish Lobby” bloodlust to attack Iran and their absolute control of congress.
    Our Israeli congress wants this war. Even the ones who might not want it are already too well trained to do whatever AIPAC’s enforcers in congress tell them to do.
    Will Bush resist? We will see.

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  27. Carroll says:

    Posted by Lurker at September 25, 2007 01:05 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>
    Ditto.

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  28. jonst says:

    The previous commenter was correct, the comment by Scott in the update, concerning “a few readers” is priceless and telling. Scott…..I believe you could sit naked on a block of ice if you thought hot. “a few readers” indeed.

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  29. easy e says:

    Steve/Scott,
    Why nothing on the Lieberman & Kyle’s hawkish Iran Amendment?
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/09/25/webb-kyl-lieb-iran/
    and
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/09/25/kyl-iran-fox/
    I’ve been trying to post about this on TWN all morning—to no avail.
    Hmmmmmm.

    Reply

  30. easy e says:

    *****URGENT: Preempt a strike on Iran*****
    *Call your Senators today–NO on Kyl-Lieberman Amendment * In the last week, the peace movement has been dealt a few blows, and now it’s our turn to strike back. As early as today, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment {http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/Iran%20amendment.pdf} to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization will go to the floor. If passed, a war with Iran could be right around the corner. *Call your Senators at the Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121**. *Tell them to vote NO on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment (No. 3017), a provocative measure that will only undermine efforts to resolve tensions with Iran through diplomacy. Talking points: *No more blank checks for this administration. *The loophole in the amendment is big enough to drive an aircraft carrier through. *Rather than escalating tensions, the U.S. should pursue smart, tough-minded dialogue and diplomacy*, which are far more likely than force to produce a satisfactory resolution in the case of Iran. *Iran’s gains in Iraq are largely due to the Bush invasion of Iraq.* By rushing to war without a strategy for winning the peace, we opened the door for Iran to connect with the Iraqi Shiites in power to engender discord. Let’s stop a war with Iran before it begins. *Call your senators at the Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121, and please call them today. * ** Peace, ** Tim Carpenter PDA National Director P.S. PDA is proud to stand with the Council for a Livable World and Open Society Policy Center in urging all senators to vote no for this preposterous amendment.
    Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC that works both inside the Democratic Party and outside in movements for peace and justice. Our goal: Extend the victory of Nov. 2006 into a permanent, progressive majority. PDA’s advisory board includes seven members of Congress and activist leaders such as Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan and Rev. Lennox Yearwood. More info:http://pdamerica.org/ {http://pdamerica.org/}

    Reply

  31. downtown says:

    Mr. Paul: Either you’re clueless or mendacious or just utterly naive. Neither one is a viable choice for a front page contributor to this fine blog. I will henceforth skip over any of your contributions.

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  32. Dan Kervick says:

    Scoot says:
    “None of this was a surprise. And, for that matter, the rules of diplomatic protocol don’t apply here and Bollinger is under no obligation to be courteous in his remarks. Ahmadinejad was invited to spur dialogue, not to be honored or toasted — and he knew it.”
    Of course, Bollinger is under no diplomatic obligations. But I would think he is under a permanent obligation to advance Columbia’s reputation as a scholarly institution. And there was nothing the least bit scholarly about his presentation. It was an intemperate, poorly-researched, showboating harrangue of the sort you would get from any dime-a-dozen hack polemicist. Performing in such a manner is not excused by the fact that you warn your opponent in advance that you intend to perform in that manner. But again, it’s up to Columbia to decide whether it wishes to convey the image of a scholarly institution, or instead wants to be seen as a factory for silly broadsides, agitated rhetoric and partisan pamphlets that just happens to be ivy-covered.
    Nobody is advancing the argument that Ahmadinejad should have been “honored or toasted”. But you can’t honestly say that what we saw yesterday was a “dialogue”. Interestingly enough, Ahmadinejad is a man who seems to have a rather compulsive need to express himself and engage in conversations with opponents – not the usual traits for a politician. Columbia could have sponsored a very constructive dialogue and lengthy exchange of views and arguments, that would have better served its students and onlookers across the country. Just criticisms of Iran and Ahmadinejad would have come out equally well, but in a more credible, reasoned and temperate form. Instead of a dialogue we got a flamboyant show-debate and anti-Iran rally that played right into the hands of the hawks, as their responses last night and today clearly show.

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  33. Jim says:

    If Bollinger had left his ad hominem slurs out and the rest of his comments in, his introduction would have been devastating. By using these silly schoolyard slogans, he embarrassed himself and the US in front of the world.

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  34. JohnH says:

    In my mind Bollinger did what he had to do, brutish as his introduction was. Being President of an elite university funded by extremely wealthy, conservative donors in a metro area with the largest Jewish population outside Israel, Bollinger simply could not have publicly welcomed Ahmadinejad with open arms. Even a more nuanced introduction would simply have let blood thirsty warmongers continue to condemn Columbia (and Bollinger) for having invited Ahmadinejad at all. Instead he managed to get the university a lot of publicity, enhance the university’s reputation for free speech and become the darling of right wing talk shows.
    What was intentionally lost in the whole brouhaha was what Ahmadinejad actually said. Free speech was almost drowned out by a powerful elite that is intent on demonizing Iran. Fortunately, C-SPAN also carried an interview with CBS, where I think Ahmadinejad was too indirect with his answers to have been particularly effective.

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  35. Lurker says:

    To answer “huh?” — people commenting on this blog most probably have nowhere near the power of Scott Paul or Steve Clemons.
    I would venture to guess that most of us are well-informed and very concerned Americans, spread across the country. Many of us will or already have suffered from this new PNAC USRael imperialism, especially if USRael attacks Iran and our children have to go fight WW III.
    I think it behooves Steve and Scott to listen to and understand the Outside-the-Beltway crowd.
    Since *huh?* says that she or he will never “venture into the comment thread again,” this is a rhetorical question: what exactly is a “terrorist?”
    According to the latest U.N. figures, more than a million Iraqis have died as a result of our invasion. Between 2-4 million have been displaced, many forced into exile. Out of a nation of only 25 million.
    Israel and the U.S. kill from the air for the most part, but on the ground they (and in some cases “we” because I am an American) use overwhelming force against people whose only *crime* is fighting for their families and their homes. The Palestinians, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Lebanese, soon to be the Syrians and Iranians.
    We are the terrorists, my friends, and we’ll keep on fighting until Americans stand up and throw all the bums in D.C. out, as well as their Israeli masters.
    Now “The View” is denigrating Ahmadinejad’s speech, yet again repeating the false lie that he called for “Israel to be wiped off the map.”
    I fear for the world because of this media hyped tripe.

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  36. Joe M. says:

    The British academic union did not vote to boycott Israel yet, they voted to study a possible boycott for one year’s time… There is a big difference between the two. get it right please.

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  37. Carroll says:

    Scott is right about one thing…anyone who wants to advance their ideas or agenda is fair game in free speech and I agree with Weiss….Let’s Have it Out.
    Iraq comes home: the war of ideas, by Philip Weiss
    September 25, 2007
    A Jewish Writer Says Senate Should Investigate Neocon Abrams Re Dual Loyalty
    On Huffpo the other day, David Bromwich gave Walt and Mearsheimer a laudatory read and expressed shock at the quote they offer from Bush’s Mideast policy guru Elliot Abrams:
    How mad is Elliott Abrams? If one passage cited by Mearsheimer-Walt is quoted accurately, it would seem to be the duty of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to subject Abrams to as exacting a challenge as the Senate Judiciary Committee brought to Alberto Gonzales. The man at the Middle East desk of the National Security Council wrote in 1997 in his book Faith or Fear: “there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart–except in Israel–from the rest of the population.” When he wrote those words, Abrams probably did not expect to serve in another American administration. He certainly did not expect to occupy a position that would require him to weigh the national interest of Israel, the country with which he confessed himself uniquely at one, alongside the national interest of a country in which he felt himself to stand “apart…from the rest of the population.” Now that he is calling the shots against Hamas and Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran, his words of 1997 ought to alarm us into reflection.
    David, it’s an accurate quote. I’ve played a role in this one. In 2000 or 2001, I was talking to Hussein Ibish, then of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, when he told me what Abrams had written in his ’97 book. I got the book at the Strand and wrote a big piece about Abrams’s Jewish-separatist views that ran at the top of the front page of the New York Observer (hail to my editor, Peter Kaplan!). I sent a copy of the piece to Abrams (ahead of time, as I recall); he declined to respond. I wrote that it was fine with me if Abrams was running Transportation policy, keep him away from the Middle East. No one called for a Senate investigation, alas.
    At the pow-wow I had with progressive Zionists a couple months back, Dan Fleshler implored me not to use terms like “dual loyalty.” An anti-semitic canard, presumably. Well, concerns about dual loyalty were at the heart of leading Jews’ objections to Zionism up through the 1950s (long before we went to war in Iraq). Here is the head of the American Jewish Committee warning Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion not to urge American Jews to move to Israel, in 1950:
    “You are a realist and want facts and I would be less than frank if I did not point out to you that American Jews vigorously repudiate any suggestion or implication that they are in exile. American Jews—young and old alike, Zionists and non-Zionists alike—are profoundly attached to
    America
    Jacob Blaustein said. “To American Jews, America
    is home… They believe in the future of a democratic society in the United States
    under which all citizens, irrespective of creed or race, can live on terms of equality.”
    Today mainstream Jewish attitudes have moved so far away from Blaustein under the influence of Israel that the political philosopher Michael Walzer can declare at the Center for Jewish History that Israel has ended our exile, and that we Americans are members of a nation that includes Israel; and the audience can cheer.
    It is a beautiful thing that progressive Jews are now challenging these ideas. The amazing Orthodox academic, pseudonymous “Jeremiah Haber” has challenged the legitimacy of the Law of Return, and said that Israel must become the country of its citizens. On the TNR website, John Judis has bravely accused American Jewish organizations (including Blaustein’s AJC) of demanding “dual loyalty” of Jewish writers. (What about your boss Marty Peretz, John?) And now Bromwich (who I am guessing is Jewish) is fairly calling for a Senate inquest into neocon ideas of loyalty to Israel.
    Jews are great thinkers! And who let us think–Walt and Mearsheimer!
    At least two negative reviews of W&M have harped on the dual loyalty claim. Scary-smart (but mostly scary) Gabriel Schoenfeld said in Commentary last year that this is what W&M had accused Jews of. The Times book review of W&M by eminence-grise Gelb was titled, “Dual Loyalties.”
    I think it’s a fair question. Let’s have it out.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    If anyone has been listening to the house floor speeches the past week on Iran by our Israeli congressmen they would think they were listening to the Israeli congress in Israel. It’s all Israel all the time. Israel is the victim in their occupation of Palestine. Israel was the victim of the civilian bombing of Lebanon. Israel is the vicitim of the anti-semitic UN. Israel is the victim of the entire world. The entire world must become subservient to Israel and Jews or be destroyed because they must have their revenge on the universe for their historical powerlessness and victimhood. And the US must be the instrument to carry out their revenge.
    This perversion of America, this sickness, this dual loyalty, this corruption, all of it must end.
    Iran is not America’s war or enemy. It’s Israel’s and the traitors to this country among us need to be called out and sent away.

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  38. Paul Norheim says:

    “Bollinger didn’t say these things to advance the war agenda. He’s trying to teach everyone a lesson about open speech.”
    I thought that I had said enough with my first post. But when some people seem to think that Bollingers introductory remarks were pedagogic, I have to add that his “lesson” was broadcasted by Al Jazeera, and I am sure highlights from his long list of insults were printed and broadcasted in the whole Muslim world.
    It is unfortunate that “open speech” the American way, by this lesson, for perhaps hundreds of millions of Muslims, will be associated with rude, humiliating behavior towards the guest. Many of us, both in the “Western” and the “Muslim” world, and also among Chinese and Burmese people, believe that politeness and respect in style and form is compatible with democracy.
    If not, we may perhaps have “free speech” on a global level in some distant future, but it will certainly be a very hobbesian world.
    Before the American elite people at the universities, in politics, among religious leaders etc. becomes really curious about the rest of the world, its different and complex histories, its struggle and victories, also when they differ from US history, politics, art, and religious beliefs – in short: before they become genuinely interested in the world as something different, and respect this difference, it will serve nobody´s interest, neither the worlds nor the US “national interest” (which, by the way, are different entities), if the US continue to teach the world “lessons”. The world is not a school class.
    If the US continue more or less in line with its behavior in the world during the last few years, democracy (which happened to be quite a good idea back than, when the Greek invented it), may become discredited for the rest of the century in those vast parts of the world where “free speech” implies a daily struggle.

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  39. huh? says:

    people on this comment thread are incensed that the author isn’t offended by bollinger’s breach of etiquette. what do they do? they turn around, deride him, and make insinuations about his motives – all on his blog. the comity doesn’t even approach that of bollinger’s speech. anyone see the irony here?
    also, no one seems to recognize that a good part of the country think bollinger is serving the cause of terrorists. he deserves credit for making a good, tough, and unnecessary choice.
    this is a good blog, but i will never venture into the comment thread again.

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  40. Matthew says:

    I don’t think Bollinger’s speech could have been more condescending had it been delivered by some English Civil Servant during the Raj.
    Congratuations, President Bollinger. You’ve confirmed that American Power, American Manners, and, most importantly, American Self-Confidence are in steep decline.

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  41. rollingmyeyes says:

    “From my perspective, by condoning Bollinger’s behavior, TWN is becoming part of the drumbeat for war with Iran, with propaganda and demagoguery usurping factual reporting.
    Posted by: erichwwk at September 25, 2007 09:50 AM”
    Sadly, the above seems true. It seems like the dogs of war are howling at the ends of their chains. The impression I had of the event was that of a slab of meat had been displayed to enrage the pack, and Bollinger was poking the dogs with a stick.
    Some day you’ll look back at a vidio of Bollinger’s speech and see how it mirrors the hysteria of this moment before we start another noble war.

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  42. erichwwk says:

    One last comment before I sign off, and also let comments run its course. The NUMERO UNO axiom of academic discourse is to distinguish between the ACTS of an Individual, and the individual her/himself. The TONE and STYLE of Bollinger is what is most at issue, and aspect that I can find no evidence that Scott understands (is the ESSENCE of critical discourse NOT taught at Columbia?)
    One could raise the issues Bollinger did, and not necessarily undermine free speech. But it would be more succinct, and focus SOLEY on the policy, rather than the individual. Thus one could say, “I hope/would like/ encourage Ahmadinejad to address issue “A” but not “I doubt that Ahmadinejad has the intellectual courage to address issue “A”.
    The latter has no place, even in a freshman class, much less from a University President. Sorry, but the message of Bollinger is to condone ad hominem attacks, and to disparage academic and diplomatic protocol. As others have said, its most obvious purpose is to “beat the drums of war” and discourage opposition to war with Iran.
    Just as the occupation of Iraq produce NEW terrorists, so this speech will be a recruitment tool for insurgents, as well as a recruitment tool for US supporters of war with Iran. In my view, what Bollinger did was treasonous and criminal.

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  43. easy e says:

    From my perspective, by condoning Bollinger’s behavior, TWN is becoming part of the drumbeat for war with Iran, with propaganda and demagoguery usurping factual reporting.
    Posted by: erichwwk at September 25, 2007 09:50 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Spot on!

    Reply

  44. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “A “few readers” have taken issue…yadayadayada….”
    Actually, Scott, the posts are running almost 100% in opposition to your lauditory bullshit about what a hero Bollinger is.

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  45. Lurker says:

    That wasn’t Steve, that was Scott, who seems to think that only Jews can decide what a genocide is.
    Bollinger is an ass — do people on this board routinely criticize a guest that they have invited into their home? In the Arab world a guest is sacrosanct. And I know that Persians are not Arabs, but still, this is how many Arabs will interpret Bollinger’s dis.
    After Bush’s dead Mandela comment, I was yet again embarrassed to be an American by Bollinger’s introduction.
    Ahmadinejad is no saint but let him prove it for himself. He also has very little to no power to control Iran’s foreign policy, and someone of Bollinger’s *academic credentials* should know that.
    For once, my local ABC news (Los Angeles) led with a story about U.S. foreign policy, as opposed to Britney, Lindsey, Paris or Nicole.
    What spin did ABC put on Ahmadinejad’s visit? Well, the teaser was “Protest rallies from coast-to-coast.” Followed by pictures of protests in NYC, and then avowed monarchists in the “Little Tehran” (Westwood) area of L.A. — these people want the Shah (and the money they didn’t flee with) back and yet ABC news deem them credible representatives of the people of Iran?!?!
    “Sickening” would not begin to describe the manufactured *media outrage* surrounding Ahmadinejad’s visit.
    In other news, I attended the Walt / Mearsheimer talk at UCLA. The audience reaction after the talk was pretty frightening — a Palestinian woman was surrounded by Israel supporters, and felt so threatened that she had to flee.
    One well-dressed, bottle blond, nose-job-ed woman screamed, “F*ck the Arabs!”
    Another called an American woman who questioned what was happening to the Palestinians a “Jew-hater.”
    The reaction of the Israel supporters pretty much proved Walt / Mearsheimers’ thesis. It was rabid.
    The sad part was that many in the audience seemed to be older academics, and yet their blind spot on the topic of Israel was staggering.

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  46. Dan Kervick says:

    “Bollinger didn’t say these things to advance the war agenda. He’s trying to teach everyone a lesson about open speech.”
    Oh please. He was simply trying to placate the rabid hordes of intolerant critics who have been on Columbia’s back, while attracting some notoriety for himself in the process. He succeeded. Bollinger’s comments are all the rage now among the wingers and are being passed around their sites. He’s their new hero.
    In any case, a serious substantive challenge to Ahmadinejad would have been put in the hands of a scholar with some real expertise in Iranian history, politics, culture and foreign relations. Bollinger’s courtroom-style theatrics instead seemed based on a few days of casual reading of the New York Sun.
    Scholarly institutions have time-tested techniques for organizing discussion and debate and getting at the truth, techniques that have been perfected over many centuries. Yesterday’s wretched media show was not an example of those techniques on display. It was a demagogic performance, featuring weak arguments and the sorts of catcalls, jeers and cheers one finds at a political rally. Again, this has become rather depressingly typical of Columbia.

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  47. Elizabeth II Regina says:

    Mr. Bollinger is guilty of bad manners to the duly elected head of a sovereign nation. This embarrases us. I therefore decree that Bollinger be henceforth banished permanently from our Court at St. James, and that his dining privileges at the Oxford & Cambridge Club be suspended until further notice.
    EIIR

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  48. Johnny C says:

    Steve,
    I have been reading your insightful comments for quite some time though never posted a response. Many of the posts (Norheim, Kervick and Van Patten) above have captured what i wanted to say. I will only add that I found your logic flawed and surprisingly simplistic with complete disregard for Iran’s political context. I know you know better and that post was truly disappointing.
    I look forward to better posts.

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  49. FYI says:

    Insulting a guest is not an example of moral or physical courage; it is showing how “White” people behave towards “Browns”.

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  50. JohnH says:

    1) As a Columbia graduate, I consider the invitation to Ahmadinejad to be one of the university’s finest moments.
    2) I wish Bush and Cheney had the guts to go to Columbia and be interrogated on their Iran policy before an audience that is not pre-screened.
    3) As anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows, Arab culture (and probably Persian, though I don’t know) places a very high premium on hospitality. Arabs must have been deeply offended by Bollinger’s remarks. Ahmadinejad’s graciousness in the face of such brutish behavior must have enhanced his image tremendously.
    4) Many progressive bloggers are hyperventilating and foaming at the mouth. This is extremely disturbing, because it indicates that the right wingnuts have done a splendid job preparing the country for war. What’s most disturbing is that the rage people are exhibiting is totally blind. Yes, Iran does not treat gays or women the way many of us would like. But neither do Iran, Afghanistan, or most other countries of the region. Fact is, Iran is no worse than most countries of the region and better than many, like Iraq, where the occupation authorities have presided over the deaths of perhaps a million people.

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  51. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Bollinger’s introduction of Ahmadinejad was an act of petty cowardice, designed to deflect criticism of the decision to allow Ahmadinejad to speak in the first place. Further, I found it distasteful and manipulative. Rather than an open forum, Ahmadinejad was dealt a stacked deck. It was a despicable manner in which to recieve a foreign dignitary, and is something I would expect of Jean Hannity or Ann Coulter. But its no suprise you laud Bollinger for it, Scott. Your and Steve’s advocation of constructive diplomacy is belied by your comments in regards to Iran and Ahmadinejad. You basically are feeding us the same horseshit Cheney is, but not as directly.

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  52. erichwwk says:

    So WHAT was that lesson? That if someone with a differing viewpoint is allowed to speak, it is to be preceded by the head of the institution delivering an even LONGER speech, suggesting to the audience what the “official” doctrine of the University is?
    That the audience is so stupid that they must be told who the “fool” is? Does that not imply that the audience itself is foolish? Or to a non-foolish audience that Bollinger is the fool?
    As far as I am considered, “free speech” at Columbia University was declared dead and buried by Bollinger.
    The jury is still out on TWN. Sad.

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  53. Trevor says:

    Scott,
    Barnard’s faculty and administration have already uinanimously approved Abu Al-Haj’s tenure, all is left is Columbia’s stamp of approval, which is usually a foregone conclusion. But they have been stalling it for months.
    The same is true for Massad, there is unanimous acceptance from his colleagues in his department.
    This is the incredible thing about it; the academic aspects have already been sorted out a long time ago, and the academics have already decided their scholarship is worth tenure, but the administration and faculty are not accepting of it for fear of Pipes and their likes.

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  54. Scott Paul says:

    Two more quick points, then I’ll leave the comment board to go on its own direction.
    First, I thought Bollinger’s comparison of Ahmadinejad to “a petty dictator” was off too. Iran’s President can rightly be criticized on any number of fronts, but he is not a dictator.
    Second, Bollinger’s criticism needs to be seen in context. Iran was fairly warned. Bollinger forecast that his introduction would be challenging and he even outlined what topics he would cover.
    Bollinger didn’t say these things to advance the war agenda. He’s trying to teach everyone a lesson about open speech.
    Scott

    Reply

  55. Kathleen says:

    I’m sorry, but while I think it was commendable to invite Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia and answer questions, I think it was astoundingly rude to invite someone into your den with a lure of freindly academic discourse and then attack him. It is possible to challenge another’s thoughts, words, deeds, theories and policies without resorting to cheap shots below the belt, but only if you are a gentleman. Bollinger’s repetition of the same old saws was tired at best and ill informed. As Professor Gerges of Sarah Lawrence pointed out, Iran supports the Iraqi gov’t. He was scooped off the air pronto for that.
    Further, as for the accusation that Ahmadinjad is a holocaust denier, I’d have to see his words exactly as translated by someone who doesn’t have an axe to grind. For all I know this accusation is in the “yellowcake from Niger” department. As we all know, a lot is lost in translation and a lot can be inserted, too. Perhaps he said denying Palestinian suffering is the equivalent of denying the holocaust. OOOOOh, unforgivable.
    I’m so disgusted with the sophomoronic mutterings of the so-called pundits and their prurient preoccupation with what Ahmadinejad said about homosexuals in Iran. While I support protecting the human rights of all groups, I think it would have been a bigger contribution to world peace if the focus had been on Ahmadinejad’s comment that Palestines had no part in the holocaust, but they are the only ones paying for it. We showered money on Germany and Japan, through the Marshall Plan, but what did we do to the Palestinians? And why? We deny the holocaust against Palestinians and that is just fine.
    And what was the problem of Ahmadinejad visiting the WTC site? Iran expressed it’s sympathy to us after that event and actually helped us against Afghanistan. so what is the problem?
    I’m so thoroughly disgusted with the distortions, I’m not going to pollute my brain with any more so-called MSM “news”.

    Reply

  56. erichwwk says:

    Scott:
    Don’t know much about Bollinger, but to condone his introductory speech I find outrageous. Perhaps an “A” for inviting him to Columbia, but an “F” for his speech.
    In what way could Ahmadinejad OBJECTIVELY be called a “dictator”? Explain how his election was not fair or open, and in what sense he has power. Explain to your readers your understanding of how his immediate cabinet is determined?
    You further write:
    “I agree entirely with Steve’s assessment that Ahmadinejad is Iran’s Cheney. Guess what? Cheney speaks regularly in the United States and the American public disapproves of no individual in public life more than him.”
    Totally disagree. Cheney has REAL power, and without his support of the war with Iraq, it would not happen. Ahmadinejad has no such power. He is much closer to Bush, neither have much knowledge of international affairs upon assuming office. Further, Cheney lies BIG TIME.
    Keeping to foreign policy (yes, the statement on homosexuals was bizarre) what do you see as Ahmadinejad’s lies? What evidence is there for Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon? For the Iranian government’s exporting of EFP’s? Please explain your knowledge of the engineering aspects, the history of EFP’s, and the evidence of EFP manufacturing sites within Iraq, by Iraqis. Do you need a copy of what Ahmadinejad said in Farsi to untangle the spin that has been put on his attitude towards Israel, and on nuclear weapons? What evidence do you have that he has EVER advocated harm to ANY Israeli or Jew as opposed to opposing the Israeli state?
    and to say “Just because Massad and Abu El Haj are competant (sic) academics doesn’t mean they should get tenure. It’s an honor, not a right.” seems to me to misunderstand the academic market, and the role of tenure. While it may be an “honor”, that is irrelevant to the discussion. It is indeed a “right” (in the economic sense), although that too sheds no light on the optimality (from either Columbia University or the USA citizens point of view) of assigning that right to Massad.
    To stand up to Daniel Pipes is a minimalist behavior. He and his father have been major supporters of hate, propaganda, and the disparagement of the scientific method in this country. I cannot think of any father-son pair that has done more to oppose academic scholarship in this country. Richard has a major responsibility for giving us the cold war, and militarizing the USA economy and the University system in general. At the time I did my graduate work in the University of California, it still had academic honesty, with the State of California the major supporter. Now, with DOD support exceeding that of the state, all that is gone. I am sure you are aware of what happened with the new UC Irvine law school, and proposed Dean Erwin Chemerinsky? And with Wade Churchill at Boulder? And Norman Finkelstein at DePaul?
    IMO, the USA higher education system has gotten every bit as politicized and militarized as the DOJ. Immediately after WWII, the German academic community organized an international conference for engineers (convening on July 31, 1947 in Darmstadt), focusing on the role of the academic community as a major contributing factor towards war. We in the USA have diverted our higher education system from inquiries into improving the well being of HUMANITY into the more narrow nationalistic perspective of how to further purely USA interests, often limited to the more narrow interests of the top quartile of the USA population, precisely what happened in Germany between the two world wars.
    From my perspective, by condoning Bollinger’s behavior, TWN is becoming part of the drumbeat for war with Iran, with propaganda and demagoguery usurping factual reporting.

    Reply

  57. Anthony J. Van Patten says:

    Bollinger Gets an A? You’re an easy grader.
    Bollinger needed courage to invite Dr. Ahmadinejad (Dr. A) to speak at Columbia, but his rabid attack of his guest demonstrated his inability to sustain it in the face of pressure he received after the announcement.
    If Bollinger hadn’t buckled under the weight of pressure, there were several other ways of handling the talk. The most direct being to simply introduce Dr. A, and let him make some introductory remarks and then Bollinger start the question and answers by asking Dr. A him to defend the most controversial ideas and issues that Dr. A “reportedly” supports (ie. holocaust denial, proxy war in Iraq, etc.) and then to ask follow-up questions if Dr. A is trying to redirect the focus of the question.
    In the last six years, George Bush is responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 60,000 (government figures) to 600,000 (activist group figures) Iraqi civilians and the displacement of over 2 million Iraqis; not to mention the mess in Afghanistan; or illegal renditions around the globe. When has anyone been allowed to treat him with the disrepect that Bollinger dished out to Dr. A? If someone is lucky enough to get within earshot of Bush and they happen to burp too loudly, the poor bugger will be whisked away by the Praetorian Guard.
    As has been mentioned in this Blog, but not in the most lucid or informed manner (for example, Dr. A does not control the foreign policy or defense portfolios, the Supreme Leader does; Dr. A couldn’t attack Israel or anyone else even if he wanted to.) Iran does not have a monolithic power structure that dictates policy and ruthlessy executes it. Their policy debates are extremely time consuming and heated, and policy execution is even more slow and painful.
    More importantly, whether you like it or not, Dr. A was democratically elected and while much criticism has been made about the candidates having to be screened by the Governing Council, please remember that over 1,000 people applied to run for President and Iranians voted to make the country an Islamic Republic. If we look at the the eight candidates who actually qualified for the first round of elections, they came from a wide range of society. In the final run-off election between Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Dr. A, the contrast between the two candidates could not be more striking: the former a scion and clergy member of a powerful clan whose wealth was while based in large holdings of pistachio farms, grew during his rise throught the system as one of the original clergy leaders of the revolution; the latter, a layman, one of eight children of a poor blacksmith who still lives in a small apartment in South Tehran and spent his twenties and early thirties looking death in the eye every day during the eight year war with Iraq.
    Compare that with the two candidates in our last Presidential election: both wealthy backgrounds, exclusive prep schools, same elite undergradute university, different Ivy League graduate schools.
    In fact, the conflict between Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Dr. A has continued to play out in the public arena in Iran since the election: in newspapers, on the internet, the halls of parliament, and economic policy making.
    Dr. A represents the Iranian government, and not a “regime” (as it is decribed in most mainstream western media information), and if Bollinger had not been so quick to shirk off the hounds of hell that have been attacking him these last few days, maybe the American public would have had a better chance to pro-actively engage Dr. A and get a better understanding of Iran.
    What would happen if Bollinger invited George Bush to his dialogue and treated our President to the verbal thrashing that he deserves? Then, I’d give him an A.

    Reply

  58. Scott Paul says:

    Bollinger’s introduction wasn’t polite or “respectful,” but it doesn’t have to be. There’s no rule that suggests just because you invite someone to speak that you have to roll our the rhetorical red carpet for them. Some people, including the few hawks who haven’t written Bollinger off yet, may think he invited Ahmadinejad to speak just to “stand up” to him publicly and get props from the right.
    When I first saw Bollinger’s remarks, I thought they were unnecessarily confrontational — but then I changed my mind. I think Bollinger beefed up the antagonistic aspect of his remarks not to throw a bone to the hawks but to make a point about speech in democracies. The point: everyone has a right to be heard, but with that right comes the duty to come under the microscope. You may not like what Bollinger said yesterday, but I hope you’d agree that all of the event’s components – the invitation, the introduction, the speech itself, the demonstration outside the event, etc. – were consistent with the principle of free speech.
    Scott

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  59. Dan Kervick says:

    Bollinger’s speech was ill-informed grandstanding. I think when you read it again after this brouhaha has passed, Scott, you will see what a load of hooey it was.
    You say,
    *I agree entirely with Steve’s assessment that Ahmadinejad is Iran’s Cheney. Guess what? Cheney speaks regularly in the United States and the American public disapproves of no individual in public life more than him.*
    Yes, but as far as I know when Cheney speaks inside the United States or outside, to audiences that often disagree with him profoundly, his remarks are not generally pre-empted by a lambasting, crowd-pleasing and belligerent “introduction” from his host.
    I suppose Bollinger thinks he deserves a merit badge for having the courage to “stand up” to Ahmadinejad. This is pathetic. Iran is the country with foreign troops in almost every country on its border, three mighty aircraft carriers parked off its shores, and cadres of Shia-hating takfiri holy warriors creating havoc in two neighboring wars. In both of these wars, the Iranians have actually attempted to support the forces of the governments the US also pretends to back. In each case, a fanatical, irrational and spiteful US administration has rebuffed these efforts, seemingly more concerned about limiting a non-existent Iranian “hegemony” than winning the wars it is fighting. Bollinger decided to lend his voice to an absurd propaganda campaign. There is nothing to “stand up” to, except in the addled paranoid fantasies of Israel, Bush and their most fanatical supporters. If Bollinger had any courage, he would have used the opportunity, with wingnuts tuning in to FOX from across the country to watch the procedings, to take on the Bush administration. Instead he decided to make himself the FOX viewer’s new favorite university president. Bold!
    I don’t know how much is Bollinger’s doing, and how much is, as you say, the pre-existing culture of Columbia University, but Columbia has become a byword of intellectual intolerance and hyperpoliticization. Who would want their child to be exposed to such a hostile and closed atmosphere? They are frequently in the news, and it always seems to be due to some new effort by campus and city agitators to limit speech.
    You say:
    “It’s also important to note that Bollinger could easily have avoided controversy by doing nothing, both on the Israeli universities boycott and Ahmadinejad’s visit. Instead, he bravely spoke up and did the right thing in both cases.”
    That wasn’t brave. It was a hit and run. A brave thing would have been to sponsor a panel or colloquium where there was an exchange of ideas, each side was afforded an opportunity to respond directly to charges made, and each accuser was obliged to back up accusation with documentable facts or rational argument.

    Reply

  60. Scott Paul says:

    Sorry, Trevor, but we differ on some key points. Yes, MEALAC faculty were upset that Bollinger didn’t back them from day one. But he’s got an obligation to students who feel intimidated to investigate claims of wrongdoing. He did that, ultimately found those claims unpersuasive, and told the Pipes crowd that there was nothing more to talk about. I understand Massad is still incensed after Bollinger’s handling of the process, but Campus Watch and Co. are absolutely livid that Bollinger hasn’t fired anyone or supported the allegations.
    I don’t buy that he’s inappropriately denying Massad and Nadia Abu El Haj tenure. Tenured positions are nearly impossible to get at Columbia. In fact, I know of many extremely qualified, outstanding academics who have done award-winning research who still can’t find a permanent faculty position there. Just because Massad and Abu El Haj are competant academics doesn’t mean they should get tenure. It’s an honor, not a right.
    Thanks for the thoughts, folks.
    Scott

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  61. Kris Malmquist says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this intelligent discussion and came away with an even greater admiration for Mr. Bollinger and his encouragement of free speech in this country. I admire that he takes the high road and approaches issues with an open mind. I concur with the point that hearing another’s point of view is NOT the same as endorsing it. It takes great courage for someone in his position to accept the consequence of having his good name slanderously attacked by the overzealous supporters of Israel.
    Mr. Bollinger hopefully will serve as an inspiration to others to abandon the Bush strategy of diplomacy that consists of going back to his room and closing the door and refusing to speak to anyone who might have an opinion even remotely different from his. If we ever hope to avoid conflict, especially on a global scale, we must engage others in frank and honest discussions. Bush and Cheney do not want the American people to see how other leaders truly ARE, they just want us to accept their own paranoid and evil views of everyone.
    I’m not saying that Ahmadinejad will ever be the next Ghandi, but wouldn’t that really be something if he, and many of the other leaders that this administration has branded as members of their imaginary “axis of evil” turn out to be pretty rational people with whom we can find a way to peacefully coexist? And wouldn’t it also be ironic if we discovered that the big wheels of the axis of evil are actually Bush and Cheney?

    Reply

  62. Kris Malmquist says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this intelligent discussion and came away with an even greater admiration for Mr. Bollinger and his encouragement of free speech in this country. I admire that he takes the high road and approaches issues with an open mind. I concur with the point that hearing another’s point of view is NOT the same as endorsing it. It takes great courage for someone in his position to accept the consequence of having his good name slanderously attacked by the overzealous supporters of Israel.
    Mr. Bollinger hopefully will serve as an inspiration to others to abandon the Bush strategy of diplomacy that consists of going back to his room and closing the door and refusing to speak to anyone who might have an opinion even remotely different from his. If we ever hope to avoid conflict, especially on a global scale, we must engage others in frank and honest discussions. Bush and Cheney do not want the American people to see how other leaders truly ARE, they just want us to accept their own paranoid and evil views of everyone.
    I’m not saying that Ahmadinejad will ever be the next Ghandi, but wouldn’t that really be something if he, and many of the other leaders that this administration has branded as members of their imaginary “axis of evil” turn out to be pretty rational people with whom we can find a way to peacefully coexist? And wouldn’t it also be ironic if we discovered that the big wheels of the axis of evil are actually Bush and Cheney?

    Reply

  63. Paul Norheim says:

    The decision to invite Ahmedinejad to Columbia University was courageous. The way he was treated when he arrived on the podium was outrageous.
    Lee Bollinger called him a dictator, fanatical, ridiculous; and used words like “the enemy”, “evil”, etc. etc.. I am certainly not a fan of Ahmedinejad, and I would not find it out of place if some of the above quoted words were said in a discussion with the Iranian guest. But introducing someone you invite in this way, is to humiliate your guest before he can open his mouth, and undermines the very act of inviting someone in the spirit of “free speech”.
    Everybody understands this, as it is part of the culture in every country in the world, the USA included. In short: it is basic, civilized behavior. Americans are famous for their generosity, but unfortunately also for a too strong belief in their own “mission”. Of course Columbia University should be honest in expressing their opinion. But that could be possible in ways that didn´t show such lack of respect for a guest.
    I can´t see one good reason why diplomacy could succeed between USA and Iran, when even a University used this opportunity to humiliate the leader of Iran, before engaging in a discussion with him.
    This lack of basic respect for representatives of foreign countries and cultures is, I believe, one of the main reasons why anti-americanism is growing in the world. For sure, some deserves that respect more than others, but that does not mean that it is wise to be offensive and rude every time you see someone you don´t like. Especially not when you are the host.

    Reply

  64. Paul Norheim says:

    The decision to invite Ahmedinejad to Columbia University was courageous. The way he was treated when he arrived on the podium was outrageous.
    Lee Bollinger called him a dictator, fanatical, ridiculous; and used words like “the enemy”, “evil”, etc. etc.. I am certainly not a fan of Ahmedinejad, and I would not find it out of place if some of the above quoted words were said in a discussion with the Iranian guest. But introducing someone you invite in this way, is to humiliate your guest before he can open his mouth, and undermines the very act of inviting someone in the spirit of “free speech”.
    Everybody understands this, as it is part of the culture in every country in the world, the USA included. In short: it is basic, civilized behavior. Americans are famous for their generosity, but unfortunately also for a too strong belief in their own “mission”. Of course Columbia University should be honest in expressing their opinion. But that could be possible in ways that didn´t show such lack of respect for a guest.
    I can´t see one good reason why diplomacy could succeed between USA and Iran, when even a University used this opportunity to humiliate the leader of Iran, before engaging in a discussion with him.
    This lack of basic respect for representatives of foreign countries and cultures is, I believe, one of the main reasons why anti-americanism is growing in the world. For sure, some deserves that respect more than others, but that does not mean that it is wise to be offensive and rude every time you see someone you don´t like. Especially not when you are the host.

    Reply

  65. b says:

    NYT: “Ahmadinejad, at Columbia, Parries and Puzzles”
    /quote
    It remains unclear whether Columbia’s leaders were able to mollify critics through their critical treatment of Mr. Ahmadinejad. But they made some headway: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent out an e-mail message shortly after the speech with the subject line, “A Must Read: Columbia University President’s Intro of Iran’s Ahmadinejad today.”
    Inside was a transcript of Mr. Bollinger’s introduction.
    /endquote
    If Bollinger is the standard of U.S. academics, you are doomed ..

    Reply

  66. Carroll says:

    Dont’ know enough about Bollinger to comment on him.
    However let me remind you that “insurgents” and the “oppressed” insurging against their “oppressors” are the reason you are currently able to enjoy living in this particular country.
    When you oppress people you are going to get insurgents…we called them “freedom fighters” and Britian called us rebels and terrorist in 1775…..
    If Israel’s promised land had been in any part of the US in 1948 and they had pulled the same thing here they are pulling in Palestine they would have ended up as nothing but a very short footnote in history.

    Reply

  67. Trevor says:

    Sorry, but this is a complete miusunderstanding of the situation at Columbia.
    Bollinger has bent over backwards over the years to appease Pipes, Horowitz and the rest of the pro-Israel garbage in charge of the McCarthyite with-hunt against anyone who dares criticize Israel in anything.
    Any president with any honesty would’ve from day one stood by his professors against this patently rubbish campaign and signalled that he will not tolerate political dictation of academic affairs. Boolinger didn’t, and went out of his to accomodate the pro-Israel camp in every way possible.
    More importantly, he is now holding up the process of tenure of two professors, whose academic credentials are impeccable for the mere reason that pro-Israel groups and settler groups are pushing for them not to get tenure. The question of their tenure should’ve been settled months ago, but he’s been trying to stall it, perhaps waiting for the right time to dump them without generating too much fuss.
    And his stance on the boycott is really shameful. While for decades Israel has denied Palestinians any semblance of academic freedom, Bollinger never quipped a word. Israel has closed down universities, invaded them, and killed students in them. Israel continues to enforce racist colsures that prevent students from getting to their schools, and makes all matters related to education impossible.
    Yet, Bollinger sees nothing wrong in that, but gets all worked up when a few British professors say that Israeli universities built on illegal stolen land should not be welcome on the global arena. Some intellectual courage!

    Reply

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