Monday, September 24, 2007

Columbia U., L.A. Times Bow To Ahmadinejad

Columbia University won't let ROTC on its campus, despite a student vote in 2003 for doing so. Yet it served as a forum today for the Iranian hate monger, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to spew forth distortions, prejudices and lies, while failing to answer most of the questions asked him.

The L.A. Times, meanwhile, completely passed up reporting today on the epic demonstrations for freedom and democracy in the streets of Rangoon and other cities of Burma. But it did give copious space to a story beginning on the front page about how popular Ahmadinejad is among the Arabs of the Middle East. The story, by one of the Times' least able foreign correspondents, Jeffrey Fleishman, had a jaunty tone, describing the Iranian as "a flinty populist in a zip-up jacket whose scathing rhetoric and defiance of Washington are often caricatured in the Western media."

Caricatured is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "a picture or imitation of a person in which certain features or mannerisms are exaggerated for satirical effect," or "a likeness or imitation that is so distorted or inferior as to seem ludicrous." By this definition, Ahmadinejad has not been caricatured at all, but caught dead to rights.

No, Ahmadinejad's basic positions have not been distorted. Denying the Nazi Holocaust and calling for the extermination of both Israel and the United States, Ahmadinejad is quoted directly in an ad in the New York Times today by the Freedomwatchdog group as saying on CNN March 27, 2005, "And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism."

Ahmadinejad was not drunk when he said that, and he has repeated it on numerous occasions. It is all just not bluff, either. Ahmadinejad's Iranian government is providing missiles and improvised explosive devices which are killing American soldiers in Iraq and, it is suggested, Afghanistan, and it supplied the missiles last summer to Hezbollah which were used to attack Haifa and other Israeli cities. At home, Ahmadinejad's police seize women and young people on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities and fine them for wearing normal clothing or playing Western music.

To some extent, Ahmadinejad was on his best behavior today. He toned down his rhetoric on eliminating Israel. He made the ridiculous assertion there are no homosexuals in his country. And he claimed to be a man of peace. It sounded just like Hitler at Munich, promising, "I will have no further territorial demands in Europe." For Ahmadinejad the equivalent was his statement he is not planning to build an atomic bomb.

Let me say a possibly unpopular thing: Both Columbia students and the readers of the L.A. Times were made fools of today by giving this fanatic a platform. Yes, the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, asked hard questions of the Iranian president, almost to the point of filibustering him. But, of course, he got few if any real answers. There was no good or useful point to today's dramatics, and it was hard to escape the impression the Columbia president felt he had to somehow satisfy all the critics of the Ahmadinejad invitation by being nasty to the Iranian.

A Columbia official, an acting dean, was quoted as saying that that university would have given Adolf Hitler a forum had he come to New York. But the same university recently denied the Minutemen, an American anti-immigration group, an opportunity to send a representative to speak on its campus.

Also, despite statements that the students would be free to question Ahmadinejad, it turned out today that no questions were taken directly from the floor, but were screened by officials out of written submissions. Had the Columbia president not taken so long making his advance accusatory speech, there may have been more time for lively student questions.

It is a highly selective policy, which is willing to give Nazis and Islamic fascists a forum, but denies it to both politically incorrect organizations in America, and our military recruiters. I could understand later why some Columbia graduates interviewed on TV said they will make no more contributions to Columbia. Why give the money to a place with such a muddleheaded president?

As for Fleishman's article, it is an example of what I might call "taxi cab" journalism. A certain kind of unimaginative journalist believes he can find out what's happening by asking taxi cab drivers what they think and then passing it on to their readers as fundamental wisdom.

Quite simply, the Fleishman article is a serious misapprehension. Iran is terribly distrusted among the Sunni Muslims who make up most of the Arab world. In Lebanon, a courageous government has been shedding its soldiers' blood to prevent Iranian proxies in Hezbollah from taking over the state. In Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, there is bitter resistance to the idea of Iranian dominance in the Middle East, and fear of the possibility that Iran will build an atomic bomb.

The Fleishman article and the Columbia invitation to Ahmadinejad follow in line with what MoveOn.org and other organizations ashamed of being Americans seem often to be trying to do, which is to get America to fall to its knees before the terrorists, quit the battlefield and cede the Middle East to them.

Thank God, that's not going to happen. These people are in a minority, according to the polls, of about one fourth , of the American people who believe in an abject withdrawal not only from Iraq but the entire Middle East, and would stand by, like the British pacifists of the 1930s, while the Hitlers, Mussolinis and Ahmadinejad's take control of vast parts of the world.

What this would mean in the present day would not only be $100-a-barrel oil, but an end to our economic power and our freedoms. It cannot, and will not, be allowed to happen.

Meanwhile, perhaps Fleishman and the president of Columbia University, should fly to Rangoon. Then they could see a courageous people marching for its freedom, and maybe the L.A. Times, like the New York Times and London Times today, would be covering that consequential story on Page 1. By contrast with what is happening in Burma, Ahmadinejad at Columbia University was just hot air.

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