Not Just A Pack Of Lies…

But some laughably bad ones, at that. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke today at Columbia University in New York, having previously been denied permission to go to Ground Zero and lay a wreath there, ostensibly to pay respect to the victims of the attacks on September 11. That was probably a good call, at least from a security perspective – it’s quite likely that someone would have taken a potshot at the guy, which would have been an unmitigated disaster. And frankly, I feel good about it happening, anyway.

Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University, introduced Ahmadinejad by saying that he “exhibit[s] all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.” Yet however correct those comments might be (that would be “very”), Bollinger nevertheless gave Ahmadinejad a forum at his campus anyway. This seems very odd to me. Would Bollinger have done the same for Augusto Pinochet? I rather doubt it.

Now, okay, I know that the U.S. ought not to deny a travel visa for foreign diplomats and other officials traveling to New York on official United Nations business; it defeats the point of having a forum like the U.N. unless it is open to all comers. I also know that there have been no direct links between 9/11 and Iran – although there are some indirect ones. And finally, I know that we cannot hope to engage, contain, transform, or otherwise achieve any kind of foreign policy success with Iran unless we have some kind of dialogue with that nation, on some level.

But bear in mind the legal principles, oft repeated at trials throughout this nation of ours, that “Failure to explain or to deny unfavorable evidence may suggest that the evidence is true,” and that “When a witness is willfully false in one are of his testimony, the other areas of his testimony are to be looked at with skepticism.” Now, among the remarks made by President Ahmadinejad at Columbia were:

1. “Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom.” (Really? Tell that to this girl. She’s being half-buried alive, in order to prevent her from running away while the men of her village stone her to death for going out on a date. She would not need access to an abortion should she have become pregnant — she would need a forged passport and travel visa to escape her country in order to survive.)

2. “Over and over again the [IAEA’s] reports indicate that Iran’s activities are peaceful, that they have not detected a deviation.” (Really? Read the IAEA’s report on September 17, 2007, on Iran’s nuclear program. Highlights include: “Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak.” and “the Agency so far has been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.” The Iranian government said that it needs to make heavy water, not for breeder reactors that will produce weapons-grade plutonium, but rather because heavy water cures cancer and AIDS.)

3. “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.” (This last remark earned both lengthy guffaws and sustained boos from the audience at Columbia. Too much even for that crowd, I guess.) (LATE LINK ADD: The statement that there are no gay people in Iran is laughable, but the way Iran treats gay people is not. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.)

4. When the President of the University asked, “Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?”, Ahmadinejad did not answer the question but instead implied that the U.S. does the same sort of thing.

Ahmadinejad is a Persian blend of David Duke and Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Information Minister of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He denies that the Holocaust took place, and questions the academic freedom of people who are criticized for doing the same in the West. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of pages of meticulous records kept by the Nazis of the millions of Jews (and others) they exterminated. And never mind that academic freedom is a pipe dream in Iran, where academics critical of the government, the mullahs who really lead it, Islam or Shari’a law, or Ahmadinejad himself, are routinely jailed and tortured indefinitely.

Another reason I feel good about Ahmadinejad not going to Ground Zero is that Iran is the guiltiest of all parties in the Middle East and Central Asia of fomenting hatred towards the United States, as a means of consolidating the internal political power of the ruling autocracy. Even if Iran had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of that day, Iran did and continues to have a lot to do with hurting the U.S. Ahmadinejad, in particular, is not an ambassador of peace or reconciliation – he proposes wiping our staunchest ally in the world off the map and remains likely to have had a history as one of the pistol-men involved in the holding of U.S. Embassy personnel hostage in 1979 and 1980.

No good would have come of letting Ahmadinejad in to Ground Zero, and he would have netted himself valuable political cover for denying Iran’s well-documented complicity in sponsoring terrorism by crying his crocodile tears over what has become the most expensive construction site in American history.

He and the rest of the world should, however, marvel that we permit such a man to be here and to tolerate his spleen-venting as we do. Would similar tolerance be exhibited to someone traveling to Tehran or Qon and directing such criticism at the Republic of Iran? Laughable. Yet it is not even a close question that we should tolerate him here – such tolerance is a source of strength, not of weakness, for a country as great as ours.

After all, by letting him take the stage in this fashion, we Americans have now allowed him to reveal himself for what he is – an insecure, ill-informed, ignorant bigot who suffers from an extreme veracity deficiency in his public speech, and a man who should not be trusted with control of a military armed with pointy sticks, much less nuclear weapons.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.