Tuesday, September 25, 2007 at 10:21 AM
But I’m sure the only thing that stirred interest amongst his wary audience was the 5-minute flourish at the end of his lecture, during which he defended his right to question established facts about the Holocaust, and suggested that US-sponsored abuse of the Palestinian people is the root cause of 9/11.
(Incidentally, instead of daring to repeat his vow that “Israel should be wiped off the map”, he insinuated that Jews should be relocated to Europe because that’s where the Holocaust was perpetrated….)
At any rate, I got the distinct impression that Ahmadinejad was lecturing to his Columbia audience today much the way he preaches to his students every week in Iran (he claims to teach a weekly class in graduate studies). And I have no doubt that his NY audience found his lecture every bit as boring as I suspect his Iranian students find his sermons.
Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad acquitted himself well as an evocative, provocative and articulate speaker. And nothing demonstrated his rhetorical skills quite like the MLKesque way he responded to the personal assault Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, launched at him – under the pretext of an official introduction. For example, he declaimed, with all of the derision he could muster, that Ahmadinejad is “either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated”, and a man who exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator”.
Yet, here’s how Ahmadinejad deflected Bollinger’s rudeness:
Oh, God, hasten the arrival of Imam al-Mahdi….
I think the text read by the dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult….
In Iran tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite to be a speaker we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before this speech is even given…to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our faculty….
There were insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully….I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment.
But frankly, Ahmadinejad deserved not only greater respect as the duly-elected president of Iran, but also greater hospitality as Columbia’s invited guest. In fact, Bollinger should have left it to audience members to express such condemnation when Ahmadinejad dared them to question him….
Meanwhile, think whatever one might of his political ignorance (in evidence when he claimed that “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who told you that we have it…”), or of his intellectual duplicity (displayed when he demurred that “I don’t deny the facts…we just need more research on the historical phenomenon of the Holocaust”), there’s no denying Ahmadinejad’s clever manipulation of democratic axioms to further his totalitarian agenda.
Indeed, he seemed almost Jeffersonian; especially juxtaposed to Bollinger’s boorish efforts to humiliate him.
Alas, nothing of any academic (or political) merit was gained from this forum. Because, just as it was obvious that Ahmadinejad was merely playing with the minds of the American people, it was equally obvious that Bollinger was merely playing to the rabid protesters who criticized him for daring to act like a university president by inviting Ahmadinejad to speak in the first place.