Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that “we don’t have homosexuals in Iran” should be taken, like his wish to wipe Israel off the map, as a serious expression of his regime’s ambitions. The gay-rights movement in America and the liberal press took his homosexual comments as either a joke or a demonstration of one man’s “intolerance.” This reaction exemplifies the catastrophic implications of the intersection of a nuclear Iran and an American Left that does not take Ahmadinejad seriously. Make no mistake: the Islamic republic has genocidal ambitions, and not only for those Israeli “occupiers.”
If any gay solidarity exists, then one of its key concepts should be defending the countries that permit homosexuals to live and confronting the regimes that do not. But on today’s PlanetOut, which calls itself “the leading global media company exclusively serving the gay community,” the website’s two headlines in bold have been “Lesbian parents just fine” and “The Queer world cup”; Ahmadinejad’s comments are relegated to an Associated Press link. The Human Rights Campaign, America’s “largest national gay civil rights organization,” issued a paragraph-length press release: “Ahmadinejad’s denial that there are gay people in Iran shows the extent to which he devalues the lives of the many citizens his government has and continues to violate.” These are not fighting words.
If Columbia University President Lee Bollinger had a burning desire to expose Columbia students to Islam and the realities of contemporary Iran, then inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak was not the most effective method of exposure.
Ahmadinejad is first and foremost a politician, an extraordinarily shrewd one at that. His goal is not education, but rather propagation of his odious ideas.
Given the two leaders’ divergent goals—one to educate and the other to indoctrinate—it seems odd that President Bollinger extended Ahmadinejad an invite. Why not ask Iranian scholars or journalists to illuminate aspects of Iranian society? Well, SIPA, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, has done just that. As it says on SIPA’s website:
“Over the course of the 2007-2008 academic year, SIPA will host a lecture series examining the thirty year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Political leaders, scholars, and human rights activists will be invited to discuss the impact of the Islamic Republic of Iran on international security, peace, human rights, energy, and other critical issues.”
Dandy. I guess inviting Ahmadinejad rounded out the playbill, and had the added benefit of making not only the Columbia President, but also the Iranian President, look good.
In today’s Washington Post we read that
[v]iolent crime in the United States rose more than previously believed in 2006, continuing the most significant increase in more than a decade, according to an FBI report released yesterday. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program found that robberies surged by 7.2 percent and homicides rose 1.8 percent from 2005 to 2006. Violent crime overall rose 1.9 percent, substantially more than an increase of 1.3 percent estimated in a preliminary FBI report in June. The jump was the second in two years, following a 2.3 percent rise in 2005. Taken together, the two years represent the first steady increase in violent crime since 1993, FBI records show. The uptick presents a significant political challenge for the Bush administration, which has faced growing criticism from congressional Democrats, big-city mayors, and police chiefs for presiding over cuts in federal assistance to local law enforcement agencies over the past six years.
Last week, Lebanese legislator Antoine Ghanem was assassinated by a powerful bomb, the signature weapon of Syria’s secret service. He was at least the fifth member of the Lebanese legislature to die in this manner. Of course, there is no proof of the bombers’ identity, but all five victims have been distinguished by their anti-Syrian positions. If the perpetrator was not the Syrian regime, it was its fairy godmother.
This adds up to a blatant act of international aggression, the very thing that the United Nations was founded to prevent. And it is unfolding in full view. Where is the U.N. Security Council? Where is the Secretary General? Where are all those who preach greater reliance on the world body as the guarantor of “peace and security?” Where is the chorus that sings of international law, at least when it comes to rebuking the United States? (Where, for that matter, is Washington?)
The Israeli Journalist Leon Hadar has a thoughtful piece in the National Interest (published on September 21) on Syria-Israel relations, in which he says that
Although it may come as a surprise, Damascus wants to settle its long-running dispute with Israel. Indeed, Syrian representatives have been trying for some time to make headway on the issue.
This is a remarkable statement, coming as it did between Israel’s raid deep into Syria and Antoine Ghanem’s funeral, events that speak volumes about Damascus’s modus operandi and the chances for bilateral peace deals.
I’m suspicious of Hadar’s take, to say the least. Especially given that Haaretz (who probably read the National Interest, too) has since put all Hadar’s optimism to rest:
“After this raid, you can forget about peace. It is no secret that our forces have been on alert for some time, but Syria will not be the first to start a war,” said one of the Syrian officials, who asked not to be named.
There are no homosexuals in Iran, Iran’s president said yesterday at Columbia University, and there are also no—or there will not ever be any—nuclear weapons.
Although Columbia’s president said that the purpose of inviting the Iranian leader was to foster dialogue and the clash of ideas, as Bret Stephens points out in a brilliant column in today’s Wall Street Journal, it is questionable whether the university president’s “confidence in ‘dialogue and reason’ is well placed.” It is even more questionable “whether confronting ideas is a sufficient condition for understanding the world,” let alone for protecting ourselves from the menace represented by those ideas as they are expressed in the strategic and theological aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Of course, it pays to listen to Ahmadinejad’s statements—including his false ones—with great care. But is it required of us to listen to them at the podium of an Ivy League university? And to pretend to be engaging in an academic “dialogue” with the Holocaust-denying, homosexual-denying, nuclear-weapons-denying, genocide-bent Iranian leader is something even worse.
The English language has a rich supply of words to label the Columbia dean, John Coatsworth, who said, in defending the invitation, that the university would also have been happy to invite Hitler to a debate in 1939. Which is the best term?