Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why Bollinger Did It: Ego, Ego, Ego

As much doubt as I had about Columbia's rationale for inviting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak, and as little faith I had in Columbia prez Lee Bollinger really asking him tough questions, I have to say upon reading the transcript that I'm impressed.

Let's start at the obvious place; the end:

Let me close with this comment. Frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately, I am told by experts on your country, that this only further undermines your position in Iran with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there. A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country (as in your meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations) so embarrassed sensible Iranian citizens that this led to your party’s defeat in the December mayoral elections. May this do that and more.

I am only a professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.

Ahmadinejad, of course, kept the revulsion meter running.

In my post this afternoon before the transcript of the college prez and the upchuck-elevating Iranian prez was released, I worried that Bollinger hadn't adequately covered Iran's active involvement in the killing of our soldiers and its desire to vaporize Israel in his questions. But non. On Iran's actions against our soldiers:

In a briefing before the National Press Club earlier this month, General David Petraeus reported that arms supplies from Iran, including 240mm rockets and explosively formed projectiles, are contributing to “a sophistication of attacks that would by no means be possible without Iranian support.”

A number of Columbia graduates and current students are among the brave members of our military who are serving or have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They, like other Americans with sons, daughters, fathers, husbands and wives serving in combat, rightly see your government as the enemy.

Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi’a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?

I would have gone quite a lot farther, but all in all not bad for a Bush-hating, war-hating liberal college prof. And as for his desire to put Israel permanently on hold:

Twelve days ago, you said that the state of Israel “cannot continue its life.” This echoed a number of inflammatory statements you have delivered in the last two years, including in October 2005 when you said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

Columbia has over 800 alumni currently living in Israel. As an institution we have deep ties with our colleagues there. I personally have spoken out in the most forceful terms against proposals to boycott Israeli scholars and universities, saying that such boycotts might as well include Columbia. More than 400 college and university presidents in this country have joined in that statement. My question, then, is: Do you plan on wiping us off the map, too?

A little egocentric, but it'll do. And the egocentric nature of this question shines light on why Bollinger refused to cancel the invitation. It was just too big a spotlight for him to dim.

Still, and even taking into account how much better Lee Bollinger must feel about himself tonight, I still say it was a mistake to give Ahmadinejad a forum beyond the one forum we had no choice over, the UN General Assembly.

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