Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks (as prepared) on the Senate floor Monday regarding Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York:
“I rise to discuss Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York.
“The ostensible purpose of this visit is to address the United Nations General Assembly. But Ahmadinejad will have accomplished much more than that by the time he leaves. By opening its gates to this man’s hateful ideology, Columbia University is allowing him to take full advantage of a golden opportunity to spread it — and giving it a level of deference it does not deserve.
“It is one thing for a foreign leader, even one as disreputable as Ahmadinejad, to visit the U.N. and remain confined to its grounds. As head of state, he is legally entitled to visit the United Nations. It is quite another to give a man who has referred to the United States as ‘the Great Satan’ and who denies the Holocaust a coveted platform from which to speak.
“Let’s consider for a minute what Iran has said and done under his presidency:
● Iran actively supports militias that undermine the Rule of Law and export weapons that are killing our United States soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
● Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear program that puts it on a path toward possessing nuclear weapons.
● Iran is a state sponsor of terror.
● Iran supports proxies that are undercutting attempts to bring peace, reconciliation, and democracy to Lebanon.
● Ahmadinejad has called for Israel, one of America’s closest allies, to be ‘wiped off the map.’
● Iran supports proxies in Syria and Gaza that are actively trying to goad Israel into war and undercut efforts to facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
● Ahmadinejad has denied that the Holocaust ever took place, calling it a ‘myth.’
“He even hosted a convention of Holocaust deniers.
“It’s hard to imagine any nation on earth that threatens U.S. interests and those of its allies much more than Iran. It’s equally hard to imagine any great American University of generations past inviting a world leader to its campus who supported groups that kill U.S. soldiers and Marines.
“Think of the irony: Columbia University, home of the core curriculum that prizes an in-depth understanding of Western civilization and the free exchange of ideas is bringing to its campus a state sponsor of terror.
“A school that rejected the ROTC in 2005 on the grounds that the ‘Don’t ask don’t tell policy’ discriminated against gays now welcomes a man whose government reportedly executes them.
“Whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be speaking at Columbia shouldn’t be the subject of a philosophical debate. He already rejected that debate by leading a regime has chosen terrorism over reason and open dialogue. Under Ahmadinejad, the Iranian regime trains, funds, and exports terror.
“Defense Department sources tell us that Explosively Formed Penetrators, the most lethal form of improvised explosive devices used against our forces in Iraq, are being manufactured in Iran.
“I was heartened to see some common sense was injected into the Iranian leader’s visit when the New York City Police Department denied his request to visit Ground Zero and lay a wreath. Looking at Ahmadinejad’s record on terror, one wonders whether the wreath was meant to honor the victims of the World Trade Center attacks or its perpetrators.
“I support the Administration’s approach to the Iranian nuclear program. Active diplomacy and ratcheting up international sanctions are, at this point, the best path forward.
“That said, diplomacy is only as effective as the credibility and potential force backing it up. The President, as Commander in Chief is correct to preserve a broad spectrum of policy options in confronting the Iranian threat.
“Some groups on the left, such as MoveOn.org, believe we should take military options off the table, then negotiate. Such an approach might make sense to the zealots on the far left, but it won’t help us in our efforts to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“Why would Iran take us seriously if we negotiate with all carrots and no sticks? And why would they take us seriously when their hateful screeds against us and our allies are met with an invitation to join polite society’s lecture circuit?
“Mr. President, I would just close by saying that I strongly support free speech. Free speech is a hallmark of democracy — a right not afforded by Ahmadinejad to his people.
“There is a world of difference between not preventing Ahmadinejad from speaking and handing a megalomaniac a megaphone, and a stage to use it.”