At least they didn’t give him an honorary degree. But what Columbia University gave Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday was of immensely greater value.
They gave him a stage, and they gave him applause.
It wasn’t an altogether easy day for the Iranian. Before he went to Columbia’s campus, he appeared by videolink before reporters gathered at the National Press Club. It began as another episode of the “Izod Ayatollah” television series: smiling, the fifty-ish, trim, casually-but-elegantly dressed Ahmadinejad began by smiling into the camera against a photo background of the UN building.
But some of the reporters asked real questions. When asked if Iran could ever peacefully coexist with Israel, he chewed the inside of his cheek for a minute before blurting out, “…we do not recognize that regime.” He recovered quickly and dodged a few more questions before the session ended. And then Ahmadinejad ventured off to Columbia under the protections of the US Secret Service and the ideology of liberal academia.
The Iranian ayatollahs send Ahmadinejad out to represent them to the world because he carries it off with a Westernized flair. Were it not for the well-trimmed beard and the language he speaks, the Iranian president could be just another television personality, maybe a game show host. His appearance is warm and fuzzy, an intentional contrast with the beturbanned fulminating ayatollahs he serves. But Ahmadinejad isn’t auditioning for Alex Trebek’s job. The only game show he’d host is the one he’s playing now: nuclear hold ‘em.
The setting at Columbia was perfect for Ahmadinejad. He sat, well-lit, to one side while Columbia President Lee Bollinger (who obviously didn’t know he’d already lost) bit and scratched at the Iranian president for being some academic approximation of evil. By the time Ahmadinejad rose, he was beaming the same confident smile that made Mike Wallace glow.
After suffering through Bollinger’s harrumph, the first thing Ahmadinejad did was ask that God hasten the return of the Mahdi, the “hidden imam” who disappeared centuries ago. The Mahdi’s return, of course, is supposed to bring about the restoration of the Islamic caliphate and a world in which Islam reigns as the world’s only religion. Funny, but neither Bollinger nor the assembled faculty and students appeared to notice this. Oh, and — just for the record — the Mahdi’s reappearance is supposed to be precipitated by something along the lines of the Apocalypse.
It was only the beginning of the greatest propaganda coup in the 28-year old war the ayatollahs have waged against Western civilization.
That began a lecture by Ahmadinejad that will surely appear in every Hizballah training film from now until Ahmadinejad speaks at Harvard or Oxford. What the Iranian said is as important now as it has ever been. It was part religious dogma, part fear-mongering and all aimed at strengthening the terrorist regime he represents. Columbia’s conceit that Ahmadinejad was speaking to them served him well. He wasn’t speaking to them, but through them. And they loved it.
When he chided Bollinger for insulting him, the useful idiots applauded. When he said Iranians don’t insult speakers to inoculate audiences against them, the applause was even louder. He played to the cameras, knowing well that this discussion would be replayed thousands of times to thousands of audiences to demonstrate the ayatollahs’ legitimacy in the world community.
Ahmadinejad grasped and seized the offered cloak of an academic, claiming again and again that he was an academician just like those in the audience. Not a word was spoken to contradict him. And when asked, again and again, about the Holocaust he was at his slippery best.
No matter how many ways he was asked about his Holocaust denial, Ahmadinejad clouded his answers in irrelevant science. He says more research is necessary into the Holocaust, probably the most-documented series of events in history. Why? Ahmadinejad answered with another question: would you say that there is no longer a need for research into physics? His point, that the Holocaust is a theory subject to being disproven, went over his questioners’ heads, and went onto the videotape.
There were the obligatory laugh lines. When asked why Iran executes homosexuals he first compared them to illicit drug rings that corrupt a nation’s youth. And then he said there were no homosexuals in Iran. Which drew a good-natured laugh (as well as some boos) from the audience. (Yeah, Mahmoud. That’s a good one. We know you don’t have many because you execute them. Doncha just love this guy? What a cool dude. Maybe he’ll be on Leno next.)
And there was the usual victimology. Iran is a perfectly peaceful nation, of course. Its nuclear program is only peaceful. It has been, you know, the victim of American aggression for all of its twenty-eight years, and for many decades before going back to the 1953 coup. Thousands of Iranians died in what Ahmadinejad implied was a US-created war by Iraq. All that’s necessary for Iran and America to be friends, he said, was for America to “…put aside some of its old behaviors…” There was no hint of willingness to change Iran’s behavior.
And why should there be? The ayatollahs believe that they have America on the run. They send Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps troops into Iraq, carrying the most deadly weapon used against our troops (the “explosively-formed penetrator” IED). Sooner rather than later, they are sure, we will abandon Iraq to them.
They fund, arm and train the Lebanese Hizballah terrorists to fight Israel. And they continue to research and develop nuclear weapons, relying on the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (which Ahmadinejad repeatedly referenced) to give them cover from further sanctions.
And none of these facts precludes the useful idiots of academia from giving the face of that regime a forum to mock science, mock history and mock the very idea of a world in which these same coddled, cosseted children of Columbia are free to applaud he who would enslave or kill them all.
Ahmadinejad is showman enough to save the best for last. He invited the Columbia students and faculty to visit Iran, to any university they choose, to talk to their counterparts. See? We’re just like you. Y’all come, and set a while. And when you want to go home, well, we may just hold a few of you hostage. Thank you, Columbia. Thank you very much.