Ahmadinejad to Visit Ground Zero, Speak at Columbia University
The visit to the former site of the World Trade Center is, as one might expect, drawing the most attention. The presidential candidates are tripping over themselves, on a bipartisan basis, to denounce it.
It is unacceptable for Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who refuses to renounce and end his own country’s support of terrorism, to visit the site of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in our nation’s history.
Under no circumstances should the N.Y.P.D. or any other American authority assist President Ahmadinejad in visiting Ground Zero. This is a man who has made threats against America and Israel, is harboring Bin Laden’s son and other al Qaeda leaders, is shipping arms to Iraqi insurgents and is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons. Assisting Ahmadinejad in touring Ground Zero — hallowed ground for all Americans — is outrageous.
Ahmadinejad’s shockingly audacious request should be met with a vehement no. It’s inconceivable that any consideration would be given to the idea of entertaining the leader of a state sponsor of terror at ground zero. This would deeply offend the sensibilities of Americans from all corners of our nation. Instead of entertaining Ahmadinejad, we should be indicting him.
But he’s a sitting head of state visiting our country to address the world’s chief diplomatic body. On what basis would we arrest him?
It is an insult to the memories of those who died on 9/11 at the hands of terrorists, and those who have fought terrorism for years, to allow the president of the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism to step foot at ground zero.
Either we have diplomatic relations with Iran, and allow its head of state to visit, or we don’t. But it’s rather silly to deny him access to public areas out of pique. As BooMan observes, “Maybe it is just a stunt to make [Ahmadinejad] look good. One thing is for sure…denying him the opportunity doesn’t make us look good.”
The safety angle is more reasonable:
A law enforcement source says the Iranian mission to the United Nations has informed the Secret Service that the Iranian president intends to visit Ground Zero Monday at 10 a.m. The source says regardless of the NYPD’s rejection of the request for a Ground Zero tour, Iran’s president and his entourage will be accompanied by a Secret Service protective detail, a detail provided to all heads of state when they visit the United States.
The request was rejected Wednesday afternoon in a meeting which included NYPD, Secret Service and Port Authority officials, who said the site is closed to visitors because of construction. They said requests for the Iranian president to visit the immediate area would also be opposed by the NYPD on security grounds.
Of course, the harranging by candidates and even our State Department spokesman, who echoed the “hallowed ground” line, makes it hard to sell as the primary rationale.
Meanwhile, Columbia University has invited Ahmadinejad to speak to its students in a forum that provides for a long Q&A, including some tough questions by university president Lee Bollinger.
- · the Iranian President’s denial of the Holocaust;
· his public call for the destruction of the state of Israel;
· his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and American troops;
· Iran’s pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to international sanction;
· his government’s widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women’s rights; and
· his government’s imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia’s own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.
Scott Johnson sees this as an outrage.
Columbia and President Bollinger are a disgrace. They welcome to their campus a man who is a ringleader in the seizure of American hostages, a terrorist, the president of a terrorist regime, and the representative of a regime responsible at present for the deaths of American soldiers on the field of battle. Columbia’s prattle about free speech may be a tale told by an idiot, but it signifies something. And President Bollinger is a fool who is not excused from the dishonor he brings to his institution and his fellow citizens by the fact that he doesn’t know what he is doing.
Bollinger, though, posits that:
It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas, or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.
That such a forum could not take place on a university campus in Iran today sharpens the point of what we do here. To commit oneself to a life—and a civil society—prepared to examine critically all ideas arises from a deep faith in the myriad benefits of a long-term process of meeting bad beliefs with better beliefs and hateful words with wiser words. That faith in freedom has always been and remains today our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world. This is America at its best.
Indeed, highlighting Ahmadinejad’s crazy, evil ideas and forcing him to defend them is the most surefire way I can think of to make students throw off the silly notion that all regimes and ideas are equal.
UPDATE: Of course, as Dan Drezner points out, the idea of free and lively debate is becoming less popular in some academic circles.