Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently whipped up a storm of criticism egged on by the mainstream news media that ended with a shameless, groveling and insulting introduction at his Columbia University address by a university president put under pressure by the propagandists and thought police of the American right wing led by the most rabid sections of BOTH the Republican and Democratic parties.
Masquerading as an exercise in free speech and American democracy that was supposed to throw egg in the face of the Iranian regime and bolster the United State’ claim that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Mullahs are sponsors of terrorism, Columbia University President, Lee Bollinger, leveled a cowardly, uncalled for and totally improper attack on the president of a Muslim nation.
Bollinger even drew high praise from the New York Times as a paragon of democratic values, writing that he “defended the event as in the best tradition of America’s free speech, then freely told Mr. Ahmadinejad: ‘You exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.’” The Times, of course, ignored many of the valid issues raised by Ahmadinejad in his rambling, sometimes incoherent address.
It is instructive here to put Ahmadinejad and his government in Iran in its political and historical contexts. Ahmadinejad and the government that he leads is a repressive, reactionary nationalist construct whose ideological roots and practices suggest a bogus pretension to democratic freedoms and values based on Islamic laws and statues. Thus the very nature of the Ahmadinejad regime is fundamentally anti-people, politically backward, and caught in a socio-religious time warp of the 19th century that is force-fitted and fed into a 21st century world.
Ahmadinejad is the representative of the Mullahs and bazaar merchants, who seek to exploit popular outrage over the crimes of American imperialism and its Israeli ally against the Arab and Muslim masses in order to advance their own national interests in the region and more effectively suppress social discontent within Iran. Among the more ugly aspects of the regime and its president are their appeals to anti-Semitism.
But Iran and its government share similarities in the region with many of the Bush Administration’s allies and favored nation states. For example, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are no different in the way that they operate and the kinds of repression that they visit on their people and any who dare oppose them. Just recently Pakistan’s strong man, General Pavez Musharraf, forcibly expelled a political rival ignoring the orders and wishes of the nation’s highest court – only the latest in a series of dictatorial actions by a president who is one of the darlings of the United States and the Bush Administration.
So it is the unadulterated quintessence of hypocrisy on the one hand for the United States and its unleashed dogs in the media to attack Iran and its president when Pakistan harbors Osama bin Laden and his band of cutthroats, kills off democratic freedoms, where the military dictator thumbs his nose at the Supreme Court and disobeys its decisions, clamps down on democratic dissent while telling the word that “Iran sponsors terrorists.”
No, Iran has been set in United States gun sights because the Bush Administration sees it as an obstacle to its hegemonistic rule in the Middle East and a thorn in its side as it seeks to consolidate its power in that part of the world. So that we’re seeing are the kinds of demonization tactics of Iran and its leadership that was used to oust Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and set the stage for a United States invasion under the pretext of lies and fabrications.
Of course, the unprecedented vitriol in Columbia University’s president introduction of a sitting head of state would be comical if not for its heavy lacing of insults. In so doing Lee Bollinger threw red meat to sections of the Jewish community and others who were leading the charge for the university to disinvite the Iranian leader. It is the same rabid and myopic section of Americans society that over 40 years ago hounded noted British academic and philosopher Bertrand Russell from working in New York based on their erroneous and puerile understanding of his views on sex and religion.
Moreover the hypocrisy about American freedoms relative to speech and action cannot stand even routine scrutiny. Here are some recent examples.
* Spectators at a congressional hearing on the war in Iraq ejected and arrested for wearing tee-shirts with anti-war slogans
* A student at the University of Florida gang-tackled by campus police, dragged from the meeting hall, given a 50,000-volt shock with a Taser gun and put in jail for asking pointed questions of Democratic Senator John Kerry at a public forum
* Long-time CBS News reporter and anchor Dan Rather filing a $70 million lawsuit against CBS News and its corporate owner charging that he was forced out in retaliation for narrating an investigative report aired shortly before the 2004 presidential election documenting George W. Bush’s use of family connections to evade military service in Vietnam.
* The passage by the US Senate of a resolution condemning the Democratic pressure group MoveOn.org for publishing an ad in the New York Times criticizing Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq.
Here in America free speech – no matter how odious – freedom of political expression and action are supposed to be protected by the Constitution. But in recent times the upward spiral of American militarism overseas has caused an accompanying backlash against domestic democratic freedoms and rights at home. So that any criticism of “America’s war president” and the US military is deemed unpatriotic and “aiding and abetting the terrorists.”
The Columbia University event while hailed as an example in free speech and American democracy turned out to be little short of a political ambush of a sitting head of state and a shameless and insulting demonstration of the kinds of attitudes that make America hated around the world today. Bollinger came over as a strutting schoolyard bully playing to the crowd and fighting to elicit sheers and a sign of approval for his antics.