Opinion of Iran's President Speaking at Columbia University

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Iran’s President Faces Protests During Visit
Source: NYTimes.com

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 — Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to face tough questions and protests today, during his first full day in New York of appearances that have already drawn controversy even before he takes the podium.

The Iranian president, who has called for the destruction of Israel and described the Holocaust as a myth, is due to speak to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. via videolink from New York, and later at Columbia University. On Tuesday, he is addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

Mr. Ahmadinejad arrived in the United States on Sunday and addressed people invited by the Iranian mission in a closed event at the New York Hilton.

He also said in an interview, broadcast by CBS television Sunday and conducted in Tehran last week, that Iran did not need a nuclear weapon and the United States and his country were not on a path to war.

“Well, you have to appreciate we don’t need a nuclear bomb,” the Iranian leader said, according to the CBS transcript. “We don’t need that. What needs do we have for a bomb?"

The Bush administration accuses Iran of arming Shiite militias in Iraq as well as developing a nuclear weapons program, charges that the Iranian government denies.

The president’s appearance at Columbia University’s World Leader’s Forum is due to take place at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The university has come under harsh criticism for the decision to host Mr. Ahmadinejad and for giving him a public stage, including from current presidential candidates in the United States, the New York City Council, Jewish organizations and others.

Protesters, including students bused in from other universities and schools, are gathering outside of the university grounds ahead of his speech.

“With the amount of people we will have, we will most likely stretch down a couple of blocks,” said Dani Klein, the campus director for StandWithUs, one of the sponsors of the protests.

“We felt that this went above and beyond the issues of free speech,” he said, adding that their objections included the lack of human rights in Iran and the fact that the university had given him a platform. “You can criticize his views without honoring him the way they are.”

The Columbia University President, Lee C. Bollinger, will address the forum ahead of a question-and-answer session.

“It’s extremely important to know who the leaders are of countries that are your adversaries,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“To watch them to see how they think, to see how they reason or do not reason. To see whether they’re fanatical, or to see whether they are sly."

John Coatsworth, a university dean at Columbia, told CNN that it was his obligation as a school official to present the Iranian president. “If I were not the dean, I would be out there with them,” he said of the protesters.

But he added: “Like it or not, he is an important guy.”

At the National Press Club event, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s speech will be followed by a session of questions from the audience for at least half an hour.

“This will be, in essence, the first dialogue that President Ahmadinejad has had with the Washington press corps,” N.P.C. President Jerry Zremski said in a statement posted on the N.P.C. Web site. “We’re looking forward to hearing what the president has to say, and I am sure that plenty of Washington reporters have plenty of questions for him.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad is allowed under international law and diplomatic protocols to travel freely within a 25-mile radius of Columbus Circle. But the police said last week that Mr. Ahmadinejad would not be allowed anywhere near Ground Zero during his trip.

Last night, at the New York Hilton, Mr. Ahmadinejad addressed people invited by the Iranian mission. The speech was closed to the news media, but a report on Iran’s IRNA news agency said that Mr. Ahmadinajad had said Iran did not need nuclear bombs and described his government as “peace-seeking.”

Some of those invited said that while they did not agree with all of the president’s positions on matters like the role of women in Iran, they stood behind him on the involvement of Israel and the United States in the Middle East.

After the speech, some in the audience said Mr. Ahmadinejad downplayed the interest Iran had in developing nuclear weapons. Mina Z. Siegel, an Iranian-American, said he called building a nuclear weapon “a waste of money” and characterized Iranians as “very peaceful.”

Yesterday, elected officials and students held a rally at Columbia to protest the university’s decision to invite him to speak on campus.

“He should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not speak at the university, for God’s sake,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who noted that his mother is a survivor of Auschwitz. “I call on New Yorkers to make the life of Ahmadinejad as he is in New York miserable.”

Manny Fernandez, Jason Grant, Trymaine Lee, Mathew R. Warren and Carolyn Wilder contributed reporting.

My $0.02: I think the 'President" of Iran is a despicable swine (my apologies to porkers), but then, I have a dear friend who was one the hostages held for over a year during Iran’s ‘revolution’. That said, I have spent most of my adult life defending (militarily speaking) our country and the 1st amendment which is so important to our own freedoms. However, I do look on the invitation for him to speak as a negative reflection on the Press Club and Columbia University. My opinion of both has sunk well below floor level.

Here’s my 2cents.

I don’t think favorably of the Iranian president because he is an adversary and a threat to the US and many other countries. But I think that the better you know your enemies the better off you are. I’m actually looking forward to hearing him speak and I think it’s a good educational experience for college kids. Not to hear the BS that he may say, but to analyze him and better understand the mentality of his culture.

That being said, I live in NY and I was completely against him paying his so called “respects” by visiting the World Trade Center site. I think that would have been an insult and a mockery.

The fact that our country is attacking countries because of “supposed weapons of mass destruction”, “leaders that support torture of both innocent and guilty individuals and uphold violence directly related with Bin Laden” is such a slap in our face when we are not only allowing the President of Iran to enter and speak at one of our top colleges, but advertise and invite the public to participate! When people throw challenges and questions that will embarass him and Iran, are they going to arrest them for immoral conduct? If so, then they should put that swine of a president in with them so they can have a “true one on one” meeting!! WHAT AN EMBARASSMENT TO OUR ENTIRE COUNTRY!?!? Watch this guy lie through his teeth just to “make” people think he’s human!!
j hickson

I for one am against it. Why is he speaking there? Why isin’t he taking questions from the students? I feel we will be fighting there someday in the not to distant future. I just don’t trust or who he represents. Would they let our President come there and speak to there college students? Would he only be able to talk about what they wanted him too?

Ahmadinejad is a liar and a terrorist. He has shown his hatred of Americans when he was part of the group of students who held our embassy staff hostage in the late 70’s even though to this day he lies about it as welll as his hate filled speeches in Iran as of late. America is based on the privilege of free speech and so Americans I suppose can chose to listen to his lies if they choose.

It is wrong, to me, to give the public forum to those who want to overthrow our way of life and to eliminate us all together. He is against all that we stand for and he has a right to that opinion, but he should not force it down the throats of our youth and young adults. It is wrong.

Well I don’t think he’d come over to my house for dinner, but since he’s visiting why not let him speak so everybody can hear what he has to say, straight from his mouth. Not fed from the propaganda machine commonly referred to as the News.

Most disagreements grow out of misunderstanding and the key to understanding is communicating. So let him speak it doesn’t mean you have to agree with he’s got to say, nor does it mean you like him. Have an open mind even though he purportedly doesn’t…

I’m sure he’s counting on massive violent protest against him so he can go home and say see how bad the Americans are I went to their country for peaceful purposes and see how they treat me. That will help bolster the anti-American attitude throughout the world. We should sit down and drink coffee with him and have nice polite conversation.

I saw this guy on the news this morning from a show yesterday, and he was a joke. He couldn’t give a straight answer to any of the questions and was quite devious looking when he smiled, like a teenager who thinks he’s cute and noone will notice when he’s lying.

:wink: I saw this guy on the news this morning from a show yesterday, and he was a joke. He couldn’t give a straight answer to any of the questions and was quite devious looking when he smiled, like a teenager who thinks he’s cute and noone will notice when he’s lying.

There is no reason on the face of the earth that he should be allowed in the United States, much less be speaking at one of our Universities. He does not deserve to be acknowledged period. Free speech does not apply to him.

Over the last many decades, we, as a nation, have continuously made mistakes in judging our opponents, especially in the Middle East and in Muslim countries. While I don’t think we will ever truly “understand” their mind set, (nor will they understand us) I think EVERY opportunity to see their leader in action, no matter how ridiculous it seems, will help us know how to protect ourselves from them. Their teachings, religious or otherwise, are so very different from anything American that we might as well be living on different planets. The tragic part is that neither side can let the other exist peacefully. I did watch his speech, and it was ridiculous. But I do know him better. Allowing him to speak did not hurt us one bit, and refusing to allow him to speak would have given him more ammunition to criticize the U.S.

Such invitations allowing known enemy’s to speak at major colleges is unbelievable. Who in power at Columbia University would wish to allow this. That person and the Iranian leader should be ran out of town

OMG…Who’s idea to bring him here…? And let him go again? Just so he can gloat (sympathise) about all our suffering at the terrorists hands? How they must be laughing at us in his country…free speech in the USA by the USA…just my 2 cents…:arrow: :shock:

Aiding the enemy used to be known in this country as TREASON!

I’m sick of hearing about how this man is so evil! The only thing we know about him is what OUR government tells or shows us. Yes he was involved in things from the past but when are the politicians going to get together and TALK about issues instead of just keep threatening each other and bringing up things that happened years ago? If that was the case how come nobody talks about how WE were buddy buddy with Saddam Hussein? And if this guy is so evil, how come what OUR President has done to this country and the world for that matter isn’t on the news each and every night? Bush is no prince either! I can’t believe he’s STILL the President!! I think they should take a page from President Kennedy and sit down and discuss the issues and come to a peaceful conclusion instead of all this insane killing of innocent people. I think it was fine that he was asked to speak at Columbia. We are suppose to be a country of compassion and free speech. The current administration has put us in such a terrible light that I don’t think we use our heads and think for ourselves anymore. Remember, your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s opened!!!
Peace to you and yours…

Our president couldn’t speak at there college. He can’t even speak here! He makes no sense!

What part of “Death to America” is being misunderstood? Freedom of speech applies to our own citizens, not a terrorist killer of our citizens! If I were a parent of a Columbia student, I would yank my kid and my dollars immediately. Cheers to the Columbia grad who destroyed her diploma.

I am very sad to see that the rights and freedoms that were mentioned in the declaration of independence, and then outlined in detail in the Constitution of our country has become something that anyone with a special interest can try to wiggle and squiggle around to fit their mode of desire. Freedom of speech does not mean that persons or groups ‘have’ to give a forum for all persons. When someone is outspoken in their desire to obliterate a race of persons (Iran against the Jewish nation); outspoken in their hatred of our own nation and it’s culture; plainly against democracy by their show of rule in their own country; giving them a forum on which to subtly pontificate their doctrine of hatred and intolerance. For Americans to believe that we must tolerate doctrines of hatred in order to be fair and balanced is wrong. It is that skewed way of thinking that will bring our country to it’s knees. We must be strong and defend the right to protect ourselves. It is weakness that will destroy us, strength and unity will build us.

To “awisewoman” - I partially agree with your premise, however I don’t think this is an issue of being fair and balanced. It is an issue of LEARNING more directly from an enemy so that we can defend ourselves. I don’t even think of this so much as a demonstration of freedom of speech - as in we MUST allow all opinions to be aired - NO! It IS a demonstration of free speech that he is able to show his hatred publicly. Who cares about his blather - listening to it is simply a way to reinforce and strengthen our unity against him.

Maybe if we allowed more of Hitler’s hate speech to be available to the American public, the nation would have insisted on rising up much earlier and there would have been an end to WWII before 60 million people died. Knowledge never hurts. Protecting citizens from the truth does.

Finally (wew!), trying to stop behavior by simply crushing the (child, group, nation) only strengthens their resolve to resist and fight back. Talking to each other reduces the fight back, even if there are no points of agreement.