Frank Wisner, head of Directorate of Plans in CIA in the 1950’s, used to refer to the US media as a Wurlitzer, a giant pipe organ. Because it could be counted on to play whatever propaganda tune the US government wished to broadcast loudly. Had he been alive today, he may have been proud to hear another Wurlitzer, this one from the academic circles, chiming in perfect harmony with the old one.
Let me start by saying that Dr. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, made several valid points in his address before Ahmadinejad’s speech. I also commend him in the tone that he used to challenge Ahmadinejad. Politicians should not receive a free pass because they’re guests, invited speakers, or politicians. On the contrary, they should be subjected to harsh criticism when they deserve it.
And so, let’s analyze Dr. Bollinger’s speech starting with his tone. Would Dr. Lee Bollinger have the courage to confront George Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, or any other world leader with the same tone? I hope that he would. I hope that he would use the same tone and words to point out the criminal, terrorist acts of Western leaders. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath! It should be mentioned that there are plenty of Israeli leaders, who have made controversial statements like Ahmadinejad; however, if Dr. Bollinger ever contemplates addressing them in the same manner, he better clear out his office first.
He was also very courageous and correct to point out Iran’s treatment of women, the Baha’i faith, and homosexuals. We should all commend him for that. However, I would point out a discrepancy that I see. None of these human rights violations seemed to be an issue for Dr. Bollinger when the UAE government made a $200,000 contribution to Columbia University? The UAE government’s human rights records and treatment of homosexuals, Baha’is, and women is no different than IRI’s. He opposed Ahmadinejad’s invitation, but had IRI paid $200,000 would he have changed his position? I hope not. In fact, I wish that when he accepted the money from UAE, he would have been as candid as he was with Ahmadinejad and condemned UAE government’s human rights records too. These issues are complicated. Money for education is important and there is nothing wrong with accepting it while holding on to and applying a uniform set of principles.
Dr. Bollinger must also be commended for raising the Holocaust issue. I particularly liked the way he phrased it: “your absurd comments about the debate over the Holocaust both defy historical truth and make all of us who continue to fear humanities capacity for evil shutter at this closure of memory, which is always virtue’s first line of defense.”
I am one of those idealists who think that acts, which directly or indirectly lead to murder are wrong, regardless of murdering six million people or one person. Therefore, I just have a few questions. What about Iran in 1953 and the war with US-backed Saddam? What about Iraq and Afghanistan? What about Haiti? What about the Palestinians? What about …?
It seems to me that humanity, especially in the West, has an almost infinite capacity for evil, when those who are brutalized are of a particular creed. It seems to me that if Dr. Bollinger had included the plight of Iraqis or Palestinians in that beautifully worded criticism, he would no longer have his job, as it was demonstrated in the case of Professor Norman Finkelstein.
He ended his remarks in regards to Holocaust and Israel by asking Ahmadinejad “do you plan on wiping us off the map too?” To borrow from Amy Goodman’s terminology, it was at this point that the Mighty Bollinger began to metamorphose into the Mighty Wurlitzer.
Dr. Bollinger should know that if anyone is making real and deadly threats of wiping other countries off the map, it’s the gang lead by US. Can he point to a Palestinian state on a map? Will he be able to outline the boundaries of a unified Iraq in the future, on a map? Does he have an inkling of US government’s activities to foment sectarian discord and threaten Iran’s territorial integrity? Ahmadinejad expressed a ‘wish’, and the US media ballooned it into Armageddon, but the rest of the world is fully aware of which countries have been and are wiping others off the map.
Dr. Bollinger’s slide toward propaganda continued with his repeat of Bush government’s allegations on Iran’s involvement in Iraq. He also accused Iran of destabilizing Lebanon. I was wondering at this point, is he the president of a respected academic institution or the White House press secretary? Has he examined or seen any evidence to support Bush administration’s claims, or is it merely enough for the White House to make a claim and FOX/CNN to repeat it enough number of times. Speaking of the Holocaust and its causes, was it not Goebel’s axiom that if you repeat a lie, long and loud enough people will believe it? For an academic to sink to such level of jingoism and hypocrisy is shameful.
He accused Iran of supporting extremist groups. But he conveniently left out far worse acts committed by US government and its allies. Does he know that US government supports groups and individuals that are on its own terrorist list? It is hypocrisy to only use the US government’s list of terrorists as a benchmark. It is outrageously shameful when an academic resorts to such biased criterion.
Dr. Bollinger’s role as the White House megaphone hit a crescendo with the nuclear issue. On this point, we have to be as bold and forceful with Dr. Bollinger as he was with Ahmadinejad, because Dr. Bollinger is a lawyer by profession and the stakes are high.
As someone who has more intimate knowledge of law than the average FOX/CNN viewer, he should (and I suspect does) know that the claims of Bush administration have no factual or legal basis at all. This point is specially demonstrated by the remarks of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Director General of the IAEA, who recently said that he does not see “a clear and present danger in regard to the Iran nuclear program.”
Dr. Bollinger asked Ahmadinejad “why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons verification in defiance of agreements that you have made with UN?” Apparently, Dr. Bollinger regards UN with the same callus disregard that Bush and company do.
Apparently, just as Bush stated, UN is only relevant to Dr. Bollinger when it supports his argument. It doesn’t seem to matter to Dr. Bollinger that US is bullying the rest of the Security Council along the path of war based on the same type of evidence that created the catastrophe in Iraq.
Shame! Such a sheepish regurgitation of propaganda by the dean of a respected academic institution! Doesn’t Dr. Bollinger realize that by parroting this nonsense, he would be complicit in the aftermath of a military action against Iran? If he is concerned about human rights then he should be first and foremost concerned about human lives! He should not so carelessly make himself a tool to Bush and go in league with the media that have become so docile to the US government.
Finally, he accused Iran of threatening the world with nuclear annihilation. This must have been the one night that a president of Columbia University tossed out all academic standards! I suggest that Dr. Bollinger turn off his TV, stop listening to the talking heads in the media, lock himself in the Columbia University’s Butler Library, and brush up on history and current affairs. Yes, the world has been and is constantly threatened by nuclear annihilation; however, the threat is made mostly by US and its allies.