Columbia and Ahmadinejad: The New Woodward and Bernstein

Lisa De Pasquale
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Posted: Sep 24, 2007 12:00 AM
Columbia and Ahmadinejad: The New Woodward and Bernstein

This week the once-esteemed Columbia University will host another speaker in its on-going “Conversations with Islamo-Fascists" series. I can hear the speaker’s introduction music now:

You can reach me by caravan,
Cross the desert like an Arab man
I don't care how you get here,
Just get here if you can

This is the second time that Columbia University has invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on their campus. His first speech was canceled because of security concerns. No, not security concerns over inviting a terrorist to an American university, but concerns that they couldn’t guarantee the safety of the terrorist.

Rest assured that Columbia doesn’t discriminate. In fact, they would also welcome European anti-Semitic mass murderers. Columbia Dean John Coatsworth told Fox News, “If Hitler were in the United States and wanted a platform in which to speak he would have plenty of platforms to speak in the United States. If he were willing to engage in debate and discussion to be challenged by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

I can just imagine the hard-hitting questions the faculty will ask Ahmadinejad. I can think of at least one challenge that Columbia Professor Nicholas De Genova may have for him. At a 2003 “teach-in,” De Genova said, “I personally would like to see a million Mogadishus.” For the Columbia students that missed that lecture, De Genova was referring to the 1993 incident in which the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets in Somalia.

De Genova would demand, "President Ahmadinejad, how many Mogadishus would you like to see? Answer the question!" If he says any number less than a million, he’s clearly a tool of Halliburton or Fox News. (I was never that good with following the radical left’s logic.)

It’s actually more likely that De Genova thinks Ahmadinejad is a hero. At the same teach-in, De Genova also said the “only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.”

In response to criticism for giving Ahmadinejad a forum, Columbia President Lee Bollinger said it was part of “Columbia’s long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate.” The Ahmadinejad defenders tout the importance of free speech. Their defense is completely laughable because college campuses have become institutions with zero respect for free speech. This is like Sarah Brady touting the Second Amendment when she bought her 22-year-old son a rifle for Christmas.

The “free speech” defense doesn’t seem to extend to conservative speakers. In December 2001, three student groups at Columbia organized an independently-funded lecture by author Ann Coulter. I worked with the students in helping them schedule the lecture and secure funding. The day of the lecture, administrators changed the location of the room because of threats from liberal campus protestors. Nearly two-thirds of the audience didn’t find the room until after the lecture was finished. As the question and answer session began, protestors booed and shouted to the point where neither the speaker nor the questioner could hear one another. That’s the Left’s idea of a “dialogue.” It’s not enough that they not listen to opposing views, they must deny others the opportunity, too. Perhaps they should rename the department the Hugo Chavez School of Journalism.

Several weeks after the lecture, the student organizer called me in a panic because Columbia was threatening to withhold his degree because a bill for two security officers assigned to the lecture wasn’t paid. However, several witnesses, including the speaker, noted that there was not a security presence at the lecture. Perhaps campus security couldn’t find the new location either.

As any organization that sponsors conservative speakers on college campuses know, the security scam is a frequent dirty trick used by liberal administrators in order to intimidate students. As with Columbia, they tell the conservative groups that because our speakers are so “controversial,” the students must pay for additional security. Jason Mattera of Young America’s Foundation wrote about one of the most infamous cases of the security scam, “In 2000, when Charlton Heston was requested, student organizers were told they needed to pay for a bomb-sniffing dog, ten police officers, two full-body metal detectors, two metal detector wands, a paramedic team, and four pints of Mr. Heston’s blood type.”

Let’s not forget that the reason some conservative speakers need security is to protect them from violent liberals. In response to both Ann Coulter and Dinesh D’Souza being invited to speak on campus by conservative groups, a writer for The Columbia Spectator wrote, “Crackpots like D'Souza and Coulter should be afraid to open their mouths on a campus with such a proud left-wing history.”

Obviously, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has nothing to be afraid of when he speaks at Columbia. Later that day he’ll participate in a videoconference at the National Press Club. In case there was any doubt, he would be safe there, too.

It’s obvious that the Columbia University administrators didn’t bother to listen to Coulter’s December 2001 speech, “Terrorism and Its Left-wing Sympathizers.” They should also brush up on the classics and read Dante’s Inferno. Here's a place to start: “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”