Tuesday, September 25, 2007

America At Its Best

All Evil Needs To Triumph Is For Good People To Refuse To Hear It Coming

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pronounced, "I'm a nut job"), the President of Iran, is, perhaps, the very embodiment of evil. We will even concede that, given the choice, we would vote for Kate Murray over Mahmoud -- and that's not easy for us to admit.

So, why let him speak at Columbia, or give him a forum, anywhere?

Why, because making believe he doesn't exist, or hoping against hope that he'll go away if we don't listen to his vitriolic words, won't make it so, and the surest way to quash the hobnob of demented minds is to expose the rhetoric, the absurdity, the cruelty to the cleansing light of day.

We ignore evil at our own peril. We cannot isloate ourselves from it, or pretend that if we keep a tight lid on it, its cancerous tentacles will not reach out to strangle us.

Instead, we must confront the evil that Iran's President spews every time he opens his mouth, subjecting his words not merely to public ridicule and protest, but to something even more powerful, the truth.

You see, evil lurks not only in the hearts of men like Ahmadinejad, but incubates in the shadows, where ideas are forbidden to de debated, dissidents are jailed or beheaded, and thoughts are controlled by the state.

That's not America. Well, not our America.
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Editorial: Columbia right to host Ahmadinejad

After the squall of controversy over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia University yesterday blew over, a nagging question remained: Was Columbia right to have hosted a foreign leader who has advocated the destruction of Israel and questioned the validity of the Holocaust, if not its historical reality?

On balance, the university did the right thing.

Despite protests from pro-Israel groups and denunciations from presidential candidates, it was good for students and faculty at the School of International and Public Affairs to hear Ahmadinejad's speech, however rambling, and his answers to tough questions, however evasive and unsatisfying.

Despicable as Ahmadinejad's views are, he belongs in the roster of Columbia's World Leaders Forum. Like it or not, he can't be ignored. He represents a nation whose already parlous relations with the United States are reaching a dangerous straining point over Tehran's continued nuclear push and the provocative part Iran plays in Iraq's sectarian conflict.

At the very least, it's useful to know how an adversary behaves and how he deals with a potentially hostile audience. Many of the students in the audience yesterday are preparing for a career in foreign affairs. They should be exposed to leaders whose views may be antithetical to theirs.

But perhaps the most compelling argument for hosting Ahmadinejad is what it demonstrates about the two countries. In Iran, dissidents are silenced and jailed for their views. Protesters risk being clubbed by Iran's religious police. In Morningside Heights, by contrast, there may have been peaceful protests and Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, may have given the soft-spoken Iranian leader an intemperate reception, calling him a "petty and cruel dictator." But Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak and respond to some tough questions.

As President George W. Bush unexpectedly said, Ahmadinejad's appearance at Columbia "speaks volumes about really the greatness of America." Not an elegant remark, perhaps, but an appropriate one.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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