An e-mailer to Fox News in NYC at 5:56 PM today asked "Would you let Osama bin Laden speak?" Of course he was referring to the brouhaha surrounding allowing Mamoud Ahmadinejad to speak today at Columbia University.
Allowing Osama bin Laden to speak at Columbia or anywhere here in the U.S. is a different situation altogether. He and al Qaeda were responsible for 9/11. Ahmadinejad was not responsible for 9/11.
Ahmadinejad is, as the President of Columbia University said, an uneducated man but he's a head of state.
I say he's a stupid man who denies history, who wants to destroy a country, Israel, who would like to live in peace with him and its neighbors. But, as I said, he is a head of state and the group at Columbia that sponsored Ahmadinejad was the SIPA-World Leaders Forum.
Here's some of the brilliant stuff President Lee Bollinger (see photo) said in his introductory remarks:
Since 2003, the World Leaders Forum has advanced Columbia’s longstanding tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.President Bollinger went on to point out all the human rights violations Iran has been accused of, as well as Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and his desire for Israel's destruction.
I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can, that this is the right thing to do and, indeed, it is required by existing norms of free speech, the American university, and Columbia itself.
To be clear on another matter - this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any “rights” of the speaker but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves.
Lastly, in universities, we have a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power. We cannot make war or peace. We can only make minds. And to do this we must have the most full freedom of inquiry.
Read the president's opening remarks. Ahmadinejad should have been invited if only to have Bollinger's statement go down in history.
And I'm sorry I got off the topic of having Osama bin Laden speak here. Osama bin Laden COULDN'T speak here in the U.S. because the minute he put his dainty little foot on our soil he'd be arrested for taking the lives of 2700+ people in the World Trade Center.