Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 30, 2007

The Best Thing Written About the Ahmadinejad Visit…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:27 am

…was a column by Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post. She puts the visit and the inanely naive treatment of it–that it was about free speech or “fear” of Ahmadinejad, or fear of talking to our enemies–in its true context.

To me the visit was about the necessity to bear some kind of moral witness against the evil represented by Ahmadinejad, whatever pseudo-sophisticated arguments are used deny responsibility to him for his regimes crimes or to treat him as open to Reason.

The new meme tries to frame it as being about “fear” of Ahmadinejad. No it’s not about fear, it’s about moral disgust, revulsion. The fear can be seen, rather, in the posturing of those super brave boyz who accuse those who have the clarity to express moral disgust and rejection as “fearful”. When in fact it’s their fear–that their super-sophisitcated white boy, think tank subsidized, wonk mentality with all its nuances that is laughably impotent in the face of fundamentalist, theocratic fascist evil. [UPDATE: Not just boyz–the liberal propogators of the “fear of dialogue” meme are now on the same page as Peggy Noonan! And what’s equally laughable is their belief that their arguments, their rhetoric their desire above all for dialogue will make a differnce in a kumbaya way, to the victims of a theocratic Stasi-like state.

Are they aware of how student dissidents are beaten and tortured in Terhan? Only in the abstract, I imagine. I suggest they read this harrowing account of an Iranian student hunted down, beaten and tortured, that was just published in London’s Observer.

Read it? Now tell me the best response: protest or “dialogue”? I wonder if that Iranian student was grateful for the super, super brave bloggers who boasted of their courageous lack of “fear” of dialogue with the representative of a theocratic fascist regime.

I read one laughable atttempt at a historical argument on a conservative-oriented blog, a pro-“dialogue” post which seemed to imply that Richard Nixon’s “dialogue” with Khrushchev in that silly “kitchen debate” (America’s true superiority lies in our material goods; we’re better because we’re have better refrigerators!) changed Khrushchev’s mind. And that the Berlin Wall fell because Reagan changed Gorbachev’s mind about its presence. Through dialogue of course.

“Hmmm,” you can hear Gorbachev saying, “Reagan says, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down the wall!’ Maybe I should! Why didn’t I think of it?”. But the point is he didn’t tear down the wall. No, the wall fell because the courage of Solidarity in bearing moral witness against the Soviet-style police state regime in Poland was contagious, and spread to East Germany. To deny that, to rob those brave Eastern Europeans who really did tear down the wall–truly fearless people–in order to use this denial as an argument for think-tanky dialogue, is a sad disservice to those those brave souls.

I just don’t get the desperate need for so many commentators left and right to twist themselves into knots of such clueless sophistry to trivialize a fascist regime, to prove somehow that by failing to speak out against Iran’s Stasi like regime that tortures and murders dissidents and heretics, they are somehow being braver and more sophisticated than the “fearful” who actually did speak out.

I have to admit I’m still shocked by the failure of so many of the commentariat in the MSM and the blogosphere to have the moral clarity to express outrage, shocked by their impulse instead to find ways to deny or trivialize Hitlerism and the need to confront it–especially by those in the moral witness line of work. The self-congratulatory (I’m so fearless!) way they strained to find eight different ways to excuse and diminish what Ahmadinejad said is something they will have to explain to the Iranian student in the Observer story.

In any case I believe the best thing written about the visit was by Caroline Glick, to my mind a brilliant Cassandra-like truth teller, who listened carefully to what Ahmadinejad said and found even deeper reasons to be disturbed. Her clarity and anger–yes anger, don’t faint, oh brave fearless ones. Yes, anger can be a legitmate emotion in a world seething with evil. You can find Caroline Glick’s analysis here. (The link, annoyingly goes to page two; scroll down and click back to the beginning–it’s worth it.).

But read the Observer piece. If your first reaction to these homicidal thugs is dialogue, not protest, I feel sorry for you.



  1. Bollinger’s introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech took away the presumption of passive acceptance of what Ahmadinejad represents. Ms. Glicks analysis is intellectually correct but primarliy useful in it’s derivative arguments re: the nation Israel created for the Arabs, the ‘Palestinians.’ The friction in the Ahmadinejad appearance reflected in the laughter over the ‘no gays’ remark and our seeing his implacable and tangential answers to issues that for us are desired objects of negotiation conveyed, to the public I think, that we are dealing with a “zombie,” that is not a person in relationship to whom there can be mutual empathy. This is a psychological statement of Ms. Glick’s argument.

    Comment by Michael Brophy — September 30, 2007 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

  2. Sorry for your concerns, but he is the leader of an important nation in world affairs. Columbia should be honored he accepted its invistation and embarrased at it president’s cowardly attack on this important visitor. Perhaps you are too emotionally involved to see thing clearly.

    So one should never protest fascist leaders because they are “leaders of important nations”.?

    Comment by Hammersmith — September 30, 2007 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

  3. Somehow, the vision that popped into my head after reading this was James Bond addressing Auric Goldfinger, “You expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

    If the savages ever gained an upper hand, I expect that is how they would respond to our obsequious plea for “dialog.”

    Comment by Reid — September 30, 2007 @ 11:38 pm | Reply

  4. Well put!

    Comment by Chris — September 30, 2007 @ 11:57 pm | Reply

  5. “If Adolf Hitler flew in today/
    They’d send a limousine anyway.”

    -“White Man in Hammersmith Palais,”
    The Clash, 1977

    Comment by Andy S. — October 1, 2007 @ 12:08 am | Reply

  6. You say you are shocked by the failure of so many of the commentariat in the MSM and blogsphere to have moral clarity. This is not a surprise to me because of an earlier and much larger failingthat still absolutely baffles me, namely why did NO American media oulet – major or minor -publish the Danish cartoons? What happened to freedom of speech, moral clarity and courage 20 months ago? It was shocking to me that the American media completely kow-towed to radical Islam in that instance. Now my expectations are much, much lower.

    Comment by Ingrid van Weert — October 1, 2007 @ 12:24 am | Reply

  7. “Are they aware of how student dissidents are beaten and tortured in Terhan?”

    Of course they are aware of it. What else does anyone know about Iran except that it is a brutal theocracy?

    But the Left admires authoritarianism, in fact. If they could oppress people who disagreed with them in THIS country, they would.

    Comment by Jorge — October 1, 2007 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  8. I discovered this interesting — and, I should think, pertinent — item from the Univ of Chicago Press: An excerpt from “Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition” by John Durham Peters (2005).

    One key sentence:

    “Only those with advanced training in self-doubt and stoic self-control would reinterpret their own prissy reaction to a tale of disgust as a symptom of insufficient thoughtfulness, rather than as a justified response to a provocation.”

    Comment by Uncle Ralph — October 1, 2007 @ 4:04 am | Reply

  9. “Sorry for your concerns, but he is the leader of an important nation in world affairs.”

    Then explain, please, the legitimacy of the protests that greet the US President (whomever has that office) wherever that person goes?

    Comment by Mikey NTH — October 1, 2007 @ 6:55 am | Reply

  10. Please go easy on Columbia University, for there is hope! After all, it was the Columbia University Oral History Project that got ACLU founder Roger Nash Baldwin to confess that he accepted one million dollars from Stalin in the ‘Kuzbas Commune’ Case in 1923.
    Obviously, Baldwin let his hair down because he thought he was amongst friends. Admittedly, Columbia University has not done a good job of advertising this nugget from academia, but perhaps we can all help Columbia get the word out.
    For more information on the treacherous actions of the ACLU, including their not so secret work in imprisoning the Japanese in WW II, go to

    As yet unfamiliar with these charges, but I believe the Bill of Rights is the greatest thing about America’s government and these days anyway the ACLU deserves credit for defending it.

    And, p.s,. to be crystal clear I don’t dispute Columbia’s First Amendment right to invite or hear anyone they want. Perhaps they should “dialogue” with A’jad’s racist fan David Duke. The point is that we also have free speech rights to protest rather than “diaolgue” with fascist theocarts with blood on their hands.

    Comment by David O'Toole — October 1, 2007 @ 7:18 am | Reply

  11. Anyone who whines about the ‘insult’ to Mad Mahmoud is an idiot. The Napoleon wannabe whined about the hospitality he received, yet what examples of ‘hospitality’ have we seen from the Iranian government?

    Hospitality like that extended to U.S. Embassy staff for 444 days in 1979-1980?

    Hospitality like that extended to 15 British sailors and marines earlier this year?

    Hospitality like that extended to Haleh Esfandiari?

    From the examples we’ve seen, Mad Mahmoud should consider himself fortunate that the U.S. government has higher standards of hospitality than his own does. Otherwise, he’d be down in Gitmo with his fellow terrorists.

    Comment by mwl — October 1, 2007 @ 11:41 am | Reply

  12. “… why did NO American media oulet [sic] – major or minor -publish the Danish cartoons?”

    Numerous American media outlets, major and minor, published those cartoons. I specifically recall the Austin American-Statesman, but there were many others.

    You may be right, but I also don’t remember seeing them in any major American outlet, and I read a lot online and off. Can you provide a link to any major outlet?

    Comment by Jay Manifold — October 1, 2007 @ 1:04 pm | Reply

  13. I don’t suppose I really mind the concept of a mad man speaking as if he were a true world leader in the name of free speech. But I have two problems with the entire situation.
    1. Columbia University is notorious for their Liberal views. When a Conservative attempts to speak, they can count on being physically attacked. And driven off stage. So where is the free speech? I guess it is only for Liberals and terrorists.
    2. As Michael said above, Columbia gives passive acceptance to Ahmadinejad and his beliefs. More it provides him with internal stature. ‘Look’ says one terrorist to another, ‘Ahmadinejad lectures the Americans in their own country! What a Lion he is!’ So free speech becomes propaganda. And Columbia cares? Not! For them it is not a free speech issue but an opportunity to bask in the liberal glow.

    Comment by TheHat — October 1, 2007 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  14. Message for Ingrid van Weert:
    I too was disappointed by the US media response, but a variety of print media published the rather harmless cartoons.

    Comment by Oliver Shank — October 1, 2007 @ 3:35 pm | Reply

  15. I think President Carter’s book and that of Mersheimer and Walt have pretty well taken the protective cover off such contrivances as Mr. Ahmadinejad’s treatment.

    Comment by Hammersmith — October 1, 2007 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

  16. To those who believe that Bollinger’s prefatory remarks took away any implied acceptance of Ahmendinejad’s policies or that these remarks represent some sort of cowardly attack on Bollinger’s part – can you show me where these remarks were seriously planned in any way whatsoever? I’m sure I followed the story as much as you did, yet I can’t remember hearing anything about them until right before the visit. Instead, Columbia defended its invitation by appealing to free speech, to open dialogue, to his status as world leader – this last was perhaps the most-used explanation originally put forth, since he was invited as part of a college course. My intepretation is that his remarks were a CYA maneuver designed to deflect increasing criticism from not only media but also from money-giving alumni. Nothing written since then has addressed this issue so as to refute or buttress my interpretation. The real answer lies with Bollinger, of course, but it would be hard to trust any statement by him in such a charged atmosphere. Naturally, if my interpretation is correct, your criticisms are moot; if incorrect, then you may feel that your criticisms still hold value, though they’ve been convincingly refuted elsewhere. (To wit – his invitation to a world-leading institute of higher learning automatically confers unearned legitimacy and implied acceptance of his policies. Asking him to account for these policies is neither rude nor an insult against any Arab hospitality customs, as some have suggested.)

    Comment by MakeMineRed — October 1, 2007 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  17. Michael Brophy says,

    Bollinger’s introduction to Ahmadinejad’s speech took away the presumption of passive acceptance of what Ahmadinejad represents.

    What did the applause at the various feel-good moments of Ahmadinejad’s remarks do, then?

    Comment by Jamie — October 2, 2007 @ 4:58 am | Reply

  18. May I ask how you feel about US “surgical strikes” on the revolutionary guard? How angry should we be?

    I’ve been opposed to military action agasint Iran, don’t think surgical strikes are ever surgical. I could be wrong, but I think leaks to Sy Hersh are being used by his anonymous sources to convey threats designed to deter.

    Comment by Addie Pray — October 2, 2007 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

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