Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Arrogance of America: "Roasting" an Iranian President.


I can understand the pressure that Columbia was under when it invited Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as a guest to speak before its student body in New York. I do thank you for doing so.

Perhaps it was this pressure that required Columbia's President, Lee Bollinger, to lunch a tirade against the invited guest and find that he exhibited “all the sings of a petty and cruel dictator” and that he was “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.” If these comments were made under pressure that that doesn't say much for the independence of our academic institutions, on the other hand if they were made to cause resentment in Iran for the arrogant treatment of its invited President, then they appear to have wildly succeeded.

I am curious as to whether there is any precedence for this at Columbia or any other University in the world where an invited speaker is subjected to taunt and ridicule as part of their Introduction. Introductions, after all, are supposed to be flattering and intended to highlight the achievements of the speaker/guest. The only exception is when the event is a "Roasting". Did someone forget to tell the Iranian President that he had been invited to a Roast?

Usually a speaker is invited so that the audience can find out what he stands for. I am sure Columbia students, New Yorkers, especially the loud vocal New Yorkers know what Columbia's President stands for, and certainly AIPAC appreciated the brilliancy of those comments, but such self-righteous comments uttered from the pulpit of Columbia by the High Priest of Columbia had no place in an Introduction.

We seem to have become so proud of our "freedom of speech", that we have forgotten that we as Americans do not have all the right answers, (and in some cases we don't even have the wrong answers - in other words we are totally clueless). We are, after all the 800-pound Gorilla that pulverizes whatever it steps on. How can we totally neglect the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by our invasion of Iraq, the killing, jailing, maiming of thousands of Palestinians, the destruction of our own civil rights, the neglect shown to Katrina victims, the waste of billions of dollars in arms when hundreds (if not thousands) in the US sleep on the streets or in parks and go without insurance.

We sit here in our isolated halls of freedom and chastise individuals and countries that we have never visited and to which the only access we have is through the myopic, cynical view presented by the US Media. Our people sit in an ignorance well being spoon-fed miss-information and one-liners from the media and our politicians lead us guided by night goggles worn (during the day time) by our intelligence agencies. Is it a surprise then that we know so little about what is happening in the world?

How can the President of Columbia University neglect the sad state of education that exists, not just in the quality of education, at the primary and high school levels, but also the exorbitant cost required to attend college and instead taunt the Iranian President on his educational deficiencies?

We have become an arrogant nation that believes that what it does is right, that those who disagree with us are terrorist, and that those who seek to protect their independence are a threat to us. Our strength and our power have indeed gone to our heads as we hippopotamus like wreck wherever we set foot.

We are good at manufacturing reasons to create enemies; it may be more helpful to use our tremendous resources to make friends and to understand where the world is headed. Indeed our economic survival may depend on this as the rest of the world races ahead in educating its people and in developing their economy.

How much time do we have before China comes calling to collect its trillion dollar debt, before Japan comes calling and before all the Indian software engineers and entrepreneurs have departed back to India taking with them their education, their experience and the wealth that they created? Perhaps the sages who live in New York can answer the question but given the track record displayed so far, rather than finding a solution these sages will find another country to blame. After all even after Iran has been destroyed, there are other countries already on the hit list and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

May I humbly suggest that the next time Columbia invites someone to speak, do let him or her know they will be roasted.

Javed Ellahie

  1. For those of you haven't yet done so, individuals who were bothered (?) by how Ahmadinejad was treated during his visit to Columbia are being asked to email their thoughts to
  2. Some other great Iran related stories:
    1. Iran Labels CIA a "Terrorist Organization"
    2. Iranian University Chancellors Ask Bollinger 10 Questions

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