By Kenneth R. Timmerman
What was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinking? Apparently the former Democrat believed that escorting Iran’s Hitler-wannabe president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the site of the September 11 memorial at Ground Zero would generate a terrific photo op.
“Here I am with world leaders,” that type of thing.
After all, Bloomberg has already made his appearance at the “World Leaders Forum” at Columbia University, so he was in the zone. And last year, U.S. News & World Report crowned him as one of America’s “best leaders.”
But within hours of the announcement by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Wednesday that the city was “in discussions” with the Secret Service to escort the Mighty Midget of Tehran to Ground Zero, Bloomberg’s office issued a hasty retraction.
No way, nada, not going to happen, they said. Kelly had spoken based on “outdated information.”
Actually, what happened was that someone told the Mayor that the Tweed Hall switchboard had been paralyzed by calls from outraged citizens who were responding to appeals from talk radio hosts, bloggers, Jewish organizations, and human rights groups. Feeling the political heat, Bloomberg backed down.
So much for this man’s presidential aspirations.
Bloomberg, of course, is not the only U.S. politician who thinks there’s an audience for cozying up to dictators. We’ve already seen Dennis of Damascus and Tehran Tom. And let’s not forget Nancy Pelosi’s journey on the road to Damascus, just in time for Passover and Easter.
If Bloomberg still clings to that outdated notion of political accountability, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger does not. He has maintained the speaking invitation for the boy president at Columbia’s World Forum — cleverly scheduled to coincide with a protest organized by major Jewish organizations at UN Plaza. (Guess where the press will go? If you guessed, to cover the Jews, guess again).
Bollinger actually had the chutzpah to tell Columbia undergrads that Ahmadinejad’s visit would be “a celebration of the university and its values,” according to notes taken at a rowdy meeting with student groups on Thursday afternoon.
The students soon discovered that the invitation to Iran’s Hitler wannabe had been convoyed by Richard Bulliet, a former board member of the American-Iranian Council, once the foremost promoter of Tehran’s viewpoint in Washington (now overtaken by NIAC, of course).
Also instrumental in promoting a “dialogue” with Tehran’s murderous regime is Gary Sick, the former deputy National Security Council advisor to Jimmy Carter who so gloriously managed the 1979-1981 hostage crisis.
Sick’s “Gulf 2000” Project, created in the early 1990s and fueled by Exxon-Mobil, George Soros and the Ford Foundation, among others, focused from the start on “engaging” Tehran. When Rafsanjani was president, Sick and his crowd promoted Rafsanjani as the great turbaned hope who would make Iran safe for U.S. business.
Gary Sick conceals his lobbying activity behind a cloak of cuteness, claiming that access to his website, emails, and electronic library “is limited to scholars and analysts with a professional interest in and association with the Persian Gulf region.” Critics and hostile reporters, stay away.
When Khatami took over in 1997, Sick began working with Hossein Alikhani, an Iranian businessman who spent time in a U.S. prison on felony charges after pleading guilty to violating anti-terrorist sanctions.
With Alikhani’s support, Sick founded the “Center for World Dailogue” in 1999 to promote rapprochement (read: business) between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Grateful for these efforts, a Tehran court signaled last year that it planned to award Alkhani the deed to the U.S. embassy in Tehran, supposedly to compensate him for damages he suffered at the hands of the Great Satan.
And among the apologists for the regime in Tehran, let’s not forget Washington, DC Episcopal bishop John Bryson Chane, who is planning to grovel to Qom on October 7 to meet with former president Khatami to discuss “theology.”
Bishop Chane disgraced himself last year by inviting Khatami to the National Cathedral and seems to believe that radical Shiite Islamic fundamentalism is just like Christianity, at least the kind practiced by Orthodox Anglicans or evangelical Christians.
In an interview with the Washington Times yesterday, the Freedom Center’s David Horowitz called Ahmadinejad’s visit to his alma mater “a disgrace.”
So what can Americans do?
– If you live in New York, join the street protests
Ahmadinejad addresses Columbia at 1:30 pm on Monday, but the media is gearing up for a rip-roaring street protest centered around 116th and Broadway. The mainline American Jewish groups will be gathering at UN plaza at 12:30 pm on Monday. Take your pick.
– Restrict Ahmadinejad’s visa.
Congress can pass special legislation next week to restrict the travel of Iranian government leaders the next time they come to the United Nations. The current rules restrict Iranian government representatives to a 25-mile radius of New York City, without specific prior approval.
That 25-mile radius, of course, makes it easy for Ahmadinejad or his successor to visit Columbia, Ground Zero, or to meet and greet with Iranian regime supporters in the New York metropolitan area. This should and can be stopped immediately. Iran’s leaders should be restricted to the UN building, the Iranian consulate in New York, and their hotel. Period.
As I peer into my crystal ball, I can discern just a handful of members of the Party of Surrender (plus Libertarian Ron Paul) who would oppose such restrictions, once the phone calls start flooding their offices.
– Demand reciprocity from Iran.
If Iranian leaders can come to the United States and make public statements (which they will do at the UN, even under the above proposal), then Congress should demand similar access so that a senior U.S. government official can address the Iranian Majles, Tehran University, or similar gatherings.
Imagine the panic of Iran’s senior leaders (okay, and the Secret Service) if the President or Vice-President were allowed to speak at Tehran University to deliver America’s message of freedom and self-determination. A high-risk proposal — but one worth considering.
– Demand that the UN enforce genocide convention
Congressmen Steven Rothman (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 21 on Jan. 9, 2007, calling on the UN Security Council to charge Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the UN Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. This wise legislation has 103 cosponsors and is being supported by the Zionist Organization of America, among others.
– Sue Columbia University
The Coalition for Jewish Concerns (AMCHA) is considering legal action against Columbia University to challenge the university’s refusal to allow outside demonstrators to attend the Ahmadinejad speech.
As AMCHA national president Rabbi Avi Weiss wrote, “This limitation on non-University affiliated persons is particularly inappropriate here where the speaker and his considerable entourage is not affiliated with Columbia University.”
– Alumni boycott
Although Columbia depends mainly on its huge endowment and on big alumni donors, nevertheless a grass roots alumni boycott of the university could have an impact. Stay tuned, as I hear that alumni groups across the country are mulling action on this front.
– Congressional ban on federal grants
“If Hitler were in the United States and wanted a platform from which to speak… we would certainly invite him,” the Dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, John H, Coatsworth, told FoxNews.
Is this merely an expression of Columbia’s respect for the 1st amendment? No way. Columbia seems to likes proponents of genocide — past and present – but won’t allow Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrest onto campus to talk about securing our borders, or Columbia alum David Horowitz to address academic freedom.
Congress should examine the conditions for federal grants to the University, and consider suspending all grants to Columbia programs that openly defy the United States Constitution.
– Sign the petition
Brigitte Gabriel’s American Congress for Truth has launched an on-line petition to stop Ahmadinejad from speaking at Columbia, and plans to forward the names of signatories (more than 8,000 as of Sunday afternoon) to Columbia president Lee Bolinger.
– Send the lawyers
My favorite (okay, barring a non-stop flight to Gitmo) would be to serve the boy president with a subpoena as a material witness in the billion dollar lawsuit brought against the Islamic Republic of Iran by former U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran from 1979-1981.
As I reported at the time of Ahmadinejad’s first visit to New York two years ago, several former hostages have positively identified the boy president as their most vicious interrogator during their 444 ordeal.
Former assistant air attachÃ© David Roeder described in excruciating detail Ahmadinejad’s tactics in a June 2005 interview with the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.
“[Ahmadinejad] was present at at least a third of my personal interrogations, which took place nightly for a little over a month early on in the hostage-taking situation,” Roeder said. “He seemed to be calling the shots, but from the background. The interrogators would ask a question and it would then be translated from Farsi into English by a woman interpreter.”
Most chilling was the very personal nature of the threat Ahmadinejad used in an effort to “break” Roeder.
“Because I was not cooperating, they threatened that they were going to kidnap my handicapped son and send various pieces of him fingers and toes is what they mentioned to my wife if I didnt start cooperating. You dont forget somebody who is involved in something like that.”
No, you don’t forget somebody who is involved in something like that.
But in its infinite wisdom, the State Department last year intervened to block efforts by attorneys for the 52 hostages and their families from seeking damages from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
These days, of course, Ahmadinejad doesn’t make individual threats such as those he made to Roeder. Today he merely threatens to “destroy America” and to “wipe Israel off the map.”
At Columbia, of course, that passes for free speech.
Just don’t hold up a “Support the Troops” banner — or Columbia’s dean might call security.
Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).