[Guest post by DRJ]
As I began writing this, Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was speaking at New York’s Columbia University. One soundbyte tonight will be the strong words from Columbia’s President Bollinger calling Ahmadinejad a petty
tyrant and cruel dictator and questioning Iran’s treatment of women and gays. In his initial response, Ahmadinejad said that it’s not nice to invite someone to speak and attack them before they’ve even begun. Both received applause.
The other soundbyte will be Ahmadinejad’s claim, in response to the fourth question of the Q&A, that Iran doesn’t have gays like we do in the US. Fortunately the audience did not seem fooled by his response.
Ahmadinejad’s speech was rambling and disjointed and I’ll leave it to others to summarize. Here is my summary of the question and answer portion:
The first question asked if Ahmadinejad recognized the right of Israel to exist and of the Jewish people to exist. The answer began “We love all nations” but, even after a follow-up question, Ahmadinejad refused to answer with a yes or no. Ahmadinejad’s answer primarily involved the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and he instead posed a question to President Bollinger regarding whether the Palestinian question was important. Bollinger answered simply, “Yes” but Ahmadinejad still failed to answer the Jewish question directly.
The second question concerned Iran’s support of terrorism and terrorists. Ahmadinejad gave a lengthy answer that claimed Iran is a victim of terrorism from unnamed groups supported by the US. He denied Iran supported terrorists and said Iran was the first nation to decry terrorism.
The third question involved the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad repeatedly focused on his profession as an academic and his desire to study history. He claims his inquiries into the Holocaust are in furtherance of historical accuracy. Bollinger challenged Ahmadinejad to agree that the fact of the Holocaust was not in dispute. Ahmadinejad said he was not saying the Holocaust did not happen but he continued to call for research, saying “Nothing known is absolute.”
The fourth question concerned Iranian treatment of women and homosexuals. As to women, Ahmadinejad said Iranian women are free and hold high positions in government and society, and other governments have lied about Iranian women to hurt the Iranian government. Iran has a high turnout in voting, including women, which shows they are free. As for gays, Ahmadinejad responded by posing “two questions” regarding illicit drug trafficking – presumably implying that people were not punished for being gay but for illegal actions. (He used this technique frequently during his speech, where he would ask a question in response to a question rather than providing a response.) Ahmadinejad pointed out that the US also has capital punishment for drug traffickers and other criminals.
When pressed by Bollinger to answer about gays and women, not drug traffickers and criminals, Ahmadinejad said, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.” The audience “enjoyed” a big, disbelieving laugh at that statement, followed by boos. He continued, “In Iran, we do not have that phenomenon and I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.”
[PATTERICO ADDS: Well, sure -- they don't have gays in Iran, because they kill them there. By the way, here's the video of this incredible statement:
The fifth question asked what Ahmadinejad hoped to accomplish by speaking at Columbia, and what would he have said if he could have spoken at Ground Zero. Ahmadinejad responded that he should be given respect for coming, and all he wanted to do was show his respect. He claimed it was “pessimistic,” “selfish” and “self-absorbed” to manage world affairs like this and refuse to let him show his respects at Ground Zero.
Ahmadinejad also wanted to talk to the press at Ground Zero because 9/11 caused insecurity, terrorism and fear in his region following the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. He wanted to use 9/11 to explore the root causes that led to it and to resolve Afghanistan and Iraq.
The sixth question asked why Iran wants enriched uranium. Ahmadinejad responded that the nuclear program is legal and “completely peaceful.” He asked how America, “in the fifth generation” of nuclear power, could question Iran’s right to the peaceful use of that power. He told a “joke” about nuclear weapons: The politicians who want nuclear weapons are “retarded.”
Last, the seventh question asked if Iran was willing to negotiate with the US and Ahmadinejad answered that it was. Iran has always been willing to talk with any nation except South Africa (when it was an apartheid nation) and the Zionist nation of Israel. Ahmadinejad said that talk will avoid conflict.
UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Here is the end of his speech. Listen to the applause. Watch the dean walk over and shake his hand. Shake your head in amazement.