Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The Times filter them, so why can't I?

"To the Editor:

Lee C. Bollinger’s speech before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s showing at Columbia was another display of America’s foreign policy of late: If we don’t like your policies or your president, we insult, we bully and, just maybe, we bomb. Then, as Mr. Bollinger did, we applaud ourselves and our actions because we support freedom. Constructive dialogue: never heard of it. If Mr. Bollinger didn’t really want to open dialogue, as was clear from his speech, he shouldn’t have extended the invitation.

Iran isn’t a naughty child who needs to be beaten into cooperating; history and Iraq show that this strategy rarely works in the long term. By attacking and vilifying Mr. Ahmadinejad, an invited guest to Columbia, Mr. Bollinger distracted from and tainted what could have been a different showing from Mr. Ahmadinejad and effectively dashed any hopes of the lecture’s being a constructive one — and one that could have perhaps been the beginning of substantive dialogue with Iran.

Reem Ali Abu-Libdeh
Boston, Sept. 25, 2007

To the Editor:

The emotional, irrational and hateful reaction of certain aspects of the American media, as well as the public, particularly in New York and at one of its esteemed academic institutions, against the visiting Iranian president is a sad reminder of the forces of intolerance in the bosom of American civil society.

From the CBS “60 Minutes” reporter who opted to speak for the “American people” to express his outrage at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s simple request to lay a wreath at ground zero, pursuant to his letter to American people last year, where he condemned the 9/11 atrocities in the strongest language, to the impolite and outright rude introduction by Columbia University’s president, reeking intolerance has become all-infecting and, obviously, in dire need of rethinking by those who spew it.

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
Cambridge, Mass., Sept. 25, 2007

The writer is a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team

To the Editor:

Will George W. Bush appear at an Iranian university and take questions from Iranians? They surely would like to ask about C.I.A. activity in their own and surrounding nations, about our support of “our” shah and Savak, about American aid to Iraq during the war in which Iranians were victims of poison gas, about “coalition” attacks on and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, about corruption and contracts, and about human rights at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and secret prisons.

Jean Kathleen Ranallo
Englewood, Fla., Sept. 25, 2007

To the Editor:

Re “Mr. Ahmadinejad Speaks” (editorial, Sept. 25): In commenting on the appearance of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia, you say, “Unlike Iran’s citizens, Americans have the right to laugh at leaders.” Yes, we do have that right, and I’m glad for it.

But when was the last time President Bush appeared before an audience that laughed at him? His audiences are always screened for potential troublemakers. People wearing T-shirts or carrying signs with critical messages are kept out of view. He barely has to face a difficult question from a member of the public.

It would be nice if we could exercise the right to laugh at our leaders where they might actually hear the cackles.

Doug Henwood
New York, Sept. 25, 2007