Iranian Professors Question Lee Bollinger & the USA
Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta
I have already expressed my distaste for the way Columbia University President Lee Bollinger treated President Ahmadinejad of Iran. But reacting to this behaviour, seven Iranian University Chancellors have publicly asked Professor Bollinger for answers to ten questions. While I am nowhere close to Professor Bollinger, these are my thoughts on the questions.
(Do recall that these chancellors did not make any comments on the points that Professor Bollinger raised, which in turn is a rather damning indictment on them, the spectacularly stupid and moronic "we have no gays in Iran" notwithstanding!
1- Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?
I do agree to some bits of this, the US government and media are a bit chary of foreign media so free speech is not really totally free speech. See my comment on how the USA and UK reacted to Al Jazeera all the way back to 2003. But on the other hand, this is a qualitative and value judgement question and it is very difficult to give a good answer. What is "much pressure" ? Also he had both his speeches broadcast. I am not sure what opportunity was stopped? This idea that the media is very biased is quite wrong and has been discussed here.
2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran's national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah's dictatorship?
Now this is absolutely criminal and I have to agree with the Iranians. There was no reason for the Americans and British to go mucking around with Iran and overthrow his government despite his attractions to socialism/communism (take your pick). You do not muck around with foreign governments to this extent. As for supporting the Shah's dictatorship (leaving aside the fact that Iran is no angel), this is also something that is very negative on the part of the USA. As the Indians pointed out today, "so explain why USA can support General Musharraf of Pakistan but hate the Burmese Generals?". This is very inconsistent behaviour indeed and certainly not praiseworthy. Yes, I know the reasons but they were short term and the benefit of those short term reasons were not justified by the long term damage on American morals and principles.
3- Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?
Again, no real objection. USA, Europe and others did support Saddam Hussein. All for trying to punish Iran. Not good and not fair.
4- Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it oppose Iran 's proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?
Now this is a stupid question. The reason why USA does not recognize the Hamas government is because it is nominated as a terrorist organisation. It simply has to renounce violence and engage in negotiations for it to get recognised. Now this is a grey area about when you switch from a terrorist group to a resistance group to a political party, but surely the Iranian Chancellors understand why? Secondly, what general referendum? Who runs it? How? What will be the results? This is such a vacuous and stupid suggestion that the mind boggles. Think about carrying out a referendum on Kashmir 60 years after partition. Can you imagine the murder, mayhem and wars that would break out? Multiply that bv ten and you will get the idea in the Middle East if it runs a referendum.
5- Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even with all its advanced equipment? How do you justify the old friendship between the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals? How can you justify the Bush administration's efforts to disrupt investigations concerning the September 11 attacks?
Another frankly stupid question. If advanced equipment was indeed the sole criterion for finding culprits and solving crime, then the USA would be a crime-free state!!. Also, family friendships are now wrong? Crimes by association are not a crime even in Shia Islamic law, so why are they raising this? Finally, the disruption of the 9/11 attacks is in their minds and is a conspiracy theory question. End of story.
6- Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq? Why does the US refuse to allow Iran's current government to act against the MKO's main base in Iraq?
Now this is indeed a very good question. For all its vices and faults, Iran is an independent country, and has some semblance of democracy. American support of the rebel group Khalq is, in my opinion, wrong. Mind you, the Germans are supporting the Iranian Kurds!
7- Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did international institutions support it? What was the real purpose behind the invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives? Where are the weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?
This is another ignorant question. If the Chancellors do not know that the war was legal, then they aren't reading their newspapers or they do not understand or know the British or American Legal Systems. Secondly, asking for a real purpose right before asking for the evidence of weapons of mass destruction means that this was a rhetorical question.
8- Why do America's closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?
Very good question. Why indeed? See my comment on question #2
9- Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than Israel?
Again, a very good question but there are two parts to the answer. The first is the NPT (which I have already commented upon here) and the second is domestic politics relating to support for Israel. So it is impossible for USA to go against Israel or to go for the original deal which promised that the nuclear powers will work towards eventual total disarmament.
10- Why is the US displeased with Iran's agreement with the IAEA and why does it openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the nuclear issue under international law?
Again, this is a rhetorical question, One is not very sure why they have raised it. Iran IS against IAEA law. Which part of that did the chancellors not know? If they did not know this, then they do not know IAEA law!
There you go, my few pennies on this rather interesting debate. Quite interesting to see how people see the world. While Professor Bollinger was very factual but rude, these Iranian Chancellors are very emotional, sometimes very wrong and sometimes having zingers of questions but very polite. I think they could have phrased the questions differently and had a bigger impact but due to many questions being wrongly phrased, this entire letter will be ignored.
Iranian Professors Question Lee Bollinger & the USA
- » Published on September 27, 2007
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