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Monday, September 24, 2007


Ahmadinejad: a "dictator"?

Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University today. I'll probably have more to say on his talk later, after I find a transcript, but I just wanted to make a quick comment on what seems to be the lead (and the headline on CNN): Columbia President Lee Bollinger saying, "you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."

What a splendid example of the depths of ignorance about Iran. Ahmadinejad is not only the duly elected President of a country (unlike, arguably, George Bush), but if there's one thing he's not, it's a "dictator" (or a "tyrant," which is a description I heard listening to one of the cable news channels). Indeed, one of his very first acts in office, allowing women to attend football (soccer) matches, was met with strong opposition from the Ayatollahs and was quickly overturned. A dictator? Hardly.

The funny thing about this is that before the media was filled with the story lines of Iran arming Iraqi resistance forces and Iran developing nuclear weapons, the story line was all about how Ahmadinejad was politically very weak within Iran. Not exactly consistent with being a dictator. Then again, when your main aim (Bollinger) is name-calling rather than the rational discussion your university is supposed to be about, the truth (or logic) isn't really the point.

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