Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007, in New York. Image Credit: AP Photo/Stephen Chernin
Columbia’s Speaking-Truth-To-Power Moment
Many of us who live here at MAXINE remember, however vaguely, what it meant to become a child of the “sixties”. One of the tenants that the Hippie generation brought forward to the American culture, along with “Flower Power”, Ecology, “if it feels good ... do it”, was the concept of “speaking truth to power”!
This process of speaking-truth-to-power was designed to empower the populous … to not be intimidated by those in power. To give permission to anyone to call those in power OUT if they were, in fact oppressing the masses through the curtailing of the personal freedoms that are due to them in this society.
Ariel Shaeban, right, an Iranian immigrant now residing in New York, screams at pro-Iranian protesters outside the campus of Columbia University during a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Monday, Sept. 24, 2007 in New York. Image Credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
Generally, this process and concept are great for any society if is used in protest and in the proper context.
Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger, got the context of the concept and process all wrong when he decided to invite and keep the speaking date with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday.
Bollinger, after receiving a proper and extreme negative reaction to the invitation of Ahmadinejad decided to proceed with the speaking occasion. In order to mollify the alumnae and other possible contributors to Columbia, Bollinger decided to introduce Ahmadinejad in what can only be a grandstanding of a speaking-truth-to-power moment by ripping “Mockmood” a new one!
Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, set the combative tone in his introduction of Ahmadinejad when he said, "Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator."
Bollinger’s grandstanding went on, "In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as the fabricated legend,". Bollinger reminded Ahmadinejad, "One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers."
Bollinger said that might fool the illiterate and ignorant.
"When you come to a place like this, it makes you simply ridiculous. The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history," he said.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger speaks prior to introducing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran at Columbia University, New York, Monday, Sept. 24, 2007. Image Credit: AP Photo/Stephen Chernin
This speaking-truth-to-power moment lasted the better part of fifteen minutes but the Columbia president really had it all wrong. By inviting and hosting the Iranian president in the first place was to elevate this man, his concepts, and his regime to an additional position of power, the respected podium of a first tier University.
For “Mockmood’s” part, he did not disappoint any who watched him. He powerfully put forth that in Iran, women have the greatest of freedoms anywhere on Earth, women are respected, that Iran does not experience the phenomena of homosexuality as we do here in the United States (“homosexuality does not exist in Iran”), on the subject of the Holocaust, “Mockmood” said, "There's nothing known as absolute," and that the Holocaust has been abused as a justification for Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians. "Why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price for an event they had nothing to do with?" he asked, and so on. In otherwords, NOTHING NEW.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks at Columbia University in New York, September 24, 2007. Ahmadinejad accused Israel of occupation and racism on Monday at the start of a visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly meeting that has sparked protests and anger. Image Credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)
By using this time and this place for Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger to speak-truth-to-power actually backfired because of the fact that the words were not listened to but the context was. Protests, to be effective, usually are not launched through an invitation and acceptance of the person "in power" being protested.
Bollinger ended up allowing Ahmadinejad to portray himself as an intellectual and argue that his administration respected reason and science, that he was a former engineering professor. “Mockmood” was able to appear shaken and irate over what he called "insults" from his host, and he soon found himself gaining sympathy from and being applauded by the sitting audience in his more powerful “Speaking-Truth-To-Power Moment”.
At MAXINE, we are saddened this event had to happen in the first place.
(ht: AP, Reuters Photos - Yahoo! News)
President of Iran Addresses UN General Assembly - New York 25 September 2007 - Image Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
Full Text Of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 62nd UN General Assembly Address (Sept. 26, 2007)
By Office of Mahmood Ahmadinejad - President -Iran [view author info]
New York, New York -
In the Name of God, the Almighty
"Oh God, hasten the arrival of Imam Al-Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his rightfulness"
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased and grateful to the Almighty to have the opportunity once again to attend this important universal forum.
In the present tumultuous world and predominance of loud outcries, threats and tensions, and in the time when the big powers are unable to solve the present problems, when mistrust in regional and international arenas is on the rise, when psychological security of societies is being targeted by an onslaught of political and propaganda designs, and disappointment prevails over efficacy of policies and actions of the international organizations in establishing of durable peace and security, and the protection of human rights is being weakened,
I plan to touch upon and explain the roots and ways out of these predicaments and some of the principal challenges facing our world. I will also speak to you about the need for amending the present situation, prospects for brighter and more hopeful future, and about the reappearance of the sublime and beauty, kindness and dignity, justice and blossoming of all divine human talents and dominance of love of God and realization of the promise of God as stated by of all divine prophets and righteous men. I will then put to your judgment the nuclear issue of Iran as a reality and testing ground for measurement of honesty, efficacy, steadfastness and victories. In the closing part of my address, I will offer my proposals.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As you are all aware we are presently facing important, numerous and diverse challenges that I will refer to some of them.
1- Organized attempts to tear down the institution of family and to reduce the status of women
Family is the most sacred and valuable human institution that serves as the center of the purest mutual love and affection of mothers, fathers and children, and a safe environment for the upbringing and cultivating human generations, and a fertile ground for blossoming of sentiments and emotions. This institution has always been respected by all nationalities, religions of cultures.
Today we are witnessing an organized invasion by the enemies of humanity and plunderers to tear down this genuine institution. They target this noble institution by promoting lewdness, violence and breaking the boundaries of chastity and decency.
The precious existence of women as the expression of divine beauty and peak of kindness, affection and purity has been the target of heavy exploitation over the past recent decades by the holders of powers and owners of media and wealth. In some societies, this beloved creature has been reduced to mere instruments of publicity and all boundaries and protective shields of chastity, purity and beauty have been trampled. This is a colossal betrayal of human society, of succeeding generations, and an irreparable blow on the social coherence.
2. Widespread Violations of Human Rights, Terrorism and Occupation
Unfortunately human rights are being extensively violated by certain powers, especially by those who pretend to be their exclusive advocates. Setting up clandestine prisons, abductions, trials and secret punishments without any regard to due process, listening on telephone conversations, opening private letters and frequent summons to police and security centers have become commonplace and prevalent. They prosecute scientists and historians for stating their opinions on important global issues. They are using different alibis to occupy sovereign nations and cause chaos and divisions, and then use the prevailing situation as an excuse to continue their occupation. For more than sixty years, Palestine, as compensation of the loss they incurred in the war in Europe, has been under occupation of the illegal Zionist regime.
Their people have been displaced or are under heavy military pressure, economic siege or are incarcerated under abhorrent conditions. The occupiers are protected and praised, while innocent people of Palestine are subjected to political, military and propaganda onslaughts. The people of Palestine are deprived of water, electricity and medicine for the sin of asking for freedom, and their government that has come from the votes of the people is targeted. Terrorists are being organized to attack the lives and property of people, under auspices of politicians and military officials of the big powers. The brutal Zionists carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinians in their homes and cities, and terrorists receive medals of peace and support from the big powers. On the other hand they gather a number of deprived Jewish people with false propagation under pretext of providing them with welfare, job and food from different parts of the world and settle them in the occupied territories and exposed them to harshest restrictions, psychological pressures and constant threat. They prevent these deprived people to return to their main lands and by use of force and false propagation make them show their hatred towards indigenous Palestinian people.
Iraq was occupied under the pretext of overthrow of a dictator and existence of weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi dictator who had been supported by the same occupiers was disposed of, and no weapons were discovered, but occupation continues under different excuses. No day passes without people being killed, wounded or displaced, and occupiers not only refuse to be accountable and ashamed, but speak in a report of a new market for their armaments as the result of their military venture. They even oppose the constitution, national assembly and the government arising from the votes of the people, while do not even have the courage to declare their defeat and exit Iraq.
Unfortunately we are witnessing this bitter truth that some powers do not put value on any nation or human beings, and the only things that matters to them are themselves, their parties and groups. In their view, human rights are tantamount to profits for their companies and friends. The rights and the good name of American people are also being sacrificed for the selfish desires of those holding power.
3. Aggressions against Indigenous Cultures and National Values
Culture is the expression of identity and the key to survival of nations and the foundation for their interaction with others. In an organized movement, indigenous cultures that are messengers of monotheism, love and fraternity are being subjected to broad and destructive aggressions. National customs and values are humiliated and self-esteem and character of nations are ridiculed and defamed. The purpose is to promote blind emulations, consumerism, skeptism toward God and human values, and plundering of their wealth by big powers.
4. Poverty, illiteracy, Health Deprivation and Gap between the poor and the Rich
While a major part of the natural environment in Asia, Africa and Latin America is being plundered by political and economic domination of certain powers. The situation of poverty and deprivation is very alarming. These are some of numbers by the United Nations:
- Every day close to 800 million people go to bed hungry and about 980 million suffer from absolute poverty, with less than one dollar a day in purchasing power.
- People of 31 countries, equivalent to 9 percent of the world's population, have an average life expectancy equaling to 46 years, which is 32 years less than the average of some countries.
- Ratio between the rich and the poor in some parts of the world is 40 times.
- In some countries, majority of people are deprived of access to education and schooling.
- In many developing countries the maternal mortality rate during pregnancy is 450 per 100,000. This ratio is 7 in the richer nations and the ratio of mortality of new births is 59 for developing countries and 6 for the richer nations.
- One-third of mortality in the world, or 50,000 daily, results from poverty.
I believe these numbers clearly demonstrate the tragic situation prevailing over the global economy.
5. Ignoring Noble Values and Promotion of Deception and Lies.
Some powers sacrifice all human values including honesty, purity and trust for the advancement of their goals. They propagate skepticism and deception in the relations between states and peoples. They lie openly, level baseless charges against others, act contrary to legal norms and damage the climate of trust and friendship. They openly abandon morality and noble values in their relations with others, and substitute selfishness, supremacy, enmity and imposition for justice, respect for others, love, affection and honesty. They sacrifice all the good things of life and the sublime for their own greed.
6. Violations of Rules of International Law and Disrespect of Commitments
Some who were themselves the drafters of international law openly and easily violate them and apply discriminatory policies and double standards. They drafted disarmament regulations, but every day test and stockpile new generations of lethal weapons. They framed the Charter of the United Nations, but show disrespect to the right of self-determination and independence of sovereign nations. They conveniently abrogate their formal treaties, and do not yield to laws concerning protection of environment. Most of the violations of international obligations are done by few global powers.
7. Escalation of Threats and Arms Race
Some powers, whenever their logic fails, simply use the language of threat. The heavy arms race cast the shadow of threat over the globe. The nations of Europe were the victims of two world wars and a number of other devastating conflicts and were subjected to the consequences of the Cold War for many decades. Today Europeans are living under the shadow of threat, and their interests, security and lands are endangered under shadow of the arms race imposed by certain big powers.
A bullying power allows itself the right to set up a missile system, makes the life of the peoples of a continent bitter and lays the ground for arms race.
Some rulers who superficially appear to be powerful act as a child that has acquired a plastic water gun and feels powerful power and starts shooting impatiently at all things and at all times, threaten others and cast the shadow of insecurity over nations and regions.
8. Inefficacy of International Mechanism to prevail over these challenges and to bring durable peace and security.
International organizations and mechanisms clearly lack the capacity to overcome problems and challenges, to put in place fair and just relations and peace, fraternity and security. There is hardly any government or nation that places much hope on these mechanisms to secure its rights or defend its independence, territorial integrity and national interests.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The challenges are a lot more than the ones I enumerated and I know that you would have presented many more if you wanted to dwell on them, but I chose to confine myself to the ones I stated.
Now, the important and decisive question concerns the roots and causes of these challenges.
A scientific and careful analysis shows that the root of the present situation lies in two fundamental factors.
Without doubt, the first factor lies in the relations arising from the consequences of World War the Second.
The victors of the war drew the roadmap for global domination and formulated their policies not on the basis of justice but for ensuring interests of victors over the vanquished nations. Therefore mechanisms arising from this approach and related policies have not been capable to find just solutions for global problems since 60 years ago.
Some big powers still carry the conduct of the victors of a world war and regard other states and nations even those that had nothing to do with the war, as the vanquished, and humiliate other nations and demand extortion from the condescending position similar to feudal and peasants of the medieval age.
They regard themselves superior to others and are not accountable to any government or international body.
Colleagues, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Among all the ineffective organizations, unfortunately, the UN Security Council ranks first.
They have created circumstances in which some powers with exclusive and special right to veto in the Security Council act as prosecutor, Judge and executioner, regardless of being a defendant or respondent. It is natural that countries that have been subjected to their infringements have no hope to get what they deserve from the Council.
Unfortunately the humanity has witnessed that in all long wars, like the Korean and Vietnam wars, the war of the Zionists against Palestinians and Lebanon, war of Saddam against the people of Iran and ethnic wars of Europe and Africa, one of members the Security Council was one of the belligerents or supported one party against the other, usually the aggressor, or the conflict itself.
Look at Iraq, they first occupied them and then received authorization from the Security Council, the same Council in which the same occupiers have the right of veto.
Who should the people of Iraq complain about and to where should they take their complaints with hopes of securing their rights?
We saw in Lebanon that some powers delayed the decisions of the Security Council hoping for the victory of the Zionist regime. However, when they became disappointed in that usurper regime's victory, they approved of a ceasefire to take effect. But the duty of the Security Council is to prevent the expansion of conflicts, to put in place the ceasefire and promote peace and safety. Who should the people of Lebanon complain about and where should they take their complaints to?
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The presence of some monopolist powers has prevented the Security Council from doing its main duties which are safeguarding peace and security based on justice. The credibility of the council has been tarnished and its efficacy in defending the rights of its members has been destroyed. Many nations have lost their confidence in the Council.
Some other mechanisms like the monetary and banking mechanisms are in the same undesirable situation and have been turned into tools for the imposition of the wishes of some powers on other nations.
It is evident that these mechanisms are not capable of responding to the current needs and solving the challenges and establishing fair and sustainable relations.
Again, there is no doubt that the second and more important factor is some big powers' disregard of morals, divine values, the teachings of prophets and directions specified by the all-knowing God as well as the rule of the sinful. How can the sinful that can not even manage and control themselves, rule the humanity and arrange his affairs?
Unfortunately they have put themselves in the position of God! They are in servitude of their own whims and desire to have everything for themselves. For them, the human dignity and the lives, properties lands of others are no longer important.
Humanity has had the deep wound caused by impious powers on his battered body. Today, the problems that people around world face are mainly rooted in the disregard of human values and morals and also in the management by the impious.
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The only sustainable way to the betterment of mankind, is the return to the teachings of divine prophets, monotheism, respect for the dignity of humans and the flow of love and affections in all relationships, ties and regulations. Then the structures should be reformed based on these.
To fulfill this objective, I invite everybody to line up a front of fraternity, amity and sustainable peaces based on monotheism and justice under the name of "Coalition for Peace" to prevent incursions and arrogance and propagate the culture of affection and justice. I hereby announce that with the help of all independent, justice-seeking and peace-loving nations, the Islamic republic of Iran will be treading on this path.
Monotheism, Justice and love for humans should dominate all the pillars of the UN and this organization has to be a reference for justice and every member of it has to enjoy equal spiritual and legal support.
General Assembly as the representative of the international community shall be considered as the most important pillar of the UN in order, free from any pressure and threats of big powers, to take required measures for reforming the UN structures and especially change the present status of the Security Council and define new structures based on justice and democracy with the purpose to become responsive to the present requirements and be able to settle existing challenges leading to the establishment of sustainable stability and security.
The nuclear issue of Iran is a clear example of the performance of such mechanisms and their prevailing thoughts.
As you all know, Iran is an official member of the International Atomic Energy Agency and has always observed its rules and regulations and has had the most extensive cooperation with this Agency in all aspects. All our nuclear work has been completely peaceful and transparent.
According to the Statute of the IAEA, any member has a number of rights and commitments. Actually, any member has to move on the peaceful path and, under the supervision of the Agency, assist other members and is entitled to be supported by the Agency and have access to the fuel cycle with the help the Agency and its members.
So far, Iran has fulfilled all its obligations but has been deprived of other members' technical assistance and, even during some periods of time, of the Agency's support.
For about 5 years, some of the aforementioned powers tried to deny the Iranian nation of its rights by exerting pressures on IAEA.
They derailed Iran's nuclear issue of its legal path and politicized the atmosphere to impose their wishes taking advantage of all their potentials.
Iran spared no effort to build confidence. However, nothing satisfied them except the complete halt of all nuclear activities even those related to research and university fields. They were only after depriving Iran of all its inalienable rights. Therefore, even those centers not involved in the fuel cycle or not in need of the supervision of the Agency were closed. After three years of negotiation and trying to build confidence, the Iranian nation came to the resolute conviction that the main concern of these powers is not the possible deviation of Iran from the rules and regulations of the Agency but its scientific progress. If this trend continues there will be no chance for Iran to enjoy its rights, not even in the next 20 years. Therefore, it has to be decided to follow up the issue on its right legal path that goes through the Agency away from illegitimate and political impositions by the arrogant powers. Of course, Iranian Nation has always been ready and now is prepared for constructive talks.
By abusing the Security Council, the arrogant powers have repeatedly accused Iran and even made military threats against it over the last two years. However, thanks to the faith in God and the national unity, Iran has moved forward step by step and now our country is recognized as a country with the capacity for industrial scale fuel cycle production for peaceful uses.
Fortunately, the Agency has recently tried to regain its legal role as supporter of the rights of its members and supervisor of nuclear activities. We see this as a right approach adopted by the Agency. Previously, they illegally wished to politicize Iranian Nation's nuclear case, but today, thanks to the resistance of the Iranian nation, the issue is back at the Agency and I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary matter. Today many questions have been raised on Iranian nuclear activities within IAEA by certain powers which shall be examined properly. Of course Iran has always been prepared to have constructive talks with all parties.
I would like to thank all the nations and countries that, during this hard juncture, defended the legal rights of my nation and motherland and also appreciate the members of the Non-Aligned Movement, our other friends in the Security Council, IAEA's Board of Governors, the committed and law-abiding experts of the Agency and its Director General for their insistence on the law. I would also like to announce that unlike the monopolist powers, the Iranian nation is ready to offer to other members its experiences in form of educational programs and based on the obligations of the Agency's statute and under its supervision.
Now I would like to address those who beleaguered the Iranian nation for about five years, offended and accused my people who have contributed to the history and civilization of the world and advice them to learn from their recent actions. They mistreated the Iranian nation but they have to be careful not to do the same with other nations and not to sacrifice the integrity of international organizations for the sake of their unlawful wishes. Today the nations of the world are wide-awake, vigilant, and resistant. If you reform yourselves, the whole world will be reformed.
Nations are inherently good and can co-exist peacefully. They'd better try to serve their own people, and be sure that others do not need them.
Is it not high time for these powers to return from the path of arrogance and obedience of Satan to the path of Godliness?
Do they not like to be cleansed of their impurities, submit to the will of God and believe in him?
Faith in God means believing in honesty, purity, justice and loving others!
They can be sure that they will benefit from purity, honesty, justice, loving and respecting the human dignity. They can be sure that such attributes are considered to be more appropriate, valuable and beautiful by the nations of the world.
This is the invitation of all divine prophets from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Mohammed, the Messenger of God (PBUH).
If they answer to the invitation, they will be saved and if they don't, the same thing that befell the people of the past will befall them.
According to holy Koran:
"One who does not answer the divine call should not think that he has weakened God on earth; he has no companion but God and he is clearly engulfed by darkness".
They have nothing of their own and can not escape from the dominion of the rule of God and his will.
In this important gathering, I have to remind them of the following words of the Almighty which has been mentioned in the Holy Quran:
"Do they not look at the powers and governments which came before them? If the people of the past had actually possessed something, they would have kept it and would not have let you the posses it now. God destroyed them because of their sins and nobody could protect them against the will of God".
They have to know that the ways and traditions based on oppression and injustice will be destroyed. Do they not see the signs of vigilance and resistance based on monotheism, philanthropy and the justice-seeking spirit of the nations of the world? Do they not notice the imminent fall of empires?
I hope that this invitation will have a practical answer.
Nations and countries don't have to obey the injustice of certain powers. These powers, because of the reasons already mentioned, have lost the competence to lead the world because of their hideous acts.
I officially declare that the age of relations arising from the Second World War as well as materialistic thoughts based on arrogance and domination is well over now. Humanity has passed a perilous precipice and the age of monotheism, purity, affinity, respecting others, justice and true peace loving has commenced.
It is the divine promise that the truth will be victorious and earth will be inherited by the righteous. You, who are free, believers and the people of the world, put your trust in God. You, who crave for the high values, wherever you are, try to prepare the grounds for the fulfillment of this great divine promise by serving the people and seeking justice.
The age of darkness will end, the prisoners will come back home, the occupied lands will be freed, Palestine and Iraq will be liberated from the domination of the occupiers and the people of Europe will be free of the pressures exerted by the Zionists. The tender-hearted and humanity-loving governments will replace the aggressive and domineering ones. The human dignity will be regained. The pleasing aroma of justice will permeate the world and people will live together in a brotherly and affectionate manner.
Striving in this way to give the rule to the righteous and the Promised One is actually the final cure for the wounds of humanity, the solution of all problems, and the establishment of love, beauty, justice and happiness all over the world. This belief and endeavor is the key to unity and the constructive interactions among nations, countries, the people of the world and all the true justice seekers.
Without any doubt, the Promised One who is the final Savior and the last heavenly message will come. In the company of all believers, justice-seekers and benefactors, he will establish the bright future and fill the world with justice and beauty. This is the promise of God, therefore it will be fulfilled.
Let's have a role in the fulfillment of all this glory and beauty.
I wish for the bright future for all human beings and the dawn of the liberation and freedom for all humans and the rule of love and affections all around the world as well as elimination of oppression, hatred and violence. The wish which I think will be realized in the near future.