Freedom’s Watch, a conservative group whose funding exceeds that of MoveOn.org, is running a full-page ad Monday in the New York Times attacking Columbia University’s decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak.
“And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism,” the ad quotes the Iranian leader as saying on CNN.
To the left of a black-and-white photo of Ahmadinejad, the ad says that he “threatens our nation and the freedoms we value. He has supported attacks on our soldiers and our allies. He should be treated as the terrorist that he is.”
Yet, the ad continues, “while Columbia gives a terrorist like Ahmadinejad a platform to speak, they refuse to allow the ROTC on campus. What has happened to this prestigious university? People who support killing Americans are welcome. But the military that defends them is not. Columbia should be ashamed of its actions.”
Since late August, Freedom’s Watch has spent $15 million on television, radio, and print ads, Brad Blakeman, president and CEO of the group, tells me. The targets have been anti-war critics who support a quick retreat from Iraq, MoveOn.org’s ad suggesting that Gen. David Petraeus betrayed the American people, and now Columbia’s decision to invite Ahmadinejad.
John Coatsworth, acting dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, has defended the invitation to invite Ahmadinejad as an exercise in good citizenship. He has said Columbia would also have invited Adolf Hitler, who killed six million Jews, to speak if he were willing to engage in debate.
“Opportunities to hear, challenge, and learn from controversial speakers of different views are central to the education and training of students for citizenship in a shrinking and dangerous world,” Coatsworth has said.
A day before flying to New York to speak at Columbia, Ahmadinejad struck a defiant tone with a parade in Tehran of fighter jets and missiles and tough warnings for the United States to stay out of the Mideast. Some of the missile trucks were painted with the slogans “Down with the U.S.” and “Down with Israel.”
Blakeman drew parallels to all three targets of Freedom’s Watch ads, saying they are undermining American security and are in denial about the dangers we face. Blakeman noted that Clark Hoyt, the New York Times’ public editor, has chastised his own newspaper over the Petraeus ad.
“...I think the ad violated The Times’s own written standards, and the paper now says that the advertiser got a price break it was not entitled to,” Hoyt wrote. But he quoted Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. as saying, “If we’re going to err, it’s better to err on the side of more political dialogue. ... Perhaps we did err in this case. If we did, we erred with the intent of giving greater voice to people.”
The invitation to the Iranian leader “shows a complete lack of judgment on the part of the trustees and the decision-makers of Columbia,” Blakeman said. Ahmadinejad is using our freedoms “as a tool to mock us.”
Moreover, “Anyone who agrees with the statement that Hitler should be invited as well should be removed immediately,” Blakeman said. “Freedom of speech is not a guaranteed, absolute right to a dictator who doesn’t give the same rights to his people. The Constitution protects America, not dictators who seek to destroy us.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of NewsMax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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