Monday, March 13, 2006

Yale Taliban

In its long and auspicious history, Yale University has produced some impressive grads (Cole Porter, David McCullough, Tom Wolfe, Bill Clinton, etc.), as well as a few clunkers (a 43rd president of the United States comes to mind).

Nevertheless, this venerable institution has outdone itself with the case of Rahmatullah Hashemi, ex-spokesman for the Taliban regime and current Yale freshman. Several weeks ago, The New York Times Magazine highlighted how Rahmatullah, one-time face of the Taliban, had somehow landed at Yale with the help of some string-pulling from a CBS news producer-cameraman. A number of folks, primarily conservative pundits, have rightly expressed outrage over Rahmatullah's enrollment. As the Hartford Courant notes:

"Fox News has dubbed Rahmatullah the 'Ivy League terrorist,' and a columnist for The Wall Street Journal has compared him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. A group of Yale graduates has taken their alma mater to task.

"Two have launched a campaign to 'Give Yale the Finger,' urging alumni to send press-on nails to Yale as a reminder of the fingernails the Taliban tore from women who wore nail polish.'Yale is not a right,' said Brian Wesley Cook, 22, of Fairfield. 'Yale is a privilege. Not everyone is entitled to that privilege. We are talking about the mouthpiece of one of the most despicable regimes in history.'"

It will be a disappointing stain on the credibility of the political left if the only serious criticism comes from the right wing. Call us nuts (call us a cab, too, while you're at it), but it seems to us that Rahmatullah's special enrollment at Yale means he took a slot that otherwise would have gone to some gifted, hard-working schlub somewhere unable to gain entrance to the Ivy League school. After all, it isn't as if the 27-year-old Rahmatullah, whose schooling in Afghanistan did not extend beyond the fourth grade, exactly earned his acceptance at Yale.

That said, I don't necessarily believe there is something grievously unjust (as some have) with the notion of Rahmatullah being at Yale while the university simultaneously tries to block military recruiters from visiting campus. Yale's problem with the military, after all, is that the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding homosexuals is a violation of Yale's policy banning recruitment from businesses that discriminate.

But wait a minute: What entity in recent memory could be more discriminatory than the totalitarian, Buddha-smashing, women-killing, gay-torturing, refuge-to-terrorists regime of the Taliban? It is worth pointing out that Rahmatullah, while acknowledging that the Taliban were wrong about some things, has hardly renounced his former colleagues.

The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, not someone CTTC is generally fond of quoting, has weighed in with an op-ed in the Courant:

"In an interview published March 3 in The Times of London, Rahmatullah acknowledged he had done poorly in his class 'Terrorism: Past, Present and Future,' something he attributed to his disgust with the textbooks: 'They would say the Taliban were the same as al-Qaida.' He shifted blame for many of the Taliban's brutal practices onto its Ministry of Vice and Virtue, even though he had defended their actions in 2001. As for the infamous filmed executions of women in Kabul's soccer stadium? 'That was all Vice and Virtue stuff. There were also executions happening in Texas.'"

One suspects that liberal media types might be shying away from criticizing Yale because they might see the Rahmatullah controversy as being a referendum on George W. Bush's war on terrah (although the last time I checked, the war in Afghanistan was a helluva lot more rational than its sequel in Iraq). Alas, that should not be the case.

Would the left have no problem if Yale had granted admission to, say, the chief propaganda minister for the Sudanese government that has orchestrated genocide in Darfur?

Somehow I doubt it.


At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Red Dirt said...

Allah and Man at Yale.

Add this to the fallout from the cartoon jihad and I think we may be getting somewhere in the right-left dialogue regarding the War on Terror.

All right-thinking (that's "right" as in correct, not conservative) should be disturbed by the misguided multi-culti impulses that led Yale to actively seek out this man.

There are members of the U.S. military who are not only qualified to attend Yale, but highly so. Most of them will not get the same chance as the Taliban tough.

Think I'm exaggerating? Consider Kate Ingold of Chicago who recently wrote a letter to the Sunday New York Times Magazine:

"A few weeks ago, my husband returned from Afghanistan, where he was serving with his National Guard unit along the volatile border of Pakistan. Fourteen months ago, we were living in New Orleans, where he was pursuing his Ph.D. In a few months, he'll take his comprehensive exams, and then we'll be back where we started before he was called. To pay for his research, we will have to take out loans and perhaps sell our car. I read your article [on Hashemi] and can't hlep wondering whether Yale gives the same consideration to American veterans as it does to former members of the Taliban. Do American citizens give parties in Jackson Hole to raise money for the education of American soldiers, the vast majority of whom have no hope of attending a private university, let alone Yale?"

Parties in Jackson Hole. That's rich. And unfortunately true.

If America's academic elites -- the gliberatti in all its tawdriness -- is actively seeking the demise of Western civilization through a sociopathic version of radical chic, perhaps Americans should withdraw our support from the academic racket.

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry that's supposed to be "if America's academic elites ... ARE actively seeking the demise..." If I'd attended Yale, perhaps I'd have no trouble with subject-verb confusion, but I doubt it.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Justin Cox said...

This debate has been consuming the law school in particular, and continues to do so. I'm a student at Yale Law, and have written a lot about this at my blog. The most recent post surveys the criticism Yale continues to take; it's at:

Other posts include background on Hashemi:

A good example of the type of debate that’s been going on within Yale Law School

a response to Yale’s response:

A consideration of Hashemi as part of a terrorist regime

And a knee-jerk response to the original New York Times article


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