John Fund, OpinionJournal, Feb. 27, 2006
Never has an article made me blink with astonishment as much as when I read in yesterday’s New York Times magazine that Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former ambassador-at-large for the Taliban, is now studying at Yale on a U.S. student visa. This is taking the obsession that U.S. universities have with promoting diversity a bit too far.
Something is very wrong at our elite universities. Last week Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard when it became clear he would lose a no-confidence vote held by politically correct faculty members furious at his efforts to allow ROTC on campus, his opposition to a drive to have Harvard divest itself of corporate investments in Israel, and his efforts to make professors work harder. Now Yale is giving a first-class education to an erstwhile high official in one of the most evil regimes of the latter half of the 20th century — the government that harbored the terrorists who attacked America on Sept. 11, 2001.
“In some ways,” Mr. Rahmatullah told the New York Times. “I’m the luckiest person in the world. I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale.” One of the courses he has taken is called Terrorism-Past, Present and Future.
Many foreign readers of the Times will no doubt snicker at the revelation that naive Yale administrators scrambled to admit Mr. Rahmatullah. The Times reported that Yale “had another foreigner of Rahmatullah’s caliber apply for special-student status.” Richard Shaw, Yale’s dean of undergraduate admissions, told the Times that “we lost him to Harvard,” and “I didn’t want that to happen again.”
As for Osama bin Laden, Mr. Rahmatullah called the Saudi fugitive a “guest” of his government and said it hadn’t been proved that bin Laden was linked to any terrorist acts, despite his indictment in the U.S. for planning the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He said that if the embassy bombings were terrorist acts, then so was the Clinton administration’s firing cruise missiles into his country in an attempt to kill bin Laden. “You killed 19 innocent people,” he told us.
After the meeting I walked him out. I vividly recall our stopping at a window as he stared up at the World Trade Center. We stood there for a minute chatting, but I don’t recall what he said. He then left. I next thought about him a few months later, on Sept. 11, as I stood outside our office building covered in dust and debris staring at the remains of the towers that had just collapsed. I occasionally wondered what had happened to Mr. Rahmatullah. I assumed he either had died in the collapse of the Taliban regime, had been jailed, or was living quietly in the new, democratic Afghanistan.
I don’t believe Mr. Rahmatullah had direct knowledge of the 9/11 plot, and I don’t think he has ever killed anyone. I can appreciate that he is trying to rebuild his life. But he willingly and cheerfully served an evil regime in a manner that would have made Goebbels proud. That he was 22 at the time is little of an excuse. There are many poor, bright students — American and foreign alike — who would jump at the opportunity to attend Yale. Why should Mr. Rahmatullah go to the line ahead of all of them? That’s a question Yale alumni should ask when their alma mater comes looking for contributions.
President Bush, who already has a well-known disdain for Yale elitism from his student days there, may also have some questions. In the wake of his being blindsided by his own administration over the Dubai port deal, he should be interested in finding out exactly who at the State Department approved Mr. Rahmatullah’s application for a student visa.