Daily Archives: March 30, 2006

Taliban Yalie redux, the liberals, and Jim Sleeper

I have written twice before about the saga of Rahmatullah Hashemi, a.k.a. Yale Taliban man — the former Taliban spokesman who is now studying in a special program at Yale and may be admitted as a full student next fall. The latest from the Wall Street Journal‘s John Fund, who has been on the trail of this story, here.

Among other things, Fund reports allegations that Richard Shaw, the former dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale (and now an official at Stanford), “ran roughshod” over the committee designated to approve the selection of special students when he steamrolled through Hashemi’s admission.

Fund also reports on some interesting reactions on campus:

The Yale College Council, the undergraduate student government, last night debated a resolution urging that in seeking to develop future leaders Yale must recognize that goal “can only be fulfilled by those individuals who possess a genuine moral concern and consideration for others unlike themselves.” The Yale College Council debate ended last night with no resolution and will continued. Several student representatives pleaded for “tolerance” for Mr. Hashemi even though he wasn’t even mentioned in the mild resolution.” But is there any doubt that by defending and promoting the Taliban’s reign of terror, Mr. Hashemi fails Yale’s own test of moral character?


Last week, I attended a talk at Yale by Malalai Joya, a 27-year-old member of Afghanistan’s post-Taliban parliament. She spoke in English about her concern about U.S. policies which she believes are indirectly supporting warlords and retarding women’s rights in her country. She was applauded vigorously.

But after her prepared remarks, she denounced Mr. Hashemi’s presence on campus. Her message could not have been more clear. “The freedom-loving people of the USA should raise their voice against existence of such criminals in your country,” she shouted. After her remarks, the crowd of 200 was completely silent, until the moderator stepped forward and invited questions. None of the six questioners mentioned Mr. Hashemi, even though he had just been condemned in the strongest possible terms by one of his nation’s most prominent politicians.

Why? Makai Rohbar, Ms. Joya’s backup translator that evening, believes that the lack of reaction might be explained “because of it being easy to worry about something far away from campus, but not when it is right next to you.” Other students I interviewed at the reception afterwards more or less concurred that discussing Mr. Hashemi was more difficult because, as one put it, “he’s now part of the Yale community.”

You have to wonder: would the same acceptance as “part of the Yale community” be extended to a former Ku Klux Klan spokesman, particularly a barely repentant one who regretted only not being more soft-spoken in presenting his emssage? Fund reports on the outrage at Yale when a legal scholar named Kelly Camara was invited to speak on a panel. In 2002, Camara was at the center of a controversy when, as a first-year student at Harvard Law School (at the age of 17!), he posted some class notes on his website referring to blacks as “nigs” in discussing a property rights case which helped end racially resrictive covenants. Camara quickly took down the notes and repeatedly apologized, but that has not been enough to satisfy some:

When it was learned Mr. Camara would be speaking at Yale, a campus petition was circulated urging that his invitation be reconsidered. When he did show up, one-third of the audience–including law school dean Harold Koh–stood up and walked out in protest. Mr. Koh told the Yale Daily News he left because he considers “racist speech to be an affront to each and every person in our community.”

And propaganda for a murderous, repressive, misogynistic regime, apparently, is not.

Meanwhile, Jim Sleeper, lecturer in political science at Yale, who previously reacted to the story by slamming Fund, is at it again. In another column at The American Prospect Online, he levels the charge of liberal-baiting at those who have criticized Yale over the Hashemi admission — including yours truly. Sleeper once again pushes the idea that the admission may have been engineered not by diversity-mad liberals but by conservatives eager to exploit Hashemi’s possible intelligence connections. He once again does not mention that Fund discussed this possibility in his second piece on the story. He trumpets (but does not link) Hamilton Stephens’ blog item on the subject, which, he says, “produced a 1996 Outside magazine profile of Hoover by New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel that mentioned Hoover’s CIA and State Department contacts.” Well, not quite. The profile said:

Hoover entered Afghanistan 22 times with NIFA to cover the war against the Soviet Union, which invaded the country in 1979. Much of his footage ran on CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Freelancers like Hoover were among the few sources of information, and he says that twice he was debriefed in Washington by William Casey, then head of the CIA.

Thus, it was Hoover himself who mentions his CIA debriefing (as I previously asked, would he do that if he really had intelligence ties?); there is no mention of any State Department contacts.

In any case, I will repeat my earlier question: let’s suppose that, in fact, a coveted place at Yale is being used as a reward for cooperation with U.S. intelligence. Surely that’s as scandalous as a former Taliban spokesman being admitted to Yale as a diversity pick. In fact, to liberals, it ought to be even more scandalous. So, where’s the outrage? Certainly not in Sleeper’s column. This is all he has to say on the substance of the story:

Impressed with America, Hashemi had regretted his spin-doctoring for mullahs and is now, at 27, a special student at Yale. Although administrators there had known of his past and vetted him, the Times report took most of us who teach there by surprise.

And … that’s all? Does Sleeper believe that Hashemi, whose “regrets” are very limited and who still defends most of his actions, belongs at Yale? What does he have to say to Malalai Joya? Really, I’d like to know. Instead, he lashes out at Fund, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and me for supposedly “running and shouting, ‘Liberals, liberals, liberals!'” Well, that sounds like Hannity all right, but I don’t see that Fund is doing that in his columns on the Yale Taliban story (in fact, he has quoted liberals who disagree with the school’s decision to admit Hashemi), and I’m certainly not doing that. This shouldn’t be a liberal vs. conservative issue.

Speaking of which, Jamie Kirchik, another Jim Sleeper target, has an excellent column in the Yale Daily News, “Two Afghanis,” about Hashemi and Joya. Money quote, as Andrew Sullivan would say:

Whether one believes Hashemi should be at Yale or not, his presence has been instructive in one way: It has caused a reckoning at Yale over the issue of cultural relativism.

Outrage over religious fascism ought to be the province of American liberals. But in Hashemi’s case it has been almost entirely trumpeted by Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and right-wing bloggers. A friend of mine recently remarked that part of his and his peers’ nonchalance (and in some cases, support for) Hashemi has to do with the fact that the right has seized upon the issue. Our politics have become so polarized that many are willing to take positions based on the inverse of their opponents’. This abandonment of classical liberal values at the expense of political gamesmanship has consequences that reach far beyond Yale; it hurts our national discourse.

Something, perhaps, for Jim Sleeper — who has derided Kirchick as a faux liberal — to ponder.


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