Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Taliban Ambassador Matriculates at Yale

The New York Times has a very unusual human interest piece about a former Taliban ambassador who is now a student at Yale. It is an extraordinarily long piece that strives mightily to put Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi in the best positive light as a reformed member of the Taliban.

It includes an interesting discussion of a 2001 debate Rahmatullah had with Harold Koh on "The Taliban: Pros and Cons." Although it sounds like Koh clearly got the better of it, at one point in the debate Rahmatullah asked Koh, "Have you ever been to Afghanistan?" "No," Koh said. "Well, if you were my only source of information about the Taliban, I'd hate them too!"

I can't help but be unimpressed that Yale would admit such a person who held (holds?) the oppressive views of the Taliban government. Why would Yale admit such a person? Two reasons. One, a CBS correspondent named Mike Hoover had befriended him in Afghanistan and was pushing his cause. Second, apparently Yale is in competition with Harvard for such "special students" and Yale did not want to lose Rahmatullah to the competition. Imagine what the families of the many Yale alumni who perished on 9/11 would think of such a move.

Rahmatullah admits at the end of the article, "In some ways I'm the luckiest person in the world," he says. "I could have ended up in Guantánamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale."

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