- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Maschek last week received an unfitting welcome at a town-hall meeting at Columbia University. The Iraq-War-veteran-turned-college-freshman was heckled, mocked and inexplicably called a “racist” during a forum convened to discuss reinstatement of ROTC on campus 43 years after the program’s expulsion. The university gave Iran’s Islamic strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a warmer welcome than this young man who shed his blood to serve his country.

Mr. Maschek uses a wheelchair to get around as a result of being shot 11 times in combat. Yet Columbia’s leftists, blinded by their anti-war fervor, refused this disabled veteran even the most basic of courtesy as they sought to prevent him from exercising his right to free speech.

During the Vietnam conflict, military-leadership training programs were booted from some campuses in protest of the war or the draft or both. After U.S. forces withdrew and the draft was repealed, anti-ROTC schools did not change their stance. They just came up with a new justification. Opposition to the program was then a protest against the military’s ban on homosexuals. As a result of the Obama administration’s embrace of homosexual conduct in the armed forces, it appears university leftists will need to come up with a new excuse.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on “all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” Though several schools have discussed bringing ROTC back, no college or university has actually done so.

Students at the anti-ROTC schools already have opportunities to drill at colleges where the program is not banned, but there is a principle involved - and a 40-year debt to be paid. The programs that were unceremoniously run off of many of America’s elite campuses need to be reinstated to make the point not only that they have the right to be there but that they belong there.

The most vocal opponents to welcoming ROTC back to school are groups like the Campus Antiwar Network, Students for Justice in Palestine, the International Socialist Organization and the usual collection of leftist sad sacks and misfits. Their ultimate goal is to deny students any opportunity to participate in ROTC on campus and to intimidate those who dare to drill at another school and wear the uniform back on campus. If any of these activists spot them, they will be treated to the same rudeness and hate speech as Mr. Maschek.

Congress has a perfect opportunity to force the issue as part of the budget debate. As Mr. Maschek told the people who were oppressing him, “It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. It doesn’t matter how you feel about fighting. There are bad men out there plotting to kill you.” That is why we need a military and why the military needs effective training programs.

It would be interesting to see how mollycoddled undergraduates and administrators might react to being forced to make a sacrifice far less significant than those Mr. Maschek has made. Congress could restrict federal funding, including student loans, from schools that continue to ban ROTC programs from campus. Freedom isn’t free, and it may be time for the anti-military bigots to learn that their position carries a price.