- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 24, 2001

We hear much about "the enemy within" namely, the suspected cells of Islamist terrorists and terrorist sympathizers still believed to exist within the nation's borders. But there is another enemy within so entrenched it defies conventional police detection. That enemy is political correctness.

It may explain why pro-American students standing for "God Bless America" at Amherst College respond to an ambush of flag-burners by denouncing the outrage as … "inappropriate." Or why, on hearing a stream of anti-American rhetoric at a University of Hawaii anti-war rally, a lone dissenting professor called the poisonous diatribes merely "troubling for me." It looks as if the fear of giving offense PC's primary precept has finally overriden the natural reflexes of self-preservation.

But not so in the case of Zewdalem Kebede, a senior at San Diego State University. Mr. Kebede, a naturalized American born in Ethiopia, was studying in a library on Sept. 22 when a nearby conversation caught his attention. Four Saudi Arabian students were speaking Arabic, which Mr. Kebede speaks fluently, and discussing their pleasure at the massacre of September 11. "They were very pleased," Mr. Kebede later told the campus newspaper. "They were happy. And they were regretting missing the 'Big House.' "

When Mr. Kedebe could stand it no longer, he approached them. "Guys, what you are talking is unfair," he later recalled saying in Arabic. "How do you feel when those five to 6,000 people are buried in two or three buildings? They are the rubble or they became ash. And you are talking about the action of bin Laden and his group. You are proud of them. You should have to feel shame."

A heated exchange followed, after which Mr. Kebede finally returned to his table. End of story? Hardly. The September 11-celebrating Saudis, exchange students whose only regrets stem from the continued existence of the White House (or U.S. Capitol), reported Mr. Kebede to the campus police. And the wheels of political correctness automatically began to turn.

Mr. Kebede went before the university's Orwellian-named Center for Student Rights for having been "verbally abusive to other students." An investigation ensued. Mr. Kebede had to meet with what's known as a "University Judicial Officer." He got off with a warning that threatened "severe disciplinary sanctions" should he ever again confront "members of the campus community in a manner … found to be aggressive or abusive" i.e., should he ever again express a patriotic and a moral revulsion at carnage-crowing, terrorist sympathizers.

The warning letter went on to say, "You are admonished to conduct yourself as a responsible member of the campus community in the future." There's much to say about this final outrage, but Mr. Kebede may have put it best. "I'm naturalized American," he told the campus newspaper. "I have taken an oath to protect this country, so that is my part to do for that I am happy. I am an honest citizen for this country. I showed those guys there are people who love America, who defend America. Is that a crime?"

Mr. Kebede deserves thanks, not sanctions. And those Saudi students deserve plane tickets home. Maybe they can take the Center for Student Rights with them.


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