- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Unbecoming Columbia

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger should apologize for inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at the university. His efforts to justify that decision would be laughable if they weren’t so offensive (“Iranian leader’s invite stirs ire,” Page 1, Sunday).

Mr. Ahmadinejad is a hate-mongering extremist who has sponsored terrorism, denied and mocked the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

He has appeared behind a podium labeled “A World Without Zionism,” and a video available on YouTube shows him leading a crowd in chants of “Death to Israel.”

Just before his visit to Columbia University, he appeared in front of a banner that read “Death to America.” Moreover, he is widely believed to be developing nuclear weapons to achieve those barbaric goals. This is not a man who has anything of value to teach Columbia students.

Yet Mr. Bollinger, well aware of these facts, has decided to provide Mr. Ahmadinejad with an Ivy League forum from which to spout his false and hateful views. This can only serve to promote hatred and anti-Semitism at Columbia, divide the campus and intensify the already prevalent sense of fear, intimidation and vulnerability felt among Jews and supporters of Israel at the campus.

Mr. Bollinger has hailed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit as part of “Columbia’s long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate.” This is disingenuous to an extreme. Please explain: a debate about what? Does Mr. Bollinger wish to encourage a “robust debate” about whether the Holocaust really happened?

Does he wish to promote a debate about whether Israel should be wiped off the map? Does he wish to discuss whether America should be annihilated?

John H. Coatsworth, dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, has similarly hailed the visit as a chance for students to “learn from” a “controversial” speaker. What, exactly, are students expected to learn? To hate? To deny historical facts? To exterminate an entire country? To hate America, too?

Claims about anti-Semitism at Columbia have been raised previously, perhaps most notably in the documentary “Columbia Unbecoming,” which explored instances of Columbia professors bullying and intimidating students who challenged their anti-Israel biases in class. Yet somehow, the university’s assault on Jews continues. The time has come for Columbia to say, “Enough.”

STEPHEN A. SILVER

Walnut Creek, Calif.

Presidential war powers

Bruce Fein’s column “Beware of executive alarms” (Commentary, yesterday) seems aimed at turning back the clock to the pre-September 11 mind-set that Islamic terrorism is a “law enforcement” problem. This was the government mind-set that allowed 19 suicide hijackers to get onboard four U.S. airliners to destroy the World Trade Center, damage the Pentagon and nearly destroy the U.S. Capitol, while killing more than 3,000 people in the worst attack by a foreign power on U.S. soil since the War of 1812. This was the mind-set that allowed Libya in the 1980s to conduct a covert campaign of aviation bombings and terrorism that killed at least 500. This was the mind-set that enabled al Qaeda to flourish in the 1990s. It also is the mind-set that has allowed Osama bin Laden and his followers to remain free.

In quoting James Madison and Abraham Lincoln on the need for skepticism in presidential war powers, it is important also to keep in mind that Madison presided over the burning of Washington and fled the White House when it was in flames during his presidency, while the United States was saved by military leaders like Andrew Jackson. Lincoln opposed the Mexican War as a one-term member of Congress and had mixed feelings about Indian Wars, but as president, he suspended habeas corpus, ignored Supreme Court rulings, incarcerated 40,000 Southern sympathizers without trial and even arrested the majority of Maryland state legislators to prevent them from voting for secession. Had he not done so, the United States probably would be two nations today, and had the Mexican War not been fought, the United States would be a small nation instead of a great power.

James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson led the Navy and Marine Corps to fight the Barbary Wars against Libyans preying on American merchant ships and sailors at a time when the great powers of Europe favored tribute and appeasement. Had world leaders been more vigilant against the dangers posed by Lenin and Hitler before they controlled Russia and Germany, millions of lives could have been spared.

It is easy to second-guess or criticize the executive in the exercise of war powers, but though oversight is important, history tells us that U.S. presidents have never used them for venal or self-aggrandizing purposes, and their failure to exercise such powers when they should have has had more bad consequences than overuse of them.

PAUL HUDSON

Sarasota, Fla.

‘There shall be no needy’

The editorial “Reform food stamp policy” (Sept. 19) derides the additional $4 billion included in the House-passed farm bill as a “bloated spending increase.”

It is true that food stamps are intended to supplement the family food budget. Unfortunately, because of skyrocketing costs in housing, childcare, energy and other everyday necessities, more and more families are relying on food stamps to cover an increasing percentage of food costs. Over 35 million Americans will go hungry at some point each year. That is unacceptable in the richest nation in the world.

Those of us who have participated in the Food Stamp Challenge intended to raise awareness of the issue of hunger in America. The very fact that The Times is suddenly paying attention to food stamps shows that we have succeeded. I now hope The Times will join us in supporting solutions to end hunger.

REP. JIM MCGOVERN

Washington

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The editorial “Reform food stamp policy” referred to efforts by the faith community and members of Congress to highlight the albatross of poverty in our nation as a “cheap public affairs ploy.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The average allowance for food stamp recipients in the United States is a mere $21 a week, or $1 per meal. Furthermore, nearly 36 million Americans live in poverty in what is the most prosperous and wealthy nation on earth. Rather than address these staggering numbers or offer any meaningful solution to rectify the problem of poverty in our country, The Washington Times instead chose to deride the well-intentioned efforts of those of us who are working to end poverty in America.

Perhaps The Times’ editorial board should get its facts right before leveling unfounded attacks on members of Congress participating in the Food Stamp Challenge, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. In accepting the challenge, lawmakers live off $21 a week to experience firsthand what it is like to survive on such a meager food allowance.

Perhaps The Times should realize that those of us in the faith community aren’t here to address the political maneuvering surrounding the 2007 Farm Bill, which would increase food stamp spending by $4 billion, but instead are here to address the plight of millions of Americans who wake up each morning hungry and poor.

Hunger and poverty are issues that civilized society must address, and ignoring these problems or brushing aside efforts to remedy them won’t make them disappear. Deuteronomy states, “There shall be no needy among you,” and those of us in the faith community will continue working to make that happen.

RABBI STEVE GUTOW

Executive director

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

New York City

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