Friday, February 08, 2008

The Air Force Academy Does the Right Thing

In the past, we’ve faulted the U.S. Air Force Academy for quickly caving to the various forces of political correctness. When liberal theologians—and a former graduate- turned-activist--accused evangelicals of “proselytizing” at the school, academy leaders quickly caved.

They enlisted the left-wing Yale Divinity School to conduct a “climate survey,” and mandated religious “sensitivity training” for cadets, faculty members and support personnel. The Academy also replaced its Commandant of Cadets, then-Brigadier General Johnny Weida, exiling him to a backwater job at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH. What was Weida’s “crime?” Telling cadets, during a leadership seminar, that their first responsibility (as officers) was “to their god.”

Readers will note the small “g.” While General Weida is a self-described evangelical, he did not advocate a particular religion or belief system in his remarks. But, in today’s P.C. environment, that sort of moral foundation—which clearly has a place in officership—was unwelcome. Weida’s name was briefly removed from the promotion list, although he eventually earned his second star. He now serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Forces in Korea.

That’s why we were a bit surprised when Academy leaders took the rather radical step of inviting three former Palestinian terrorists (who subsequently converted to Christianity) to speak at “The Zoo.” The three men—Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani—delivered lectures on “understanding radical Islam” as part of the 50th annual “Academy Assembly.” The theme of this year’s assembly, held on 6 February, was “Dismantling Terrorism.” Representatives of more than 50 colleges and 16 foreign nations attended the event, along with DoD experts.

As you might imagine, the Academy’s decision has attracted controversy. Corey Saylor, the legislative director of CAIR, offered a predictable diatribe, saying the former terrorists have a “misleading anti-Muslim agenda” that could “poison the minds of those who may serve the nation in Muslim-majority areas of the world.” CAIR’s better-known mouthpiece, Ibrahim Hooper, likened the former terrorists' appearance to “inviting David Duke to speak on race relations.”

Given CAIR’s proven ties to Islamic terrorists (well documented by the crew at Powerline, among other bloggers), we’re amazed that anyone still takes the group—and their claims—seriously. That’s why we were encouraged by the Academy’s response to CAIR’s protests.

Maj. Brett Ashworth, an Air Force Academy spokesman, defended the decision, saying the purpose of the event is “to educate future officers and delegates from 50 colleges on the ideology and methodology of terrorists” and the three men could provide valuable insight.


Besides, whatever happened to the notions of free speech and academic freedom? Oh, that’s right—they only apply to the liberals who dominate academia. That’s why—with the exception of Michelle Malkin and other members of the conservative blogosphere--there was barely a peep when Tufts University used a $1.6 million homeland security grant to promote “inter-faith and intercultural dialogue.” Some of that money was used to hire a guest speaker named Edina Lekovic, a former editor of a radical Muslim publication at UCLA that praised Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.” Ms. Lekovic spoke at Tufts last fall.

We’d say this week’s assembly at the Air Force Academy provides a rare moment of balance in the halls of higher learning. That’s why the Academy deserves praise for inviting the former terrorists, and providing a forum for their views. And kudos to Maj Ashworth for telling CAIR to stick it, even if he was rather polite about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are two issues here.

The first is the question of intellectual freedom at the USAF Academy. On this I absolutely agree. It is important that cadets be exposed to a wide range of competing views.

The second question is the wisdom of having Shoebat, Saleem, and Anani speak on "understanding radical Islam." Analytically, all three are exceeding weak, and appear to be driven by their own personal-ideological agendas. This is not a left/right, or pro-/anti-Israeli agenda question, but rather one of the quality of the sort of analysis they offer on CT issues. Indeed, it is rather odd--and reflects rather poorly on the USAF Academy--that they were chosen as speakers when there are so many credible analysts and researchers (from a variety of backgrounds and political positions) available to speak on the issue.