Jewish World Review April 9, 2003 / 7 Nisan, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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As the world churns | It is "a puzzlement," using the words of Yul Brenner's character in "The King and I," that protesters against the Iraq war are not distressed with the atrocities inflicted against the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein and his sons. Nat Hentoff, whose column appears on JWR, is distressed. Hentoff, a perpetual protester, is not participating in the demonstrations this time.

Hentoff recently cited atrocities reported by New York Times reporter John Burns to explain his absence from the demonstrations. In a January 26 Times article Burns wrote, "Often, the executions have been carried out by the Fedayeen Saddam, a paramilitary group headed by Mr. Hussein's oldest son, 38-year-old Uday [who was active in Basra terrifying the Shiite Muslims]. These men, masked and clad in black, made the women kneel in busy city squares, along crowded sidewalks, or in neighborhood plots, then beheaded them with swords. The families of some victims have claimed they were innocent of any crime save that of criticizing Mr. Hussein."

A reporter with Coalition troops in Southern Iraq reported an incident where an Iraqi woman who waved to American troops was later found hanged from a lamppost.

Aren't these sufficient reasons for the protesters to move their 'die-ins' to the Iraqi Mission on East 79th Street? No, they prefer to attack the United States.

At a campus teach-in against the Iraq war, Columbia University Professor of Anthropology Dr. Nicholas DeGenova said, "The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military." He also called for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq hoping he said for "A million Mogadishus," a reference to the l993 ambush and killing of 18 American soldiers in the Somalian capital.

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger denounced DeGenova for his remarks, saying that he "had simply crossed the line," but has taken no other action against DeGenova.

Some academics would be horrified by the thought of DeGenova's being fired. However, they ignore the fact that the First Amendment is intended to protect only against government sanctions for exercising free speech rights, not private actions. Even if DeGenova has tenure, which in all probability he does not, it would not protect him from being fired for disgracing the university and displaying an enormous lack of judgment. If at that sit-in DeGenova had libeled blacks, women or gays, does anyone doubt he would have been subject to termination proceedings? Is there any doubt that scores of Columbia students would have marched every day until Bollinger fired him? Why haven't they rallied for American troops?

A major lobbying effort is underway around the country in favor of paying reparations to the descendents of slaves.

In l978, when I was mayor and first met the Rev. Al Sharpton, he demanded that I sign a petition requiring 50 billion dollars in reparations to American descendents of slaves. I refused. He and three colleagues sat in my City Hall office blocking ingress and egress to the public. When he refused to leave and declined my suggestion that he picket me on the steps of City Hall, I had him arrested. By the way, picketing on the steps of City Hall was legal until Rudy Giuliani took office.

Al Sharpton is currently running for the presidency of the United States and continues to urge slavery reparations. I still oppose them.

The arguments advanced by reparation supporters, that they are demanding nothing more than what World War II Japanese internees received, are bogus. Similarly without merit are the comparisons to reparation payments received by Holocaust concentration camp and slave labor survivors. In both instances, the payments were made only to actual survivors, not to their descendants. There are no survivors of slavery, that abhorrent condition having ended with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

There are two situations, in my opinion, where reparation payments to African Americans are in order. One relates to the black community of the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The homes and other property of that community were burned to the ground in 1921 by whites when a false charge of rape was made against a black man. The second involves the black community of Rosewood, Florida. That town was totally destroyed in 1923 when a white woman claimed that she had been attacked by a black man in her home.

Black survivors of both criminal activities are still alive and should be compensated by the state and federal governments. I also believe all of America should and would contribute money to the construction of a national museum on the mall in Washington, D.C., devoted to the black experience in America to date, depicting the horror and tragedy of slavery. The federal government should provide whatever funds are not raised through a public appeal to see this important project to completion.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

04/03/03: Gulf War II: The misleading media does it again
03/18/03: Have the courage to admit it, Pat: You're a classic anti-Semite who gives conservatives a bad name
03/12/03: "There they go again"? Not quite!
03/05/03: Making the case for war on British TV left some panelists stunned
02/20/03: Death penalty=racism? Don't confuse them with the facts
02/12/03: History is now repeating itself --- why don't the American bashers grasp it?
02/05/03: As the world turns
01/30/03: Why are sports exempt from racial diversity and universities encouraged to engage in racial preferences over individual academic achievement?
01/23/03: We absolutely can't back down
11/13/02: President blunted the Ted Kennedys of Democrat party --- good for him!
10/23/02: New Jersey's bigot laureate is no private citizen and his 'defenses' are idiotic
10/01/02: Congress is not doing its job
09/26/02: Confronting pathetic Americans in a post 9-11 world
09/19/02: Don't be fooled by Saddam
09/05/02: Necessary or not, getting congressional approval for war is common-sense
08/28/02: In defense of terrorism
08/22/02: Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him?
08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch