The Times’ Grieving Cornerman on Muslim Issues

Monday’s Times Op-Ed contained a powerful ad in the righthand corner. Headlined “How to Befriend the Muslim World” and written by a Leonard Greene, it decried the invasion of Iraq and called for humanitarian aid to win hearts and minds in Arab countries.

“Most Muslims are not terrorists, and the vast majority do not condone terrorism….Nevertheless, many Muslims who are not terrorists would kill Americans or condone such killings simply because Americans have killed so many Muslims. We should end our war in Iraq and use our army to save lives put at risk by natural disasters…”

But the stunner was the last line: “My son was killed on United 93.”

The ad has generated consternation among the neocons. Here is a victim of 9/11 who is forgiving. What’s more, he has a Jewish name.

I got in touch with Greene yesterday through his Institute for SocioEconomic Studies in White Plains. We had a conversation, then I let him get back to “the flood” of emails, faxes and interview requests he has gotten from the ad—almost all, he says, approving.

Here are some facts about Greene:

He is 88. He made his money as an inventor. His most famous invention came during World War II, a stall-warning device for pilots that greatly reduced accidents. This led to a pioneering career in aviation safety.

Greene has regularly put ads, and letters, in the Times for his SocioEconomic Institute. Almost all of these deal with tax policy and poverty. The ads cost close to $40,000 a pop. He was moved to get into foreign policy by his son’s death and his horror at how many people we are now killing. “We have to stop killing Muslims. Most of them are not terrorists, and we’re not doing anything to reduce terrorism.”

His son was Donald Greene, a pilot himself. “My son was my partner and my successor. We worked side by side for 20 years. I have been restrained about talking about his death publicly. For instance, I refused to see that movie. .. I did not feel that the movie could explain exactly what happened on that plane. And I don’t think it’s entertainment.”

Greene is Jewish. “I’m a Jew by heritage. I don’t practice. But I flew for one month in the Israeli Air Force.”

Anti-Islamic groups are now trying to explain Greene’s statement away by saying he hasn’t read the Koran—similar to Sam Harris’s righteous evisceration of Islam—even as they find other religions innocent of sponsoring violence. Maybe they should give up their vanity and listen to a grieving mensch.