REMEMBER PHILIP BRENNER?: Yes, he's the infamous American University professor who I blogged about last year that thought Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were only bad from a "Western perspective" -- this before 9-11. Well, he made an appearance on Hannity & Colmes in April when I was away in London. And he made the liberal Colmes shell-shocked in his insinuations that Fidel Castro's Cuba was the moral and legal equivalent of the United States. And here's the transcript:
SHOW: FOX HANNITY & COLMES (21:50)
April 29, 2003 Tuesday
SECTION: News; International
LENGTH: 1704 words
HEADLINE: Interview With Philip Brenner
GUESTS: Philip Brenner
BYLINE: Sean Hannity, Alan Clomes
COLMES: We're back on HANNITY & COLMES.
Cuba was reelected today to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Commission but do they deserve it? White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer doesn't think so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Having Cuba serve again on the Human Rights Commission is like putting Al Capone in charge of bank security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: Joining us in D.C. Philip Brenner, a professor of international relations at American University, and co-author of "Sad and Luminous Days: Cuba's Struggle With the Super Powers After the Missile Crisis." Good to have you with us, sir.
PHILIP BRENNER, INTL. RELATIONS PROFESSOR: Good to be here.
COLMES: What's wrong with saying and letting our message out to nations that if you are not going to observe basic human rights you do not participate in the body of nations and sit on human rights commissions unless you do certain basic things. What's wrong with that?
BRENNER: Well, the question is this about trashing the United Nations? I heard you...
COLMES: No, not from me, not from me. That's not my view. I'm not - - I favor the United Nations. My argument is should you sit on the Human Rights Commission anywhere, U.N. or anywhere else, if you are not an observer of human rights?
BRENNER: Well, the people who elected Cuba were the other members of this Human Rights Commission and you could say they don't belong there either.
COLMES: Maybe not.
BRENNER: What the real message here is that the message that we're not getting through to the American people is that the world is very angry at the United States and they're going to stick it in the United States' eye and we have to see this as an extraordinary rejection of the United States, not so much as support for Cuba.
COLMES: But shouldn't the United States and any decent, respectable, moral country stand up against what countries like Cuba does, Cuba that has rounded up 78 opposition leaders, sent them to prison for terms of up to 28 years, three alleged hijackers shot to death recently without the benefit of a trial, and shouldn't we be forceful in speaking out against these kind of abuses and not allow these countries to sit on commissions dealing with human rights issues?
BRENNER: Sure. They violate human rights. There's no question about that but so does the United States. Amnesty International...
COLMES: To the extent that Cuba does?
BRENNER: Well, when George Bush was governor of Texas without any compunctions he executed 153 people.
COLMES: Well, wait a minute but he did that legally, sir. I'm against the death penalty but he followed the law.
BRENNER: Well, they were legally executed in Cuba.
COLMES: Cuba breaks international law.
BRENNER: Excuse me. They were legally executed in Cuba. They have laws.
COLMES: But wait a second. He did it legally.
BRENNER: They had trials. They violated laws for which they had capital punishment.
COLMES: But, Mr. Brenner, George W. Bush and I disagree with him totally on policy, I disagree with him totally about the death penalty, but he didn't do it illegally. He followed the law of Texas which, of course, he favored. Fidel Castro breaks international law, is a human rights violator. You can't put George W. Bush in the same category.
BRENNER: Excuse me. He did not break international law. There's a law in Cuba that makes capital punishment the punishment for hijacking and these people were hijackers. They were found guilty of it.
HANNITY: Yes, and what were they trying to do? They were trying to get the heck away from him and his repressive regime.
BRENNER: Excuse me, were they hijackers?
HANNITY: You know what your problem is?
BRENNER: Were the people on those boats lives at risk, yes.
HANNITY: You know what your problem is, professor, you equate their justice system with ours. Have you ever met or discussed the issues of what life was like when he came into power and the brutal murders that he and his thugs were involved in? I have.
I have a friend of mine, Armando DeQuesada (ph). I'll put you in touch with him. Talk to him about what the brutal murder and torture of his family and his relatives and his friends when this animal came into power. Now this country is going to be in the Human Rights Committee? You got to be kidding me.
BRENNER: Well, I think that rather than focus again on Cuba, understand that they were elected because the world, the countries on that commission and, in fact, most of the countries of the world see the United States bullying Cuba in ways that are against international law and they're in effect defending Cuba.
HANNITY: Sir, you just...
BRENNER: Why do we want to put those countries in that position? That's the question we have to ask.
HANNITY: Where is your criticism of Castro, the murderer? He's a murderer. He's a thief and a thug and a murderer. When will you say what needs to be said? You're a professor. Do you not know the history of him coming to power?
BRENNER: Excuse me. The question before us is why would the countries in the United Nations do that? Doesn't that bother you that everyone in the world looks at us and sees those people...
HANNITY: Why are those people getting in broken down, dilapidated, rickety boats and inner tubes in shark infested waters and risking death? You know why they're doing it because they've lived under the oppressive regime. That's why they're doing it.
COLMES: All right, we're going to take a quick break.
BRENNER: They also live next to the richest country in the world and they have relatives in the United States telling them they can come here and live a good life.
COLMES: All right, sir. We're going to take a quick break and be right back to continue the debate on the other side.
You're watching the Fox News Channel, the network America trusts for real journalism, fair and balanced.
HANNITY: Continue now with Mr. Brenner. Mr. Brenner look you're not denying he's a murderous thug so you explain to our audience why a murderous thug like Castro should be chosen with the honor of his country to be on the Human Rights Commission, just like Libya which is another joke, just like Iraq being on the Disarmament Commission? Explain to our audience how that makes sense to you.
BRENNER: Well, the world is not the place we would like it to be. A lot of our allies, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria where we get an awful lot of oil, are on the Human Rights Commission. If we were going to disallow countries to be on that commission then, in effect, we would...
HANNITY: Why do we have a commission? This renders it a joke. It renders it meaningless when the biggest violaters of human rights on the face of this planet, their countries are rewarded with that prestigious position.
We're rendering that entire body meaningless because there are no human rights in Castro's world, in Kadafi's world, just like there's no disarmament in Saddam's old world or in Iran's world. It's foolish and it gives us another reason to get away from this meaningless body known as the United Nations.
BRENNER: Well, I think what you have to do is stand back and ask yourself a different question. Why is it that we don't understand how it is that the rest of the world could honor these countries? And, until we understand that, this is not the 19th century. We live in the world.
COLMES: Mr. Brenner.
BRENNER: If you guys want to live in the 19th century, go there but we live in the 21st century.
COLMES: No, thanks. Mr. Brenner, I favor -- this is Alan. I favor the United Nations. I want to see the United Nations be vital and vibrant but it's not going to be as long as it puts human rights violaters on commissions. It's not just -- and it's not just Cuba.
You have Peru that's still holding Laurie Barrington (ph), an American citizen. You have Russia that refuses the Human Rights Commission to look into lack of human rights in Chechnya. So, I think the U.N. has to be forceful in being very clear about where it stand morally if it's going to be a vital entity in the 21st century.
BRENNER: But on those grounds the United States wouldn't be on the commission.
COLMES: Wait a minute. Would you equate the United States' violations with Peru, with Russia, and especially with Cuba? Is there moral equivalency between these two countries?
BRENNER: If I can finish my sentence.
COLMES: Yes, sir.
BRENNER: What would be the standards which we would judge? We wouldn't for one thing ask a country to sign the treaties that hold them accountable, and the United States has refused to sign one of the basic treaties on human rights and it was only in 1992 that we signed the Political Rights Treaty.
COLMES: But, Mr. Brenner, you're suggesting there's moral equivalency between the United States and...
BRENNER: I'm asking who should judge?
COLMES: Please let me finish my question and you'll have a full chance to answer. You're suggesting there's moral equivalency between what we do, human rights wise, and what Cuba does human rights wise. Are you suggesting there is that kind of equivalency?
BRENNER: I'm suggesting the rest of the world sees it that way and I think you need to understand how the rest of the world sees things because we live in the rest of the world. We don't live by ourselves anymore.
COLMES: I think we have to be -- we are a moral country. We have to continue to be. We have to stand up and we have to encourage the United Nations not to reward countries who do these kinds of things to get on commissions.
HANNITY: All right, we got to roll.
COLMES: And there is no moral equivalency.
HANNITY: Final point, Mr. Brenner, we got to go.
HANNITY: Your final word professor.
HANNITY: All right, Mr. Brenner, that's all. You rendered him speechless, Colmes.
BRENNER: Can I have a final word?
COLMES: All right, we gave you an opportunity. We have ten seconds if you want to respond.
HANNITY: Go ahead.
BRENNER: I think that we should invite talks with Cuba to improve their human rights. We refuse to talk to them. That would be an important way to start.
HANNITY: All right, you had the last word, Mr. Brenner. That is all the time we have left this evening.
LOAD-DATE: April 30, 2003
What a guy, that Brenner.
Friday, June 27, 2003
THE ANTITHESIS TO "BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE": Just got back from seeing the documentary Spellbound, which is ostensibly a video vignette of eight middle-school spellers who, despite their disparate personalities and backgrounds, all have a passion for words. But while the film is about a spelling bee, the real theme throughout the engrossing flick was the love of America. The movie could just has easily have been titled "The Greatness of America." One contestant, Angela, was a Mexican immigrant's daughter from Amarillo, Texas whose father worked on a farm milking cows. Her parents spoke Spanish at home, yet she became a champion-caliber speller. Another memorable character was Neil, a 12-year old 8th grader of Indian descent whose parents pushed him to excel in any activity -- be it basketball, karate or spelling. His parents pointed out he wasn't just one of those "geeky spellers, he was also a blackbelt in karate." His father said (paraphrasing): "That's what's unique and great about America. With hard work, you can go anywhere you want." For comic relief, there was Harry, the hyperactive kid from New Jersey who spoke a mile-a-minute and seemed an unlikely champion speller.
This movie should be touted as the conservative response to "Bowling for Columbine." Many of the kids came from disadvantaged backgrounds, but worked tremendously hard to succeed. Many of the families profiled were religious -- one father mentioned that a grandfather from India got 1,000 people to pray for his son's success. Another contestant was a church regular who told the camera he "believed in Jesus." No one was a victim, save perhaps for the hyperactive Harry who blamed the host for mispronouncing the word he lost on. The communities in which these children grew up were largely supportive -- nearly every middle school and many local establishments put up congratulatory signs for their hometown heroes. Even a "Hooters" joined in on the act, but managed to misspell the word "congradulations" in a fitting bit of irony. I felt myself rooting for all the kids, from the somewhat socially awkward, gun-lover from rural Pennsylvania (take that, Michael Moore) to the lower-class, black girl from the inner city who merely took a Metro ride to arrive at the national competition.
Community, family values, religion, strong work ethic, love of America: what more could a red meat conservative ask for in a movie?
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
THE POST RUNS A COVER STORY ON AU: Last Sunday, the Washington Post magazine ran a 5,800 word cover story about the state of American University's campus during the Iraqi war. The story's author, Peter Perl, an occasional writer for the paper's magazine, tries to weave a narrative together similar to a Michael Lewis, whose book "Moneyball" provides an outsider's look at a baseball success story of the Oakland A's by highlighting several key protagonists. Perl tries to highlight several conspicuous players on the AU campus: AU Republicans prez Bob Nardo, AU "anarchist" Andrew Willis, Prof. Said, the veteran peace and conflict resolution studies professor.
However, the difference between Perl's expose and a chapter out of "Moneyball" is that, despite their same literary technique, it becomes fairly obvious that Perl depends more on singular observations and unfair stereotypes. I don't know exactly how much time Perl spent on campus, but he clearly lacks the firsthand knowledge of being at AU full-time to really gain any significant insights. Let's look at some examples (or as old Channel 9 sportscaster and AU professor Warner Wolf would say: "Let's go to the videotape!")
Perl starts off by introducing one of the story's protagonists, a veteran Prof. Abdul Aziz Said who was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. In the second graf, Perl writes:
Similarly, Abdul Said himself is a singular institution on this internationally diverse campus. The Syrian-born professor of international relations has been a fixture at AU for five decades, promoting social justice and peace, regardless of circumstances. More than 40 years ago, he championed the rights of a handful of Jewish students who were being blackballed by fraternities and he helped them found their own frat. "I believe I am the only Arab who has a Jewish fraternity scholarship named after him," Said says with a deep laugh.
For the record, I've been at AU for three years now and it wasn't until last year until I heard of this "singular institution." Perl makes him out to be like a Elie Weisel or Robert Reich, or some campus icon -- frankly, he's not. He's been at AU a long time, but Perl offers no evidence to put Prof. Said on such a pedestal. The fraternity story is interesting, but it hardly backs up the fluffy cliche that he has "promoted social justice and peace, regardess of circumstances." That's some loaded language. Does embracing social justice and peace, for example, mean supporting the Palestinian cause? Sadly, these words have become so politicized that when I read that I automatically assume that he's embraced a bunch of left-wing causes. Sadly, social justice isn't what it used to be.
And lo and behold, with the next paragraph, my hunch is proven.
More recently, with the Palestinian intifadas, the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11th terrorist attacks, Said stepped forward to lead campus teach-ins aimed at promoting a message of academic and personal understanding.
(No, not the suicide bombings, but the Palestinian intifadas. Okay, so I read on.)
So once Perl sets up Prof. Said as some icon on campus, it's hard to disagree with anything he does -- for example, kissing the American flag that a pro-war protestor is holding up. Perl writes:
Said went on to deliver a strong message against what he described as the Bush administration's failure of leadership, absence of vision and dangerous abdication of America's role as a moral standard-setter for the world. Acting preemptively and unilaterally would do lasting damage, he warned students. "In a military sense, our position is unlosable," he told the standing-room-only audience. "But in a political sense, our position is unwinnable."
Perl automatically assumes Prof. Said's message is strong even though he doesn't seem to offer any substantive pearls of wisdom, just the standard anti-war protestor cliche. I would think that freeing the Iraqis from a brutal dictator would further enhance America's role as a moral standard-setter, no? Instead, Perl just accepts this message and portrays him as the wizened clergyman of campus.
That's just the beginning. The article, while admirable in its coverage of all things AU (it managed to seemingly cover nearly all the war-related news on campus), it lacked the depth and first-hand knowledge of the players and people on campus. At first, I thought this piece was disappointing because it did its job well -- it was value-neutral. And that's what I found problematic, because it's so hard to approach a provocative issues with full objectivity. But when I re-read the piece, I felt it wasn't value-neutral. The conservatives on campus were portrayed as flag-huggers who just like to sing patriotic anthems all day. That doesn't accurately represent the conservatives on campus that I know. They are among the more articulate and well-reasoned people at AU. The reason the College Republicans have grown isn't because of some right-wing hysteria and jingoism on campus. It is due to the strong and intelligent leadership of a Bob Nardo who deserves a lot more sympathy than he gets in the article.
The baseball story that Moneyball narrates is the battle of ideas, and a small cadre of stat-geeks essentially manage to alter the dominant mind-set of the leaders and elite in the game. Maybe I'm biased, but I would've approached the AU war story in a similar vein. Frankly, the overwhelming power numerically of the left on campus is outdone by the reason and ideas of the conservatives and libertarians on campus. There's a palpable hatred and prejudice of anyone who espouses a non-liberal view on campus by a small but vocal group of lefties on campus. These leftists wanted to censor a conservative magazine and stormed into a College Republicans meeting because a member wrote an article that criticized the excesses of feminism. But in recent years, the college Republicans membership has skyrocketed and I think there is becoming a genuine contest in the battle of ideas. Yet Perl simply stereotyped the conservative as this:
"God Bless America! Land that I love . . ." Nardo and his companions sang. They then broke into "The Star-Spangled Banner." Outside other antiwar functions, a small but determined contingent of opponents chanted, "U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!," sang patriotic songs and "Onward Christian Soldiers," and shouted slogans aimed at Saddam Hussein -- and occasionally at the French.
While the lefties protested ridiculously, the coverage of their events -- such as the Said flag-kissing for peace -- were portrayed in a positive light. Frankly, Nardo comes across like a jingoistic, evangelical maniac -- not the occasionally crazy but genuinely intelligent Nardo I know. When Said talks about peace, Perl takes three paragraphs to make him a paragon of virtue. But when Nardo and his ideological cohorts want to take out a heinous dictator, they're crazy patriots. In an article loaded with adjectives, there's not one devoted to the evil, maniacal, (insert adjective here) Saddam Hussein.
I'm not going to comment on the whole story, but there's one point that is telling in the Left's intellectual dishonesty. History Professor Peter Kuznick, an unscholarly lefty professor if there ever was one, is profiled teaching his class about how former President Harry Truman's racism played a role in his dropping of the atom bomb in Japan. Here's the excerpt:
Reading aloud contemporaneous excerpts that included Truman's private letters to his wife, Bess, Kuznick portrayed a man who was stubborn, insecure and also racist, privately using derogatory terms for blacks and Asians. Most of Truman's top advisers opposed using the atom bomb, as American intelligence reports indicated Japan was about to surrender, Kuznick told his class of 35.
"A relatively decent, informed, intelligent human being chose to use the bomb -- despite the opposition of almost every top military leader. If he would choose the bomb, why should we believe that someone like George Bush would be more cautious or thoughtful in using these weapons?" he asked. "My argument is not condemnation of Harry Truman. My argument is that none of the presidents should have that kind of power."
Kuznick went on to outline the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review that he said officially "lowered the bar" on America's willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. He asked the students, "Do we have any trust that our president won't use nuclear weapons? Is George W. Bush a deeper thinker or more moral than Harry Truman?"
But Perl had to issue a clarification to this part of his article, writing: "An article in the Magazine paraphrases American University history professor Peter Kuznick as saying that most of President Harry S. Truman's top advisers opposed using the atom bomb on Japan. While most of Truman's military advisers opposed dropping the bomb, there is no historical record of his top civilian advisers counseling against it, according to Kuznick, who has written extensively about the bombing of Hiroshima."
I checked my valuable primary source reference, "Major Problems in American History since 1945," and the results were illuminating. Facts are a useful thing, you know? The Interim Committee, which Truman appointed to advise him on the atomic, unanimously recommended its usage. Secretary of War Stimson gave high praise to the project. Secretary of State Marshall was enamored with the potential effects of the bomb. In fact, Marshall dissuaded Truman from informing the Japanese before leveling the bomb on Hiroshima. A panel of U.S. science advisers also recommended dropping the bomb in June 1945. (Thank you, Prof. Griffith for both the valuable book and informative class -- one based on facts not politicized nonsense. And Griffith is definitely not a conservative.)
So is Kuznick a liar? Intentionally intellectually dishonest? It sounds like Kuznick is admitting that the historical record contradicts what he taught. Before the clarification was issued, I posed that question to Perl in his online chat, and his response was telling. Here's the exchange:
Same with Prof. Peter Kuznick, who attributes President Truman's dropping of the nuclear bomb to his racism, when it is obvious that the overall mindset in 1940s post WWII America was strongly anti-Japan and anti-German -- Truman was no anomaly of his time. And surely his views on race didn't dictate his dropping of the bomb; national security considerations did.
Do you have the same reaction as I do when reading those comments from tenured professors, who seem hopelessly "unscholarly?"
Peter Perl: You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I'm hard-pressed to define who's scholarly or unscholarly. Some teachers put a great deal of passion into their work. If you agree with them, they are great teachers and scholars. If you don't, they're unscholarly.
We'll see who has the last laugh. Perl apparently thinks any opinion -- with or without factual evidence -- is relevant, and any passionate teacher can be scholarly. It's merely a matter of opinion. Yet it was Perl who had to issue a retraction because he bought, hookline-and-sinker, Kuznick's ludicrous assertion that Truman dropped the bomb because he just hated the Japanese. (As I mention in the question, hardly any Americans had any love for the Japanese during WWII. I guess FDR is a evil monster because, you know, he put thousands of Japanese legal immigrants into internment camps.) And yet the neglect for facts and lack of useful information was what made what could have been an impressive piece into a lackluster one. It's basically a list of his observations meshed into a descriptive narrative. It has breadth but no depth. He shows no degree of skepticism when listening to, er, crazy hippies spouting their utopian, ridiculous worldview.
Which brings me back to "Moneyball." The great thing about the baseball narrative is the story's protagonists used facts and knowledge to back up their views. Billy Beane's A's essentially led the Information Revolution in baseball. While veteran scouts liked a player's swing, build, or 50-meter dash time, the smart ones used data and reason to back up their views. Yet Perl writes this piece like the over-the-hill scouts who evaluate on what they observe -- facts be damned. He interviews a bunch of people, captures a bunch of snapshots on campus but fails to see the big picture. Perl lacks any skepticism and fails to, essentially, acknowledge the naivete and abject stupidity of many of the protagonists he glorifies. Where's the probing question to Kuznick when he asserts that Truman was a flaming racist? Where's the questioning to Said about the positive effects the war brought? Heck, where's the challenge to Nardo to clarify his views on the war, to delve deeper into more than just silly slogans?
I guess I'll have to wait for that piece -- or maybe I'll write it myself.
Okay, I've taken a semi-hiatus from blogging, and have since returned from Europe, started a job and began looking for a place to live next year. The latter is still happening, but I'm ready to start opining and do more than just offer links and post the occasional column that I did in London. I have this nice new laptop that allows me to blog from the comfort of my bed, and there's quite a lot of stuff going on in the news that I have more than a passing interest in: postwar Iraq, the roadmap, affirmative action and race-based admissions policies, media bias, and the quality of academia. So here it goes: "All About Josh," season two.
PEJMAN pointed me to this article illustrating the differences between Christianity and Judaism in responding to evil.
Some food for thought.
I AM HANDING OUT MY FIRST JOHN KERRY AWARD, for inappropriate comparisons between the United States and Iraq. The first one comes from David Von Drehle's Sunday story about Bush's administering of the war -- and draws a ridiculous comparison between John McCain's 2000 election campaign and Saddam's Fedayeen.
But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) mounted an insurgent campaign on a shoestring, and surprised Bush with a whipping in the New Hampshire primary. Like the Fedayeen harassing coalition troops in southern Iraq, McCain rattled the sense of invincibility that Bush had worked to create. The reaction in Washington was similar in each case: Nervousness, second-guessing and calls for new personnel and new plans.
I think von Drehle one-upped John Kerry. Couldn't a more tasteful analogy have been made?
Saturday, April 05, 2003
HERE IN BRITAIN, many of the hawkish Labor party members who have supported Blair have utterly failed in countering the absurd claim that "if Iraq is violating UN resolutions, why aren't we attacking Israel?" I've heard this almost daily on the British newscasts, from all across the political spectrum.
Well, let me point you to my friend Lior Klirs' excellent rebuttal to this claim, written in UVa's Cavalier Daily back in September. I couldn't have responded better myself.
Friday, March 28, 2003
HERE'S A LOOK at my latest column, to be published by American University's student paper, The Eagle and the folks at benladner.com
Evangelical Professors by Josh Kraushaar
I was having a conversation with my wonderfully liberal friend the other day at a London coffee shop, and the topic turned to evangelical Christians. We were talking about Israel, and I expressed my gratitude for the many religious evangelicals who have offered first-hand support to the Israelis threatened by terrorism. I also mentioned the dedicated work many evangelical Christians have accomplished in Africa, feeding the malnourished and treating the sick. My friend was skeptical. "They’re nuts," she said, suggesting that they had ulterior motives behind their altruism. Specifically, they want to convert people – to Christianity.
Forty percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, a proportion that seems abnormally high to many of the secular elite throughout the cities on the East and West coasts. That statistic only includes the evangelical adherents of a certain religion. But evangelicals cover a much broader group. Dogmatic environmentalists desperately want to convert skeptics to their cause – the most hardcore of them chaining themselves to trees to prevent them from being cut down. The gun lobby instinctively invokes the Second Amendment when any gun control legislation is proposed, and the gun control proponents are equally convinced that gun owners are evil and guns should be banned. The laudable Habitat for Humanity organization is evangelical. They’re convinced in the merits of building housing for the less fortunate and continually try to get students to sign up to their group. Even fraternities and sororities are evangelical. Every semester, each one tries to convince as many students as possible to rush and pledge.
So not all evangelical activity is inherently bad. Far from it, in fact. But judging from the news on campus these past weeks, I’d conclude that evangelical activity is much higher and more dangerous among so-called American University peace protestors than at any Southern Baptist convention – or Delta Chi rush, for that matter. Dozens of students lay on the floors of Mary Graydon Center portraying Iraqi war victims, spreading the message that Iraqi people will die during the war. There was no mention of the horrible repressiveness that defines the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, where scores of Iraqis are murdered and tortured daily for the same political dissent that these students crave. Four obnoxious students interrupted Chris Mathews’ "Hardball" show on campus trying to express their incoherent anti-war views. And in the most blatant example of evangelism at American University, certain professors canceled two days of classes in protest of the war on Iraq to organize a "teach-in." Looking at the guest list, which included some of the most flaming anti-war activists and precious few serious scholars, this hardly can be called a teach-in. Call it a preach-in. Or a laugh-in.
Most of this evangelism is pretty harmless stuff. Chris Mathews, no pro-war hawk, told the immature foursome to "sit down and shut up." It made for some pretty funny television, even though it was at the expense of AU’s reputation. Very few people took the "corpses" lying in Mary Graydon seriously. If anything, their lack of seriousness hurt their cause. But when professors cancel classes to express explicitly political views, it’s a cause for concern. Using an academic class as a platform for political views has long been the habit of many left-wing liberal arts professors. Imposing their views on the student population, as was done this past week at AU, is shameful.
Part of this professorial evangelism easily stems from their belief that any pro-war view is just nuts. This is plainly evident from the comments made by the professorial teach-in organizers in the Eagle last week. "Clearly people who are educated and have a more profound sense of ethics are very uncomfortable with [the Bush administration’s Iraq] policy, " history professor Peter Kuznick said in The Eagle. What arrogant pomposity. He apparently hasn’t seen polls showing over 70 percent of Americans supporting the war.
Many of these left-wing professors talk all about academic freedom and the right to dissent. SIS Dean Lou Goodman defended the professors’ right to protest by invoking that famous "academic freedom" cliché. "Each faculty member has complete freedom to conduct their class in a way they see as most productive for their course; that’s an essential part of academic freedom," he said. So it’s an obligation to dissent if you’re anti-war, but at the teach-in, there wasn’t a single pro-war voice. Look at the list. The director of Women’s Action of New Directions. Oxfam America. Africa Action. These are hardly significant organizations. Our nation’s capital has a wealth of think tanks and experts from all sides of public opinion. Cato, Brookings, American Enterprise, you name it. Yet no members from them – liberal, libertarian or conservative – were represented. In fact, using the word ‘think’ to describe most of these "pro-peace" speakers would be inaccurate. If these professors were serious about their job, they would invite a broad representation of scholarly opinion. Instead there was a unanimous chorus of anti-war activists, including Karin Lee from the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The peace movement’s constant invocation of McCarthyism is a bad joke. The war protestors themselves are among the least open to opposing opinions. Kuznick’s comment to the effect that all smart people agree with me is incredibly self-serving. That won’t win him a lot of converts.
Professors certainly should not feel constrained by a campus atmosphere where the ability to express opinions is quelled. I have had many outstanding professors in my three years at AU and most of them have been – surprise! – liberal. And the best ones occasionally express their views on certain issues. But they do not preach. They respect debate and do not have a political agenda in their classrooms. They certainly wouldn’t cancel class in order to attend an on-campus rally. Even the anti-war liberals would certainly concede the many merits of removing one of the world’s most hideous and brutal regimes – one that cuts off dissidents’ tongues and murders men, women and children. These evangelical professors hardly mentioned Saddam’s laundry list of atrocities. They were totally unserious and dismissive of any national security threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They want to convince you that peace is paramount, but at what cost?
Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel recently wrote in the LA Times, "Though I oppose war, I am in favor of intervention when, as in this case, because of Hussein’s equivocations and procrastinations, no other option remains…We have a moral obligation to intervene where evil is in control. Today, that place is Iraq." Such a serious scholar and thinker shouldn’t be confused with the gaggle of evangelicals in Batelle-Tompkins last week. It would be easy to compare them to the many evangelical Christians who believe strongly in their religion and try to convert others to their cause. But many of these Christians back up their words with action. They travel to Africa to administer medical care, food and – yes – religion to the afflicted. They sometimes risk their lives to help others. They ride with Israelis on the buses targeted by suicide bombers, giving them much-needed moral support.
In contrast, these evangelical professors hold preach-ins. Some cancel class, getting two paid days off from their job. They’re more avid than Jerry Falwell in trying to convince others of the righteousness of their cause. But their words are cheap and they are abusing a noble profession. They have the potential to mold young minds, but instead waste it on empty slogans.