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Tattletales for an Open Society | The Nation

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Tattletales for an Open Society

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The following have offered themselves for inclusion on the ACTA's public list of those with the nerve to question aspects of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. We'll be adding additional comments in the days ahead.

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"Former Yankee virtues, common sense, scepticism if not suspicion of authority, a belief in the mastery of the future, have been driven underground. Diffuse but pervasive authority, a desperate, no obsessional insistence on national solidarity, and near total obedience to authority, constitute the national temper." With these words I began a "Letter From Washington" which has been published and read widely in Europe,not least by academics, officials, parliamentarians and publicists--and by several heads of government. I've also been interviewed on television and radio in several countries, and occasionally asked about ACTA's list of transgressors. I replied, generally, that Ashcorft was a far greater danger--but that they were supinely doing his work. Surely, I belong on their list.

NORMAN BIRNBAUM
Professor of Law
Georgetown School of Law

***

I would like to name my own name--Claire Potter, Associate Professor of History and American Studies, Wesleyan University. On the day that the United States initiated the bombing of Afghanistan, I attended a peace rally run by our students. With other faculty and students, I walked up to a microphone and announced my name, followed by "and I am against the war," as I had been asked to do by the organizers. Subsequently, I facilitated a teach-in for faculty and students on peace movements in the United States, during which I told students that they should expect that the government would, as it had in the past, use its police powers to abridge their Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties to suppress dissent. I also raised questions about how their stance of complete nonviolence might be affected if they, as they should expect to be, became the objects of physical violence by the police during the course of a public protest.

Please add me to your list, as I am not a full professor yet, and am much too unimportant to fall into ACTA's net all by myself.

CLAIRE POTTER
Associate Professor, History and American Studies
Wesleyan University

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I wish to add my name to the list. I imagine that public high schools fly under the radar of the ACTA and so I am willing to forgive their oversight in my case. Since the events of 9/11 I have taught several lessons critical of the government response and the media coverage of the aftermath. As well, I have openly questioned our military actions and have presented points of view that offer alternatives to war. And finally, I passed out an article that raised the issue of government foreknowledge of the attacks and called for an investigation.

JEFF HAGERSTRAND
English teacher, Clayton Valley High School
Concord, California

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I am humbly submitting my name to the ACTA to sadly report myself as a campus radical. Over the last several months, I have dabbled in fostering discussion around the "p-word": pacifism. The dental professor who called me at my place of work was right to harass me and tell me he hoped my "movement" would fail. The repeated e-mails I received were also effective in outing me, forcing me to admit my crimes to the ACTA. I can only hope that once the academy is an environment completely devoid of intelletual discourse or even a variety of opinion, you will remember that I repented before it was too late to save my soul from free thought.

ANTHONY BADGEROW
Recent graduate, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Member of the TEA Society (Society for Teaching Educational Activism)

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Please add my name to your list of unpatriotic academic subversives.

On October 5, 2001 I gave a talk to fifty or sixty members of the Auburn University student body, titled "Crimes Against Humanity and Acts of War." I argued that no matter how heinous Osama bin Laden's crimes, it would be morally wrong to bomb Afghanistan and risk civilian lives. We would not bomb Queens because we believed a mob leader was hiding there, even if the local police force was not cooperating with federal investigators. For the same reason, we should not bomb Afghanistan. I made similar remarks in the classes I teach, and I also spoke out against the violations of civil liberties that the war effort has brought.

For some reason, my attempts to corrupt the youth and undermine the war effort failed, and the United States began bombing Afghanistan in short order. Nevertheless, my efforts were clearly unpatriotic, and I deserve to be on any enemies list compiled by ACTA, or whoever Joe McCarthy's successors are today. I am part of the legion of untenured, temporary, and adjunct professors who do the bulk of the undergraduate teaching in this country. Clearly I am not important enough to attract the attention of the likes of Lynn Cheney or Joseph Lieberman on my own. But collectively, we adjunct professors have an influence on society, and our subversive activities should not go unnoticed.

ROB LOFTIS
Auburn University
Department of Philosophy

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Sorry to say, I'm not that radical. I'm a published military historian who believes that the war against Afghanistan was poorly planned, has killed many more people than we have been led to believe, the vast majority of whom I doubt had anything to do with September 11, and has failed dismally to capture the one person, Osama bin Laden, whom America has a fair capital case against. Knowledge of, and democratic discourse about, this inept and immoral behavior is being squashed by the supine media and people like Dr. Cheney and Senator Lieberman who prefer ad hominen attacks and poorly veiled threats to a reasoned presentation of various viewpoints. Deep in the Western tradition, which these paragons contend they are defending, is the idea that the first step towards knowledge is the statement, "I don't know." Not only do Cheney and Lieberman want us to prejudge the situation ("Bush is right, all doubters wrong"), they are actively seeking to silence dissent. Those who love freedom, whatever they think of this war, should not allow themselves to be cowed.

JAMES P. LEVY
Adjunct Assistant Professor of History
Hofstra University

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In November, at a student honors forum at which I served as co-faculty moderator, I pointed out that the A dministration's definition of terrorism is woefully narrow. To wit: If Osama bin Laden had used his millions to purchase General Electric, or Enron, he could have eliminated thousands of jobs and easily ruined fifty times more lives than the attack on the World Trade Center. For his troubles, he would have been hailed as a paragon of venture capitalism, and probably could have inked a multimillion-dollar book deal, as Jack Welch has done.

Had bin Laden played to the cheap seats, and used his daddy's millions in a Republican-sanctioned manner, he could have executed 152 Texans and been honored as a practitioner of the political philosophy of Jesus Christ Our Lord, as well as someone who was "tough on crime."

Did somebody say "workfare"?

And in my US history survey class, I took care to mention the names Sharon, Pinochet and Kissinger (he of the Agent Orange and carpet bombing), and took note of the lethal interventions in Iran '53, Lebanon '58, Dominican Republican '65, Vietnam '63-'75, Cambodia and Laos '70, Somalia '92, Iraq '91-present, Serbia '99, and Palestine (via proxy state) '67-present to suggest that, as A.J. Muste knew fifty-nine years ago, "war is the enemy," and terror (in all its many manifestations) begets terror. We have tried crusading, and it led to September 11, and no we didn't "deserve" it, any more than the Palestinian 2-year-olds with American-funded bullets in their brains (I've seen them, folks) deserved that, either. It is time that America practices a more creative, less predictable foreign policy, and like Dr. Sherwin, I hope Cheney and Lieberman spell my name right.

ROBERT M. ZECKER
Department of History XXXSLTSUXXXamp; Program in American Studies
Miami University

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