A week after the attacks, speakers at UNC-Chapel Hill

Clarion Call No. 123
There were plenty of comparisons made to Nazis and other totalitarian regimes at the University of North Carolina’s “teach-in” held in response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but the focus of the comparisons wasn’t Osama bin Laden or terrorists in general, but the United States of America.

The speakers at the forum, “Understanding the Attack on America: An Alternate View,” included William Blum, author of Killing Hope: U.S. and CIA Intervention since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; Stan Goff, author of Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti; Rania Masri, an Arab-American activist and author of Iraq Under Siege; Catherine Lutz, UNC-CH anthropology professor and author of Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century, Rashmi Varma, UNC-CH English professor; Sarah Shields, a UNC-CH history professor; and Charles Kurzman, a UNC-CH sociology professor.

Blum, whose homepage compares the Nazi holocaust with “the American holocaust,” told the audience that if he were president of the U.S., “I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and the impoverished, and all the millions of other victims of American imperialism.”

Blum also asked if President Bush planned to attack the United States for harboring terrorists and murderers, including “the anti-Castro Cubans in Miami.”

Goff, who recently wrote, as a member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, that the Hague War Crimes Tribunal was “about covering up the war crimes of the North American Treaty Organization and the US Government,” said that it was wrong to compare the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“The de facto executive branch and the compliant press are putting the historical spotlight right now on December 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor,” Goff said. “I think we need to aim that spotlight at February 27 in 1933 and the Reichstag fire.” (In 1933, Nazis under the direction of Chancellor Adolf Hitler reportedly torched the Reichstag to create a panic, blamed the Communists, convinced Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg to suspend constitutional liberties, won a parliamentary plurality and thereby passed the “Enabling Law” giving Hitler dictatorial power.)

Lutz also disputed the Pearl Harbor parallel, saying it should be “February 1947, when a new war was declared,” by which she meant the Cold War (which of course was never formally declared a war). She compared Henry Kissinger with Osama bin Laden, and suggested that we “send the international police for [bin Laden] and pick up Henry Kissinger and Augusto Pinochet on the way home.”

Masri, an Iraq sympathizer with much to say provided the topic isn’t Kuwait or Kurds, said that “anyone who looks different from your typical white man” was being attacked in “the xenophobic sentiment that has taken hold of this country.”

Kurzman suggested the attacks owe to a conspiracy between American “militarists” and the terrorists themselves, to further the militarists’ interests, which lie “in the exaggeration of threats, armed responses, and so on. In fact, I would argue that there is a tacit collusion among the militarists of all sides.”

The crowd, estimated at approximately 700, responded favorably to the speakers’ messages, nodding, applauding, even laughing in agreement. A letter-writer in The Daily Tar Heel reported that one attendee was moved to shout “Bulldoze the Pentagon!”

Audio clips of the “teach-in” are available at http://www.unc.edu/~oswell, the website of Michelle Oswell, a Ph.D. student in Renaissance musicology at UNC-CH who attended the event.