How to teach about the war at America’s ‘leading public university’

The fall semester has started. The war on terror is reportedly about to extend to Iraq. Both those events mean that “teach-ins” are about to return to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose chancellor recently spoke of his vision of UNC-CH as “America’s leading public university,” a “university with a moral compass.”

If you were in charge of bringing in outside experts to inform the leading public university’s students about the current conflict, what would be your criteria for speaker selection? Perhaps we can glean UNC-CH’s from the panel invited to speak at the Sept. 23 “teach-in on the ethics and politics of an invasion of Iraq.”

The teach-in will feature Rania Masri, “on the effects of war on the Iraqi people”; Stan Goff, “on the Bush administration and the U.S. military”; Ajamu Dillahunt, “on race, war, and needs at home & abroad”; Ganesh Lal, “on the global wartime situation”; and Lenore Yarger, “on religious conscience and civil disobedience.”

Masri, a teach-in mainstay, is the coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition. She has told UNC-CH students that the U.S. has killed half a million children in Iraq since 1991 — not only blaming the U.S. for the U.N. sanctions, but also conveniently ignoring the fact that the sanctions don’t prohibit food or medicine and exculpating Saddam Hussein, who has reportedly spent $10 million in payments to families of Palestinian terrorists. Media chair for Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Masri last year in Chapel Hill said Bush’s speech before Congress was “so full of crap I could pick it up with a shovel.”

Goff is a member of “Veterans Teaching Peace in Schools,” an organization whose “Talking Points” for the war on terror included this caution against the engagement in Afghanistan: “Afghanistan doesn’t lose wars. They beat Alexander the Great. They beat Genghis Khan. They beat the British — three times! They beat the Soviets. And now we’re going in, somehow thinking we’re going to do better.” Goff’s message is that the “military-petroleum regime” of the Bush administration planned before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to invade Afghanistan to tap oil reserves there and exert U.S. control over South Asia. “I can’t help but conclude that the actions we are seeing put in motion now are part of a pre-September 11th agenda,” Goff has written. “I’m absolutely sure of it, in fact. … This administration is lying about this whole thing being a ‘reaction’ to September 11th.”

In October Goff told an audience at N.C. State that U.S. was really in Afghanistan to build an oil pipeline from the Aral Sea to the Indian Ocean, and also because “the CIA needs the heroin from Afghanistan to fund its global operation.”

The hidden-economic-agenda-behind-the-war is a message Goff, a Marxist, has recycled at least since the U.S. intervened in Yugoslavia. As a member of the “International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosovic,” Goff has put forth the notion that the the well-documented July 1995 Srebenica massacre was a “giant hoax” orchestrated by the U.S. in order to wage “economic warfare” — that “Milosevic is no war criminal” nor “a dictator,” and that there “was never any coordinated campaign of genocide or ethnic cleansing by Serbs, no massacres at either Racek or Srebrenica, and never any such thing as Serbian ‘rape camps.'”

Dillahunt is a member of the socialist group Black Workers for Justice. At a June 19 rally at the State Capitol, she compared the plight of workers in America today to the plight of antebellum slaves. Dillahunt is also a member of the Black Radical Congress, serving on its organizing committee. This group holds that America maintains “control over Black people” by “state repression and police violence in the form of racial profiling, police brutality and murder, and the public assault on workers rights’ to maintain and improve job pay, benefits, and security.”

As recounted in the Independent Jan. 12, 2000, Dillahunt and her husband traveled to Tanzania to get “a close-up look at Tanzania’s experiments in African socialism under Julius Nyerere, particularly its attempts at building a collective economy that would be self-reliant, rather than dependent on foreign aid.” Nyerere’s Tanzania was marked by brutality, totalitarianism, an actual and total lack of freedom, children encouraged to spy on their parents, racial persecution of the Masai and Asians, and famine — but conditions in America are what receive Dillahunt’s condemnation.

Lal, of the International Socialist Organization, is another Marxist who posits that the U.S. concocts hoaxes to legitimize war. In the July-August 2002 issue of the International Socialist Review she writes that reports of al Qaeda forces in Kashmir “have likely been planted in the media by the Indian and U.S. governments. India seeks to undermine Musharraf’s credibility, and the U.S. seeks legitimacy for extending its war on terror. al Qaeda’s alleged presence in Pakistani Kashmir allowed [U.S. Defense Sec. Donald] Rumsfeld to float the idea of deploying U.S. troops in previously unthinkable South Asian locations — as the ‘war on terror’ has already licensed the U.S. to do in Central Asia.”

Yarger, of the Silk Hope Catholic Worker, wrote in 1999 that “I had reached my tolerance for young, White, war-mongering males in fast cars screaming, ‘Kill ’em all!'” She spoke at UNC-CH at a teach-in last year where she decried what over the years the U.S.’s “peace and security means for the rest of the world: it means poor neighborhoods destroyed by U.S. troops in countries like Panama, and Palestinian homes wrecked by U.S.-backed bulldozers; it means local South American and African economies decimated by unforgiven debt from multilateral lending institutions controlled in part by U.S. financiers,” and “wars that reversed land forms in Vietnam and elsewhere that would have redistributed wealth.” Like Masri, she blamed the U.S. and not Hussein for the death of Iraqi children, who died, she said, “in order to secure for us a steady and relatively cheap flow of oil.”

In other words, UNC-CH is bringing in Marxists, socialists, and a pro-Iraq activist to “teach” students about “the ethics and politics of an invasion of Iraq.”
So what would be your criteria for speaker selection on such a topic? A range of views? A history of accurate prognostication? A preference for thoughtful, reasoned, fact-based analysis, as opposed to fearful, paranoid, conspiracy-laden rants?

If so, how far removed your criteria would be from those of “America’s leading public university.”