Ewing, N.J.—As a senior History major at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), a small public university whose reputation and standards for admission are quite high, I have been disappointed both by the lack of student interest in world affairs, as well as a one-sided treatment of American and Middle Eastern Studies. This is why, when I received an email advertising a student/faculty forum on “Iraq’s Past, Present, and Future”, I was both eager to attend and wary at the same time.
I was not encouraged by the fact that I had overheard the two professors moderating the forum, Professor Alan Dawley, a specialist in 19th and 20th century American social and political history, and Professor Jo-Ann Gross, a specialist in premodern Iran and Central Asia, speaking only a few weeks earlier about ways in which they could get their students to see the “error of George Bush’s policies.”
After suggesting that the global democratic revolution was not a new idea, Dawley remarked, “We know Bush couldn’t think this one up on his own!” After the laughter from most of the 45 students in attendance had died down, he wondered aloud “which neocon[servative] advisor in the administration did?”
“[The] President’s advisors have left out the fact that democratic struggles always come from below, whether it is against corporate power, white supremacy, or imperialist aggression,” he went on. “It is the sad truth that American political and corporate elites have opposed the Democratic Revolution with all their might. There was the failed attempt with Castro, and, while the overthrows in Chile, Guatemala, and Iran were successful, the result was bringing far worse human rights violators to power. This should make us suspicious of today’s leaders.”
During the course of the forum Israel was only mentioned twice: once by Gross who observed that the situation in the Middle East will not be resolved unless the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is; and once by Dawley, who felt it was beneficial, in a discussion over what constitutes ‘terrorism’, to mention that the “state of Israel was founded on terrorism, with the bombing of a hotel which housed British soldiers, as well as civilians.” No mention, of course, was made of Saddam Hussein’s contribution to suicide bombers in Israel.
Professor Gross spoke of the escalation of attacks in Iraq: She said, “The Bush administration should face this escalation in attacks as a sign of failure of the U.S. occupation.”
She asked rhetorically, “How will Operation Iron Hammer help the democratization and fight the anti-Americanism?”
“We were told that Ba’athist thugs were the source of these bombings…What about the attacks on the U.N. headquarters, an embassy, and the roadside bombings?… Security problems will only get worse.”
While she conceded that schools are beginning to operate in Iraq, she immediately followed that by stating that parents are afraid to send their children to school and economic instability and unemployment remain high as the promised oil revenue has not materialized. She then went on to note that U.S. companies handle $15 billion of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, and that non-U.S. companies cannot get contracts unless they agree to a joint alliance with the United States.
Professor Dawley began by describing the forum, which many History and Journalism students were required to attend, as the kind of “grassroots town meeting” that “democracies are, or should be, founded upon.”
Although labeled a “forum”, the faculty presented only one point of view. Moreover, Professor Alan Dawley explicitly endorsed National Public Radio and The New York Times. Never was it suggested that another viewpoint might be valid; only a few comments by a student from the College Republicans showed that alternative explanations even exist at all. TCNJ is a public university. College facilities were used to promote and sponsor this event.
Dawley went on to oppose an argument that has been made, mainly in the conservative media. “The analogy being made between this occupation and post-WWII occupations is false,” he said. “In those countries, the defeated peoples were seen by the world, and by themselves, as fit for temporary rule. They embraced defeat.”
Comparatively, Dawley said that “even the CIA believes that the Iraqi people are losing support for the U.S….Paul Bremer will never gain legitimacy in this uninvited foreign intervention…As it was with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines, so it is today in Iraq.”
Dawley declared, “This occupation should be ended due to the illegality of the doctrine of pre-emptive war. The sooner the better. It should also be ended because the ‘War on Terror’ did nothing but set a cover for the occupation of Iraq… The Patriot Act is an excuse to continue this never-ending War on Terror and its repressive measures.”
Dawley often made use of what seemed to be his stock answer: “The U.S. has used 9/11 as an excuse for a permanent War on Terror, using heavy-handed military tactics to impose our will.”
Dawley began the conclusion to his analysis with “How to end the occupation.” Remarkably, despite his obvious distaste for Bush’s pledge of “$87 billion … for the military buildup”, he stated that “Now, the American taxpayers have a moral obligation to foot the bill for the economic and social reconstruction in Iraq, to clean up our mess.”
His solution to post-occupation Iraq? “An alternative to the occupation and the ‘New Imperialism’ is a ‘New Internationalism.’” While he didn’t expand on exactly what that entailed, later on, when someone brought up the issue of the “hegemony” of the US, with a noticeable smirk the professor replied, “How long do you think 5% of the population can maintain control over the rest of the 95%?”
Finally, Dawley outlined his views on the people’s role in the world: “The people need to be the check on arrogance of power…Take February 15 of this past year…The largest protest in world history showed that world opinion was against this war…The coalition of the unwilling is larger than the coalition of the willing…That kind of show of support is the reason the U.S. is losing the war.”
After informing the students of his participation in an organization by the name of “Historians Against the War” (HAW), Professor Dawley walked around handing out flyers with the mission statement of HAW:
As historians, teachers, and scholars, we oppose the expansion of United States empire and the doctrine of pre-emptive war that have led to the occupation of Iraq. We deplore the secrecy, deception, and distortion of history involved in the administration’s conduct of a war that violates international law, intensifies attacks on civil liberties, and reaches toward domination of the Middle East and its resources. Believing that both the Iraqi people and the American people have the right to determine their own political and economic futures (with appropriate outside assistance), we call for the restoration of cherished freedoms in the United States and for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Dawley pointed out that of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, only “Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich advocate a reduction in the number of troops. I don’t know how Howard Dean feels on this issue.”
As a member of “Historians against the War”, Professor Dawley belongs to an organization that promotes the indoctrination of students, and the moderators of this forum are a disgrace to those professors who strive for the objectivity, balance, and evenhandedness that is implicit to their role as educators. As college faculty, they should be held accountable for promoting politics in lieu of truth.
Alexis Zoberg is a senior history major at The College of New Jersey