Academic Freedom, Antiwar Speech, Ms Valerie Wilson and Mr Libby

As noted below, I am not concerned with any effort to reveal the identity of an employee of an intelligence service. I have noted the hypocrisy of “liberals” who are grandstanding as if they are defenders of the empire against the traitorous Republicans for revealing the name of frankly a mid-level staffer who I believe was not involved in active measures at the C.I.A.

Yet the significance of this event is the war. The effort to squelch opposition to the war was the underlying premise behind this affair. I presume Dick Cheney must have known what his chief of staff was doing to plant stories and cultivate disparaging press coverage of Ambassador Joseph C Wilson IV whose antiwar position was known inside the White House prior to his New York Times “twisted intelligence” op-ed charge on July 6, 2003. He correctly rebutted Mr Bush’s State of the Union assertion that President Hussein was developing a nuclear weapons’ programme through African sources of U-235 (actually U-239 that would presumably be enriched). As one who was sanctioned for antiwar speech, in which I angrily denounced the military, a cadet and the tactics of vicious warfare, I can see how the culture of the country in silencing speech runs from the White House to university administrations.

We need to confront directly the issue of the impact of war on free speech in this country. While it is not clear what the outing of Ms Plame was intended to do: embarrass the ambassador; hurt him by attempting to get Ms Plame fired; trying to take aim at the C.I.A. for daring to send an “antiwar” person to Niger who would not collaborate or sustain the Bush administration’s preference for slanted intelligence. I don’t know. I do know that Vice President Cheney, Assistant to the President I Lewis Libby Jr and Karl Rove were avoiding a substantive debate on the war, which is what one would expect of our national leadership, and using the tactics of trying to undermine the reputation and character of their critics.

Persons in authority must not bend to the passions of public opinion or attempt to control it by harming those who demand a different alternative from war: whether it be a high-ranking White House official, members of Congress (recall their effort to fire Professor De Genova), or any university official that uses inappropriately their power to silence and coerce those who oppose war. Opposition to war may threaten authority: in this case the White House. In my case the perception of order and stability at my university. Yet a strong, vibrant democracy must comprehend that the broader issue of respecting dissent, even when threatening or controversial to one’s position or institution, must supersede alleged short-term benefits of suppressing that speech.

War is evil. It is monstrous. It is destructive of dreams, families and people. It is savage and barbaric and the greatest threat to international peace and security. The criminals who brought us this Iraq war are not likely to tolerate dissent–the proof is in the Libby-Rove-Cheney pudding. Universities are not political institutions and must elevate themselves in a manner that respects and supports dialogue even when construed by many to be odious, excessive and disloyal.

Let freedom ring. Let democracy flourish. Blessed are the peacemakers!!

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