“Saint Xavier Prof Answers Critics” on Iraq and Academic Freedom

I was recently quoted on New Year’s Eve on the Iraq war in Chicago’s Daily Southtown:

Peter N. Kirstein, Saint Xavier University history professor:

“2007 will be a good year if all American troops are withdrawn from Iraq and a national dialogue begins on the meaning of violence and the militarization of American society. Hopefully our national-security elties will be brought to justice for the war crimes they have committed in launching a preemptive, unjust war.

“2007 will be a bad year if not one antiwar candidate has a serious chance for either the Republican or Democratic presidential nomination. Also, if the destruction of Iraq continues, as a result of American intervention, it will continue to destablilize the region and threaten American vital interests: these are internationalism, diplomacy and demilitarization of American life.”

Some prowar advocates responded to my statement that were also published.

I then submitted a Guest Column articulating my position on the Iraq War and academic freedom that appeared today, January 10, 2007, in the Sun-Times owned paper:

    “Saint Xavier Prof Answers Critics”

“Several readers responded to my comments on the Iraq war that were published, along with other experts, in Insight on Dec. 31. None of the criticisms provided counter-argumentation but were ad hominem in nature — they were personal and non-analytic.

“Bernard Janecki described my antiwar remarks as “asinine” and said they “embarrassed” my employer. Jim Ochwat urged that I be “summarily” fired and characterized me as a “disgrace to academia.”

“It is important that we focus on the central issues here. We are involved in a strategic disaster in Iraq. The war is a tragedy of immense proportions and is a classic instance of aggressive war that violates even elementary requirements of just war doctrine. Those who prosecuted this war I strongly believe are war criminals and should be tried in an appropriate judicial forum without the possibility of a barbaric hanging. It is not enough to merely debate tactics and strategy, but the moral and legal implications of invading and destroying a relatively small nation that was no threat to the United States.

“Academicians have a moral responsibility to address issues of national and international concern. Universities can live with freedom, even when that freedom may trigger controversy. Universities are not public relations firms that cater to the whim and popular mood of the day. Higher education, particularly during times of significant national debate over war, must foster critical thinking and recognize that academic freedom benefits not only professors and students but also the community at large.”

Peter N. Kirstein

Professor of History

Saint Xavier University


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