I will be publishing the full text of my address, “Towards a New Past: The Meaning of the Iraq War,” that will be presented to the Progressive Forum on Wednesday December 19, 2007 as well as any press reaction to my remarks. This is the location of the venue in a conference room of the Empire International Buffet restaurant in Matteson, Illinois.
Yes, the organiser of the event is George Ochsenfeld who heckled former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell when he spoke at St Xavier University on September 19. 2007. I had wished the university had selected a speaker that was not so intimately tied to the disinformation and frankly deliberate lies that preceded the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq. General Powell’s address before the United Nations was one of the more disgraceful moments in American diplomatic history. His vouching for and promise of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the putative arsenals of President Saddam Hussein proved to be false. His U.N. address on February 5, 2003 was a pivotal moment in the road to war and gratuitous destruction of a small and defenceless nation. I think universities should be less concerned about image and publicity and more concerned about the implications of inviting figures who contributed to the use of violence and the horror of unjust war.
Yet I do not believe in restricting access to any invited speaker to a campus. Academic freedom is best served when speakers, regardless of their controversial actions or stance on public issues, are given full access to a university community. I do not endorse heckling either, even though Mr Ochsenfeld’s use of the word “traitor” could be analysed and debated with regard to Mr Powell’s role in advocating the Iraq War and his virulent homophobia and willingness to persecute homosexuals in the military. I share Mr Ochsenfeld’s rage and antipathy toward the secretary and indeed participated, prior to the secretary’s address, in an antiwar demonstration at one of the entrances to the university.
I was heckled once in front of an audience of World War II and Korean War veterans and it was not a pleasant experience. Heckling is a form of censorship and an attempt to interfere with the relationship between a speaker and an audience: To speak and to be challenged at the appropriate time. Yet I was flattered that he invited me to speak at this forum and look forward to meeting him in person. He is a good man who cares about his nation and his world.