Decorated Air Force Academy Graduate Comments on My Battle for Academic Freedom

Dr Thomas Eller, awarded twice the Distinguished Flying Cross and a former professor and assistant dean at the Air Force Academy, was honoured with the 2014 Distinguished Graduates Award at the US Air Force Academy. He wanted my reflections on my academic freedom case when I responded to Air Force Academy Cadet Robert Kurpiel’s e-mail which led to a national controversy over free speech, academic freedom, appropriate speech, and “civility”: usually a code word from the powerful to silence the more vulnerable.


From: Thomas Eller
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 5:29 PM
To: Kirstein, Peter N.
Subject: Air Force Academy Assembly

Dear Professor Kirstein,

Until today, I was unaware of your actions back in 2002. Back in the 1960-1961 school year I served as the Cadet Chairman of the Academy Assembly. I later served for many years as an assistant dean of faculty, a professor and a department chairman. I cannot conceive of a PhD faculty member having acted as you did.

I have read your and Dr. Richard Yanikoski’s followup emails on this incident from later in 2002. (they were from 2005, posted in 2006: PNK)

I would be pleased to hear how you now, in 2015, feel about that incident and how it may have affected your behavior as a professor.

Thomas J Eller

My response to Dr Eller:

From: Kirstein, Peter N.
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 5:59 PM
To: Thomas Eller
Subject: Re: Air Force Academy Assembly

Dear Thomas Eller:

I have written widely on my incident in articles and lectured all over the country on it. I am sure you can find some of it, but I could link some articles. Surprised you had not heard about it. Did you know I was suspended and reprimanded for speech? For daring to challenge American militarism? For denouncing in the run-up to the Iraq War, American imperialism that was so evident in that immoral, preventive war. War criminals Bush, Rummy, Cheney should have gotten life in prison.,

So I have nothing but contempt for those who wish to silence speech. We need to protect it. Mine was not protected and that is a disgrace. I apologised to the cadet and the academy. They apologised to me. Did you know that? The academy acted honourably in this controversy and my battle was not with them, but with my own university that caved into the mob mentality of revenge. Prowar vets, prowar groups saw me as a radical, left-wing professor whom they were determined to silence. I was not silenced and will not be silenced.

Yeah I am a vet: did not make a big deal out of that because it is NOT a big deal. My daddy was an officer in the big one and was in combat in the Aleutians. Yet I hate war; it is immoral with no exceptions and those who study to be soldiers, sailors, airpersons, marines should at least be exposed to the other side. I exposed many to that side.

Thank you for your service, we hear. What service? To oil, to neo-cons, to racist militarists. Service? Military personnel are frequently pawns in the game, sent to war as heroes, come back and VA gives them 6 months waiting lists etc. We need to end war, find non-violent means to avoid killing ourselves.

Peace and end war!! As you can see, I will not yield one inch to those who think they can silence me. I have been polite and professional with you, but I have spoken my mind as an American with supposed First Amendment rights of free speech. Are you determined to take that away?


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