Why Didn't You Bring Pinochet?
How Princeton Welcomes War Criminals
by Danilo Mandic
www.zmag.org/, July 15, 2006
Princeton University has become, in mainstream
discourse, virtually synonymous with American liberalism, antiwar
sentimentalism, or worse. To honor the second anniversary of the
occupation of Iraq, the Daily Princetonian ran a David Horowitz
column warning against Princeton University's appearance as "a
redoubt of anti-American radicalism" and "a promoter
of sympathies for our terrorist enemies (03/25/05)." The
university's richest student publication, the Tory, recently cried
out against pro-liberal "selective tolerance" among
undergraduates, echoing their regular monthly objections to the
vast anti-"conservative" bias in Princeton's intellectual
posture in the country (10/05). The "liberal" image
is so ubiquitous that when Max Blumenthal notices in the Nation
that "Princeton Tilts Right" (02/23/06), a deluge of
disbelief and criticism is ready to dismiss his "liberal
propaganda," in the words of Family Research Council's Tony
Perkins. Increasingly, Edward Said and Ralph Nader are evoked
as the truly exemplary Princetonians, while Donald Rumsfeld, Richard
Perle and other pro-war gems from Princeton's neocon factory are
dismissed as "exceptions" (as Perle himself called them
in a recent chat with Princeton students).
Sadly, "radicalism," "liberalism"
and "antiwar" icons like Edward Said could not be further
from the reality of Princeton's role in the world today. To confirm
this, let us ask a naive question: who has this excessively "radical"
institution been inviting, rewarding and honoring in recent years?
Reviewing briefly the Princeton University's latest guest lists
- and especially those of its Woodrow Wilson School of Public
and International Affairs - we may learn some alarming things
about academic integrity in America's most powerful school.
To begin, one might recall the presentation
of the prestigious Crystal Tiger Award to former Secretary of
State Colin Powell in March 2004, for his "transformative
impact" on millions of lives. The gentleman was presented
the award "on behalf of the entire undergraduate student
body," a decision mysteriously unknown at the time to the
entire undergraduate student body (with the exception of a few
students on the Crystal Tiger Award Committee). Nevertheless,
we were reminded by a Committee official that
"Princeton University's motto is:
'In the nation's service and in the service of all nations.' I
cannot think of an individual who embodies this ideal more than
you [Powell]. Thank you for setting a course of lifelong service
that we can only hope to emulate."
The "course of lifelong service"
worthy of emulation included, presumably, his promotion of the
occupation of Iraq with the following known results (at the time):
an occupied, destroyed country with over 15,000 dead Iraqis, over
500 dead Americans, over 50,000 injured or maimed, countless refugees
and internally displaced persons, a near-civil war state of chaos
and instability, a scorn of global public opinion and the UN and
an assurance that US interference in the Middle East will be enduring.
Add that to a crime of aggression, and you've got a prime candidate
for a Crystal Tiger Award at Princeton.
Princeton University President Shirley
Tilghman - a notorious feminist who is often charged with rudely
harboring antiwar nostalgia - took the opportunity to add how
"delighted" Princetonians are "that Secretary Powell
has agreed to honorindeed, all Princetonians who have served with
distinction in the diplomatic corps." Tighman's praise would
probably have been questioned by some people. For instance, by
the thousands of Panamese who have spent fifteen years petitioning
for compensation for death or injury of themselves or family members,
as a result of Powell's role in the US invasion of Panama. It
could also have been questioned by the victims of Powell's first
attacks on Iraq, which set a precedent in targeting biological
and chemical agents plants (a precedent that was condemned by
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN). It might
even have been questioned by the surviving parents of the 500,000
children killed by US sanctions in Iraq, a policy Powell first
energetically championed, and later offered its "failure"
as a reason to invade Iraq.
At Princeton, however, no such questioning
took place. Rather than be challenged on any of the mentioned
issues, or the countless others one could think of, Powell was
thanked for his efforts to "provide us with a richer humanity
and inspire us to pursue it." Thunderous applause greeted
Powell's sermon, as University officials compared Powell's career
with that of George Kennan (a compliment in Princeton circles,
mind you). Appropriately enough, Kennan was a critic of the second
Iraq invasion and a firm believer in diplomatic solutions - the
kind that Powell dismissed as "irrelevant" in the months
building up to March 20th, 2003. The four-star General had refused
several initiatives of the General Assembly, a Security Council
draft resolution and Iraqi offers at an alternative weapons inspection
procedure, and was now defending the Bush administration's massive
violence in front of an Ivy League audience. In return, Princeton
gave Powell a lot to see during his visit: standing ovations;
photos of hundreds of students waiting for hours in line to get
tickets for his lecture; Princeton's very own ROTC military recruiters
parading in his honor; the future joint chiefs of staffs and potential
Secretaries of State showing their admiration and respect for
his accomplishments, etc. What Powell did not see is the frantic
woman screaming "You killed my son! You killed my son!"
from Princeton's Tiger Park protest as his limousine was passing
it. He also didn't see this mother of a dead American soldier
fall to the ground crying as she remembered her son's death in
Powell's military expedition. Needless to say, the Crystal Tiger
Award committee did not consider Powell's "transformative
impact" on her life.
Moving on, we may recall the warm welcome
of Robert McNamara in November 2004. Woodrow Wilson School Dean
Anne-Marie Slaughter complimented his commendable career as architect
of the Vietnam War and expressed the students' gratitude for his
visit. Thus a man responsible for bringing the world closer to
nuclear war delighted his audience with a discussion of "The
Folly of Current U.S. and NATO Nuclear Policy." Soon thereafter,
the University embraced George Shultz (an honorary co-chair at
the Princeton Project on National Security), who was part of a
celebrated panel on "National Sovereignty and International
Institutions," two things he has set records in undermining
and violating during Reagan's terrorist wars in Central America.
Under the co-sponsorship of the Woodrow Wilson School, he delivered
a heartbreaking defense of US refusal to cooperate with international
criminal tribunals. Having been shielded from uncomfortable questions,
Shultz decided to visit again over the summer of 2004, at which
time the University gave him the 2004 James Madison Award for
Distinguished Public Service, to complement the Woodrow Wilson
Award the school had given him in 1971.
On April 8-9 2005, the Woodrow Wilson
School staged a prestigious colloquium entitled: Rethinking the
War on Terror. It's mission was to "bring together leading
practitioners, academics, and policymakers from a range of disciplines,
backgrounds, and countries to examine both the concept of a war
on terrorism and the practical strategies being used to fight
it." The general spirit of unquestioningly receiving government
officials apparently inspired the invitation list for this colloquium
as well. In attendance was the State Department's Director of
Recruitment Diane Castiglione, the leader of Bush's war recruiting
efforts at hundreds of US universities. CIA inspector general
Frederick P. Hitz was also there (Princeton boy, Class of '61).
When he isn't traveling around campuses enlightening students,
he spends his time denying the CIA's involvement in the Latin
American drug trade and defending the US's support for the Contras.
After much denial, Hitz had reluctantly admitted before Congress
that there had been "instances where CIA did not, in an expeditious
or consistent fashion, cut off relationships with individuals
supporting the contra program who were alleged to have engaged
in drug trafficking activity, or take action to resolve the allegations."
Needless to say, the issue was never brought
up during his visit. Hitz's colleague Peter Probst was also attending:
former CIA, Pentagon and Office of the Secretary of Defense employee.
In the 1990's, Probst served on an advisory board of the Middle
East Forum to advocate and lobby for American intervention in
the Middle East, worked on what is euphemistically called "special
operations and low intensity conflict," and warmly associated
with militant fanatic Daniel Pipes. Another panelist was Col.
Thomas F. Lynch III, the Director of the Commander's Advisory
Group at United States Central Command (USCENTCOM). In this capacity,
he has participated in war and occupation management in Iraq,
Afghanistan, Qatar, Pakistan and elsewhere.
The list gets longer and more impressive
with every name. Yet, the speakers with the most credentials were
without a doubt two keynote speakers: Giora Eiland and Anthony
Zinni. Israeli Defense Forces superstar Giora Eiland earned his
rightful place in a report to the UN Commission of Inquiry on
"Grave Breaches and Other Serious Violations of International
Humanitarian Law." Namely, he was condemned by the Commission
for a plethora of war crimes and terrorist acts committed by the
IDF under his leadership. Throughout his career, Eiland advocated
the use of F-16 fighter jets to bomb Palestinian targets, civilian
or otherwise. He also championed regular IDF use of US military
helicopters to kill dozens of civilians. In the period from September
2000 to May 2001, Eiland's leadership killed over 450 Palestinians,
more than half later confirmed as civilians. This is a reduction
in killing rate, mind you, from the more successful first month
of the 2000 Intifada, during which Eiland's IDF forces killed
over one hundred Palestinians. Indeed, with such a record of mass
murder, Eiland's support for the construction of the Israeli wall
against the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ,
July 2004) seems minor.
Rather than being exposed to any of this
information, Princetonians enjoyed Eiland's pleasant narrative
[pdf] about his experiences as perpetrator of the massacre in
Jenin, in which capacity he found, according to Amnesty International
(4/22/02), that "bulldozing" and "destroying houses"
was "the most humanitarian way to deal with the situation."
One might summarize his sophisticated thought (worthy of a Princeton
audience) in his own words:
"The sheriff is allowed to be stronger
because the other side is criminal," he said. "There
is no limit to how much you can explain how evil the other side
is." (Christian Science Monitor, 07/31/01)
Being the beacon of Socratic dialogue
that it says it is, Princeton University helped this sheriff charged
with war crimes in his limitless explaining of just how evil that
"other side" of the 'war on terror' is.
Following Eiland's performance was a grand
reception of General Anthony Zinni, who also had keynote speaker
credentials. He was formerly the head of Operations Restore Hope,
Continue Hope, and United Shield in Somalia. In July 1995, Foreign
Policy revealed that under his command troops slaughtered from
7000 to 10000 Somalis, according to the CIA. He also held experience
in maintaining illegal no-fly zones in Iraq and, the International
Red Cross found (1/26/99), bombing civilians in unprovoked US
attacks, such as the one in al-Jumhuriya. The crucial thing about
Zinni was that he was the Woodrow Wilson School's main 'dissenter'
- his presence was the affirmation of the University's dedication
to critical thought. This argument was based, of course, on the
fact that Zinni broke with "neocons who didn't understand
[the Middle East] and were going to create havoc there."
The break was, however, strictly about tactics, and only about
Iraq. "I'm not saying there aren't parts of the world that
don't need their ass kicked," he said. The thousands of dead
in Afghanistan from the American bombing and invasion are not
an issue: it was "the right thing to do" (Washington
Post 12/28/03)." Of course, "one of Zinni's responsibilities
while commander-in-chief at CENTCOM was to develop a plan for
the invasion of Iraq. Like his predecessors, he subscribed to
the belief that you only enter battle with overwhelming force"
(CBS News 5/21/04). The problem, Zinni feels, was that we needed
300,000 troops to carry out the illegal occupation rather than
a mere 180,000.
That is the closest thing to "rethinking
the war on terror" that the University had to offer - the
US's obvious right to "kick ass" around the world notwithstanding.
All the while, the pretension of academic
"neutrality" and "balanced discourse" was
pervasive. Behind it was something uglier. There was not a single
panelist or speaker who criticized the 'war on terror' on a basis
other than 'strategic' or 'tactical.' Not a single keynote speaker
lacked a government position or state/military function in their
biographies. Not a single speaker or panelist represented those
millions around the world who are on the receiving end of the
'war on terror.'
Finally, we may look at the Grand Finale
of the political rape of Princeton's intellectual integrity: the
Woodrow Wilson School's 75th anniversary festivities on October
1st, 2005. In no more than 24 hours, the University hosted Lt.
General David Petraeus, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The anniversary included a playfully innocent
"Mock National Security Council Meeting," with an impressive
array of corporate executives (including RAND Corporation Senior
Analyst Steven Simon) and prominent US militarists (including
Colonel Robert Gordon III). They spent the hour role-playing an
NSC meeting hypothetically dealing with an imminent nuclear disaster.
Dean Slaughter personally made sure that issues worthy of discussion
about the actual disasters in the real world were left outside,
as were most students who were denied entrance.
"One of our most distinguished alumni,"
as Slaughter called David Petraeus, followed. In front of America's
former Defense Department elite and several senators, he delivered
a sophisticated block of propaganda - unchallenged and unquestioned
- about the occupation of Iraq and beyond. The General had developed
a reputation in US military circles as a supporter of cooperation
with former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party (support which
even convicted fraudster Ahmed Chalabi adamantly opposes). His
years of war management everywhere from Bosnia to Haiti had recently
reached a peak in his role in the Fallujah massacre as commander
of the 101st Airborne Division. His central contribution to destroying
the city and driving out 250,000 people from it was not mentioned.
Dean Slaughter (apparently under orders from the Defense Department)
again ensured that only selected members of the audience direct
questions to the General, none of which dealt with this fresh
military accomplishment. She found it appropriate, nevertheless,
to crack a joke about how amazing it was when Petraeus immediately
responded to her email during the battle of Fallujah. Petraeus
returned the compliment by calling Slaughter the "the jewel
of the crown" of Princeton University and thanking her for
her close ties to Washington.
The pinnacle of the imperialist festivities,
however, came with Condoleezza Rice. "I cannot imagine a
better person to launch our 75th anniversary celebrations,"
said Dean Slaughter, and explained that Rice "exemplifies
those values" of Princetonians "serving the nation and
the world." Her values had been explicit since her involvement
in the first Bush administration, the root of her allegiance to
the Reaganite clique (Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell).
At the time, she was promoting George I's friendship with Saddam
Hussein, as well as the invasions of Iraq and Panama. Her values
were also made clear when she assisted the execution of an illegal
coup in Haiti and the abduction of the popularly elected president,
Jeanne-Bertrand Aristide. In March 2004, as she was persistently
refusing to testify in front of the 9/11 Commission, she threatened
that Jamaica would face consequences if it did not expel Aristide
from the entire Western hemisphere (Democracy Now 3/25/04). A
year later, further guided by the same values, Rice traveled to
Pakistan and India to promote US sales of F-16 fighter jets to
both countries, a gesture of endorsement for the existence of
nuclear weapons in the two states (Wall Street Journal 3/15).
Soon thereafter, she dismissed Amnesty International reports calling
for a stop to US torture practices, and upheld her government's
violation of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against
Torture. She also served "the nation and the world"
in her consistent diplomatic support for Israel, Uzbekistan, Pakistan,
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes, which compete
with North Korea for most brutal records of suppressing their
dissidents and democratic movements.
Finally, Rice's values crystallized most
in her advocacy of the occupation of Iraq. As is now well-understood
(even in Princeton), lying for the sake of loyalty had become
a job prerequisite for Dr. Rice. Highlights of her deceit include:
backing Bush's State of the Union speech claim that Iraq is attempting
to acquire uranium from Niger (Sunday Herald, 10/13/03); connecting
Hussein's regime to the atrocities of 9/11 (CBS 3/28/04); connecting
Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda (CNN 9/26/02); denying knowledge
that she had of the possibility of a terrorist attack on the US
shortly prior to 9/11 (LA Times 9/27/01); rejecting the proven
claim that the White House knew of the US intelligence community's
uncertainty and skepticism about Iraq WMD claims (Washington Post
7/27/03); and guaranteeing the existence of Iraq's WMD program,
as well as Hussein's intent to abuse it (CNN interview, 3/18/04).
Not a single Princeton professor, student, or publication put
any of these issues forward during her visit. By the time Dean
Slaughter saluted Michael Chertoff's speech to close the festivities,
one could hardly keep track of the hypocrisy anymore.
These few examples come only from the
past few years - more broadly, they are pins on a mountain of
celebrity statesmen who have enjoyed intellectual and academic
autonomy at Princeton University. In all of the reviewed cases,
not a single speaker represented the majority of world opinion
on issues of recent US wars. In all of the reviewed cases, there
was not a single independent analyst, academic, journalist, historian
or activist included. In all of the reviewed cases, the speeches
and speakers were left largely unchallenged and unquestioned,
by students and faculty alike.
Some complaints did surface. For instance,
on the second day of the "Rethinking the War on Terror"
colloquium, around a dozen students gathered to protest in front
of the Woodrow Wilson School. The group's signs included: "The
university should be preventing war, not supporting it!";
"You put three war criminals in a room, what do you get?
A Princeton conference"; and the vital question: "Why
didn't you bring Pinochet?" The students were quickly herded
off to the sidewalk on the other side of the street for being
"disruptive" - strolling silently around the WWS building,
holding up signs and denoting NO WAR with duct tape letters on
clothing. After much criticism for their failure to get required
University authorization for a demonstration, the protestors were
ignored by all Princeton publications, as was their action. If
one compares the media coverage of the hyped Frist Filibuster
in April 2005 with this forgotten "incident" at the
WWS's colloquium, one sees the boundaries within which political
discourse is allowed at Princeton University: criticizing a relatively
minor and generally irrelevant congressional practice is fine;
criticizing war-makers is not.
After the fact, the Rice-Chertoff-Petraeus
propaganda blitz was (unsuccessfully) challenged. Although Dean
Slaughter could not "imagine a better person" than Rice
to grace the University's campus, some Princetonians could. Over
a hundred undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members,
with a somewhat stronger imagination, signed a public letter which
"question[ed] the university's motives in inviting Rice"
and condemned the "institutional endorsement of a position
that is elsewhere being questioned for its disregard of international
codes of conduct, treaties and laws." Slaughter and Tilghman
issued responses without addressing the substance of the letter,
the Daily Princetonian dismissed the letter for failing to see
the "great value in inviting the people who run our country"
to campus (10/21/05), and the University carried on its business
as usual: in April alone, the school's highest officials awarded
James Baker for his commitment to American prosperity (as seen
in his role in Gulf War I), hailed Madeline Albright as she preached
democratization in the Middle East (perhaps with the bombing of
Yugoslavia in mind as an ideal), appointed Daniel Kurtzer to the
prestigious S. Daniel Abraham Chair in Middle East Policy Studies
(an honor he earned as US ambassador to Israel at one of the most
deadly times in Palestinian history), arranged a world-widely
publicized lecture for the presidential ambitions of Hilary Clinton
(who took the opportunity to call for sanctions on Iran) and,
finally, confirmed her husband Bill Clinton as Class Day Speaker.
Given this record, not much ambiguity
is left about Princeton's political role. One of the world's most
influential universities (arguably the most influential), at this
critical stage of US military expansion, is smilingly giving war
criminals free propaganda sessions at prestigious conferences.
Instead of encouraging independent thought, the University has
consistently greeted and awarded figures in power in total disregard
of their records of waging monstrous wars, lying to the UN and
the world, advocating mass murder and violating international
law. Instead of hosting free dialogue in a critical intellectual
arena, Princeton has reduced itself to the shameful status of
academic 'stamp' for those in power. Instead of protecting critical
thought from state/military propaganda, the university is protecting
state/military propagandists from criticism.
Sadly, Princeton is not alone. Major U.S.
academic institutions are increasingly refusing to allow independent
voices a space to be heard, preferring instead to support government
spokesmen who use universities like speakerphones. If students
themselves do not stand up to this, the so called "military-industrial-academic
complex" will become painfully real.
DANILO MANDIC is an undergraduate at the
Sociology Department at Princeton University. His interests include
Balkan history, war sociology, modern nationalism and US foreign
policy. He can be reached at email@example.com.