At another installment in the University’s series of faculty forums Friday, six Yale professors offered a number of anti-war views on the causes and possible consequences of the current conflict in Iraq.
The April 4 event in Davies Auditorium, which drew several hundred students and professors, featured law school professor Bruce Ackerman; anthropology professor Arjun Appadurai; Ethics, Politics and Economics chairwoman Seyla Benhabib; African American Studies chairman Paul Gilroy; history professor Ben Kiernan; and ethics, politics and economics professor Gaspar Tamas. The panel, sponsored by the Program of Ethics, Politics and Economics, stood in stark contrast to the largely pro-war faculty forum on March 26, which featured professors such as diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill and political science professor Paul Kennedy.
Gilroy spoke out against what he saw as the war’s racism, imperialism and perceived limitations on free speech.
“I think we have become distinctly aware of how restricted speech has become,” Gilroy said, citing recent events at Columbia University, where verbal clashes between pro-war and anti-war demonstrators have become heated.
“I think the morality of cluster bombs, of uranium dipped bombs, daisy cutters — are shaped by an imperial double standard that values American lives more,” Gilroy said. “[The war seems motivated by] a desire to enact revenge for the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon.”
While most of Gilroy’s statements drew cheers and applause from the audience, one comment in particular brought an uneasy silence to the room.
“[It’s important] to speculate about the relation between this war and the geopolitical interests of Israel,” Gilroy said.
In contrast to Gilroy, Ackerman said he wanted to attribute the cause of the war not to deep geopolitical struggles, but rather to President George W. Bush.
Criticizing Bush’s intelligence, Ackerman said he did not think the United States would be at war if someone other than Bush were president.
“I can’t really think of a worse president,” Ackerman said. “If we, and by that I mean the Democrats, had won the [Congressional midterm] election in November, we wouldn’t be at war right now. But we lost the election.”
Appadurai said the current war is unique on a number of levels.
“We’re building a coalition through war,” Appadurai said. “You don’t do what you might think you would have done in an earlier war. [The war] is an exercise in consensus-building.”
Kiernan said he wondered if the ends justified the means in the current war. He said the damage to international law and security and the consequences of the “invasion and devastation” of an independent Arab state continued to raise questions.
Tamas concentrated on how the “new Europe” factored into the U.S.-led coalition. Tamas said the American idea that the war is part of an ongoing worldwide struggle between dictatorships and democracies was false.
“The straightforward opposition of totalitarianism and democracy has no historical foundation,” Tamas said.
Justin Ruben GRD ’02 said he found the panel valuable overall.
“I think reflection and action are very important right now,” Ruben said. “There were some interesting and provocative points made.”
But David Goldenberg GRD ’07 said he was not pleased with the panel’s performance, criticizing what he saw as a universal bias on the part of the professors.
“I thought that their speeches were crafted very carefully to draw whimsical chuckles from jaded leftists in the crowd,” Goldenberg said. “It was long on wit, short on wisdom. It was rhetoric without content, opinion without foundation, but worst of all, it was above all an ego enhancement session for a group of smug intellectuals. In short, [it was] a session of group intellectual onanism.”