The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Gleaning the truth

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 Gleaning the truth
Gleaning the truth

Gleaning the truth

Inspired by the now graduated Jonathan “Oz” Trammell’s famous grilling of Bob Dole during a lecture last year, I have made a point of routinely asking difficult questions of guest speakers who, I feel, have something to answer for. Last year, this included former Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and a CIA recruiter.

This year, I finally got my chance, two actually, with the lecturers at the most recent Tate Lecture: interviewer Charlie Rose, University of California Regent Ward Connerly, and current Texas A&M president and former CIA director Bob Gates.

As is common practice, a Student Forum was held in the Hughes-Trigg Theater a few hours before the lecture itself. The theater was packed with high school students earning extra credit, and a few adventurous souls among them ventured forth to the microphones in order to ask questions.

Third in line, I asked Dr. Gates why we only call it terrorism when somebody else does it, after I had given account of CIA activities in Central America from the period stretching between 1979-1990. I wrote about this in my first column for the Daily Campus (“A Glaring Contradiction,” September 13th) and so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say that Dr. Gates sidestepped the question, as I expected, with the same sort of story used to justify American foreign policy since at least 1917, and perhaps much earlier.

I’m not entirely sure of how to characterize the reactions of the students in attendance, but it was clear that they were taking notice of my little act of dissent. If some of them got a little boost towards thinking critically about the things their own country does, then I accomplished my mission. Even if not, I hope I at least showed to those on the podium that, even in complacent Southern Methodist University, there are those who actually care about matters of significance.

A few hours later, at the Tate Lecture in McFarlin Auditorium, I found myself with a much larger and much different audience, though no less important. Scanning the crowd of Dallas’ wealthiest and most reactionary, I thought of a key reason why right-wing radio hosts voice such endless vitriol at “liberals”: we can relax.

I think I’m on to something here. If you’ve ever been to such a lecture, get a picture in your mind of the crowd in the lobby and in the audience, and not just the older people. Then take a look at those who make up the SMU English Department (and several other departments, for that matter.) See what I mean?

Anyway, when it came time for the question and answer session, I put forth my comparison between apartheid-era South Africa and present-day Iraq, (first mentioned in “Stop the Insanity Abroad,” November 12th.) The panelists’ response was highly interesting, and perhaps revealed more of the true motives behind this possible war than they would like to admit.

The three panelists responded with variations on the theme of “Everything changed after 9/11.” Since the attacks of that day were carried out by the sorts of people who refer to Saddam Hussein as an “infidel” and “false god,” the only similarities to be found between the members of Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are that both are Arab and both are Muslim, though Hussein doesn’t take religion very seriously at all (Iraq’s jails are full of Islamists.)

Is the Bush administration operating on the premise, held by much of Middle America, that non-Israeli Middle Easterners, and Muslims worldwide, are mad bombers as a general cultural trait, without rational thought or regard for their own lives?

It would seem so. A prominent Israeli commentator recently took a trip to Washington and met with Pentagon officials. Upon returning to Israel, he told the press that the Bush administration is a “revolutionary group. One can summarize their approach in one sentence. They think that Arabs are retards who understand only the language of force.” It might not be much of a stretch to say that our current government has similar opinions towards much of the world.

After the lecture ended, a man approached and told me that I had the right idea in comparing South Africa with Iraq, and that it explained the administration’s attitudes very well indeed.

“In the end, what it all comes down to, is this,” he said, tapping his dark brown hand. Apparently, Ronald Reagan believed that Nelson Mandela should have remained imprisoned for life.

Leaving the auditorium, he told me how happy he was to see students asking needed questions, especially in such a setting. Then he told me that he was on the Tate Lecture Board of Directors, and pointed out his name on the program. Maybe there’s hope around here after all.

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