Question to the President
October 15, 2001
From Barbara Harlow (English):
Please discuss your (and/or the University's) policy and philosophy
for dealing with "dissent" on our campus. I raise this question in the
immediate context of the extraordinary circumstances - local, national,
international - catalyzed by the events of 11 September 2001, and out
of a concern at your public response (in the Houston Chronicle) to the
expression of political opinion and analysis by one of the University's
faculty members. What can we - as faculty members of The University
of Texas at Austin - anticipate from the institution's administrative
officers as the nation perhaps proceeds on its path to "war"?
Background Information HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com
| Section: Editorial
Sept. 14, 2001
U.S. just as guilty of committing own violent acts
By ROBERT JENSEN
Sept. 11 was a day of sadness, anger and fear.
Like everyone in the United States and around the world, I shared the
deep sadness at the deaths of thousands.
But as I listened to people around me talk, I realized the anger and
fear I felt were very different, for my primary anger is directed at
the leaders of this country and my fear is not only for the safety of
Americans but for innocent civilians in other countries.
It should need not be said, but I will say it: The acts of terrorism
that killed civilians in New York and Washington were reprehensible
and indefensible; to try to defend them would be to abandon one's humanity.
No matter what the motivation of the attackers, the method is beyond
But this act was no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism
-- the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes -- that
the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime. For more than
five decades throughout the Third World, the United States has deliberately
targeted civilians or engaged in violence so indiscriminate that there
is no other way to understand it except as terrorism. And it has supported
similar acts of terrorism by client states.
If that statement seems outrageous, ask the people of Vietnam. Or Cambodia
and Laos. Or Indonesia and East Timor. Or Chile. Or Central America.
Or Iraq. Or Palestine. The list of countries and peoples who have felt
the violence of this country is long. Vietnamese civilians bombed by
the United States. Timorese civilians killed by a U.S. ally with U.S.-supplied
weapons. Nicaraguan civilians killed by a U.S. proxy army of terrorists.
Iraqi civilians killed by the deliberate bombing of an entire country's
So, my anger is directed not only at individuals who engineered the
Sept. 11 tragedy, but at those who have held power in the United States
and have engineered attacks on civilians every bit as tragic. That
is compounded by hypocritical U.S. officials' talk of their commitment
to higher ideals, as President Bush proclaimed "our resolve for justice
To the president, I can only say: The stilled voices of the millions
killed in Southeast Asia, in Central America, in the Middle East as
a direct result of U.S. policy are the evidence of our resolve for justice
Though that anger stayed with me off and on all day on Sept. 11, it
quickly gave way to fear, but not the fear of "Where will the terrorists
strike next?" which I heard voiced all around me. Instead, I almost
immediately had to face the question: "When will the United States,
without regard for civilian casualties, retaliate?" I wish the question
were, "Will the United States retaliate?" But if history is a guide,
it is a question only of when and where.
So, the question is which civilians will be unlucky enough to be in
the way of the U.S. bombs and missiles that might be unleashed. The
last time the United States responded to terrorism, the attack on its
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, it was innocents in the Sudan
and Afghanistan who were in the way. We were told that time around they
hit only military targets, though the target in the Sudan turned out
to be a pharmaceutical factory.
As I monitored television during the day on Tuesday, the talk of retaliation
was in the air; in the voices of some of the national security "experts"
there was a hunger for retaliation. Even the journalists couldn't resist;
speculating on a military strike that might come, Peter Jennings of
ABC News said, "The response is going to have to be massive," if it
is to be effective.
Let us not forget that a "massive response" will kill people, and if
the pattern of past U.S. actions holds, it will kill innocents. Innocent
people, just like the ones in the towers in New York and the ones on
the airplanes that were hijacked. To borrow from President Bush, "mother
and fathers, friends and neighbors" will surely die in a massive response.
If we are truly going to claim to be decent people, our tears must flow
not only for those of our own country. People are people, and grief
that is limited to those within a specific political boundary denies
the humanity of others.
And if we are to be decent people, we all must demand of our government
-- the government that a great man of peace, Martin Luther King Jr.,
once described as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" --
that the insanity stop here.
Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas in
HoustonChronicle.com -- http://www.HoustonChronicle.com
| Section: Editorial
Sept. 19, 2001
Jensen's words his own
In his Sept. 14 Outlook article "U.S. just as guilty of committing
own violent acts," Robert Jensen was identified as holding a faculty
appointment at the University of Texas at Austin.
Jensen made his remarks entirely in his capacity as a free citizen of
the United States, writing and speaking under the protection of the
First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
No aspect of his remarks is supported, condoned or officially recognized
by The University of Texas at Austin. He does not speak in the University's
name and may not speak in its name.
Using the same liberty, I convey my personal judgment that Jensen is
not only misguided, but has become a fountain of undiluted foolishness
on issues of public policy.
Students must learn that there is a good deal of foolish opinion in
the popular media and they must become skilled at recognizing and discounting
I, too, was disgusted by Jensen's article, but I also must defend his
freedom to state his opinion. The First Amendment is the bedrock of
Larry R. Faulkner, president The University of Texas at Austin