Noam Chomsky Comes to Stanford

On the afternoon of Sunday, October 4, Stanford hosted acclaimed linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky at an event in White Plaza organized by Stanford Says No to War.  The MIT professor was the keynote speaker of the event, which also featured Stanford professors Joel Beinin and Sandra Drake, various Bay Area activists, a man handing out invitations to an event in Berkeley entitled “Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution,” and featuring a speaker who is “bringing revolution to Berkeley.”  The event was aimed at denouncing aggressive war—the Iraq war in particular—and university policy regarding returning professors accused of war crimes, specifically former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Chomsky began his less-than-ten minute piece by stating, in what must have been a sarcastic tone, that he did not know much about what the event was about.  He proceeded to lay out what he thought were the two main issues on the table: government and university accountability.

With regards to the government, Chomsky noted that according to the Nuremberg trials, aggressive war was the “supreme war crime,” and that the Iraq war was one such example of aggressive war.  Therefore, former Bush administration officials who supported the Iraq War are guilty of war crimes.  He followed this up by saying that these officials are also responsible for the “evil that follows” the war, in an allusion to the sectarian violence which has been responsible for the majority of the deaths in Iraq.

Speaking on what university policy should be on the “extracurricular activities” of university professors, Chomsky drew the analogy of welcoming back a professor who has been advising Al Qaeda in South Waziristan on how to “spread nuclear terror in New York City” or how to smuggle nuclear weapons into this country.

Professor Beinin made a different argument, saying that although he supports the right of professors to teach freely, students should know that when they are being taught by professors who have been proponents of what are, in the Professor’s judgment, “policy failures with criminal implications,” they are being taught by “damaged goods.”

Professor Drake, who began by stating her affiliation with the April 3 Movement (a radical campus group from the 1960s discussed by this publication earlier this year), devoted her time to explaining that she was against the use of torture because of its “perversion of empathy” and because it is a “threat to the survival of the world.”  She argued that the evidence against Secretary Rice was “strong enough to bring her to account.”

The event was capped with a march of some of the attendees to Hoover Tower to post a petition calling for Secretary Rice to be held accountable for any crimes she may have committed.

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