"U.S. flags are the emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today. They are the emblem of the occupying power. The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military."
Those words were spoken last week by Nicholas De Genova, a professor of anthropology and Latin American studies at Columbia University. De Genova went on, in words that will long shame his university, to call on U.S. soldiers to "frag" (i.e., murder) their officers and to wish "for a million Mogadishus," referring to the 1993 ambush in Somalia that left 18 U.S. soldiers dead and 84 wounded.
He wants 18 million dead Americans?
Columbia's administration distanced itself from De Genova (he "does not in any way represent" the university's views) and other professors criticized him - but his remarks are hardly the rude exception to the usual discourse of the faculty at that university. For one: Tom Paulin, a visiting professor at Columbia this academic year, has stated that Brooklyn-born Jews "should be shot dead" if they live on the West Bank.
More broadly, plenty of other Columbia professors share De Genova's venomous feelings for the United States, though they stop short of calling for the deaths of Americans.
- Eric Foner, Dewitt Clinton professor of American history, sees the U.S. government as a habitual aggressor: "Our notion of ourselves as a peace-loving republic is flawed. We've used military force against many, many nations, and in very few of those cases were we attacked or threatened with attack."
- Edward Said, university professor, calls the U.S. policy in Iraq a "grotesque show" perpetrated by a "small cabal" of unelected individuals who hijacked U.S. policy. He accuses "George Bush and his minions" of hiding their imperialist grab for "oil and hegemony" under a false intent to build democracy and human rights. Said deems Operation Iraqi Freedom "an abuse of human tolerance and human values" waged by an "avenging Judeo-Christian god of war." This war, he says, fits into a larger pattern of America "reducing whole peoples, countries and even continents to ruin by nothing short of holocaust."
- Rashid Khalidi, who will hold the Edward Said chair of Middle East Studies starting in the fall, used the term "idiots' consensus" to describe the wide support for reversing Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and called on his colleagues to combat it. After 9/11, he admonished the media to drop its "hysteria about suicide bombers."
- Gary Sick, acting director of the Middle East Institute, alleges that Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980 by conspiring with the Ayatollah Khomeini to keep the U.S. hostages in Iran. He apologizes for the Iranian government (it "has been meticulous in complying with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty") and blames Washington for having "encouraged Iran to proceed" with building nuclear weapons. Sick opposes letting U.S. victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism collect large damages against Tehran. More generally, he sees the Bush administration as "belligerent" and his fellow Americans as "insufferable."
- George Saliba, professor of Arabic and Islamic Science, routinely interrupts his class with political rants, leading one student to observe that it is "continuously insulting" to attend his lectures and another to complain about his course (on the subject of an "Introduction to Islamic Civilization," of all things) degenerating into a forum for railing against "evil America."
- Joseph Massad, assistant professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, seems to blame every ill in the Arab world on the United States. Poverty results from "the racist and barbaric policies" of the American-dominated International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The absence of democracy is the fault of "ruling autocratic elites and their patron, the United States." Militant Islamic violence results from "U.S. imperialist aggression."
Such sentiments coming from leading lights of the Columbia professorate suggest that De Genova fits very well into his institution. He just made the mistake of blurting out the logical conclusion of the anti-Americanism forwarded by some of his colleagues.
This self-hatred points to an intellectual crisis at a school long considered one of the country's best. Alumni, parents of students and other friends of the university should first acknowledge this reality, then take steps to fix it.