"A Million Mogadishus" 101 · 05 February 2006

By Chris Kulawik - Columbia Spectator

By Chris Kulawik--Columbia Spectator--02/06/06

It's funny how Columbia works: call for the deaths of 18 million Americans, get your own lecture.

He’s known as “the most hated professor in America,” and yes, not surprisingly, he’s a Columbian. Three years ago, at a faculty anti-war teach-in, assistant professor of anthropology Nicholas De Genova remarked, “U.S. flags are the emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today. The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.”

Amazingly, these remarks were overshadowed by his now-historic comment, a call for “a million Mogadishus,” a horrible tragedy in which 18 American servicemen whose lives ended brutally during an ambush. A year before that, protesting West Bank occupation at an earlier “teach-in” (with all of this protesting, one wonders when he has the time to teach), he quickly set the precedent for such idiotic comments: “The heritage of the victims of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people. The state of Israel,” he stated, “has no claim to the heritage of the Holocaust. The heritage of the oppressed belongs to the oppressed—not the oppressor.”

Even members of Columbia's leftist establishment rushed to denounce De Genova. University Provost Alan Brinkley called the anti-military comments “abhorrent,” and University President Lee Bollinger labeled them “shocking and horrific.” Professor Eric Foner topped them all with “idiotic.” Incidentally, this also represents the first time I’ve found myself in agreement with the triumvirate. Yet, despite individual denouncements, the administration, according to author Quin Hillyer, had “not decided to collectively rebuke De Genova’s remarks, probably due to concerns of trampling on free speech.” Needless to say, the administration took no disciplinary action. Never during this whole ordeal did the administration move to protect Columbia vets and servicemen and women whom De Genova wished dead. Despite how troubling it is that “academic freedom” has been perverted to include violent, radical, anti-American hate speech which openly advocates the murder of American citizens, it gets worse. Not only was De Genova allowed to remain on the faculty, but three years later, Columbia gave him his own bully pulpit—a graduate lecture: the Metaphysics of Anti-terrorism.

Under the auspices of the anthropology department and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, De Genova plans to apply his expertise in “transnational urban conjunctural spaces that link the U.S. and Latin America” to the nuanced social, legal, political, and economic issues that define America following Sept. 11, 2001. Now, if a respected scholar wanted to investigate the “metaphysics” of America after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and present his findings...Fine. But who in his right mind would expect a scholarly and objective analysis when the professor rants and raves about killing members of the imperialist “war machine”? Who would expect an equally critical analysis when the professor openly calls the United States a Homeland Security State but uses derogatory quotes when he writes on the course syllabus (a copy of which I have obtained) about the struggle against terror that is “improbably against outright ‘evil’ and nefarious but ever-elusive transnational networks of ‘evildoers,’ and also variously against ‘barbarism’ and ‘savagery’”? His twisted logic holds America as the true source of evil in the world; those who cut off the heads of aid workers, blow up buses filled with women and children, or take schoolchildren hostage are merely misconstrued freedom fighters.

The reading list further distinguishes the class as a weekly forum to rip into American policies under some pathetic facade of education. Coupled with the 33 “historical texts” from the Bush administration, nine documents from the Project for the New American Century, and four chapters from two Michelle Malkin books, there is a litany of biased readings, including Lost Liberties: Ashcroft and the Assault on Personal Freedom, The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, The War on Human Rights, The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, and my personal favorite, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire Building. All of these books seek to label and define our present state as some totalitarian wreck. There’s no doubt in my mind that De Genova approaches the issue with preconceived and unwavering opinions—opinions which have tainted the reading list and the class as a whole, ruining any opportunity for the objective classroom environment that every student deserves.

Still, last I checked, the “instructor permission” required for the class was predicated on a written assignment given the first day. That is, the professor gets to choose his students. Clearly, the odds are stacked against any student expressing a deviating point of view, especially with a professor who believes, as De Genova does, that “U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy.” Moreover, the likelihood of the Columbia community ever hearing what was said during his “scholarly” lectures is also non-existent.

Hey, if history serves as any example, that would truly be our loss—De Genova is full of great quotations.
Chris Kulawik is president of the Columbia University Conservatives.