Progressive At Cal
Progressive At Cal
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Big Brother Is Watching Yoo

I heard some complaints from Progcal's right-wing "fan base" that we are posting too much on Calstuff and not enough on our own blog. Be careful what you wish for.

Anyhow, I wanted to compare the recent calls for firing the Berkeley professors, Hatem Bazian and John Yoo, coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum. I oppose all of this, because I think professors should be judged on the quality of their academic work, not their statements outside the classroom.

So whose statements were more damaging, Hatem Bazian or John Yoo? By any objective accounting, the consequences of John Yoo's words were much more damaging than those of Hatem Bazian's.

Just so I can't be accused of selectively editing Bazian's words to make him look good, here's a short excerpt of what Hatem Bazian said at an April 10th rally from the right-wing Free Republic web site:

“Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Are you angry? [Yeah!] Well, we’ve been watching intifada in Palestine, we’ve been watching an uprising in Iraq, and the question is that what are we doing? How come we don’t have an intifada in this country? Because it seem[s] to me, that we are comfortable in where we are, watching CNN, ABC, NBC, Fox, and all these mainstream... giving us a window to the world while the world is being managed from Washington, from New York, from every other place in here in San Francisco: Chevron, Bechtel, [Carlyle?] Group, Halliburton; every one of those lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving individuals are in our country and we’re sitting here and watching the world pass by, people being bombed, and it’s about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every— They’re gonna say some Palestinian being too radical — well, you haven’t seen radicalism yet!”

I'm not going to get in a fruitless discussion over what Bazian meant by the word "intifada" in this context, but even if you agree (reasonably) that Bazian's statement was inflammatory and amounted to an exhortation to commit violence, there is no evidence that any violence can be directly attributed to what Bazian said. According to the Supreme Court decision, Brandenburg v. Ohio, Bazian's speech is constitutionally protected, because no imminent violence resulted from his speech, nor was any such violence likely to occur. Nobody blew up civilians on AC Transit buses; nobody set off any carbombs in San Francisco. In fact, the speech itself received very little press coverage, except on the very same right-wing web sites that are calling for Bazian to be fired or arrested for sedition! If it hadn't have been for these web sites calling for Bazian's head, Bazian's speech would have faded out of memory due to sheer indifference.

Now compare the outcome of Bazian's speech to John Yoo's memo justifying the United States violating the Geneva Convention. Yoo's memo not only paved the way for the deaths of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, 70 to 90 percent whom were arrested by mistake, but it also led to "blowback" when a terrorist group decapitated Nick Berg in response to the Abu Ghraib scandal. In fact, John Yoo's words represent a continued danger to U.S. troops, because as Colin Powell warned in his own memo, it undermined "the U.S. objective of ensuring its forces are protected under the [Geneva] Convention."

Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of Bazian's speech, nobody died because of it. We can't say the same about John Yoo.

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