AU professor hosted Saturday teach-in
As tens of thousands of activists streamed into Times Square in New York City, more than 300 students, professors and veterans—and even a Nobel laureate—streamed in-and-out of Kay Spiritual Life Center Saturday to protest war in Iraq.
Director of AU’s Nuclear Studies Institute and Professor Peter J. Kuznick, along with various veterans for peace groups, organized the teach-in two weeks ago—before war began—to coincide with a veterans’ march on the White House scheduled for this weekend, Kuznick said.
Although the event was sponsored by AU’s Nuclear Studies Institute and Center for the Global South, the University did not formally sponsor the event and none of its funds went toward the program, according to Kuznick. All of the speakers agreed to speak for free, although Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department Official who leaked the Pentagon Papers had to be bailed out of jail for protesting the day before.
"I wanted to miss this massive war crime that is occurring right now," Ellsberg said about why he had intended on staying in jail over the weekend.
One of the main themes of the weekend centered on defining patriotism and what it means to be an American.
"Aggression is not American, aggression is not patriotism," Ellsberg said.
For five hours veterans from the Vietnam War and the Gulf War got up and spoke about their experiences with war and about how they were fulfilling their patriotic duty by speaking out. They came as young men carrying their two-year-old daughter and as older men with shrapnel wounds and Purple Hearts.
Retired Rear Admiral Gene R. La Rocque (U.S. Navy) also spoke about how true patriotism involves speaking out when you think something the government is doing is wrong.
"They have no right to cast dispersions to our patriotism for this great nation," La Rocque said. "I never for one moment forget that George W. Bush works for me."
Many of these men and women felt betrayed by their country and worried about the troops in Iraq now.
Vietnam veteran and author of "A Hard Rain Fell" John Ketwig said that he feels betrayed by recent events.
“This country stood for something when I was in elementary school. This country’s direction bothers me to the depths of my soul," Ketwig said.
Recently resigned State Department Official John H. Brown read from parts of his resignation letter, "The president has failed to explain why our brave men and women in uniform should sacrifice their lives for this war in Iraq…Bush has used the crudest propaganda—he has used propaganda tricks, the repetition of words and slogans…the demonization of everyone who disagrees…and [is] appealing to the fear of the other."
At the end of the teach-in Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan McGuire stood up as an audience member and announced her presence and made an ending remark.
"It was a wonderful closing," Kuznick said.
The event was well covered by national media as well. C-Span, Newsweek, The Washington Post, ABC and NBC were all in attendance.
"One of the things that made [the teach-in] so effective was the presence of all the media," Kuznick said. "I haven’t seen any reporters embedded in the peace movement and there aren’t any retired protestors on CNN."
Kuznick said that if the war continues or "if we have plans on invading any more countries—then I have plans to have more teach-ins."