Thursday, September 02, 2010

Intellectuals as to War and Militarization

Intellectuals have responsibilities in times of war and militarization

September 1, 2010 - In a series of articles in the Harvard Crimson, published in March 2008, student muckraker Lois Beckett reviewed similar questions of responsibility and accountability, but extended them to the role of intellectuals in times of war, specifically the U.S. invasion of Iraq. As with many past U.S. wars, prominent Harvard intellectuals admittedly played a leading role in administering official support for, and justification of, the war. And there were some cases in which Harvard intellectuals uncomfortably understood the possible consequences of the war, but didn’t speak up because they didn’t want to seem unpatriotic among their peers, who shared similarly silent reservations.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq resulted in the destruction of human life comparable in number with the Rwandan Genocide and the Cambodian killing fields based on the September 2007 outstanding report by British polling agency ORB, the Opinion Research Business. The U.S. invasion resulted in roughly 1 million violent deaths.


There’s one important distinction, however. Using words or phrases like “getting it wrong” or “mistake” or “misconduct” assumes that, in the U.S., we have the right to “experiment” on another country with a war whose disastrous consequences and inherent injustice are easily detectable by anyone, whether a Harvard intellectual or a local bus driver.

True, Harvard academicians could argue ­— as in usual misconduct cases — that they didn’t intend to help cause the murder and displacement of millions of people, being directly complicit in the crimes that resulted from the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But, as elementary legal and moral principles reflect, criminal responsibility is not judged by intention, but by the real or likely consequences of the act, or failure to act.

And serious precedents are not far off in history within American society.


At the International Criminal Tribunals at Nuremberg following World War II, U.S. justices applied these very standards to intellectuals of Nazi Germany: from Julius Streicher, editor of a leading newspaper, to Wolfram Sievers of the University of Strasbourg. Both cases were judged on the basis of the defendants’ prominent cultural, political and so-called “scientific” work and ideas which, wittingly or unwittingly, supported the vicious crimes perpetuated by the Nazis. And both intellectuals were hanged for them. {read more}

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