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Why "polite" debate isn't enough to stop pro-war politicians
Interrupting Hillary Clinton's lies

May 5, 2006 | Page 8

ALDEN EAGLE and SHAUN JOSEPH helped organize a protest at Brown University against a recent visit by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). They wrote this article in response to criticism leveled at them in Brown's campus newspaper, the Daily Herald.

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THE AUTHORS of this column participated in disrupting the April 8 speech by the ardently pro-war Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Our critics, in particular the Herald editorial board and columnist Laura Martin, raise three major objections to our action: First, that it deprived the Brown community of the "valuable resource" that Clinton's empty phrases apparently constituted; second, that the antiwar movement has better means to win its point of view; and third, that we have potentially damaged the university's reputation and ability to attract "big-name speakers," "influential lecturers" and other potentates ("A step backwards," "Clinton protestors an embarrassment," Daily Herald, April 10).

We wish to respond to these criticisms in order.

Clinton's lecture was the kick-off of the "Doherty-Granoff Forum on Women Leaders." Michael Granoff and Ellen Doherty-Granoff '83, who founded and fund the Forum, professed in their introduction to be motivated by only the highest ideals.

It is mere coincidence, you see, that the lecture took place during a midterm election. It is just an accident that the Granoffs are major contributors to the Democratic Party and its political action committees, having donated over $70,000 in just the last six years (not counting, of course, lecture fees).

It is simple serendipity that Granoff served on former President Bill Clinton's 1992 transition team. And only happy happenstance that when Granoff inaugurated his own lecture series at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000, the speaker was...Clinton himself, in what the New York Times called a "presidential favor for a steady supporter."

In other words, what Martin self-righteously refers to as a major address on "vital issues" was, in fact, a senatorial favor for a steady supporter, as it were. We hope the Brown community feels appropriately sickened by this act of intellectual prostitution abetted by President Ruth Simmons; professor of Political Science and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy Darrell West; et al.

On to the second point. Martin suggests that, instead of disrupting the pro-war politicians who participate and support the bloodshed in Iraq, antiwar activists should write to the newspaper, hold debates and call their senators.

Three years into the war, is this a viable strategy? Has the antiwar movement not organized innumerable debates, discussions, forums and lectures? Do we not send streams of letters to newspapers, most of which are denied publication? Is there a senator in the land who would not be buried in antiwar letters, if they did not instantly throw them away?

The antiwar movement has put millions on the streets, in this country and around the globe. The majority of the world, the majority of Americans, the majority of active-duty troops and the majority of Iraqis--and the last should count first of all--want this war to end, either now or very soon.

Yet our "representatives" represent this not. Instead they bray "aye" at every "special" appropriations bill for an adventure that economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes estimate will cost over $2 trillion. They fund the construction of enormous and permanent bases in Iraq.

In the face of this massive failure of representative government, advice at the level of middle-school civics is hardly impressive.

When the ordinary machinery of democracy produces no results, it is your right to disrupt the operation of tyrannical government by any means necessary. When anyone encroaches on the civil rights of others, as Clinton did when she voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, their own rights are forfeit.

When the country's most visible senator refuses to take any stand against domestic spying, to which we have been personally subjected ("R.I. ACLU seeks records after antiwar protest is added to list of 'suspicious incidents,'" Daily Herald, April 6), it is justified to expose her complicity in any venue, at any time whatsoever.

To maintain otherwise is light-mindedness--or the kind of prejudice which asserts that Hillary Clinton "should not be silenced for any reason," but has nothing to say about the permanent silencing of thousands of Iraqis for "reasons" that are now known to be lies.

To conclude this point, we must repudiate the Herald's fantastic claim that those of us who protested Clinton inside the event were somehow separate from those who protested outside. Members of the International Socialist Organization helped put together both of the protests. There is no "good" versus "bad" antiwar movement, but one movement with people participating in different ways.

Finally, concerning potential damage to Brown's reputation in the eyes of the senator and her ilk: Here, alas, we have no defense. We can only offer our cheerful indifference.

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