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A Cornell Student's Plea By: Jamie Weinstein
Cornell Daily Sun | Friday, October 15, 2004


Next week a dark chapter in Cornell history will commence. John Pilger will make his first trip to campus as a Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor.

John Pilger is a man who deserves no honor. He is a man who is no academic. He is a man who should be shunned.

Nevertheless, the University chose to bestow honor upon not only Pilger, but the equally unqualified Cynthia McKinney. The Rhodes committee should feel ashamed of their decisions, as should the Cornell Board of Trustees, whose duty is to confirm professorial appointments. These are decisions that will live in infamy.

You don't have to look hard to find the unconscionable things that Pilger has said and written. A simple search on the Internet will provide numerous articles he has authored and interviews he has given. Let us just take a quick look at a small portion of his record:

  -- In August 2003 Pilger wrote that "the Americans and British" were "partners in a great recognized crime."

  -- In that same article Pilger compared our American soldiers to Latin American "Death Squads."

  -- In March 2002 he called the detention facilities in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba "concentration camps" -- clearly alluding to the concentration camps of World War II.

  -- In May 2001 he posited the insane delusion that Israel would use nuclear weapons against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

  -- In that same May 2001 article he called Israel -- the only country in the Middle East that actually respects the rule of law and has a deep abiding concern for human rights -- a "terrorist state" and said it had "a policy of state murder."

  -- Three days after the tragedies that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, he wrote that we should not have been surprised that the attacks occurred since the United States "is the greatest source of terrorism on Earth."

  -- And a few months ago, as former Sun columnist Elliott Marc Davis '04 reported, John Pilger actually legitimated terrorist attacks on U.S. and British troops in Iraq.

  -- Even worse, in that same interview he actually said that a U.S. defeat in Iraq would be a good thing.

How do you think students would have taken to Cornell bringing a professor to campus in the 1940s who favored an Allied loss in World War II? How do you think Cornellians in the 1950s would have thought of Cornell bestowing honor upon a man who favored American defeat in Korea? Can you imagine the outrage that would have swept campus?

But today we are doing exactly that. We are bringing a man to campus who is vocally expressing support for an American loss in Iraq. We are bringing a man to campus who sees equivalence between the intentional murder of innocent civilians perpetrated by the likes of al-Qaida terrorists and our actions in the Gulf and Afghanistan. Excuse me, he actually does more than suggest equivalence between the two; he does in fact posit that our actions are far worse.

Can anyone believe this? Am I living in the Twilight Zone? Is this really happening? Could my Cornell really be hosting this man? 

On campus I am sure that Mr. Pilger will be giving lectures. I can assure you that I will be present at them. I can assure you that I will afford Mr. Pilger no respect whatsoever -- he deserves none. I can assure you that I will question him at every opportunity that arises. And I urge every single Cornellian to do the same thing.

John Pilger should not feel welcomed on this campus. He should not feel welcomed in America. I am not saying that you should do anything illegal, but what I am saying is: Don't afford him any of the civil niceties that are a part of everyday life.

The least the Rhodes committee could do is apologize to the student body. The Board of Trustees should do the same. This is an outrage of phenomenal proportions.

President Jeffrey S. Lehman (Class of '77) needs to speak out as well. He cannot remain silent on this. The appointment of Pilger occurred right when he was transitioning into office. Now is Lehman's chance to distance himself from it.

This is not a First Amendment issue. Pilger can say whatever cockamamie thing he likes, but Cornell University has no obligation to honor him and bring him to campus -- just as they have no obligation to give a forum to any number of outrageous people. 

Last year, after the controversy surrounding the appointment of Cynthia McKinney, the nomination process for Rhodes professors was reworked. Today, anyone can nominate candidates for these appointments. This is certainly a positive development.

Nonetheless, the cancer of the last two Rhodes appointments still continues to stain the reputation of Cornell University. And John Pilger's visit to campus next week -- not as an invited guest of some organization, but as an honored guest of Cornell University itself -- will be one of the saddest chapters in the catalogues of Cornell's magnificent history. All our diplomas are now worth a little less.

Jamie Weinstein is a junior in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences.


Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.


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