Ever since America was founded, two of its fundamental institutions—its legal system and its system of higher education—have been synonymous with ethics, integrity and fairness.
But beneath the Statue of Justice’s blindfold and within the confines of academia’s ivory towers lurk amoralities, mendacities and biases so virulent that even Machiavelli would blush.
Even those who just cursorily follow the news in America cannot help but notice that scarcely a month (and sometimes scarcely a week) goes by before there is another story about a wrongfully convicted person being released after years of imprisonment. In many of these cases, corrupt prosecutors often obtained convictions by intentionally withholding evidence that would have exonerated the accused. Yet, in almost every case, none of these prosecutors suffered any legal consequences for their actions, and some even went on to become judges, proving, once again, the axiom that America’s legal system actually rewards criminality if the crimes benefit those who control the system.
Doubters need only observe the antics of Rick Perry, the crackpot governor of Texas, the very state where many of these wrongful convictions, and much of this prosecutorial misconduct, occurred. In recent weeks, Perry has been busily replacing several members of a panel investigating whether Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed in 2004. Although Perry describes these replacements as “routine,” many skeptics suspect he is actually attempting to exert undue influence over this panel to protect his political aspirations, particularly since Perry refused to stop Willingham’s execution even though he was allegedly in possession of a report that proved the “forensic science” used to convict Willingham was fundamentally flawed.
Meanwhile, in another mockery of justice, The Dishonorable Jay Bybee now sits on the United States Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit—the same Jay Bybee who had, while working as a “Justice” Department attorney during the Bush dictatorship, endorsed the use of torture, illegal detentions and other violations of the United States Constitution.
But America’s legal system is not the only institution that embraces torturers and war criminals. At the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) John Yoo, another torture endorsing, constitution loathing war criminal from Bush’s “Justice” Department, currently teaches law, and Texas Tech University (TT) recently hired Alberto Gonzales, a war criminal, torturer and possible perjurer, who led Bush’s “Justice” Department before resigning in disgrace in 2007.
These symbolic embraces of Yoo and Gonzales contrast starkly with the ordeal of Ward Churchill, once a tenured professor at the University of Colorado (CU), who was fired after writing a controversial essay about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Although CU tried to contend that Churchill was actually fired for plagiarism and other forms of research misconduct, a Colorado jury disagreed and returned a verdict in Churchill’s favor.
But when Churchill subsequently appeared before Judge Larry Naves for a remedial hearing, Naves vacated the jury’s verdict and refused to reinstate Churchill or award him any financial compensation.
Regular readers of my work in Pravda.Ru will realize I have visited the Churchill case before. Although I apologize for this repetition, I believe far too many Americans are unaware of how the Churchill case could negatively affect their own rights and freedoms, or the rights and freedoms of their children. So it is imperative to continually expose the evils that CU and Naves have fomented before they become inextricably entrenched in America’s legal system.
Although many defenders of CU and Naves have myopically focused on Churchill and his controversial remarks, the true ramifications of his case are much larger. American history has repeatedly demonstrated that constitutional rights are invariably weakened or lost whenever governmental institutions (including public universities) target people and groups that few are willing to defend. And even though a judgment rendered in a single court case (such as Churchill’s) may only seem relevant to the litigants involved, the precedents many of these cases set can detrimentally impact the fundamental rights, and lives, of millions for years to come.
America’s so-called “Patriot Act,” for example, sailed through Congress with barely a whimper of protest, because the fear of terrorism overwhelmed concerns about the diminishment of civil liberties. Americans were also lulled into believing the act would only be used against suspected terrorists.
Years later it was revealed that provisions of the Patriot Act had been abused by the FBI and other governmental organizations to illegally spy upon, and violate the privacy rights of, people and organizations with no links to terrorism—abuses that Gonzales, in his role as attorney general, allegedly knew were occurring.
Recently, a few articles have surfaced, primarily in student newspapers, contending that Churchill vs. CU may have been the “test case” for right-wing organizations seeking to purge academia of professors and scholars they consider too “liberal” or “leftist.” According to these articles, members of these organizations often conceal their motives until they occupy positions of authority on college and university campuses. But when attorneys attempted to expose the machinations of these organizations during Churchill’s trial, Naves refused to allow it.
Yet the ease in which Churchill became a pariah in a world where Yoo and Gonzales are embraced certainly lends credibility to those who contend a “New McCarthyism” is now plaguing academia.
It appears that Naves believed his biased evidentiary rulings, coupled with the negative publicity directed against Churchill, would guarantee a victory for CU. But when that failed to happen, he disingenuously vacated the jury’s verdict, and in doing so set some very dangerous precedents: He destroyed academic freedom, including the freedom of speech; He created two separate and unequal standards of conduct—lofty ones that students and professors must obey, and meager ones for university administrators, board members, trustees and regents; He eviscerated tenure; and he gave universities the capacity to discriminate against anyone for any reason, including their race, religion or gender.
One does not have to agree with Churchill’s viewpoints to recognize that the precedents Naves may have established are contemptuous of the very rights and freedoms America was founded upon. The people of Colorado, and indeed people throughout the United States, should be outraged by his duplicity and demand that an investigative panel (not the Rick Perry kind) be convened to determine if Naves has, or had, any connections to anyone in power at CU and/or to any of the right-wing organizations seeking to implement the “New McCarthyism,” if these connections created his biases, and if these biases obligated Naves, in accordance with the Judicial Canon of Ethics, to recuse himself from presiding over Churchill’s trial.
Unfortunately, biased and unethical judges are in abundant supply. So the people must also boycott CU, TT, and UCB. Unlike Churchill, Yoo and Gonzales are not only professors, but attorneys as well, and as attorneys they took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Why should they now be permitted to teach about the very document they’ve shown nothing but contempt for and made every effort to destroy, while Churchill remains a pariah simply for exercising the very freedoms this Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, was created to protect?
There is no doubt these boycotts will be more symbolic than effective. After all, CU, TT and UCB are very entrenched and well funded, and will continue to be as long as they appease the New McCarthyites.
So why boycott if there is little hope for success?
Because boycotts are not always about success and failure. They are about doing the right thing, and not being complicit in the evils that men do and the evils that men allow them to do. They are often necessary because, as poet Edward Yashinsky so eloquently said, indifference permits “killers and betrayers to walk safely upon the earth.”
To that phrase I would also add “torturers, war criminals, corrupt judges, and New McCarthyites,” because they too have been protected by this indifference—and for far too long.
History demands that they be protected no longer.
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru