Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why We Serve: Syracuse University Listened

In this morning's edition of the Post Standard there is a picture of Syracuse University professor Robert McClure shaking hands with US Army Sgt. Jose Munoz at the SU College of Law.

Fellow blogger Dread Pundit Bluto has a nice take on why this almost didn't occur.

When Marine Major Christian Devine asked Syracuse University's Maxwell School to host a presentation by his DoD outreach program, "Why We Serve," the chair, Mark Rupert , decided to tell him to go pound sand.

He felt that allowing serving members of the military to speak would not meet the department's goal to ""foster open and honest discussion."Rupert apparently based his decision on an article in which Major Devine talked about winning the information war in the mainstream media. Evidently, Rupert prefers that someone else win the information war.

William Coplin, chair of the Maxwell School's Public Affairs Program let his honors students, who requested the presentation, decide on whether or not the GI's would be allowed to speak on campus. They said "YES." That discussion was held Friday at the College of Law.

From the Post Standard:

Three active duty soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan were peppered with questions Friday about why they serve.

The soldiers, one from the Air Force, one from the Marine Corps and one from the Army, spoke to a full room in Grant Auditorium, invited by undergraduate students in an honors class at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

These are the honor students, the policy nerds, the book smart ones, the future leaders who are groomed at one of the most prestigious public affairs programs in the country.

The soldiers answered directly about their thoughts on their work, but avoided answering questions about withdrawing from Iraq.

And someone's question about why veterans who oppose the war weren't invited to speak wasn't answered at all.

Student organizer Benjamin Croner, a senior studying public affairs, said he wanted to increase the intellectual diversity of views heard on campus. "We don't get many opportunities to hear from troops," he said. "It's not supposed to be political in nature. It's about their personal experience."

That's why they are smart. They realize that their experiences and exposure to different opinions on campus are limited by politically correct professors and spineless administrators. I remember the Viet Nam war protests at SU and the Kent State riots. Those "students" were not interested in establishing a dialogue on the war, they were too busy executing their socialist agenda to bother discussing it with outsiders.

One student asked the soldiers to describe a good day and a bad day on duty.

Tech. Sgt. Mark DeCorte, who serves as an embedded medic with the Air Force in Afghanistan, said anytime there's a call for a medical evacuation is a bad day. But he said seeing Iraqi children who are recovering from injuries "running around with American sneakers, about to play basketball, it's breathtaking."

They won't hear that from the media or from their professors. But it was reported in the Post Standard, I'll give them that.

Another audience member asked what the soldiers thought about the high rate of civilian casualties in the Iraq war, especially compared to World War II and the first Gulf War.

Cpl. Sean Henry, who served with the Marines in Iraq, said during both of his tours, no civilians were targeted and any time the soldiers did shoot, "We had a pure, positive ID on the enemy."

Sounds like a typical Helen Thomas asshat question. The soldier responded as he should have. That student had no clue what he was talking about. Entire cities and much of their civilian populations were wiped out in WWII. Civilians were targeted because they contributed to the production of war supplies. Someone tell that kid about the fire bombing of Dresden.

I know that there is some doubt about the efficacy of Allied bombing of factories and cities and if those policies really contributed that much to the successful conclusion of the war. But there is still no comparison between the massive air campaigns of WWII that utilized thousands of bombers dropping tons and tons of ordinance on civilian population centers and the advanced, technologically superior targeting systems of today that eliminated the scattergun approach to hitting something of tactical or strategic value. WWII bombers were lucky to hit within a half mile of their target at times.

He also talked about handing out candy to Iraqi children in the town of Al-Habbaniyah.

"We make sure they have a safe environment to live, to go to work, to go to school," he said. "That really touched my heart."

His comment received loud applause.

As it should. Ours are the most selfless soldiers in the world. Perhaps in the history of the world. Where do you find people going to jail for making POW's wear panties on their heads?

One person said he admired the soldiers for putting their lives at risk, but said he knew many veterans who opposed the war and mentioned a soldier who committed suicide after returning from duty. He said, "The war has many sides, I would like to see all those views represented (at this panel)."

"And yours just was," was the response from moderator Bill Smullen, director of national security studies at Maxwell and a public relations professor, who then moved the discussion to the next question.

That was a very polite smack down Bill. Sorry Buttercup, but your view is the only one that you wanted to discuss at this panel. You seem to have conveniently forgot that the panel was convened to discuss the experiences of soldiers in the war, not your fweelings. It's about them, not you.

Hari Chathrattil, an alumnus who attended the forum, said afterward that he wished the soldiers were allowed to answer more questions.

He said he was glad students could meet soldiers in person but felt the event was "a public relations event for the military. Questions about the legality and morality of this war were not raised and not allowed to be raised."

But to Bill Coplin, the professor who teaches the honors class that invited the speakers, those questions are irrelevant to this specific event. He said, based on the questions asked, most students who came wanted to know what the soldiers' experiences were like.

"Where else are they going to learn what it's like?" he said.

Coplin, chair of Maxwell's Public Affairs Program, said veterans who were opposed to the war weren't asked to be on the panel because "they've been here (on campus) before.

"This was something different, not the usual," he said.

"The main purpose was to get people to think."

Or perhaps to think outside the politically correct box that surrounds many college campuses across the nation.

The reason why I mentioned Prof. McClure's name at the top of this post was because he was one of my instructors when I was an undergrad so many years ago. He is a decent and fair minded man. I glad to see that he participated in this exercise. I wish that I had been able to attend.

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