Sunday, August 25, 2013

Point-Counterpoint on the Korbel School's award to George Bush

My friend Bill Stanfill, one of the leaders of the Social Science Foundation which backs the Korbel School, wrote a column in today's Denver Post favorable to inviting Bush to speak at the School's fundraising dinner on September 9th. I wrote one saying that giving an award betrays the heritage of the School by "honoring" an unrepentant war criminal. Neither of us saw the other's argument before today or knew who wrote the opposed presentation.


Bill's argument suggests that Bush is a speaker from a different part of the political spectrum than, say, George Soros, who gave one of the liveliest presentations yet at a Korbel dinner. This is unfair to Soros and those other speakers who have not committed war crimes (Condi Rice, my student, is, sadly, like Bush in this regard, though she has not so far been indicted abroad). Bill's article also fails to take up the fundamental issue of an "award" to Bush first for supposedly "improving the human condition" and later, after protest, for "global service" - both names travesties of the truth - which moved 1600 students and many faculty to protest the School's decision.



Why DU's Korbel School is right to honor George W. Bush
An evening of conversation with a former president is an opportunity
By William D. Stanfill

Former President George W. Bush speaks after a roundtable discussion at Hope Communities, Inc., in Denver on Oct. 20, 2011. (Andy Cross, Denver Post file)

Why DU's Korbel School is wrong to honor George W. Bush

When I learned that Christopher Hill, dean of the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies had invited former President George W. Bush for a conversation at the 16th annual Korbel Dinner, I was surprised and a bit disappointed. I took a deep breath, counted to 10 and realized that Hill's instincts were exactly right.

First, the Josef Korbel School is one of only 35 Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (ASPIA) schools in the world. And regardless of political persuasion, it is an honor to host a former president of the United States. The Sept. 9 conversation between Hill, a distinguished career diplomat, and Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, promises to be both interesting and compelling. Moreover, a candid, public conversation between Bush and Hill is an opportunity for the Korbel School, for DU and for the community.

A bit of history: In 1949 Josef Korbel came to the University of Denver with his young family to teach in DU's Department of International Studies. He had been a member of the Czech government-in-exile in London during World War II. As a young diplomat, he fought the Nazis before and during the war and battled Stalin's Soviet Union after the war.

In 1964 Korbel was appointed the first dean of the newly created Graduate School of International Studies. In 2008 the school was renamed in his honor. His children — Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state under President Clinton; John, a trustee of the Social Science Foundation at the Korbel School; and Kathy Silva, who resides in Washington D.C. — all attended the dedication and renaming celebration.

In 2010 Hill, fresh from his tenure as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, became the eighth dean of the Josef Korbel School. Hill served four presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He went through five Senate confirmation hearings, serving as ambassador to Macedonia, Poland, South Korea and Iraq. Hill served as undersecretary of state for East Asia. In addition, he served as special envoy to Kosovo and headed the U. S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. I dwell on his career biography to illustrate a point. Prior to coming to Korbel and DU, Hill served his country with distinction — under Democratic and Republican presidents.

I believe President Bush's attendance at the Korbel Dinner adds distinction to the Korbel School and is consistent with its mission, vision and goals. For example, the school's mission is to foster a "culture of serious academic inquiry, integrating classroom lessons with real world experiences." The Korbel vision promotes "a plurality of ideas and opinions cultivating healthy, interesting debates over important issues." Major goals include "increasing the visibility and reputation of the school, both nationally and internationally, so that it ranks among the top tier of international studies programs."

We live in an era where the polarizing politics of sound bites and bumper stickers are a poor substitute for civic and civil dialogue. I recall when George Soros spoke at the Korbel Dinner, just prior to Bush's re-election. That year, discontent came from the other side of the political spectrum. A number of guests were unhappy with the liberal leaning of the speaker.

A great university is defined by an open dialectic — a forum where competing ideas are currency and where lively debate is the norm.

Since Hill's arrival at the school, the dinner's format has changed to reflect a Socratic inquiry. Rather than merely putting on a fundraising event featuring a high-profile speaker, Hill has adopted a conversational format, designed to provoke and inform.

Hill is a skilled, knowledgeable interviewer. If you would like to witness a discussion between a highly accomplished diplomat and one of the U.S. presidents he served, I invite you to attend the dinner. Bring a friend from across the aisle, listen to the conversation and draw your own conclusions.

Isn't that what universities and civil discourse are about?

William D. Stanfill is a trustee of the Social Science Foundation, which supports the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies.


Why DU's Korbel School is wrong to honor George W. Bush
School named for Josef Korbel should not give award to admitted torturer
By Alan Gilbert

On President George W. Bush's first day out of office in 2009, Manfred Nowak, a leading constitutional lawyer in Austria and U.N. special rapporteur on torture, requested that Bush be indicted for war crimes by the United States under its obligations as a signatory to the Convention against Torture. When Bush admitted ordering the CIA to waterboard prisoners in his presidential memoir, "Decision Points," Nowak reiterated his request.

Since the Inquisition, waterboarding has been the recognized paradigm of torture. Bush did not go abroad to Switzerland to advertise "Decision Points" for fear of potential arrest. He cannot go abroad. On Nov. 10, 2010, Bush proudly reaffirmed on the "Today" show that he ordered the CIA to waterboard prisoners.

During Bush's presidency, more than 100 prisoners died in Pentagon custody — homicides by American torture — by Pentagon statistics. Most prisoners at Guantanamo, indefinitely detained and tortured, have now been released to other countries and immediately freed because there had never been reliable evidence to detain them.

The charges against Bush are a matter of public evidence and personal admission. The Obama administration has ignored American obligations, but they are binding on it under international and American law.

For instance, the United Nations Convention against Torture was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and ratified by Congress in 1994. The relevant articles are:

Article 2, Section 2: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Article 4, Section 1: "Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture."

Additionally, U.S. Code prohibits torture ordered by officials or carried out by employees of the U.S. government.

Torture is a war crime. The Conventions against Torture are the bedrock of international law. At the Tokyo war crimes trial in 1946, an American-led tribunal executed Japanese leaders for failing to prevent war crimes. This is the legal doctrine of command responsibility. Bush ordered such crimes.

It is therefore a mistake for the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, which is dedicated to defending human rights, to extend Bush an award for "global service." It is part of the integrity and truth-seeking of a university to invite people who dare to speak against the grain as well as experienced policymakers. But torture crosses a line from the civilized world to barbarism. It violates the core of law.

Bush also initiated a destructive, futile aggression in Iraq, killing more than 100,000 people and displacing 4 million. He violated the chief clause, Article 2, Section 4 of the United Nations Charter, which prohibits "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." The U.S. not only signed this document, but proudly fought for outlawing aggression as the main crime of war.

Bush also violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 6, Section 2, which makes treaties signed by the United States the highest law of the land.

With his "with us or against us" attitude, lying about Iraq's connections to 9/11, and ordering torture, Bush has made America a rogue state in the eyes of the world.

More than 1,600 students and alumni and 24 faculty members at the Korbel School have courageously protested against this award.

Josef Korbel, for whom the school is named, an escapee from Nazism and dictatorship in Czechoslovakia and my mentor and friend, stood for the rule of law and against torture. That is the founding tradition of the Josef Korbel School.

Alan Gilbert is the John Evans Professor at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

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