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Georgetown Faculty Object to Appointment of Iraq War Architect Douglas Feith as Professor in School of Foreign Service

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A number of faculty members at Georgetown University are objecting to the appointment of Douglas Feith–the former Under Secretary of Defense and a chief architect of the invasion of Iraq–as a visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service. We host a debate with one of the key faculty members speaking out and the dean of the school. [includes rush transcript]

Students and faculty at universities across the country are speaking out against the honoring of pro-war politicians at their campuses. Yesterday * we looked at* Boston College where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is being awarded an honorary degree–hundreds of faculty members are coming out against the move.

In a moment we will examine the brewing controversy at the New School where Republican Senator John McCain has been invited to speak at this year’s graduation ceremony. But first we look at a story out of Georgetown University.

On May 1st, Georgetown announced that the former Under Secretary of Defense, Douglas J. Feith, had been appointed as a visiting professor in the School of Foreign Service. Feith has worked in government for many years and has had stints at the Pentagon and the National Security Council. He served as Under Secretary for Defense of Policy from 2001 to 2005 and was intimately involved with the planning of the invasion of Iraq.

The official announcement immediately brought condemnation from faculty members both within and outside of the department. A letter objecting to Feith’s appointment has been signed by 35 professors so far. It reads in part: “Mr. Feith has been accused of ethical conflicts during his term in charge of Iraq reconstruction. More seriously, he has sought to diminish the importance of the Geneva Conventions and has defended the use of torture in a number of public writings and talks. He speaks regularly against the relevance of international law to conflicts in the Middle East and opposes diplomatic solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps most seriously, he was a central figure in the dissemination of false justifications for the illegal invasion of Iraq, behavior that many experts consider to constitute war crimes, and which the most sympathetic would have to think a highly dubious grounds for further employment.”

To debate the issue we are joined by two guests from Georgetown University.

  • Mark Lance, associate professor in the Philosophy Department and Georgetown and current professor in the Program of Justice and Peace at Georgetown University. He is the co-editor of Peace and Change.
  • Robert Gallucci, Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: To debate the issue, we’re joined by two guests from Georgetown University in our Reuters studio in Washington. Mark Lance is a professor of Philosophy. He’s spearheading the faculty opposition to Feith’s appointment. And Robert Gallucci is the Dean of the School of Foreign Service and was instrumental in Feith’s hiring. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

MARK LANCE: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. We would like to begin with the Dean. You were key in the appointment of Douglas Feith. Talk about why you have named him.

ROBERT GALLUCCI: It had been my view for some time that, as we moved into the first Bush administration, that my responsibility and the responsibility of the university, really, was to present a spectrum of views when we could. And I thought it would be a good idea if we had representation of the administration’s view on our faculty. Our faculty, I should say, is almost entirely made up in the School of Foreign Service of career scholars. Of the full-time faculty, about 95% or 96% are full-time scholars, but there are a few practitioners who have had significant high-level government experience that provide something somewhat different in the classroom to our students.

And my goal was to find an expert who ideally came from the administration who could present the administration’s point of view in a classroom to the students. In conversations with Douglas Feith, it seemed to me that he would be a good person to do this. He certainly was in an important position. He was an advocate of the administration’s — broadly of the administration’s foreign policy and security policy, and when he became available when he left government, I sought to bring him to Georgetown.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mark Lance, a professor in the Program of Justice and Peace at Georgetown, you’ve been spearheading this letter. What’s wrong with the decision of the Dean, as far as you’re concerned, to bring Mr. Feith to Georgetown?

MARK LANCE: Well, let’s start with the procedure, Juan. First of all, when a normal faculty hire is carried out, a faculty committee of experts is convened, and they devote hundreds of hours to assessing the research potential, the teaching potential and indeed the moral potential of the candidates. In a case that happened about ten years ago in our Philosophy Department, I’m aware of, someone who they were going to hire was accused of sexual harassment, and the committee went to enormous lengths to investigate these charges, to consider them, to look at the effect this could have on Georgetown students and faculty — I’m sorry, university students and faculty, and decided in the end not to hire this person.

Now, in the case of Douglas Feith, in the face of the charges that you read from the letter and indeed many others by highly credible people in government, military, press and outside, no faculty committee was convened. No faculty investigation took place. There was no vote. Indeed, there was widespread, in the words I’ve been told by SFS faculty, near unanimous opposition to this hire, and faculty opinions were simply disregarded in this case.

This is, to me, a reckless disregard for the potential harm that can be done to Georgetown students and Georgetown’s reputation. It’s not a matter of having someone to represent administration views. This is a man who’s been accused of very serious crimes, and who, as far as I can tell, has no academic credentials whatsoever. There are many, many people out there who could defend the administration’s view, indeed, as Dean Gallucci knows, quite a few in the School of Foreign Service already.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Dean Gallucci, what about the issue of the process that was used in this hiring?

ROBERT GALLUCCI: I’m sorry, what about the issue of the —?

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m sorry. What about the issue of the process that was used in this hiring and the circumventing of normal procedures at the university?

ROBERT GALLUCCI: Yeah, I would like to speak to that. There is a normal process for bringing on faculty at the university, and I mentioned a few moments ago that the faculty was almost 100% career scholars, and for the roughly 100, 105 faculty members who are full-time in the School of Foreign Service, bringing those faculty on is — the initiative for that comes from the faculty. The process involves the faculty. They do the selection. They do the recommendation to me, as the Dean, and then I recommend to the provost the actual hiring. And that’s what happens with career scholars.

As I indicated, it had been my view, is my view, that it is a good idea to have a few faculty members whose value in the classroom is somewhat different than those of career scholars. We don’t look to these faculty for the type of scholarship, the peer-reviewed journals, the university press books. They may not have long teaching records, but they have something else, particularly at a place like the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where we’re looking to educate students, as we say, for careers in international affairs.

Having a small number of very highly qualified, very able and especially experienced faculty has always struck me as prudent. And those faculty are Madeleine Albright, the former Secretary of State; Anthony Lake, the former National Security Adviser; George Tenet, the former Director of Central Intelligence; Andrew Natsios, the former Director of A.I.D.; and now, Douglas Feith, the former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. In the case of these individuals, the idea for bringing them to the campus did not originate with faculty, as it does with over 95% of the faculty in the School of Foreign Service. I have, as Dean, contacted these individuals separately. Sometimes this has to be done quietly, if they’re still in office or about to leave, if they’re public figures, and consultation has to be quite limited.

And in each case, there was consultation, but Professor Lance is correct, it was not the, quote, “normal” process. And I wouldn’t want — I truly would not want the normal criteria, which I fully endorse for career scholars, to be applied to these very special individuals. Some of them are very experienced teachers and have won teaching awards in the past, quite literally. Others don’t have that experience, but we’re bringing them to the classroom to our students for what their experience in government has been, and that’s what Mr. Feith brings in this case.

I need to add here that Professor Lance, in the segment that you read and what he just said, referred to serious charges against Mr. Feith. I dare say if I had brought Mr. Wolfowitz to campus or if Mr. Rumsfeld were to come or if Secretary Rice were to come, there would be serious charges to them also that turn upon one’s assessment of the legality or morality of the war. The fact is that this is the administration. The administration has not been the found guilty in this country in any court of law that I am aware of. No one has been indicted on these kinds of charges. They are controversial. The policy is controversial. That’s what we’re looking to accomplish on the campus: to represent controversy fairly. And I do believe that having Mr. Feith will help us do that. I think it will be good for the students. I think it will be good for him to interact with our graduate students. And he will be teaching graduate courses in both the fall and the spring with our graduate students in the classroom.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Professor Mark Lance: what’s wrong with that?

MARK LANCE: Well, there’s two things. First of all, I trust that Dean Gallucci doesn’t think the standard for being a Georgetown professor is that you haven’t been convicted of crimes. I take it that the standard is a bit higher than that.

But these remarks essentially conflate issues of process and issues of criteria. I fully agree that when one is hiring practitioners, the criteria are going to be different than they are for hiring career scholars. But that doesn’t mean that there should be no process or that one individual should make these decisions on their own.

When I was hiring a few years ago for a completely trivial position to teach one course for $4,000, someone to teach a conflict resolution course in the Program on Justice and Peace, who had only a Master’s degree in conflict resolution, albeit ten years experience training U.N. figures going into conflict zones, I went through a month of procedure, consulting with faculty, getting outside letters, because it was considered suspicious that she didn’t have a Ph.D.

No procedure was undergone in this case. Yes, these are charges against Douglas Feith, and these charges should be investigated. The claim that he is highly competent is one that’s disputed, and not by just, you know, odd leftists like myself, but by generals in the U.S. Army, by career State Department figures. I would like there to be in place at my university — and I grant that there isn’t now and I’m not claiming that the Dean violated existing procedure, but there should be in place a procedure for evaluating appointments like this to be sure that they meet whatever standards are deemed appropriate. And those standards will certainly include academic and teaching standards, even if that’s not the primary case.

A good case in point to contrast with that is the case of Madeleine Albright, whom the Dean mentioned. She was, in fact, hired through completely standard procedures. Undoubtedly, the fact that she later was involved in the administration, and whatever one thinks of her procedure there, she was deemed by relevant bodies to be sufficiently academically rigorous, a sufficiently competent teacher and to have sufficient practical experience to be a valuable member of the faculty.

So this is not primarily a dispute about the ideological orientation of people or a dispute about whether there should be different standards for practitioners than there should be for career academics. In the case of Mr. Feith, there’s no evidence that he has qualifications in either case. He’s been a practitioner, but, I would argue, a particularly bad practitioner, and more importantly, there was no process for vetting any of these questions.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Dean Gallucci —

ROBERT GALLUCCI: I’d like an opportunity to respond to that, if I could.


ROBERT GALLUCCI: Look, there is a process, and the process, in fact, is different for career scholars than it has been for those who come to us as practitioners, and we have followed in both cases a standard procedure. I have with those who are practitioners quite senior with a high profile with a public issue involved, where there must be an announcement when they come onto campus, unlike career scholars, I’ve consulted with those whom I report to, the provost and the president. I’ve also consulted with the faculty close around me, a small number. Because of the controversy around the appointment of Mr. Feith, I have talked to faculty about regularizing this, to the extent we can, consistent with the objective of bringing on these very special individuals. And that process will involve me consulting with the Council of the School of Foreign Service Executive Committee, a small number of faculty.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But Dean Gallucci, if I could —

ROBERT GALLUCCI: It will not be the regular process. And I do not think that it is a reasonable proposition to say the procedure was not followed. This was the procedure followed in the other cases. Professor Lance is incorrect about Professor Albright, Secretary Albright. She came to the campus through a normal procedure, perhaps, in the 1980s, but we needed to be very careful when we were bringing her to Georgetown in the most recent incarnation. We’re very happy to have her, but we did not go through the normal faculty search process. It would be utterly inappropriate.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Dean Gallucci, I’d like to ask you, though, about the issue of — he’s teaching, as I understand, a course on counterterrorism. I think you would agree that, while in the United States this is not a decided issue, throughout most of the world we’ve become infamous for Guantanamo Bay as an American gulag and for Abu Ghraib, both of which Mr. Feith had something to do with, obviously, at the Defense Department. Don’t you have some concern about the message that Georgetown is sending out by having him teach courses on counterterrorism?

ROBERT GALLUCCI: Pardon me, but now we’re talking, because we’ve gotten to the real issue, and I do not believe it is process. I don’t believe it is for you, and I really don’t believe it is for Professor Lance. The issue is the policy. Much of this policy I personally have no sympathy for. I would close Guantanamo tomorrow morning. I testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against the invasion of Iraq. I don’t have sympathy for large portions of this administration’s foreign or security policy, but that really is not the point.

The point is that we have an obligation as a university to present a spectrum of views, not just with visiting people who come and give a speech, but even on the campus with our faculty. We have the opportunity to do that. We are a special university, a special school in a very special city. It’s not an opportunity I plan to miss. The fact that I have very little personal sympathy with the policies of this administration on counterterrorism, at least some of them, doesn’t really for me determine what ought to be present or who ought to be present on the campus.

AMY GOODMAN: Dean Gallucci, we have to wrap up. We gave you the first word. We give Professor Lance the last word. 30 seconds.

MARK LANCE: I don’t oppose this primarily on ideological grounds. I mentioned the case of Madeleine Albright, who never gave up her tenured position at Georgetown, because I find her positions reprehensible. I believe she’s responsible for hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths in Iraq. But she was hired as a legitimate scholar through a legitimate process.

Yes, there was a process carried on. A few people with direct connections to the State Department hired someone who I do not believe would have been hired by any responsible vetting. There are many people out there who can defend the views of the Bush administration. We do not have to hire someone who’s complicit in criminal behavior and who’s considered massively incompetent by many of the colleagues he has worked with.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there. Mark Lance, professor in the Program of Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, co-editor of Peace and Change; and Robert Gallucci, Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, we thank you both for being with us.

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