From Ray Close :
Former CIA Director James Woolsey gave a talk at Princeton University
last week. I decided not to attend, fearing that I might be unable to
restrain myself from causing an ugly scene. But I am extremely pleased
and proud to forward to you a letter written to the campus newspaper the
next morning by a young Princeton sophmore (a girl, presumabnly 18 or 19
years old) protesting Mr. Woolsey's speech in very strong and eloquent
language. I have written to her expressing my admiration and
The Daily Princetonian
Monday, April 30, 2007
*Energy, security and the crusades?*
By Emily Norris
On April 23, as most of the campus was basking in the sun, former
CIA director James Woolsey spoke at a lecture titled "Energy, Security
and the Long War of the 21st Century."
the first five minutes of the lecture, my casual summer mood turned into
shock and disbelief. Woolsey's lecture began and ended as a racist and
misinformed diatribe against Muslims, which overshadowed his more
reasonable insights into alternative energy development.
Woolsey's expertise on the current global energy situation
enlightened some at the lecture. But the strength of his argument about
alternative energy was subsumed as his severe misperceptions about the
Middle East surfaced. His racism undermined his credibility. I found
myself apprehensive that the authority I perceived him to have on
environmental issues would lead others to believe he had equal
credibility in the issues of Middle Eastern politics.
While Woolsey did make a few valid criticisms of Middle Eastern
regimes, for the most part, his offensive discussion overrode them. More
importantly, and most shocking was his simplified, misinformed view of
the realities in the Middle East today.
The basic premise of his speech posited that Muslim regimes and
terrorist networks are a monolithic, "genocidal" and "maleficent" entity
with whom we should not negotiate. Essentially, he said that the Muslim
and Western worlds could not coexist without destroying each other. His
policy prescriptions turned a blind eye to the distinctions between
peoples, regimes and politics in favor of an oversimplified,
emotion-infused polemic against those "others" of the not-too distant East.
His first mistake was to characterize Muslims as a homogenous mass
with genocidal tendencies. Woolsey kept repeating that Muslims want to
bring about the end of the world because "Allah will know his people"
and that killing others is inconsequential.
Besides this unashamed bigotry, Woolsey's conclusions had other
fundamental flaws. Contrary to Woolsey's characterization, Islamic
theology unequivocally condemns genocide, no matter who the victims are.
As for Middle Eastern governments, their primary concern is keeping
their regimes intact. Exemplary of this was Iran's response to Sept. 11,
2001, when it laid aside years of animosity to reach out to the United
States for dialogue and cooperation in fighting the Taliban. If the
Iranian government was truly motivated by some crazy anti-Western
genocidal ideology as Woolsey suggested, the Iranians would not have
Woolsey also made the false statement that all terrorist networks
and Middle Eastern governments were working together to defeat "the
West." Testament to his misunderstanding of the region was his statement
that Iran had helped al Qaeda plot to set off dirty bombs in London. To
think that al Qaeda would ever work with Iran is ludicrous. A main tenet
of Al-Qaeda's ideology is the destruction of Shiite Islam, especially
the Iranian regime. It is incredible that this high-profile official who
had access to all the U.S. intelligence in the region, either did not
know or failed to acknowledge this basic fact about al Qaeda's ideology.
His main solution to this problem was to stop negotiating with these
regimes. While a decent idea, America unfortunately has a history of
negotiating with less than savory regimes such as China, Uzbekistan and
Russia. Woolsey demonstrated a double standard in his opinions on the
Middle East, especially when his suggested policy of sanctioning these
regimes would do little to alleviate these human rights abuses.
The kicker came at the end, when Woolsey asked the audience, "What
is the only nation in the Middle East where Arab Muslims have equal
representation, full civil liberties and are treated as first-class
citizens?" As he paused, I guessed ... Jordan? Egypt? Qatar? His Answer?
Israel. The current Israeli system may be a democracy to some, but it is
one of apartheid according to John Dugard, former President Carter and
numerous others. But he didn't stop there, he went on to say the most
inflammatory statement of the afternoon: "If the Arabs only treat the
Jews with remotely the amount of respect that the Israelis give the
Palestinians, then we wouldn't have these problems." If an Arab nation
walled in its Jewish citizens, raided their homes and treated their mere
existence as a crime, no country in the international community would
stand for it. To say that Arabs should treat Israelis the way the
Israelis treat the Palestinians is tantamount to saying they should act
contrary to international law and accepted standards of human decency.
I have to say that, I was proud to call myself a Princeton student
when I saw people react with shock and disgust to his words (some even
getting up to leave in protest) and that students challenged the racist
premises of the lecture in the question and answer session. Students
challenged him on America's unbiased support for Israel and his refusal
to acknowledge the differences between countries and terrorist
After attending this lecture, I finally understand where our
problems in the Middle East began. Woolsey demonstrated that American
officials are sorely lacking in the cultural, historical and religious
background necessary for the posts to which they are assigned. Imagine
if our government officials didn't create policy out of racist hatred.
Perhaps then we could begin to solve the problems in the Middle East
instead of agitatating them by propagating offensive stereotypes.
/Emily Norris is a sophomore from Brookline, Mass. She can be reached
at// firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>./