Over the weekend, Spencer Ackerman published a fairly incredible story
about a newly appointed West Point professor, William Bradford, who had written a paper, published in the National Security Law Journal, entitled Trahison Des Professeurs
, in which he argues (among other things) that US academics who oppose current US anti-terror policy should themselves be targets for killing as a "fifth column."
In a lengthy academic paper, the professor, William C Bradford, proposes to threaten “Islamic holy sites” as part of a war against undifferentiated Islamic radicalism. That war ought to be prosecuted vigorously, he wrote, “even if it means great destruction, innumerable enemy casualties, and civilian collateral damage”.
Other “lawful targets” for the US military in its war on terrorism, Bradford argues, include “law school facilities, scholars’ home offices and media outlets where they give interviews” – all civilian areas, but places where a “causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited” exist.
“Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, [dissenting] scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are – at least in theory – targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism,” Bradford wrote.
The full text in that section is even worse than it sounds above. This is the rare case where putting things back into context makes it even crazier
. It flat out argues that legal scholars who disagree with official US policy should be classified as "unlawful combatants." He first describes scholars who disagree with US policy as "CLOACA" standing for "critical law of armed conflict academy" and then this:
Treat CLOACA Scholars as Unlawful Combatants
CLOACA scholarship and advocacy that attenuates U.S.
arms and undermines American will are PSYOPs, which are
combatant acts. Consequently, if these acts are colorable as
propaganda inciting others to war crimes, such acts are
prosecutable. CLOACA members are thus combatants who, like
all other combatants, can be targeted at any time and place and
captured and detained until termination of hostilities. As unlawful
combatants for failure to wear the distinctive insignia of a party,
CLOACA propagandists are subject to coercive interrogation, trial,
and imprisonment. Further, the infrastructure used to create and
disseminate CLOACA propaganda—law school facilities, scholars’
home offices, and media outlets where they give interviews—are also
lawful targets given the causal connection between the content
disseminated and Islamist crimes incited. Shocking and extreme as
this option might seem, CLOACA scholars, and the law schools that
employ them, are—at least in theory—targetable so long as attacks
are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants,
employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of
Later in the piece he hits back on the expected criticism that this would be seen as an attack on academic freedom. Not at all, he insists:
This critique profoundly misrepresents academic freedom,
which is not a sacrosanct right but a social contract in which the
academic agrees to search diligently for and weigh all relevant
information, specify assumptions, examine competing theories, and
acknowledge epistemological and methodological limitations
mitigating the strength of conclusions. In exchange, the people
repose trust in, and grant continued employment to, the scholar,
regardless of the destination(s) to which his search for truth leads.
Academic freedom carries with it a “moral obligation to seek the
facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious
intent;” it is not a blanket grant of immunity from the
consequences of politicized “scholarship” but a contractual license
conferring the “freedom to say that two plus two make four.”
Scholars who insist, in thrall to a hostile ideology, that two plus two
make five are precluded from searching for truth. Just as Cold War
Communist Party membership entailed uncritical repetition of Party
dogma, calling into doubt whether professor-members were fit for
their positions, so, too, does scholarship in which two plus two
make five, and five benefits Islamists, suggests CLOACA should be
evicted from the bunker of academic freedom.
In short: academic freedom means you are free to explore any topic, so long as the end result agrees with US policy, which is the undeniable "truth" like 2 plus 2. Anything else is heresy, aiding the enemy and punishable by death from above.
Basically "anything goes" so long as it's in the service of going after people Bradford doesn't like. It's "Poe's Law
-- the dissertation."
Ackerman's story pointed out that Bradford, who only just started working at West Point, has a bit of a troubled history of exaggerating his own accomplishments.
In the paper, Bradford identifies himself as an “associate professor of law, national security and strategy, National Defense University”, seemingly his previous job before West Point. But a representative of the National Defense University said Bradford was a contractor at the prestigious Defense Department-run institution, “never an NDU employee nor an NDU professor”.
It appears not to be the first time Bradford misrepresented his credentials. He resigned from Indiana University’s law school in 2005 after his military record showed he had exaggerated his service. (Among his paper’s criticisms of supposedly treasonous lawyers is “intellectual dishonesty”.)
This all came out when the National Security Law Journal itself, a publication of George Mason University, put out a public apology
for publishing the article in the first place:
As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.
The Journal also published a response from Jeremy Rabkin
, the well known law professor at George Mason, who lit into those who decided to publish the paper in the first place:
In the Foreword to this issue of the journal, last year’s Editor-in-Chief does
acknowledge that this new issue “will not be without controversy” and may be
“discomforting at times.” The editor then offers the “hope” that “the diverse ideas you
read here – even if you disagree – will prompt you to think and respond.” That doesn’t
remotely address the problem.
When an article proposes to arrest law professors and bomb law schools and
nearby TV studios, it’s not engaging in “controversy,” but slipping into an alternate
universe. It’s not “discomforting.” It is bonkers. The journal could not reasonably have
expected readers to “respond” – unless to ask, “Are you out of your minds?”
Given all this, it's not surprising that within a day of press attention being called to this whole thing, Bradford resigned from West Point
, though it still calls into question why he was hired in the first place, seeing as the article itself was published long before he started at West Point. The article further notes that Bradford had previously lost
academic positions for exaggerating his credentials (though he blamed it on those darn "liberal professors" trying to oust him), and also claims that he had some odd classroom behavior choices:
A former student who wished to remain anonymous said Bradford’s behavior included “doing push-ups in class [and] making students stand and give answers in a military-like manner”.
Bradford, the former student said, ended up leaving his class – and ultimately the college – without grading the final exam.
I imagine this latest shaming will also be spun into a story about how a "fifth column" of people who hate the US are really out to get Bradford. Frankly, I can't wait to see him try to spin this as an attack on his academic freedom, though someone could just quote his own words right back to him: "Academic freedom carries with it a “moral obligation to seek the
facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious
intent." Arguing for killing those who disagree with you seems, to me, to be a form of "malicious intent."