From the January 2002 Idaho Observer:

Pro-government educational council report targets WTC dissidents at nation's colleges

“At a time of national crisis, I think it is particularly apparent that we need to encourage the study of our past. Our children and grandchildren -- indeed, all of us -- need to know the ideas and ideals on which our nation has been built. We need to understand how fortunate we are to live in freedom. We need to understand that living in liberty is such a precious thing that generations of men and women have been willing to sacrifice everything for it. We need to know, in a war, exactly what is at stake.”

~Lynne V. Cheney, October 5, 2001

by Don Harkins

“The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) [describes itself as] educational nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to academic freedom, quality and accountability.”

ACTA was founded in 1995 by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney and is current ACTA Chairman Emeritus. The pro-government educational council's “Civilian Defense Fund” sponsored the preparation of the 38-page report, “Defending Civilization: How our Universities are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It” (Nov. 2001).

The report references 115 comments from college students and college instructors that express opposition to U.S. government activities that culminated in the events of Sept 11 and the resultant U.S. government declaration of “war” on terrorism.

Many of the articles from which the report excerpts dissident voices have titles such as, America's Enemies Rally at UNC-Chapel Hill, CCNY Bashes America -- Students, Profs Blame Attacks on U.S., Blame America First Fad Prominent on Campus and The New Anti-Americanism of the Academic Left.

The ACTA-sponsored report's primary authors are former National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) congressional liaison and First Amendment legal specialist Anne D. Neal and former acting NEH chairman Jerry L. Martin -- a former chairman of the philosophy department at the University of Colorado.

Other notable members of the council include Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm (D), Henry Ford II, former Education Secretary William Bennett and retired Sr. V.P. of Texaco William K. Tell. Also seated on ACTA's National Council are Irving Kristol (co-editor, “Public Interest”), Phillip Merril (publisher, “Washingtonian”) and Martin Peretz (editor-in-chief, “New Republic”).

ACTA, whose ranks also boast trustees from universities such as Yale, Harvard and Georgetown, believe institutions of higher learning that promote a dissident view of the Bush administration's “war on terrorism” are irresponsibly out of step with the majority of Americans who support war in retaliation for the attacks of Sept. 11.

“In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Americans across the country responded with anger, patriotism, and support of military intervention. The polls have been nearly unanimous -- 92 percent in favor of military force even if casualties occur -- and citizens have rallied behind the president wholeheartedly,” the report begins.

The report says that 79 percent of college students generally approved U.S. air strikes and 68 percent supported the use of ground troops in Afghanistan. This, combined with comments from what ACTA claims are a dissident minority, show that, “The fact remains that academia is the only sector of American society that is divided in its apparent symptom of an educational system that has increasingly suggested that Western civilization is the primary source of the world's ills -- even though it gave us the ideals of democracy, human rights, individual liberty and mutual tolerance.”

ACTA sees that since Sept. 11 colleges have “reinforced the mindset that it was America -- and America's failure to understand Islam -- that were to blame. To say that it is more important now [to study Islam] implies that the events of Sept. 11 were our fault, that it was our failure...that led to so many deaths and so much destruction,” said Cheney.

Cheney believes that our heritage as a nation is being lost because the nation's schools and colleges are not emphasizing history. In order to avoid embarrassing and divisive public opposition to the policies of the U.S. government, students must be programmed to believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are still intact.

Students must be taught to appreciate “...the ideas and ideals on which our nation has been built....If there were one aspect of schooling from kindergarten through college to which I would give added emphasis today, it would be American history.”

The version of history to which Cheney apparently believes Americans must be taught from K-through-college is the one in which the U.S. government is faultless in world and national events and its interventionist policies in sovereign nations are designed to make the world safe for “democracy.”

The report notes that recent comments from the nation's college campuses in response to the Bush administration's “war on terrorism” are in stark contrast to America's reaction to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. “Everyone wanted to cooperate and feel like they were helping the country,” ACTA quoted Brown University political science Professor Elmer Cornwell as stating.

American post-Pearl Harbor patriotism swelled in the absence of since-discovered proof that Winston Churchill called FDR the evening of Nov. 26, 1941 to warn him that an attack on Pearl Harbor was imminent -- a warning that was ignored by FDR.

Since discovering that 3,219 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor to justify U.S. military involvement in the Pacific, we have also learned that U.S. involvement in other wars were also politically contrived. In 1996, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara made front page news for three days when he publicly announced that the second Gulf of Tonkin incident used to justify sending ground troops into Vietnam never happened.

The authors of the report state emphatically that, “This [report] is not an argument for limiting free speech on college campuses.”

Then the ACTA report seems to contradict itself by “insisting” that higher education teach “our” (whose?) history in these “unsettling” times: “But it is equally important -- and never more so in these unsettling times -- to insist that colleges and universities transmit our history and heritage to the next generation. Academic freedom does not mean freedom from criticism.” (bold emphasis added, underline original )

Much to ACTA's chagrin, the post-Pearl Harbor trust that rallied a nation to support, fight and die in WWII has been replaced by distrust and disgust. Most of the 115 dissident comments contained in the report appear to reflect well-informed non-appreciation for U.S. foreign policies of the last several decades -- policies that cater to the desires of powerful corporate interests regardless of the cost to human dignity, human lives and the environment.

“If I were the president, I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and the impoverished, and all the millions of other victims of American imperialism. There are few if any nations in the world that have harbored more terrorists than the United States,” the report quotes a journalist who participated in a University of North Carolina teach-in.

Many of the comments targeted by ACTA as unpatriotic merely caution the people of this nation to understand the exploitive, back-stabbing, war-mongering and double dealing manner in which the U.S. government conducts its foreign affairs before committing their support for a war against those the government claims are responsible for the events of Sept. 11. “[I]magine the real suffering and grief of people in other countries. The best way to begin a war on terrorism might be to look in the mirror,” said an anthropology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The full report can be found at Phone: 202-467-6787 Toll Free: 888-ALUMNI-8; Fax: 202-467-6784; E-mail:

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