Opponents of Penn conference say: BDS bad, war good

on 18 Comments

As noted here yesterday, The Philadelphia Inquirer published two opposing opinion pieces on the upcoming BDS conference being held at the University of Pennsylvania. One piece, supporting the conference, is written by Ali Abunimah. The other, opposed to the “BDS agenda,” is written by ex-CIA director James Woolsey and Jonathan Schanzer.

James Woolsey

Although Woolsey and Schanzer denounce the conference as “an exercise in disinformation and propaganda,” their article avoids countering any arguments for BDS and makes little mention of Israel. Instead, Woolsey and Schanzer criticize BDS for failing to address Syria:

The timing of this event makes it especially jarring: At this moment, just across Israel’s northern border, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering Syrian dissidents…

Then they criticize BDS for failing to address Iran:

Also conspicuously absent from the BDS agenda is the regime that rules and oppresses Iranians…

In other words, Woolsey and Schanzer oppose BDS not because they think it’s wrong, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Unforunately, Woolsey and Schanzer’s proposals for dealing with Iran and Syria—as they have described elsewhere—go way beyond the tactics of the nonviolent BDS movement.

Believing that diplomatic engagement with Iran is “worse than worthless,” Woolsey proposes a US military escalation:

Send at least four carrier battle groups and a substantial number of strategic bombers to locations from which they could carry out operations against Iran… Let Iran’s corrupt and cruel elite contemplate that you are carrying not just a big stick, but one that could be wielded decisively.

While Schanzer proposes threatening Syria with a US military invasion:

I think that is the one thing that could coerce the Syrian regime—and could certainly coerce Assad to step down—is the fear of getting involved militarily.

Is this really what the anti-BDS lobby wants to promote—that BDS is counterproductive to peace, but military threats are morally superior?

Woolsey capt Israel
Capt. Israel has run out of tricks

That the anti-BDS lobby would even enlist James Woolsey—a neocon hawk on the Iraq War and proponent of Eliot Cohen’s “World War IV” thesis—indicates a serious tactical and moral failure, as well as a complete loss of ideas on how to discredit BDS.

The Woolsey and Schanzer article criticizes the conference for lacking “serious scholarship”—a strange criticism since the conference hasn’t even started yet. By those standards, the conference can also be criticized for lacking speakers, attendees, and bagel spreads.

Even more amusing is that the word “scholarship” would emanate from James Woolsey, who has previously blamed Saddam Hussein for the 9/11 attacks, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Oklahoma City bombing.

In 2002, Woolsey used his government contacts to introduce the unreliable Iraqi defector Mohammad Harith to the US intelligence community, bypassing standard CIA vetting and thus helping to bolster the arguments for war on Iraq.

Furthermore, Woolsey’s claim of concern for “Muslim victims” in Iran and Syria is disingenuous, since he is a prominent figure in the Islamophobic “counter-jihad” movement. Woolsey served as a spokesman for ACT! for America to promote the fearmongering “anti-sharia” amendment in Oklahoma.

Woolsey billboard
Billboard by the United American Committee, which has since merged with ACT! for America

Woolsey contributed to the Center for Security Policy report, Shariah: The Threat to America, as a member of “Team B II” (a reference to the 1970s “Team B,” a CIA-commissioned intelligence group headed by Richard Pipes, which exaggerated the Soviet threat). I have already detailed the Islamophobic and racist projects of the Center for Security Policy, such as Latma, in a previous post.

Woolsey also participated in the Islamophobic film The Third Jihad, which everyone else is trying to distance themselves from.

It must be noted that Woolsey and Schanzer’s interventions in academia are not limited to picking on University of Pennsylvania students for organizing a conference.

Both Woolsey and Schanzer are involved with the neoconservative think tank the Foundation of Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Woolsey is the chairman and Schanzer is the vice president of research. The FDD offers an academic fellowship program in which US and Canadian university faculty are invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel:

The program features an intensive, 10-day course on terrorism and the threat it poses to democratic societies… It also features visits to military bases, border zones and other security installations to learn the practical side of deterring terrorist attacks.

By “practical side,” I assume they mean that the faculty get to try out assault rifles in Israel, as shown on the fellowship web page:

FDD academic fellow

What they expect faculty to do with that information in their classrooms is beyond my comprehension.

Nevertheless, I look forward to attending the Penn BDS conference, where I will be co-facilitating a workshop that will undoubtedly push my hidden agenda of fomenting divisiveness, undermining hopes for peace, and making people cry.

About Phan Nguyen

Phan Nguyen lives in New York and has a Twitter account: @Phan_N

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18 Responses

  1. dahoit
    January 30, 2012, 11:52 am

    The guy has a strange bio at Wikipedia,that’s for sure.How did he get here from there?(E,McCarthy)

  2. pabelmont
    January 30, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Lovely post! I like your tongue-in-cheek “In other words, Woolsey and Schanzer oppose BDS not because they think it’s wrong, but because it doesn’t go far enough.” (failing to attempt to deal with Syria and Iran) (and all the other horror spots in the world, if not the universe, known-known and unknown-unknown).

    Wouldn’t it be fun to get them to address this point: “BDS is bad because it fails to address Iran — HUNH?” (after CIA has said that Iran is *NOT* developing a nuke, tho I hate to acquiesce in the “party line” that Iran WOULD be a danger to USA if it WERE developing a nuke)(and then ask why they happened to mention Iran but did not happen to mention Somalia, Burma, Uzbekistan and Bahrain and other USA proteges).

    • patm
      February 4, 2012, 10:14 am

      I’d like to see Phan write a counter article focusing on antonyms to the hateful words used by Dersh and followers. Interviews with student organizers at the U. of Penn’s BDS conference would provide information for a such a piece, imo.

      Obvious but not necessary title: Proponents of Penn conference say: BDS good, war bad.

  3. Kathleen
    January 30, 2012, 12:15 pm

    Bush ally set to profit from the war on terror

    Antony Barnett and Solomon Hughes

    The Observer, 11 may 2003

    Go to original

    James Woolsey, former CIA boss and influential adviser to President George Bush, is a director of a US firm aiming to make millions of dollars from the ‘war on terror’, The Observer can reveal.

    Woolsey, one of the most high-profile hawks in the war against Iraq and a key member of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board, is a director of the Washington-based private equity firm Paladin Capital. The company was set up three months after the terrorist attacks on New York and sees the events and aftermath of September 11 as a business opportunity which ‘offer[s] substantial promise for homeland security investment’.

    The first priority of Paladin was ‘to invest in companies with immediate solutions designed to prevent harmful attacks, defend against attacks, cope with the aftermath of attack or disaster and recover from terrorist attacks and other threats to homeland security’.

    Paladin, which is expected to have raised $300 million from investors by the end of this year, calculates that in the next few years the US government will spend $60 billion on anti-terrorism that woul not have been spent before September 11, and that corporations will spend twice that amount to ensure their security and continuity in case of attack.

    Glenn Greenwald
    Friday, Jan 27, 2012 8:54 AM 12:13:30 EST
    The predictable aftermath of the anti-CAP smear
    The Center for American Progress censors its targeted writers on Israel, after they’re branded as “anti-Semitic”

    “I’ve written several times about the coordinated smear campaign to brand writers at the Center for American Progress as “anti-Semites” in order to punish them for defying mandated orthodoxies on Israel and to deter others from doing so. While that smear campaign, having done its job, is now winding down, the predictable effects of it are only beginning: CAP is now censoring those targeted writers, and those who defended them are now being similarly smeared.

    First, the self-censorship at CAP: both The Weekly Standard‘s Daniel Halper and Philip Weiss document how a post written by two of the targeted CAP writers, Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, was censored in important, substantive ways. That post concerned a rabidly anti-Islam film, “The Third Jihad,” that was continuously shown to NYPD officials. Gharib and Clifton sought to investigate the donors behind the film, and wrote the following (emphasis added):”

  4. Chespirito
    January 30, 2012, 12:47 pm

    Great post, efficiently giving the skinny on Woolsey. It’s worth asking: what exactly does the CIA do that we can’t live without? That makes life in the US, and for that matter outside the US, better and less insecure? Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the conservative Democratic senator from New York who served in the Nixon administration, was hot to eliminate the CIA entirely. He saw them as a useless bureaucracy incapable of providing real intelligence and missing the story entirely on the collapse of the Soviet Union, which they had assessed in early ’89 as a potent meance. More often than not the CIA justified its existence with overblown threat assessments. Scrapping the CIA is not on the political menu, but it’s a proposal worth airing.

    • Kathleen
      January 30, 2012, 4:03 pm

      Just like in any organization good folk and not so good folk. In regard to former CIA analyst trying to alert the public before the invasion of Iraq about the questionable intelligence…Ray McGovern, Kathleen and Bill Christison. Former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer trying to inform the public after he was no longer with the CIA

  5. Annie Robbins
    January 30, 2012, 12:56 pm

    these response from woolsey and schanzer prove, more than any specific incident i can think of why an allegation i have heard several times is true: the free palestine/bds movement on campuses across the country has replaced the anti war movement on campuses.

    this is what scars them most. it’s really jarring for them, i am sure, that this conference is taking place at the ivy league prestigious PENN.

    as Nguyen points out, they do not address or counter BDS in their response (i trust him on this, for i have not read the op eds myself). they approach this as countering an anti war movement focusing on iran and syria.


    • Kathleen
      January 30, 2012, 4:05 pm

      Its been a long time coming on college campuses. Lots of folks trying for years. Lots of roadblocks with Campus Watch and many professors etc blocking on campus. Situation changing the last five or so years. More folks jumping on the justice wagon and pushing together

  6. patm
    January 30, 2012, 1:20 pm

    the free palestine/bds movement on campuses across the country has replaced the anti war movement on campuses.

    This is a logical decision on the part of student activists everywhere, annie. They know who is behind US war-mongering.

    Another good piece, Phan Nguyen. Good luck with your workshop.

  7. mudder
    January 30, 2012, 1:28 pm

    It is difficult to take seriously Schanzer’s opinions in a rational debate. He is now tweeting that the BDS conference at Penn is a hate fest. Before that he was complaining about Ron Paulistinian.

  8. Mndwss
    January 30, 2012, 2:37 pm

    “Capt. Israel has run out of tricks. How do we defeat BDS? Think – – Think !!!”

    Our axis of evil have just BDSsed Iraq for a decade and then punished them for an other decade with our war of terror.

    We just killed 2 million people with our BDS and war and Iraq is defeated.

    How can our axis of evil find a solution? Think – – Think !!!

    We need a new enemy! We need a new Hitler who we can lay the blame on for… everything.

    Solution: BDS against Iran.

    When they are really really hungry then we attack.

    We (always) think the price is worth it:


    We starve the people to death, then attack.

    von Clausewitz would have recognized the strategy.

    We don’t want to start a war that we have not already won…

    Why only BDS the junior partner of the evil empire?

  9. Bill in Maryland
    January 30, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Thanks Phan for a very informative post. (BTW, great graphics, including the shot of the warm and cuddly sneering and scowling James Woolsey!)

  10. atime forpeace
    January 30, 2012, 7:06 pm

    I agree this article with its art so representative of everything neocon is terrific.

  11. Annie Robbins
    January 30, 2012, 8:26 pm

    yeah, awesome graphics

  12. Kathleen
    January 31, 2012, 10:33 am

    And folks can help. Pick up literature from If Americans Knew and BDS and drop this literature off on your local campuses, churches, synagogues, mosques, meetings. Everywhere you go drop literature about the issue

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