Pro-war Politics Triggers Free Speech Debate

October 3rd, 2004 - by admin

The Guardsman / City College of San Francisco – 2004-10-03 20:20:15

The “Letter to the Editor” below was abridged from its original length at the insistence of the editors of The Guardsman, the biweekly newspaper of the City College of San Francisco. The editors first demanded that the piece had to be cut from 950 words to 400 words, but after it became apparent to the authors that it was not possible to cut it any more, the editors gave in and accepted the 550-word version below. This letter will appear in the forthcoming issue of The Guardsman. For more background on this issue, see the articles that follow the “Letter to the Editor.”

Letter to the Editor of The Guardsman:

Paulette Bleam’s article “Censorship at City College” is replete with inaccuracies and unfounded charges.

Bleam claims that Congressman Tom Lantos “did nothing wrong, the poor guy,” and that “he would have been there [at the graduation] to congratulate the graduates — not to preach about the war in Iraq.”

Lantos was to receive a prestigious award, the “Friend of City College” medal, at the graduation ceremony. Lantos has done plenty wrong. He is no friend to youth or education.

Lantos is the only Bay Area Congressperson who gave Bush the authorization to invade Iraq. He has voted repeatedly for more military spending. He is an ardent advocate of the anti-democratic Patriot Act.

Lantos, moreover, had just returned from Israel, where he praised Ariel Sharon just days after his government’s heinous massacre of youth in the Palestinian town of Rafah, an action chastised by the European Union as a “reckless disregard for human life.” A top Israeli cabinet member equated this attack with the massacre of his own family members during the World War II Holocaust.

Bleam claims “there is a time and a place” for freedom of speech.

But do student not have the right to voice their opinion when it comes to their own graduation?

One Associated Students’ leader said he was on the student planning committee but did not hear about the Lantos award until three days before graduation. The students had no input in the decision to honor Lantos.

A broad spectrum of student groups and faculty came before the CCSF Board to urge them not to honor a war activist who has consistently taken money away from education by lobbying for increased spending on war. This was their right and their duty as responsible members of the CCSF community.

Bleam then accuses us of “advocating dictatorship and tyrannical rule on home soil!”

Our appeal to the Board and our contingency plan for a student protest of Lantos is a democratic tradition. It has nothing to do with dictatorship or tyrannical rule. We demand an apology for this outrageous claim.

Bleam then suggests we promoted “censorship,” adding that “[c]ensorship could more negatively affect the average citizen over time than a relatively small conflict in a foreign country.”

The faculty and students who went before the Board did not have the power to censor anyone. They simply urged our governing body to represent us, its people.

And is this a “relatively small conflict?” More than 1,000 U.S. soldiers and 10,000 Iraqis have died in this war. It has cost billions of dollars, diverted from education, health care, workers’ pensions, social security.

A true friend of City College, in our view, is a person who opposes war, who fights for human rights, who upholds the right of peoples to self-determination, who cares for the youth and their rights and who contributes to better education for all — everywhere.

We support Bleam’s right to disagree with us, but we are outraged by her scandalous claims and false accusations.


– Krista Husar, Ben Eckstein, Marcio Gamba, Jed Purses (Revolution Youth)

– Allan Fisher, Roger Scott (Past Presidents, AFT 2121)

– Darren Villegas, Former President, Treasurer of La Raza Unida, Vice Pres. of Inter Club Council

– Nancy Hernandez, Education In Action

– Leslie Simon, Chair of the Women’s Studies Department

Big Victory for Human Rights: CCSF Board Withdraws Award, Invitation to Congressman Tom Lantos!

By Krista Husar

The Board of Trustees of City College of San Francisco, under pressure from students and faculty, withdrew a prestigious award from Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) and rescinded their invitation to have Lantos address CCSF’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 29.

Congressman Tom Lantos was to receive the “Friend of City College” medal at Saturday’s graduation ceremony for support in obtaining funds for cash-strapped CCSF. But his leading role, past and present, in support of the US-led occupation of Iraq and Palestine outraged student groups and faculty — who went before the CCSF Board of Trustees Thursday night, May 27, and urged them not to honor a “war activist.”

Lantos, the ranking Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee, is one of the most strident “hawks” in the Congress.

Revolution Youth activist Krista Husar told the Board that any funds that Lantos might bring to City College were erased by the fact that “he has consistently and historically taken money away from education by lobbying for increased spending on war. He is no friend of youth, at CCSF or elsewhere.”

[Revolution Youth activists at CCSF also spent the week gathering signatures from students, faculty and campus organizations on an Open Letter to Tom Lantos titled, “A True Friend of City College Would Oppose the Occupation of Palestine and Iraq!” See excerpts from this appeal below.]

Revolution Youth/CCSF activist Ben Eckstein — who spoke as an “Israeli, a conscientious objector, an American and a student” – asked how a so-called youth advocate could meet with a leader whose hands were covered in blood. “Our U.S. youth are dying as soldiers in Iraq, thousands of Iraqi youth are dead, and 17 children were killed in Palestine last week,” Eckstein said. “I challenge anyone on the Board to find one City College student who thinks of this man as a friend.”

All those who testified against the Board’s decision made it clear that City College’s active student body was not going to accept passively the decision to have Lantos address the graduation ceremony. Indeed, even if the Board had not rescinded Lantos’s award, there were plans afoot to organize students so that all would stand up and turn their backs to Lantos when he received the award.

La Raza Unida member Daniel Villegas put it best when he said, “We need people in solidarity with the youth. For three semesters CCSF has had ongoing antiwar protests. This is an antiwar campus.”

In response to the student and faculty demands, Chancellor Day called Congressman Lantos on Friday morning to inform him that there would be no award and that he was disinvited from attending the graduation.


“A True Friend of City College Would Oppose the Occupation of Palestine and Iraq!”

Dear Congressman Lantos,

At a time when City College of San Francisco has decided to award you the Friend of City College Medal, we the undersigned students, faculty, staff and organizations of CCSF, call on you to abandon fully your support to the U.S.-funded occupation of Iraq and Palestine.

These are occupations that have turned into massacres of tens of thousands of innocent people, all fraudulently in the name of “democracy” and “security.”

We are particularly alarmed that on Monday, May 24 you met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem and embraced his criminal attacks on the Palestinians in the refugee camp of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which left more than 46 people dead and thousands injured and homeless.

The weeklong attack by the Israeli Defense Forces on the Rafah refugee camp was condemned internationally. At the very moment the international community lambasted Sharon and the Israeli government for the unprovoked raids on Rafah, you reached out to embrace a man with so much blood of innocent people on his hands. How can anyone accept this?

We also are strongly opposed to your support for the U.S.-led Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 and your support for the most recent Bush administration war and occupation of Iraq.

The U.S.-appointed authority in Iraq, just like the Sharon government in relation to the Palestinian people, operates criminally, bringing destruction and despair to a nation of proud and ancient people in a direct attempt to break down local and social structures and to deny them their right to self-determination.

The American people are being misled and lied to by politicians and the media. They are conned into believing that the wars funded with our tax dollars are justifiable and legitimate, when in truth they are wars for profit and power waged by the ruling few. They are wars carried out, as well, against working people at home in the form of brutal attacks on our civil and constitutional rights, and the assault on Social Security, heathcare, labor laws, and funding for education – to mention but a few examples.

We call on you, Congressman Tom Lantos, to join the millions and millions of people all over the world who call for the end of the occupation of Iraq and Palestine.



International Liaison Committee of Workers & Peoples (ILC)
PO Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.
Tel. (415) 626-1175; fax: (415) 626-1217.