Dozens of students at American University walked out in protest during a speech last week at American University by former Vice President Dick Cheney, The Raw Story reports.
The students accused Cheney of being a war criminal, due to the use of water boarding (torture) by the Bush administration while interrogating individuals detained during terrorism investigations. Cheney seems to think “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” would be a more apt term. He is quoted in the American University student paper saying “Some people call it torture. It wasn’t torture.”
The main out in Cheney’s view was that the Bush administration considered suspects subjected to water boarding and other EITs to be unlawful combatants who are not protected by the Geneva conventions. But the faux legal argument aside, water boarding is an excruciation practice, or as Christopher Hitchens (who subjected himself to the procedure) put it: “Believe me, it’s torture.”
“You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure.”
This isn’t the first instance in recent times that college students have engaged in direct action protest against a major political figure in a position of power within the seemingly out-of-control national security state. In October, students at Brown University and Providence community members attended a lecture given by NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, shouting him down forcing the event to be cancelled.
Kelly was head of the NYPD while it focused a surveillance program on members of New York’s population who were muslim. He was also a major proponent of the NYPD’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk approach to policing – an institutionally accepted form of racial profiling.
Many fail to recognize the efficacy of such protests, believing that limited “debate” available during a possible Q&A would be more “constructive”. But this often ignores the difference in power between commissioned speakers getting big fees and presented with the legitimacy of world-class institutions, and students asking limited questions from the floor.
Hopefully students will continue to speak up and act out when war criminals (like Henry Kissinger, who is supposed to speak at Yale) are brought to their schools, legitimizing their public careers with their institution’s names.