Iraq, Human Rights Themes Draw Speakers from Different Perspectives
By Vic Cox
Some consequences of the war in Iraq will be analyzed on and off campus over the next two weeks by three nationally prominent figures: a former career U.S. Army general who investigated prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib; a Vietnam veteran turned university professor who teaches international relations; and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and human rights expert who advises Sen. Barack Obama on foreign policy.
Beginning this Thursday, March 6, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Antonio M. Taguba, author of the U.S. Army’s official report on what happened at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, will speak on “The Lessons of Abu Ghraib.” In a rare public appearance, Taguba, who was the Army’s second highest-ranking Filipino-American officer, will speak about investigating the scandal and its aftermath.
In his 2004 report on the 800th Military Police Brigade that ran the prison, he accused some soldiers and civilians of “egregious acts and grave breaches of international law” while documenting a long list of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses.” He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that such “incomprehensible acts…put into question the reputation of our nation and the reputation of those who continue to serve in uniform, and who would willingly sacrifice their lives to safeguard our freedom.”
Taguba’s free lecture in Campbell Hall is a “precursor” to a series of human rights speakers that UCSB is organizing for multicampus appearances, explained Lisa Hajjar, associate professor and chair of the law and society program. She added that Taguba is dedicated to defending the integrity of the military as an institution and he believes, as she does, that “torture corrodes the institutions that use it.”
Four days later, on March 10, Andrew J. Bracevich, a Vietnam veteran and Boston University professor of international relations and history, will speak in Campbell Hall on “Iraq—Managing the Consequences of Failure.” A graduate of West Point and Princeton, Bracevich has written a number of books on American diplomacy and empire building.
In 2007 he published a collection of essays he edited, which is titled “The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy since World War II.” It will be available for purchase at his free lecture.
Long a critic of the Iraq war and the administration’s handling of it, Bracevich last year lost his soldier son to a suicide bomber in Salah al-Din province.
“Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World” is Samantha Power’s account of one of the United Nations’ best diplomats and what he learned in a 35-year career of negotiating peace in extremely difficult situations. De Mello died in 2003 when a suicide bomber detonated a truck outside the UN’s temporary outpost in Baghdad.
Power, whose acclaimed 2003 book “A Problem from Hell—America and the Age of Genocide” won a Pulitzer Prize, will speak about the lessons from De Mello’s life on March 18 at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Society, 1535 Santa Barbara St. This talk is also free of charge.
Power has held a professorship in global leadership at Harvard University as well as written foreign policy analyses for Time magazine. Currently, she is acting as senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Barack Obama in his bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Her books will also be available.