By: Joshua Sturman | Op-Ed Contributor
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is a war criminal and shouldn’t have been invited to speak at Duquesne on March 29.
Michael Hayden assassinated people. No trial, no nothing, just killed them. And this is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, “Article 3”: “The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever … the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
Michael Hayden did not prosecute Jose Rodriguez, a CIA operative who destroyed evidence of torture. Failure to prosecute people who hide torture is also a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Michael Hayden kidnapped people and took them to secret jails. This, too, is a war crime, though this is illegal under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, rather than the Geneva Conventions.
Michael Hayden has cute euphemisms for his crimes. He calls assassination “targeted killing.” He calls kidnapping “extraordinary rendition.” He calls not prosecuting people he is legally obligated to prosecute, well, nothing. He just doesn’t talk about that and hopes no one notices. Euphemisms or not, these are war crimes, which in a way are the most illegal forms of crime. Certainly they’re worse than selling weed, and Duquesne will expel you for that.
Michael Hayden does not feel bad about his crimes. He should. These crimes had real consequences. They led to people dying. They led to families without fathers and sons. They led to the deaths of innocent bystanders, including women and children. They led to hundreds of people, most of them innocent, rotting in secret jails. They led to the further disintegration of international law.
War criminals also have the chance to propagandize people, to let them claim, unchallenged, that their actions were legal, to let them lie in the face of cold, hard truth. On March 29, Duquesne let Michael Hayden lie to all of us. It augmented Mr. Hayden’s lies by lending them the credibility of the incoming school president. Allowing Michael Hayden to lie was despicable. The school should not have done this. It should not do similar things in the future.
Some may claim that I am wrong in saying Mr. Hayden should have been prevented from holding an event on campus. They may argue that making the school an uninviting place for Michael Hayden is a violation of his First Amendment rights. This argument would be incorrect. The first amendment does not force private organizations to tolerate noxious speech. The first amendment only makes the government tolerate noxious speech. That’s why it begins, “Congress shall make no law…”
Duquesne is not the government. It is not beholden to the First Amendment. And Duquesne is aware of this. The school does not tolerate Klansmen or Nazis on campus, and it is right not to tolerate these people. But Duquesne should not tolerate unrepentant war criminals either. Nowhere should tolerate unrepentant war criminals.
The Christian ethical thinker Soren Kierkegaard wrote, “Existing ethically is actuality, but instead of that [modern people have] become so predominantly [observers] that not only is everyone that but observing has finally become falsified as if it were actuality.” He continues, “the ethical wants to prevent every attempt at confusion, such as, for example, wanting to observe the world and human beings ethically.”
In writing this, Kierkegaard intends for us to understand that we have become so wrapped up in thought and discussion that we have forgotten to live ethically. This is an improper state of affairs. We should end our mindless chatter, and especially our observation of chatter such as Michael Hayden’s, and resume ethical life.
I recommend that as a university community we heed Kierkegaard’s advice. So let’s demand the school stop inviting war criminals to campus, be they high-ranking like Michael Hayden or low-ranking like Javal Davis.