Last Tuesday evening, September 17, New York City Police assaulted and arrested six young people who were legitimately demonstrating at Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York (CUNY), near Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The demonstration of up to 80 people was protesting a “gala” featuring General (ret.) David Petraeus, a major architect of the U.S.’s murderous imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus has recently been appointed to a prestigious visiting professorship at Macaulay as part of CUNY’s long-standing and growing ties to the Pentagon.
The arrestees were held for 20 hours in jail before being arraigned and released. They face charges of riot, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstructing governmental administration.
We join with hundreds of others who are demanding that all the charges be dropped.
We also support the campaign against the hiring of Petraeus. Protests by CUNY students, faculty and others broke out immediately on hearing the CUNY administration’s announcement of his appointment this July – initially at a salary of $200,000 for teaching one course! Petraeus is a war criminal who commanded U.S. and other imperialist armies which slaughtered the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus was the main author of the U.S. Army’s Counterinsurgency Field Manual. The month before he was hired by CUNY, the British Guardian newspaper described some of what “counterinsurgency” means in practice. In an article headlined “Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres,” it spelled out how Petraeus and his top aides organized “all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”
Serving Obama as well as Bush, Petraeus has also headed the CIA, the imperialist espionage and secret army organization which spies on everyone, orchestrates military coups and supports dictators to keep working-class and poor people under imperialism’s boot. His long bipartisan service to imperialism won him a cushy job at CUNY recruiting “honors students” to be trained for further dirty work. This man is a monster – fit for jail, not a professorship.
Petraeus’s role as a strategist for war continues. As a petition by CUNY faculty and graduate students noted, “Although he resigned from his position as CIA director in November, Petraeus has continued his involvement in US foreign policy. Most recently, Petraeus has called on Congress to back a military strike on Syria, stating that the ‘failure of Congress to approve the president’s request would have serious ramifications not just in the Mideast but around the world.’”
In contrast to growing solidarity with the protesters within CUNY and beyond, the executive committee of the CUNY Faculty Senate shamefully “deplored” the protests against his appointment for violating academic freedom – “because [the protesters] disagree with Professor Petraeus’ views.” That is sheer bull: the protesters confronted Petraeus for his crimes, not just his opinions. While the hard-cop conservative CUNY trustees honor Petraeus for his service to imperialism, the liberal faculty leaders play soft cop and falsely condemn the protesters. And they are a team: citing the Faculty Senate statement, CUNY’s Interim Chancellor William Kelly implicitly defended the police attack against the protesters, vowing to “ensure that Dr. Petraeus is able to teach without harassment or obstruction.”
The Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY promises to protest Petraeus’s every appearance at CUNY. Militant public pressure against his hiring can force him out, as mass pressure some years ago forced fellow war criminal Colin Powell to back out of appearing at CUNY’s City College to receive an honorary degree. Universities like CUNY depend on Defense Department funding for much engineering and science research; that is one way the capitalist ruling class ties faculty and students to its imperialist role of exploiting and oppressing the working people of the world. Every protest against this militarization advances the international struggle against imperialism.