An apple for the dissident

Posted: Oct 18, 2002 12:00 AM
To the California Federation of Teachers, it's not the war on terrorism, but the "so-called war on terrorism" -- and the CFT wants no part of it. The vote was unanimous -- sort of like an Iraqi presidential election. Congress approved a resolution allowing President Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein. The American Federation of Teachers approved a measure supporting "the use of the wide range of powers at the country's disposal to eradicate this threat to our people, our liberty and our children's future." In protest, according to spokesman Fred Glass, the California unit of the nationwide teachers' organization approved a resolution opposing the war. In a recent session, the CFT's State Council, which is comprised of representatives of some 150 locals, approved the resolution without a single hand raised in opposition. The CFT resolution states that there is no credible evidence linking Iraq to a terrorism threat, that Bush "is seeking any pretext to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation, in violation of international law," that civil liberties are being restricted and that "the administration is using the so-called war on terrorism to distract the American people from the vital issues they confront." It then urges its members to "get involved" with antiwar groups. Teacher Barry Fike of the Berkeley local said that it would be wrong to infer that the anti-Bush language means that the CFT supports Hussein. That's true. It's also true that the CFT resolution impugned Bush's motives, as well as his approach, but did not criticize Hussein in any way. Call it a glaring omission. Once again, a teachers' union is taking flak for its position on the war on terrorism. In August, The Washington Times reported that the National Education Association had put together a post-Sept. 11 curriculum that advised teachers to "discuss historical instances of American intolerance" -- as if American intolerance invited the attacks. An appalled AFT spokeswoman told The Washington Times, "The AFT does not support a blame-America approach in particular and wishes to distance itself from the entire document." In this case, Fike noted, the CFT resolution has nothing to do with curriculum. It takes a political position. "I have a right as an American" to take positions, said Fike. That "my right" line reminds me of the latest bit of antiwar rhetoric. You can see it hanging outside the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, with the sign, "Dissent is not un-American." Who said it was? That statement deliberately airbrushes out the difference between the act of dissent and the content of dissent. If a resolution states that U.S. motives for getting into war are purely political or venal, whether true or false, it's an anti-American remark. I'll add: In S.F., antiwar isn't dissent -- it's orthodox. When antiwar types say dissent isn't un-American, what they're really saying is that while they can denigrate hawks, it's un-American to criticize antiwar types. Mike Antonucci, a critic of teachers' unions who runs the Education Intelligence Agency, said the CFT resolution "just widens the disconnect between the average member and the union." Or it widens the disconnect between CFT teachers (it should be noted that CFT is the smaller California teachers union) and parents who are fearful that educators will try to brainwash their kids against the war effort. If you're one such parent, adopt a new slogan: Dissent of dissent is not un-American. And here's the question to ask your kids' teacher: If dissent is so dandy, why did not even one teacher vote against the CFT resolution?