Last night's panel of Notre Dame professors who spoke on concerns vital to understanding and dealing with the aftermath of September 11 analyzed many of the United States' attitudes in response to the tragedy.
"This panel is meant to inaugurate this week of reflection," said Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
The panel followed up on a series of discussions presented after the events last year. Scott Appleby, Jeff Bergstrand, George Lopez, and Juan Mendez particularly addressed the United States' economic and political situation and how the attitude and actions of the government affected issues like human rights and international affairs.
Some professors criticized the United States' attitudes towards human rights and the fight against terrorism since September 11. "In the past year we have seen a deepening of xenophobia," said Appleby. He stressed the need for the United States to work with other countries. "We are woefully undereducated in foreign policy as a nation," he said on the issue of public opinion in foreign affairs.
Mendez, a law professor and human rights activist who was once imprisoned in his native Argentina for defending political prisoners, felt since the attack the United States placed too much emphasis on security and too little on human rights. He especially criticized the United States' support of totalitarian leaders such as Pervez Musharraf allied with the US. "The human rights movement now faces a harder task in creating just societies around the world," he said. "One important voice that has been lost is that of the United States government."
Lopez and Mendez felt that the United States' plans to use weapons against Iraq showed a need for close examination of US policy. "The United States is not being held up as an example of good, but for what governments should be able to get away with because the US does," said Mendez. "This is a slippery slope… unless we demand that the government's actions be transparent, we will not be in a position to lecture other governments on their affairs.
Lopez, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute, stressed that the changing nature of warfare required changing attitudes. He cited cases of small groups fighting large powers through attacks on civilians and with self-destructive techniques such as suicide bombings. "The United States government is trapped by its decision to approach this as a war model, instead of saying the rules have changed."
Some audience members defended the United States' actions in the following question session, saying the US had done much good through its actions. "How would you feel if you were an Afghan girl who could go to school now [because of the United States], or an Afghan boy who will not be killed for political beliefs?" asked one audience member.
"We've not yet… bombed citizens at large or made a preemptive strike," said Lopez, emphasizing that many of the criticisms were in anticipation of possible future problems. "We're still in the midst of the flux."
"We have seen some ugly episodes… but we have seen a lot of compassion, towards the firefighters, towards the victims, towards their families." said Appleby near the end of his speech. "As the September 11 monument becomes part of our national history, we should find ways to extend the compassion in broader and broader circles, and around the world."
All News Stories for Tuesday, September 10, 2002