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I Was a Professor at the Horribly Corrupt American University of Iraq... Until the Neocons Fired Me

Horror stories from the graft-ridden American University of Iraq campus in Kurdistan.

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Then there was that warning, or threat, in Agresto’s letter, suggesting that I’d be killed if I returned to Sulaimaniya. The article, a bitter satire comparing the Bush diehards to “the Infected” from Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Weeks Later, was hardly likely to offend the Kurds; its targets were all white Americans. The only people who would want to kill me for that article were…well, John Agresto and his neocon comrades. So I took that part of the letter as a pretty direct threat that I’d be killed if I came back.

The rest was such gibberish that I couldn’t help wondering if Agresto had written it as a taunt, a “Nah-nah-nah” moment to savor, a chance to grind at least one of the detractors of his patron Cheney into the dust.

It was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. “Racism”? The only “racism” the article showed was in a paragraph in which I said disgustedly that African-Americans, as the only demographic to oppose the Iraq War, were the last sane group in the country, and that white Americans were “truly a nation of suckers.” According to the rules involving “racism” as I understand them, a white American like me is entitled to talk badly about white Americans without being called “racist.”

But the real shocker was hearing John Agresto talk about firing me for thought crimes. You see, John Agresto has only one claim to fame as an academic (not counting his role as bagman for The Agencies in Kurdistan). He became quasi-famous in rightwing circles during the 1990s as … take a guess. Seriously, what would be the most ironic predicate you could put on that sentence? That’s right: he became famous as a crusader against the tyranny of political correctness in American universities. If you enjoy truly awe-inspiring displays of hypocrisy, I invite you to read Agresto’s article, “To Reform the Politically Correct University, Reform the Liberal Arts.” In this brave treatise, Agresto argues that the key to returning freedom of thought to the university lies in bringing ideological diversity to the liberal arts -- you know, English and so on.

Now he had taken refuge in the oldest, dirtiest trick in the PC censor’s book, accusing me of “racism” and “obscenity.” It was a little difficult to believe that Agresto really took concerns like racism very seriously, because he has a decades-old record of refusing to apply affirmative action guidelines in any job he takes. (He certainly managed to select a pure lily-white staff at AUIS.) In fact, Agresto’s article on reforming the Liberal Arts to eliminate PC is full of comments like this:

“[W]hen we in and out of the academy complain that our students are being indoctrinated rather than educated, our main examples all seem to come from areas like … English departments or, God help us, in the various sub-departmental “studies” -- Women’s, Gay, Chicano, and so on.”

Maybe Agresto enjoyed using the jargon of those “God help us” fields he despises to accuse me of “racism” toward white Americans, or maybe he’s just too stupid to see the contradiction between his scorn for the leftist critique and his eager use of it to quash a heretic. As always when dealing with the American Right, it’s difficult to say where stupidity gives way to malice, if indeed the distinction can be made at all.

And there’s no way I can milk this disaster for much in the way of pity-points. I went for the quick buck with those sleazy academic bagmen; they found out I was a double-agent; they canned me. It’s no martyr’s tale. But it still leaves a bitter taste, if only because those sleaze-sters are still getting all those bundles of $100 bills, and I’m not.z

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