Free Speech, Law Professors, Law Schools, Military / Military Law

Law Professor Objects to Solicitations to Help Our Troops in Afghanistan

Hope that eagle is on the lookout for jobs.

So it’s Wednesday and I’m watching the second night of the excellent Vietnam in HD series on the History channel while my Iroquois are locked in a quagmire against the Greeks in my game of Civilization V. They’ve got a veteran on and he nearly breaks down talking about how much it hurt him to be despised when he came home from the war. I thought to myself that at least one good thing that came out of Vietnam was that our country learned to distinguish between the political leaders who order wars and the fighting men and women who execute the policy. It’s a point that the very same veteran ended up echoing on the last night of the series.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, a law professor was writing a screed objecting to a solicitation to send care packages to troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Let me say that again: the professor was pissed off that students were asked if they could send care packages to soldiers serving abroad.

Yeah, happy Veterans Day….

Suffolk University Law School professor Michael Avery unleashed a serious objection after the Suffolk Law staff solicited students for donations to troops in Afghanistan — even though the email also mentioned that a Suffolk Law student serving overseas would be the recipient of such a package.

Avery’s response was reported on the Natural Truth by Michael Graham. Here’s how Michael Avery starts:

I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however.

The United States may well be the most war prone country in the history of civilization. We have been at war two years out of three since the Cold War ended. We have 700 overseas military bases. What other country has any? In the last ten years we have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary foreign invasions. Those are dollars that could have been used for people who are losing their homes due to the economic collapse, for education, to repair our infrastructure, or for any of a thousand better purposes than making war. And of course those hundreds of billions of dollars have gone for death and destruction.

You know, as an “anti-war” liberal, I don’t have any problem telling Professor Avery to go blow it out his ass. I don’t support the two wars we got into after 9/11. I think we should get out of Afghanistan. And I express those beliefs whenever I get an opportunity to do so at the ballot box. I’ve attended anti-war protests. When I get a chance, I’ll scream about our war-mongering record on the internet.

And doing all of that is totally intellectually consistent with supporting care packages for our troops overseas — sorry, supporting the opportunity to ask people to send care packages to troops overseas. Avery seems to use the fact that these men and women choose to serve against them. He seems to forget that these people didn’t volunteer to go to this war or that war. They volunteered to defend this country, in whatever manner they were asked to defend it by our civilian leaders. If you’re pissed about where they are, blame the people who sent them there. I’m sure the vast majority of them would rather be home doing drills and studying military strategy than out in the theater of war getting shot at.

But they don’t get to choose that. They gave up their right to safety when they volunteered to defend America. We can bitterly disagree about how the military is used, and Lord knows I have no desire to support America through my strength at arms, but I don’t think those disagreements mean the men and women serving this country should be denied a freaking care package. PRISONERS get care packages. Jesus.

The key flaw in Avery’s logic seems to be his next paragraph:

Perhaps some of my colleagues will consider this to be an inappropriate political statement. But of course the solicitation email was a political statement, although cast as support for student activities. The politics of that solicitation are that war is legitimate, perhaps inevitable, and that patriotic Americans should get behind our troops.

False. Sending a care package to our troops is not tacit agreement to the legitimacy of the conflict. I’m not even sure it’s even particularly patriotic. I mean, is Hooters being “patriotic” when they offer ten free wings to veterans? Or are they just making people feel like it’s “American” to eat fried foods and ogle big-chested women?

People can support the troops because they’re patriotic or because they support the war, but they can also support troops because it’s just a charitable thing to do. “Hey, you find yourself in Afghanistan in peril for your life while I find myself in law school studying for an exam, why don’t we split this beef jerky?” It can be that simple.

In any event, Professor Avery goes on to sound whack-job crazy:

We need to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school. Since Sept. 11 we have had perhaps the largest flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states. It permits, indeed encourages, excesses in the name of national security, as we saw during the Bush administration, and which continue during the Obama administration.

Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby? Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes, malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty? As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda.

This guy’s a law professor? That last bit sounded more like the kind of lecture you’d get from a homeless wino hanging around a T-station than a law professor: “Man, it’s the flag, that’s how they control you man. It’s so big because it’s hiding something, man. It’s hiding… them.”

We reached out to Professor Avery to ask him to clarify these statements, but he did not respond to our request for comment.

You can still support the troops by advocating relentlessly that they be brought back home to their families. But it is irrational to think that supporting the men and women who defend this country is tantamount to supporting the civilians who put them in harm’s way.

UPDATE (11/14/11): What do the Suffolk University and Suffolk Law administrations make of Professor Avery’s comments? Check out their responses.

UPDATE (11/22/11): Here is continuing fallout from the Michael Avery controversy.

Suffolk Law School Prof On US Military: They’re “Killers,” Sympathy For Them “Not Rational In Today’s World” [The Natural Truth]

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