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RM Issue #030817

Refuge for radicals - It's telling that anti-U.S. professors see Canada as a natural home
Ottawa Citizen
Friday, August 15, 2003

The Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York and Washington was an eye- opener. First, it revealed the existence of America-hating terrorists operating in secret cells across the U.S. and elsewhere. Second, it revealed the existence of America-hating intellectuals operating, somewhat more openly, in universities across the U.S. and elsewhere. It's unclear how many in the first group are still holed up, undetected, in Canada. As for the radical academics, we can add one more, with the arrival of Dr. Thomas Nagy at McMaster University in Hamilton.

Mr. Nagy, a longtime professor at George Washington University in Washington D.C., has enjoyed notoriety since visiting Iraq last year. Upon returning, he gave an interview to a student newspaper which reported that in Iraq, Mr. Nagy's job was to provide "estimates of the number of civilians needed to act as a human shield to protect" Iraqi infrastructure. Mr. Nagy has since disavowed the interview, but in a recent classroom exercise, he constructed an imaginary dialogue between himself and Anne Frank. Mr. Nagy has himself saying, "The U.S. government continues to kill kids in numbers and ways that would cause the entire Hitler gang to go mad with envy. I don't know who ... flew the planes into the Trade Towers -- I just know that the government story can't possibly be true and it saved the presidency of the Mad Executioner of Texas."

This month, Mr. Nagy left Washington and took up digs in Hamilton, where he will be a visiting professor in McMaster's peace studies department. He wants to make the move permanent, and apply for Canadian citizenship. He explains why in an article on www.muslimwakeup.com: Canada has a small military and no weapons industry -- "no empire to rule and no countries to conquer," Mr. Nagy writes. "I hope to die in Canada and atone for my stupidity and culpability in paying taxes to the most well-oiled killing machine in history, the USA."

Mr. Nagy belongs to the eccentric left. What's alarming is his belief that in Canada he has found a natural home, that this is a country of radical ideologues who, nurturing conspiracy theories, believe that the U.S., not al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein, is the real source of global instability and threat to human rights. Whatever gave him that idea? Sadly, many things.

When the prime minister's chief spokesman calls the U.S. president a moron; when federal MPs call Americans "bastards"; and when the government refuses to join a U.S.-led coalition in an effort to depose one of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times -- well, maybe Mr. Nagy can't be faulted for assuming that Canada will provide a hospitable haven from which to denounce American perfidy.

We worry about the kind of teaching Mr. Nagy will offer his first crop of Canadian students this fall. An American student at George Washington once called Mr. Nagy a "partisan crusader." Professors are entitled to have strong ideas, but there is an expectation that students will be exposed to opposing views. Mr. Nagy assured us he will permit dissent, and that he knows the difference between political activism and scholarship.

As for McMaster's peace studies department, we aren't so sure. The department says students are "encouraged to become engaged in practical action in society," which is crucial "to the empowerment of the student as an agent of change."

Maybe Mr. Nagy has found the right home after all.

Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

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