Raging Bull

Kerry's a wuss. Dubya's a doof. How can anybody vote for either of these clowns?

Rather than stand up to the censoring instinct of Crow and his cohorts, Zeitlin caved and dictated a list of anti-Bush art that had to be removed from the show.

If Professor Leaños did not approve of New Times as reading material, what did he propose that his students examine as they studied Iraq?

The New York Times and the Washington Post were identified by the instructor as "corporate media," or bad guys.

The ultra-popular Fahrenheit 9/11's filled with 
simple-minded, clenched-fist rhetoric.
The ultra-popular Fahrenheit 9/11's filled with simple-minded, clenched-fist rhetoric.
David Hardy, the Tucson author of this book, calls 
Michael Moore "the greatest propagandist ever."
David Hardy, the Tucson author of this book, calls Michael Moore "the greatest propagandist ever."

It mattered little that the Times has been so abrasively anti-Bush that the president mocked it in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention; for Professor Leaños and his students, the Times was part of the problem.

His students, admirably, contended that they simply could not find enough content about Iraq in America's two renowned dailies.

So what did the professor steer them to as an antidote?

The reading list assembled by the professor is a mother lode of leftist resistance literature.

Picking up a book from the professor's list, I saw the word "Genocide" in the title and thought, well, at least the students have been exposed to the horrors of Hussein.

But I was mistaken. The collection of articles in the tome refers to the behavior of the United States. Typical is the piece "Fire and Ice," contributed by the book's editor, Ramsey Clark.

Clark, who served as Lyndon Johnson's attorney general, left the federal government and made the unique career decision to build a law practice representing terrorists. In his essay, which covers the run up to the first Gulf War and its aftermath, Clark maintains that Kuwait, like many a rape victim, was asking for it; that Kuwait, in fact, provoked the invasion by Iraq.

Not that Clark's position on Kuwait should have surprised anyone; after all, this is the same man who dismissed Hussein's earlier genocide against the Kurds in the north of Iraq.

Despite graphic photographs of Kurdish villagers who were gassed by Hussein, countless reports by the United Nations and virtually every human rights group in the world, Clark writes: "A major part of the demonization of Saddam Hussein has been based on the false portrayal of Iraqi government policy toward the Kurd."

In a taped address in the late '80s to Baathist supporters of Hussein, General Ali Hassan al-Majid offered an insight on government policy toward the Kurds.

"I will kill them all with chemical weapons," said the military leader dubbed "Chemical Ali." Although he exterminated thousands of Kurds, the general appeared not at all concerned with world opinion: "Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck them. The international community and those who listen to them."

Human rights groups counted more than 100,000 Kurds slaughtered by Hussein.

As a result of his reading in this class, Joaquin Lopez said his eyes were opened.

"Before this class, I wasn't concerned about political views or the war in Iraq. If I don't think about it, maybe it's not there," said Lopez. "But I have discovered the power of art. How would I feel if someone came and bombed my neighborhood? The class made me think critically about war. Why are people dying? Why are we forcing our views? I feel like I'm really against the war."

Moshe Novakoff is outraged by what he has read for the class.

"Everyone in class realizes it's a complete degradation of morality," said Novakoff, who feels that their art represents a shot at having a voice.

Violeta Tamayo does not think of herself as an artist, but does feel well-informed. For her, the class was a revelation.

"This is unlike any other art class I've been exposed to. Art and politics, they should be synonymous," said Tamayo.

The students said that their alternative reading gave them a perspective lacking in the corporate Times and Post. They pointed out that the man identified as a radical Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, led an army not because he was an insurgent but because his newspaper was shut down by the army.

My head was spinning slightly. New Times should muzzle itself when discussing art censorship, yes. Armed insurrection is the logical response to press censorship in Iraq, yes indeed.

The students' heads were spinning, too, with the inherent drama of . . . making pictures.

"It's daring," said Novakoff. "Because of the times, I know you can't speak your mind. The FBI will investigate you if you say something anti-Bush. . . . Not having access to media outlets, not having a loud microphone to speak out. . . . Most art comes out of desperate situations."

Asked about Bush's attempt to introduce democracy into Islamic countries, the students were skeptical.

"You can't hide that hospitals and schools were bombed," said Novakoff before adding, "Is it really about democracy? How many countries are democratic? . . . Once you understand our safety is not threatened, now it's a matter of supposed good faith."

"Why didn't the U.S. help Tibet against China?" asked Tamayo, to underscore the selectivity of Bush's democratic impulse.

"I don't know," she concluded. "If they liked Saddam, it's none of our business."

It is a curious exercise in reading and learning that leaves a student under the impression that Saddam Hussein was a popular figure.

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