Five of Portland State University’s historians participated in a two-hour discussion about the United States’ war on terrorism. The event took place in the history department’s office lobby, which was packed with people wanting to hear the dialogue.
The historians on the panel were Tim Garrison, Karen Carr, Jon Mandaville, David A. Horowitz and Friedrich Schuler.
The department of history’s chair, Lois Becker, moderated the event.
Each member of the panel was given time to speak, then a discussion with the audience followed.
The historians each discussed their expert and personal opinions on the current political climate in regards to terrorism.
Garrison began the dialogue discussing civil liberties. Garrison’s focus area is United States Constitutional and Legal History.
Garrison said the United States’ fury over the terrorist attacks have had profound effects on the issue of civil liberties.
He said the people whose civil liberties will be affected the most are the ones who are the minority in this country. For example, people who are immigrants, prisoners or who hold different religious beliefs than the majority are the ones whose civil liberties are in danger.
Garrison stressed that there needs to be a balance between security and civil liberties.
Carr, whose areas of interest are ancient history and the Mediterranean, spoke about other nations’ responses to terrorism.
Carr discussed how countries such as Tanzania, have dealt with terrorism. Carr said that people who are seen as a threat (terrorists, fundamentalists, etc.) disappear in the middle of the night.
She said she hoped that the United States would not get to this point.
Carr also discussed why there is so much political unrest in the Middle East. Carr said that historically the Middle Eastern countries had been united into one empire. That is no longer the case, for several reasons.
“There is no one big empire right now; we [the United States] won’t let it be,” Carr said, “If it unites, it controls the oil.”
Carr said the United States deliberately wants the Middle Eastern countries to remain unsettled.
Mandaville, director of Middle Eastern Studies Center, talked about how the United States has the decision to engage or confront the situation in Afghanistan.
“The rest of the world is very afraid of us. I don’t know if you know that,” Mandaville said.
He said that the rest of the world is afraid of the United States because of our power, and the United States is afraid of being attacked by the unknown.
Mandaville said it is the United States’ responsibility to decide a way to live together.
Mandaville said that events like ones of Sept. 11 will continue to happen if the United States does not stop being afraid and learn more about who we are against.
Horowitz discussed using a dualistic frame of mind when thinking about the United States’ war on terrorism. Horowitz teaches U.S. Cultural and 20th Century history.
Horowitz contemplated whether the rest of the world hates the United Sates for who we are or what we have done. He suggested that the people who we are fighting against hate us for who we are.
“Americans see it as an attack on our people, not our institutions,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz pointed out the Sept. 11 attacks were on the financial, military and political institutions in this country.
Horowitz said that war does not solve political problems, but in the short term it is used to address problems in response to danger.
Schuler was the last to speak during the panel’s presentation. Schuler focuses on Latin American and international studies.
Schuler illustrated how this type of terrorism is not new. Schuler gave examples from 40 and 50 years ago of people using anthrax and infiltrating the United States.
The discussion following the presentation was filled with people wanting to know more about the panelists’ points of view.