AC Republicans Host Event on U.S. Military Action
Issue   |   Tue, 10/03/2017 - 22:08

Conservative talk radio host Michael Graham, U.S. Army Reserve Major Robert Roughsedge and Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander for the State of Massachusetts Eric Segundo spoke at Amherst on Sept. 27 about America’s intervention in the Middle East after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001. The event, titled “Why U.S. Military Action After 9/11 Was Justified and Saved Lives,” was hosted by the Amherst College Republicans.

Graham currently hosts a podcast called “Michael in the Morning” and also writes columns for the Boston Herald. Graham was fired in 2005 from WMAL, a talk radio station in Washington D.C., after he said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times, according to an article in The Washington Post.

The event, held in Stirn Auditorium with an audience of around forty members, created controversy among students and campus organizations. Four members of the Amherst College Police Department were present at the event, an unusual sight at an event this size.

Graham’s talk was focused mostly on the banner that was hung above Valentine Dining Hall on Sept. 11 that read, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. In honor of those killed and displaced by America’s so-called ‘War on Terror.’” Graham strongly objected to the banner during his talk, saying that because war inevitably involves the death of innocent people and since the person who hung the sign believes the war on terror to be illegitimate, every war that kills innocent people is illegitimate.

“I’m the bad guy because I acknowledge that as bad as war sucks, sometimes war is the only tool to stop other things,” Graham said. “Your side is, ‘I’d rather have slavery, a monarch and concentration camps,’ and you’re insulting other people. Don’t do that. If that’s really your position, just keep it to yourself, because you’re a despicable person. But that is the argument of this sign. There is no other argument because everything else is stupid. Every other claim is stupid.”

After Graham spoke about the banner, Roughsedge talked about his time serving overseas and soldiers’ lack of choice in deciding whether they go to war or not.

“Yeah, war is awful,” Roughsedge said. “No war is good. What you’re struggling with is the decision to go to war. I’ve never been asked whether I want to go to war or not, other than when I raised my right hand.”

Following Roughsedge’s speech was a question and answer session with Roughsedge and Graham.

Brantley Mayers ’19, secretary of the Amherst College Republicans, felt that the Q&A was productive in creating conversation. “I thought each question posed was an important one,” Mayers said. “Some claims made by a few speakers were not universally accepted, and I believe asking questions pertaining to those claims created good opportunities to learn from one another.”

Alexander Deatrick ’20, president of the Amherst College Democrats, found that the questions asked were particularly potent given their personal nature.

“They were powerful,” Deatrick said about the questions from the audience. “I thought that a lot of people brought their own personal stories into their questions, their own experiences, their own backgrounds. The fact that Amherst has people from all over the world and such an incredible tapestry of experiences and that we showed up to the event, that made the case against Graham all the more convincing.”

One student asked Graham about the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhists extremists and connected it to his claims that Islam is the only major world religion with terrorism committed in its name.

“The people doing it aren’t Buddhist actors, they’re actors who happened to be Buddhist,” Graham answered. “If you don’t see the distinction, then it’s really hard to have the conversation about real problems.”

Several minutes later, around a dozen members of the crowd walked out before the last speaker took to the stage.

Sarah Melanson ’20, a member of the Amherst College Republicans, said she thought their exit was inappropriate since Segundo had yet to take the mic and share more about his time in the military.

“I thought it was extremely disrespectful that so many people got up and left, knowing that this man put his life in danger to protect our freedom,” Melanson said. “I know people might not see it this way, but we can go here safely and know that we’ll be okay because people are risking their lives every day.”

Segundo spoke about his time in Iraq and the people he served with, although he made it clear that he did not agree with Graham on certain points.

“The day we got called up to Iraq and the day we left — in my opinion, nothing changed,” Segundo said. “The only thing that had changed was that we had lost friends. I don’t want to say that it was Muslim people because it’s not. I served side by side for 13 months with a Muslim and we didn’t see him as a Muslim — we saw him as a friend, as a brother in arms. We don’t distinguish between religions. We all raised our right hand and served our country proudly.”

During the following week, the Amherst College Democrats hosted an event on Oct. 2 to discuss whether seemingly controversial speakers should come and speak on campus.

In an interview, Deatrick differentiated between two types of controversial speakers — those who want to have a dialogue and those who do not.

“His attitude going in wasn’t to have a dialogue,” Deatrick said. “It was to offend some people … [and] make people feel disrespected. If they want to bring in people who hold controversial views but are willing to engage in a dialogue with students, I would say that I’d be interested to see who they’re bringing. It comes down to whether these speakers are holding views that make some students feel unsafe on campus.”

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Comments
Julian Brubaker (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/04/2017 - 13:27

To be fair to myself and the other number of students who left midway through the event; we left during the Q&A, in response to a particularly vile remark made by Mr. Graham; Sarah Melanson yet again misrepresents reality.

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