Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It seems that Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas is having second thoughts about housing the library for President George W. Bush.

Yep. The George W Bush Presidential Library. This is too easy. [insert joke here]

Says Rev. Bill McElvaney, professor emeritus of SMU's School of Theology:

I would love to see it somewhere else. I don't think it serves SMU well. Given the secrecy of the Bush administration, I have concerns about what papers will be turned over in the first place.
A damning quote indeed from the people supposedly on "his" (Bush's) side. The question Rev. McElvaney is raising involves the release of Presidential documents to their individual libraries for study and research into their terms. There is certainly value in a University's ownership of such documents, as it pulls researchers and biographers to that University. The Rev. McElvaney, however, seems to be questioning the value of such documents, and indeed the library, if they really reveal nothing about Bush's Presidency other than his favorite White House menus and his travel schedule. I can't imagine the library would house, say, his favorite books.

Mirroring the concern of the Good Reverend is SMU's Faculty Senate President Rhonda Blair:
The faculty as a whole are most concerned that academic freedom in all of its forms be protected as much as possible and supported as much as possible, which to my mind means respect across the entire political spectrum
I guess I would be concerned too, in that again, there is little value in a Presidential Library that is empty. I understand documents that are of national security concern, but with this Administration's track record of what is and is not of grave national concern, I have doubts that the docuemtns scholars would seek would be of much value.

Not all Presidential Library negotiaitons go smoothly. The article points out that the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon libraries were also quite controversial. But ultimately, having such a library on-campus attracts the type of people you want there. But again, it's a question of the value of the documents therein.

It seems, though, that another grave concern for SMU is that in addition to the library, they will also be getting the Bush Institute, a conservative think tank. Again, insert joke here.

It seems that this think tank, which could be of benefit to the University, is going to report to the Bush Foundation, and not to the University the way the library will (or may). The University, an institution of Higher Learning, will be shut out of this think tank's studies. Seems...well...you get it.

For now, this project is a "go." However, according to the article, the Faculty Senate held a meeting without SMU's President so they could have a more frank and open discussion of their concerns. If I had more time and research capability myself, I would like to see where SMU's President falls in terms of contributions to W. For him to not be involved in these Faculty Senate hearings says to me (however uninformed it may be) that he is complicit in the development of this library and is too convinced of its "rightness" that he won't truly listen to the faculties concerns, or that there is some sort of rift between the faculty and him (possibly from this, possibly from many "thises," who knows).

I really don't know how "open" other Presidential libraries are in terms of how many documents each Administration brings of what kind of relevance, but it seems that many libraries eventually make each Administration surprisingly transparent. Look at how much we now know, for better or worse (I always think for better in this case), of FDR's advanced knowledge of Pearl Harbor, massive rifts in Lincoln's Cabinet, Washington's underwhelming second term and Nixon in general. This open access to this information is good for us and good for our Democracy, and this Administartion does not have the kind of history that says we'll be able to get the inner picture of what they were really up to any time soon, if at all.

I do understand the value of such a research library to any University. I guess I would ask if there are any credible Universities (not Bob Jones) that wouldn't have such concerns over this particular library.


Otto Man 12:30 PM  

Yep. The George W Bush Presidential Library. This is too easy. [insert joke here]

Well, if you insist.

"Have all of the books already been colored in?"

andrew weaver,  1:02 PM  

Methodism, Torture and the Presidential Library

Methodism began as an 18th century spiritual renewal movement in the Church of England. At the time of the American Revolution only a few hundred Americans identified with Methodism. By the Civil War, Methodism was by far the largest church in the United States with one in three church members calling it their faith community. No other institution has done more good in shaping the ethos of American religion and culture than the Methodist Church.

Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to the modern day United Methodist Church. SMU is the only major university that has Methodist in the name. Because of this fact we were particularly troubled to read the November 27, 2006, report by United Press International that associates of George W. Bush are in the process of raising $500 million for his presidential library and think tank at SMU.

Anyone who thinks that the name Methodism or Southern Methodist University should be associated with George W. Bush needs to read the book, Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror by Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Miles has based this volume on painstaking research and highly-credible sources, including eyewitness accounts, army criminal investigations, FBI debriefings of prisoners, autopsy reports, and prisoners’ medical records. These documents tell a story strikingly different from the Bush administration version presented to the American people, revealing involvement at every level of government, from the Presbyterian Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to prison health-care personnel. The book also shows how the highest officials of government are complicit in this pattern of torture, including Episcopal Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, United Methodist Vice President Dick Cheney and United Methodist President George W. Bush.

While much of the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Forces troops remains concealed, Dr. Miles documents how nineteen prisoners have been tortured to death by American military personnel. The book tells of an Afghan prisoner named Dilawar, an innocent 22-year-old, who drove his taxi to the wrong place at the wrong time. At the U.S. detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, in December 2002, Dilawar was smothered, shackled and then suspended by his arms. When he was beaten with a baton, he cried out “Allah, Allah,” which amused the soldiers and triggered more merciless blows. The official report reads that he was beaten over a five day period until his legs were, in the words of the coroner, "pulpified." He was then chained to the ceiling of his cell, where he died. Although an autopsy stated that Dilawar's death was a homicide, General Daniel McNeil told reporters that Dilawar had died of natural causes on the grounds that one of his coronary arteries was partly occluded. The words "coronary artery disease" were typed in a different font on the prisoner's death certificate.

Up to 90 percent of the prisoners detained in the Bush “war on terror” have been found to be unjustifiably imprisoned and without intelligence value. In addition, much of the hideous work of torture is out-sourced by the Bush administration to countries like Uzbekistan, Syria and Egypt, where torture is a long-standing and common practice. In July 2004, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who grew up in a devout Methodist home, protested the Uzbek intelligence service's interrogation practices: "Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and U.K. to believe. . . . This material is useless -- we are selling our souls for dross."

Torture is a crime against humanity and a violation of every human rights treaty in existence, including the Geneva Conventions which prohibit cruel and degrading treatment of detainees. Torture is as profound a moral issue in our day as was slavery in the 19th century. It represents a betrayal of our deepest human and religious values as a civilized society.

David Hackett Fischer describes in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Washington's Crossing, how thousands of American prisoners of war were “treated with extreme cruelty by British captors,” during the Revolutionary War. There are numerous accounts of injured soldiers who surrendered being murdered and Americans dying in prison ships in New York harbor of starvation and torture.

After crossing the Delaware River and winning his first battle at Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington ordered his troops to give refuge to hundreds of surrendering foreign mercenaries. "Treat them with humanity," Washington instructed his troops. "Let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army."

Contrast this with the September 15, 2006, Washington Post lead editorial titled “The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture.” “President Bush rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.”

If the Bush Library and think tank are placed at SMU, The United Methodist Church should withdraw its association from the University and demand that the good name of Methodism be removed from the name of the school. If The United Methodist Church cannot take a stand against the use of torture and those who employ it, including President Bush, what does it stand for?

Andrew J. Weaver, Ph.D., is a United Methodist minister and research psychologist living in New York City. He is a graduate of The Perkins School of Theology, SMU. He has co-authored 12 books including: Counseling Survivors of Traumatic Events (Abingdon, 2003) and Reflections on Grief and the Spiritual Journey (Abingdon, 2005).

Fred W. Kandeler M.Div. is a retired United Methodist pastor living in New Braunfels, Texas. He was the founding pastor of Christ UMC in Plano, Texas and a United Methodist District Superintendent. He is a graduate of the Perkins School of Theology, SMU.

Smitty 4:48 PM  

I am shocked at the honor of having Mr. Weaver post on my blog...I am a bit speachless.

I hope I did not convey that I think SMU is complicit; that I am commending SMU for taking a stance against Bush by trying (though apparently not at the University President level) to snub Bush's library and small-minded think tank.

Thank you for your post. It was incredibly informative.

Mike 9:41 PM  

Wow! Pretty cool, Smitty. I was gonna comment on some of the great quotations in your post, but I've got little to say now.

Smitty 10:21 PM  

Thanks, Mike! I was pretty happy with this one myself..

andrew weaver,  1:47 AM  

February 2, 2007

Bishops speak out against Bush Library, Think Tank at SMU and Vow to Push Forward

Today the organizers of a United Methodist Church petition urging Southern Methodist University (SMU) not to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Museum, and Institute released early results of their petition drive and vowed to continue with the drive.

“We now have as signatories fourteen Bishops in the United Methodist Church, the past President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand, two Superintendents in the British Methodist Church, over 600 United Methodist clergy, and more than nine thousand members of churches from across the United States and Canada,” said the Reverend Andrew Weaver, the SMU alum who organized the petition.

The petition, www.protectSMU.org, has been online for less than two weeks. Its organizers argue that Bush’s legacy is incompatible with the values of Methodism and thus that his Library, Museum, and Institute should not be housed on SMU’s campus. Bishop C. Joseph Sprague condemned the administration, stating that. “Bush violated United Methodist teachings when he initiated a pre-emptive, first- strike war, contrary to Just War criteria, when he pursued policies that reward the rich, while punishing the poor and he further sneered at church teaching by condoning the torture of prisoners. Add to these callous and arrogant acts the fact that he presided over more capital punishment executions (state-sanctioned murder is condemned by our church) than any governor in this nation's history, and it becomes abundantly clear why a G.W. Bush Library should not be housed on United Methodist Church property. The United Methodist Church's Social Principles call all United Methodists to social holiness. This petition reflects our church's tradition that all United Methodists are to be held accountable for our personal and institutional behavior.”

Southern Methodist University is one of 123 educational institutions that are related to The United Methodist Church. Petition organizers believe that association with this president through his proposed $500 million library, museum, and institute will reflect poorly upon Methodism worldwide. They invite all people of faith who honor the good name of Methodism and our Christian heritage to sign our petition at www.protectSMU.org.

“The placement of the George W. Bush Library and the establishment of an Institute to promote the policies of this president at Southern Methodist University would be a tragedy.” said Bishop William Boyd Grove. “The policies of the Bush administration are in direct conflict with the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church on issues of war and peace, civil liberties and human rights, care for the environment and health care. SMU is a university of the church, and is home to one of our outstanding theological seminaries. Its Methodist identity and its moral authority would be seriously compromised were it to be identified with the policies of George W. Bush in this way”.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support so far,” said Rev. Weaver, “from those who don’t wish to have their beloved church associated with a man who has authorized torture and a lie-based war of aggression against the people of Iraq. The comments on the petition are a modern epistle to the church and the 45 million Methodists worldwide, pleading for justice.”


Bishop Joseph C. Sprague



Bishop William Boyd Grove,



Bishop Susan Murch Morrison



Bishop C. Dale White



Rev. Andrew J. Weaver




Highlights from the comments on www.protectSMU.org:

Elizabeth Cote
As a great granddaughter of Bishop A. Frank Smith, and a daughter of an SMU graduate, I oppose allowing a George W. Bush library at the Southern Methodist University campus. The mission and standards of SMU are in complete opposition to the motives and ethics of his presidency, and as such, a library honoring his tenure leading the country has no place at Southern Methodist University.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Great-granddaughter and Granddaughter of Perkins-Prothro family, Wichita Falls, Texas. Member of Methodist church since confirmation in 1971. Current membership at FUMC, Ft. Worth TX, but inactive. Attending St. Andrews Methodist and Custer Road in Plano, Texas [Perkins family of Perkins school of theology gave 30 producing oil wells to found the seminary at SMU]

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Gania Demaree Trotter
4th generation Methodist. Great, great grandfather was know as the Mountain Bishop of Kentucky,(George Daniel Demaree); my grandparents were Methodist missionaries to Japan.1897 to 1936. Rev. T.W.B. Demaree and his wife Gania Holland Demaree. My son-in-law is a United Methodist Minister at First United Methodist, Burbank California. I am married to a Methodist minister, Dr. F. Thomas Trotter, former General Secretary of the Board of Higher Education. I have served as Director of Development at Claremont School of Theology and Alaska Pacific University, during my husband's tenure as President of those institutions. Prior to that I served as Minister of Music at Anaheim, and Claremont Methodist Churches.

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Louise M. Tate
Both my parents graduated from SMU. Both my father's brother (Willis Tate) and my mother's grandfather (Bishop Boaz) are past Presidents of SMU. I am very glad to see and sign this petition.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Laurence Wareing
President Bush showed little interest in engaging with his denomination when embarking on the war with the war Iraq. Speaking as a British Methodist and allumnus of SMU, I believe that it would be insulting to worldwide Methodism for his name to be commemorated by a United Methodist foundation now.

+ + + + + + + + + +

Rev Judith I Maizel-Long
Presbyter of the British Methodist Church I protest the implied approval of the policies and actions of the Bush Presidency on the world stage, which would be a reasonable deduction from establishing a Bush Presidential Library at the Southern Methodist University. The arrogant actions of the US government in the irregular detentions of prisoners at Guantanamo, torturing suspects in secret prisons outside US territory is contrary to key clauses of the US Constitution and Christian understandings of the proper treatment of prisoners. US policy in Iraq has made life untenable for Christian Communities across the Middle East, from Turkey to Pakistan. In many cases these Christian communities go back nearly 2000 years, far predating the USA and indeed the UK as political entities. The policies of the Bush Presidency are contradictory to Wesleyan theology and the teachings of the Wesleys about human dignity and the purposes of human life.

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