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Commentary Last Updated: Feb 19th, 2007 - 01:12:29

Killers in the classroom
By Dr. June Scorza Terpstra
Online Journal Guest Writer

Feb 19, 2007, 01:09

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During a heated debate in a class I teach on social justice, several US Marines who had done tours in Iraq told me that they had �sacrificed� by �serving� in Iraq so that I could enjoy the freedom to teach in the USA. Parroting their master�s slogan about �fighting over there so we don�t have to fight over here,� these students proudly proclaimed that they terrorized and killed defenseless Iraqis. They intimated that their Arab victims are nothing more to them than collateral damage, incidental to their receipt of some money and an education.

A room full of students listened as a US Marine told of the invasion of Baghdad and Falluja and how he killed innocent Iraqis at a checkpoint. He called them �collateral damage� and said he had followed the �rules.� A Muslim-American student in front of him said, �I could slap you but then you would kill me.� A young female Muslim student gasped, �I am a freshman; I never thought to hear of this in a class. I feel sick, like I will pass out.�

I knew in that moment that this was what the future of teaching about justice would include: teaching war criminals who sit glaring at me with hatred for daring to speak the truth of their atrocities and who, if paid to, would disappear, torture and kill me. I wondered that night how long I really have in this so-called �free� country to teach my students and to be with my children and grandchildren.

The American military and mercenary soldiers who �sacrificed� their lives did not do so for the teacher�s freedom to teach the truth about the so-called war on terror, or any of US history for that matter. They sacrificed their lives, limbs and sanity for money, some education and the thrills of the violence for which they are socially bred. Sacrificing for the �bling and booty� in Iraq or Afghanistan, The Philippines, Grenada, Central America, Mexico, Somalia, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other numerous wars and invasions spanning US history as an entity and beginning with their foundational practice of killing the Indians and stealing their land.

Many of the classes that I teach now include students who �served� in the US military and security corporations. There are also many students who intend to join the US military upon completion of a degree because with the degree they get a bigger �sign on� bonus of ten to fifty thousand dollars. Their position is supported by many of the student body, who, vegetating according to the American Plan, believe they should �support their troops.� The excuses that they give for joining or intending to join the US military terrorist training camps are first and foremost motivated by a desire for money. One student proudly said that he is willing to kill for money, a better standard of living and an education. Another student, who had done two tours of duty to the Empire in Iraq, justified killing and torture, citing the importance of staying on top as the world�s number one superpower so that his family could have the highest standard of living and unlimited access to the world�s oil supplies.

Yet another soldier-student said that there would always be wars and someone had to do it. The �it� is killing, rape, and plunder for profit. Some of the soldier-students agreed that military terrorism was thrilling. Stopping and killing people at checkpoints in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in the USA was worth the risk of being killed or maimed. Little did they know that the very education they would kill for could include a course on social justice in which they would be compelled to examine their motives, beliefs and actions in an evil, illegal, immoral and unjust invasion and occupation of a people who never hurt or harmed them or any of their fellow citizens.

To be fair, in this week�s discussion in class there was some mention that some of the student�s intentions had been honorable at the time that they joined the military. They wanted to �help other people.� A few woman students who want to join the military commented that they would be working to �free and defend� people here and abroad. However, for the most part and by their own admission, personal financial gain was their main focus in signing on. Their bottom line was getting the money and their thrills by joining and belonging to the biggest terrorist organization in the world, the USA.

What appears to trouble the soldier-student is that the rhetoric of fighting for freedom and democracy is a lie that cannot blanket the horror and guilt of their terrorism. They do not want to hear that participation in invasion and occupation, murder and pillaging, is logically inconsistent with any legitimate concept of freedom or liberation. They know the greed and programmed lust for violence that motivates them. They expect that if they can make it out alive, they get some money, a comfortable lifestyle and an education. Their plan is to secure the oil, the diamonds, the gold, the water, the guns, the drugs, and the bling for their masters, who they hope will cut them in on the swag. They say that someone has to be on top and they want to be on the side of the strong, not the weak. Robbing Hoods, not Robin Hoods.

And now, here they sit in my course on social justice, terrorist war criminals, wanting high paying �criminal justice� jobs, in a university Justice Studies program. They want approval, appreciation and honors for terrorism, torture, and murder. They want a university degree so they can get an even higher salary terrorizing more people around the world with security companies such as Blackwater or Halliburton. They want that appropriately named �sheepskin� so they can join the CIA, FBI, and other police and track down and terrorize US residents here.

These military and mercenary terrorist-students are trained in terrorist training camps all under the USA, funded by American taxpayers. In fact, people under the USA are �sacrificing� their health care and their children�s educations while donating their tax dollars to these terrorist training camps. These terrorist camps train money hungry working class stiffs to murder, steal and plunder for the power hungry US corporate warlords.

There is a saying that �if you do the crime, you do the time.� My response is that �If you do the war crimes, you will do time in hell, whether the hell of war trauma and shock, of diseases such as those caused by depleted uranium, the old-fashioned traditional hell, fire and brimstone assigned to malefactors . . . or the hell of sitting in a social justice class and discovering what the hell you are in hell for.

Author�s note:

I want to make it very clear to supporters and detractors alike that the facts of the classroom discussion that took place over a week ago are as follows. The discussion did not take place at Loyola University Chicago as some Internet sources are saying. I am presently not teaching at Loyola University but I did receive my PhD from Loyola University, Chicago, and I was a community research fellow there in the 1990s.

The discussion depicted in �Killers in the Classroom� began with a question from a student-soldier about whether joining the military for a �more comfortable life� was wrong. Not long into the discussion one of the students, a former Marine, stunned the classroom by saying that he killed four people at a checkpoint in Iraq, that he was arrested and later exonerated for �following the rules.� He said that the people he killed were collateral damage. He and another student, also a former Marine, said they made it possible for me to teach by fighting in Iraq. Two of the Muslim students did make the comments as reported. Another student-soldier, who said that he was given a $50,000.00 military �sign on� bonus, said that he knew, and that the other military students in the room had to agree with him, that there was a thrill to the violence. Several students said they absolutely joined for the sign on bonuses and educational tuition coverage. One student said he was getting his degree and intended to join the Marines for the sign on bonus and that yes, he would kill for money. Another Marine-student said he wanted the USA to get the oil and maintain power to ensure he and his grandchildren have a higher standard of living.

The Marines, of course, do not call their violence, �murder, terrorism and torture� but that is what the behaviors are. The facts are that if you kill someone, you are a killer. I use the �terrorism� rhetoric and the doublespeak of the invader/occupier because I chose to turn the propaganda on its head and call the soldier-students the terrorists. I do this because US/British/Israeli state terrorism is the historic and fundamental cause for the present day wars. This is just fact. They have the most weapons of mass destruction and they use them for profit and plunder and have done so everywhere they have gone since WWII.

The USA invaded Iraq. Not one Iraqi had anything to do with 9/11. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Iraqi�s were already depleted from uranium munitions and sanctions. I write using the rhetorical devices that I do because the Iraqi and anti-imperialist audience around the world need to know there are a few of us in the USA who will speak out, up and �stand our post� for truth. I do this because the so-called right-left-wingers and liberals in the USA keep spouting the �support the troops� trope. But most of all I wrote this article because the of murders, the screams, the grief, the shock, I hear them all, they are with me as the invaded and occupied people are with me . . . they are the screams of the Iraqis, the Palestinians, the indigenous, the Africans, the raped, the tortured. I am but one voice in the USA, but I will stand with and for the oppressed.

I did not share this article with my students. I did not put it on my website nor would I as the article was meant for a specific international audience of allies. I did ask one of the Marine students whether he thought any of the soldier-students were �putting me on� in that class discussion as some have suggested.

He wrote: �Dr T, I personally do not think comments were made to �rile� things up, many other people had stated their opinion concerning things, and they felt like giving their input . . . I think most military and former military would agree with the majority of the comments made. Speaking on the basis of my own opinions and many of my friends.�

Finally, for those who call me names and tell me to leave the country I say, America, love it by changing it. For those who say �they are fighting over there so they do not have to fight over here,� I say you are sad fools who believe your master�s propaganda.

In Solidarity for the Liberation of the Oppressed,
June Scorza Terpstra

Dr. June Scorza Terpstra is on the faculty of Northeastern Illinois University. Her website is

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