Since School of Foreign Service adjunct professor Michael Scheuer appeared to endorse the assassinations of President Barack Obama and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in a column Dec. 23, he has been the subject of media attention and criticism. Yet in an interview with The Hoya, Scheuer did not back down from the comments that angered Americans across the political spectrum.
The crux of the media uproar focuses on the column’s close, which advises Obama and Cameron to pay heed to the writings of 17th century English republican Algernon Sidney, who called for the execution of tyrants and glorification of their assassins.
“There must therefore be a right of proceeding judicially or extra-judicially against all persons who transgress the laws; or else those laws, and the societies that should subsist by them, cannot stand; and the ends for which governments are constituted, together with the governments themselves, must be overthrown,” wrote Sidney, who was executed for treason against King Charles II and whose writings later served as inspiration for American revolutionaries.
The Sidney passage comes at the end of the column, which labels Obama and Cameron as “the Islamists’ only indispensable allies,” describes a growing religious war and criticizes the two politicians for their approaches.
In an interview with The Hoya, Scheuer said this criticism could be applied to any Western leader.
“Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Bush, Cheney, all of them tell the because [Islamists] hate how we live. They don’t. They don’t hate the American people, what they do is hate the American government for what it does in their world,” Scheuer said. “Until we realize that as fact, this war — we’re going to keep losing it as we are now.”
Scheuer said that if electoral options failed to remove egregiously erring leaders, the people of a republic have a right to pursue other options, including protests, refusing to pay taxes and as a last resort, revolution. Scheuer, in this vein, refused to shy away from endorsing assassination.
“At some point, when push comes to shove, you kill people and get them out of the way,” Scheuer said. “But it’s the end of a very long process, and one would hope that supposedly smart men who went to Harvard and Oxford would know that the future is not a happy one for them if they continue to disregard the liberties their people have fought for over centuries.”
Scheuer’s column, published on his website, non-intervention.com, focused on the partnership between the United States and the United Kingdom as well as the countries’ wartime policies. Scheuer, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was the former head of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit, criticized the leaders for their policies regarding the Muslim world, including their support of Tahrir Square activists during the Arab Spring.
The column quickly received traction on news websites, most prominently on The Daily Beast, where columnist David Frum described Scheuer’s comments as “advocacy of murder,” in a column entitled“Michael Scheuer’s Meltdown.”
Scheuer has received criticism from liberal and conservative quarters alike.
“I’ve offended everyone. It comes from leftist websites because they think Obama really is the second coming of Christ, and it comes from the conservative websites because conservatives would love to have me on their team except I don’t want unnecessary wars and I can’t stand the American relationship with Israel,” Scheuer said. He emphasized that his desire to extricate the United States from its relationship with its Middle East ally is not synonymous with anti-Semitism.
Scheuer, who since 2005 has taught two graduate-level courses, “Al Qaeda” and “Al Qaeda and the Global Jihad” for the Security Studies Program during both summer and fall semesters, said he has never been approached by the university regarding his outside writings, which have been the subject of past controversy. Although his critics have written to the administration in protest, according to Scheuer, Center for Security Studies Director Bruce Hoffman has defended him before, calling him the leading scholar on Osama bin Laden. The Center for Security Studies declined to comment for this article through Associate Director David Maxwell, citing Scheuer’s status as a private citizen and lack of a spring 2014 course at Georgetown.
Scheuer did say he expected to hear from the university on this occasion, although he has not yet heard anything.
University spokeswoman Stacy Kerr said that the university was not in the practice of censoring opinion.
“This is the essence of academic freedom. Being committed to the free and open exchange of ideas does not mean that we approve of or endorse each and every statement made by members of our faculty,” Kerr wrote in an email. “The answer to speech that one finds disagreeable or controversial is not censorship but more speech and more dialogue. As such, we welcome everyone’s right to disagree and to express their opinions openly.”