Students acted as prosecutors and defense attorneys and also doubled as witnesses in various incidents of America’s history of involvement in world affairs in “America on Trial,” last Monday.
The mock trial, staged by students taking the seminar on Global America, was the first event in Examination of American Empire week.
These events, including an assortment of workshops, public forums, lectures and documentary film showings, were designed to expose the public to the realities of the role the United States has played as a global superpower throughout history.
According to the prosecution, American actions have proven to be “detrimental to world peace,” and the United States should have to deal with its “guilt of action and inaction.”
The defense, however, said “America’s actions have been done with the noblest intentions . the goal is to preserve the value for human life . America has stood for promoting peace, liberty and justice for all humanity.”
Audience members seated in the first two rows served as two separate juries, each responsible for determining whether America acted a “moral crusader” or a “heartless invader” based on the case.
The audience of nearly 40 indicated a high level of interest from the student body.
After the trial, the juries deliberated over the verdict based on America’s actions in five global regions: Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
If the United States was found guilty, the jury had to decide on a financial penalty of one, five or 10 billion dollars.
Jury number one found America not guilty in Europe and Africa, but charged five billion in Latin America and one billion in Asia and the Middle East.
Jury number two charged 10 billion in all cases except Europe, in which they found America not guilty.
Another part of the week-long event, the film series “Imperial Projections: A Festival of Documentary Films,” began on Thursday with “Uncovered: The Truth About the Iraq War.”
The film, focusing on the governmental actions and decisions concerning the war in Iraq, was made “to illuminate and expose issues related to foreign policy that the media either won’t cover because they think Americans aren’t interested in or are prohibited from covering,” Susan Ryan, assistant professor of communication studies, said.
“Uncovered” featured a number of experts, from army officers to diplomats and media personnel, all of whom contributed to the common thought that the war was wrong and that government officials acted on the basis of a threat that did not exist.
Furthermore, officials led the public to believe that there was a link between the terrorists of Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein when in fact there was none.
John Brady Kiesling, former U.S. diplomat who resigned on account of the war, fielded questions from the audience when the film was over.
“These people thought they were doing the right thing but they could have known better . I was not an expert in Iraq but it was obvious to me and many of my colleagues that it would not work,” Kiesling said.
Kiesling further emphasized that the United States should have focused more on the opinions of its allies before going to war.
“By and large, when we cannot convince our allies that the threat is real, we have to go back and take another look . Our allies had legitimate reasons for thinking that going to war with Iraq was a bad idea and it turns out that they were right and we were wrong,” Kiesling said.
The films “Two Bells/Two Worlds,” “Nicaragua: The Children Are Waiting,” “Enemies of War” and “Life and Debt” concluded the festival.
Besides the mock trial and the film festival, the event also consisted of a lecture, “The Empire of Natural History,” held by Eliza McFeeley, professor of history and a forum, “Contrasting Views of America,” during which Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and Marilyn Young, professor of history at New York University, expressed their contrasting views on American empire.
On Wednesday, a workshop, “From Saigon to Baghdad,” was run by Alan Dawley, professor of history, Chris Fisher, professor of history and African-American studies, and Marianna Sullivan, professor of political science.