There is a truly bizarre story this week involving a former Indiana University law professor who resigned from West Point Military Academy’s law department as a disturbing article was published where he denounces other scholars who exhibit “pernicious pacifism” as aiding and abetting terrorists. The case raises free speech and academic freedom issues in handling controversial writings of academics. However, it also raises the poor standards for selecting faculty at West Point, a concern that I have had in the past with regard to its legal studies as well as those at other military educational programs. Not only does Bradford have extremist and disturbing views but he has been previously accused of exaggerating his credentials.
Bradford published the article below in the National Security Law Journal where he rails against the historic threat of Islamic domination and the role of law professors as a type of fifth column, comparing them to the treacherous nobles who passed along intelligence to the Muslim armies seeking to destroy Charlemagne and the Christian Frankish army. Indeed, he starts his long work with a chilling quote from Orriana Fallaci that “[B]ehind every event of Good or Evil there is a piece of writing. A book, an article, a manifesto, a poem, a song.” It is clear that Bradford views writings as a form of subversion by those opposing the means or basis for the war on terror.
Bradford uses the acronym CLOACA to refer to “counter-law-of-armed-conflict academy.” It is based on the more common acronym Law of Armed Conflict. Cloaca is the word for “the body cavity into which the intestinal, urinary, and genital canals empty” in animals. It is a gratuitous insult achieved through a largely unexplained acronym. However, Bradford apparently has a list of those in the fifth column — noting that “The exact number is hard to fix, but perhaps two hundred U.S. professors who regularly publish or teach in LOAC, and another thirty from allied nations—Israel, EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan—constitute LOACA.” He makes clear that they are the enemy and should be treated as such by the military: “Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, CLOACA scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are—at least in theory—targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism.” This is who the military at West Point selected out of thousands of legal scholars to treat future military leaders on the law and constitutional protections?
There is obviously a deep, deep bitterness expressed toward the legal academy reflected in these pages. Bradford has had a less than stellar career after he reportedly was forced to resign after claims in 2005 that he exaggerated his military service. In his recent work, he states worked as an associate law professor at National Defense University before West Point. However, the National Defense University says Bradford was a contractor and “never an NDU employee nor an NDU professor.” That latter distinction can be somewhat precious as adjuncts and instructors routinely refer to themselves as faculty members at law schools. However, the question remains why would the National Defense University (like West Point) be drawn to Bradford when they are in markets saturated with top legal experts?
The “stolen valor” charge in 2005 leading to his resignation from Indiana was a bit more serious. Local reporters found that Bradford claimed to have served in the Army infantry from 1990 to 2001 and said that he received a Silver Star for his service. Indeed, the Indianapolis Star reported that he would often wear the medal around campus at the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. However, the newspaper found that he served in the Army Reserve from 1995 to 2001 and was not in the infantry and was never on active duty. He was discharged as a second lieutenant and his record did not indicate any medals. That would seem a difficult issue to get over during an interview at West Point Military Academy or the National Defense University.
At the time of the Indiana controversy, the Star reported that Bradford blamed two left-leaning professors for targeting him due to his military service. He was defended at the time by Professor Henry C. Karlson, who said that Bradford was awarded the Silver Star and a major in the Special Forces. Bradford reportedly said that he served in both the infantry and military intelligence and fought in Desert Storm and Bosnia. The article reported that “[Bradford] wore a Silver Star lapel pin around campus. He had a major’s gold-leaf insignia plate on his vehicle.”
Bradford’s view of the work of other academics as “treasonous” hardly makes him an attractive figure to defend. However, free speech advocates are often finding themselves in defense of the least redeeming characters. This may be such a case. Bradford in this piece presents a disturbing and in my view fundamentally wrong view of this country, its constitution, and its values. However, he is an academic who is entitled to express views that are controversial. His work is well-researched even if his analysis is terribly, if not grotesquely, flawed. Why should he be forced to resign for expressing his views so long as he is not teaching such extremist concepts at West Point. While I would never have hired Bradford, he presents the same type of problem that we saw recently with Professor Grundy at Boston University with her racist ravings. She did not even make those statements in an academic forum but we allowed her to keep her job. Bradford published a long and heavily cited piece on why he views legal academics as constituting threats to the nation’s security and can be legitimate targets. I find it completely chilling and sad but there are a wide array of opinions that have been viewed in that fashion through history.
I do not miss the irony of course. Bradford is the voice of intolerance. He appears to want to see professors targeted for expressing their views. Yet, many of those same traitors that he identifies are the most likely to defend him now.
On the merits, Bradford’s article, “Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy” is a screed against other legal experts who disagree with Bradford and the war on terror. They are denounced as an Islamist Fifth Column and little more than traitors. Indeed, while filled with citations and a wide array of influences, the article comes across as paranoid and fascistic. He rails against the insidious work of the GMAC or “government-media-academic complex.” He denounced these professors as “useful idiots” who use such concepts of “the dignity of all human beings” to undermine our resolve and ultimately “tilt the battlefield against US forces [and] contribute to timorousness and lethargy in US military commanders”.
The National Security Law Journal is student run publication at George Mason University and the editor-in-chief now calls the publication of the article’s publication a “mistake” and an “egregious breach of professional decorum”. Editor-in-chief, Rick Myers added “We cannot ‘unpublish’ it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.”
Lieutenant colonel Christopher Kasker is quoted in telling the Guardian “Dr William Bradford was hired on 1 August 2015 at the US Military Academy. His article in the National Security Law Journal titled ‘Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column’ was written and accepted for publication prior to his employment at West Point. The views in the article are solely those of Dr Bradford and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the United States army, the United States Military Academy.” Once again, I feel uncomfortable with the article being the focus of the questions for West Point. The question should be why West Point would select this particular scholar. I have seen such controversial choices in the past by military institutions, including West Point, in legal academics. It is the commitment (or lack thereof) to academic excellence at West Point that is thrown into question by such appointments.
Here is the article: Bradford article