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U.N. official speaks about post-9/11 world

BY NINA EARNEST | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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Richard Falk linked the heavy military counterterrorism response after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the revolutionary fervor seizing the Middle East today during a lecture Thursday night.

Falk, a retired Princeton University professor and U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, appeared as the keynote speaker for the Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems law journal 2011 symposium.

Though the visit was controversial — a watchdog group had asked the UI to rescind its invitation because of Falk’s statements about 9/11 — he addressed the issue just once, during a question-and-answer session.

Instead, he told the crowd of several hundred assembled in the Pomerantz Career Center auditorium the policy undertaken by the U.S. government the day after the terrorist attacks affected a large part of the world.

“For much of the world, Sept. 12 was more important than Sept. 11,” he said. “Sept. 12 was the response to the terrorist attacks.”



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He cited the United States’ cooperative relationship with autocratic leaders as an example.

But Falk said the revolution in Egypt represents the continuing downfall of a hard-power strategy, embodied by military exercises of violence. The current developments in Egypt as well as previous anticolonial movements are demonstrating a major shift toward a soft-power approach, marked by a wave of nonviolent resistance.

“It’s really saying something new has emerged in political experience that is embodied in this inability of hard power to control the destiny of societies and peoples,” the professor said.

Falk praised the Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems before his speech for tackling current policy in its symposium, “Ten Years After 9/11: Rethinking Counterterrorism.”

Alison Kurth, a third-year College of Law student and the editor of the journal, told The Daily Iowan the staff wanted to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by taking a multidisciplinary look at what could be done to prevent terrorism.

“We thought this was the perfect year to do that,” Kurth said.

A handful of protesters, including UI law alumnus James Johnson, handed out fliers describing Falk as “an extremist ideologue.”

Johnson said he had been accused of trying to impede on Falk’s freedom of speech to appear at the university.

“We’re just exercising the same right,” Johnson said as he handed out a flier.

But Falk didn’t touch on the controversy until the end of the lecture. One man professed his disbelief at the accepted 9/11 story and asked Falk if he believed the official version of events.

Falk chuckled.

“I was waiting for the question,” he said.

Falk responded by explaining he didn’t have the necessary knowledge to answer the question but said he felt there was enough “existential doubt” to re-examine the incident.

“It can’t be dismissed by calling anyone who says there are some unanswered questions a conspiracy theorist,” Falk said.

Audience member Harb Harb, 26, said the lecture brought issues to the forefront he hadn’t considered.

“[Falk] was sharing his thoughts in a way thatwasn’t offensive and made us reflect on recent American history,” the fourth-year medical student said.


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