Liveblogging Amherst College Republicans Forum

Hello! AC Voice will be continuing a proud tradition of ours tonight in liveblogging the Amherst College Republicans’ “Why US Military Action After 9/11 Was Justified and Saved American Lives” forum.

We previously reported on this forum here. Since then, the College Republicans have added a few more speakers to the slate. Because we at AC Voice are technologically illiterate, you’ll have to refresh the page to see our updates. Some students have put together a fact sheet with information about the speakers and the subject that you can find here.

7:49: The event is over. I have a lot of thoughts about this. In general, the speakers completely failed to make any sensible argument about why “US military action after 9/11 was justified.”

7:48: Graham to Segundo: “What does the political debate sound like to a guy who served?” Segundo: “To be honest with you, I probably would be sitting on that side,” pointing towards the audience, “Not up here. I don’t want to say it was Muslim people who did this, because it was not. I served side-by-side, 13 months with a Muslim. We didn’t see him as a Muslim, we saw him as a friend. As a brother-in-arms.” Applause as the event ends.

7:46: Graham to Segundo: “What do you think looking back at your service?” Response: “I would serve again in a heartbeat.”

7:45: “I guess the other reason I was invited was because of the anthem, the flag, the kneeling, etcetera.” He says military folks are raised on the anthem and all that. “I understand their reasons. Its hard to see them doing it during the national anthem. That’s the thing that keeps us together, knowing that men and women have died under that flag.”

7:43: He talks about how one of his comrades was a Muslim-American. “I don’t see a religion, I don’t see a country, I just see terrorists.” (He means this as being non-discriminatory).

7:42: He relates how his four-truck convoy was hit by an improvised bomb (EFP). The next time they went out, their convoy was hit again. He’s tearing up a bit now.

7:40: Segundo talks about witnessing 9/11. He joined the Army in 2003. “We all had anger, rage. Somebody has to pay, we gotta go.” Deployed to Iraq in 2005, stayed until 2006. Talks about his duties there, mostly escorting brigade commander. This is mostly going to be about his experience as a soldier.

7:38: Graham takes one last question. Student says, In 2015, only 15 Americans were killed by Muslim terrorists. She then provides other states, like gun deaths in the same year, etc. “Why do you put such a strong emphasis on Islam terrorism? Why not the other subjects?” Graham says because the purpose of the second amendment is not to target and kill civilians, the purpose of terrorists is to target and kill civilians. Graham then introduces Segundo.

7:35: “Can I say something really crazy?” asks Graham. “If it was up to me I would have ignored Afghanistan, focused on Iraq. Iraq has always had to choose between dictatorship and jihad, crazy, blah blah blah. We went to Iraq and made a third path.”

7:32: Student brings back to the topic. “The War on Terror isn’t justified.” Points at Iraq. Roughsedge says, “A lot of wars were unjustified.” Student responds, “This wasn’t ignorance, this was purposeful lies.” Roughsedge says he doesn’t believe that.

7:31: A lot of back and forths. A pretty major walkout – some 15 students just walked out.

7:28: A student challenges Graham’s earlier assertion that Islam is the only religion with a terror problem in 2017, citing the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya by Buddhists in Myanmar. He responds, “Those people just happen to be Buddhist.”

7:27: Someone challenges Graham’s interpretation of the original Val 9/11 banner. “I don’t think it meant that every single soldier should feel shame. [..] The shame we’re talking to we’re not ascribing to individual soldiers but to the people who caused the situation [those in power].” Graham insists that his interpretation is correct.

7:24: Graham asks, “Does anyone deny that there is a civil war in Islam? 40 Muslim countries got together to try and solve this.” Student asks him to name all 40. Everyone’s a bit incredulous at the request.

7:23: There’s a bit of a situation about the insensitive 9/11 poster the Republicans put up using a plane as the dash in “9-11.”

7:21: A Muslim student asks, “How can you blame me for acts committed in Islam’s name?” He says he doesn’t. That he blames Islam not Muslims.

7:20: Graham brought copies of the columns he wrote that attracted criticism. “This always happens,” he says. “Islam is the only major world religion in the year 2017 that has a problem with terror committed in its name.” Big uproar.

7:17: The question is a bit complex but is essentially, “Your comments about Muslims are feeding terrorism.”

7:16: Michael Graham points at a girl in the audience and says “You’ve been staring at me angrily, you go first. Angry staring lady.”

7:14: Time to do the Q&A. Eric Segundo, head of Massachusetts VFW. Michael Graham comes up and says “The choice is between dead Americans and dead terrorists.”

7:12: Also says that enemies who fight on the battlefield shouldn’t be tried as criminals.

7:08: He says that if you don’t stop terrorists, then a WMD will end up in a Western city.

7:07: Says that rules of engagement are the only thing stopping soldiers from “brutal” warfare. Blames rules of engagement for the war taking long. “Afghans are wired differently from the rest of the world.” A person scoffs at that. “Give me a chance here.” He explains that Afghanistan has been continually invaded, don’t trust outsiders.

7:05: Tells a story about a suicide bomber killing some local kids. Then transitions to “Blaming a soldier for war is like blaming a fire for fire.” Making the point that soldiers and even generals aren’t responsible. Politicians are. The State Department is. Etc.

7:01: Roughsedge is now talking about the experience of being in the military. He’s continuing Graham’s anti-pacifism rant to a certain extent. “When someone shoots at you, you shoot back.” He is a lot calmer though. Less Alex Jones-y.

7:00: Roughsedge talks about his background. Started in counterterrorism in 1984. Talking about how terrorism and extremism used to be funded by USSR, “whether its on the extreme left or the extreme right, they’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

6:56: He’s very upset about the banner still and then plugs his website before introducing next speaker, Bob Roughsedge.

6:53: Lots of anti-pacifism and anti-nonviolence rhetoric. The only reason Gandhi, MLK, succeeded is because the British and Americans had values. (lol) “Pacifism is childish.”

6:51: “The only thing you’re gonna remember from college 10 years from now is how to turn any cylindrical object into a bong.”

6:50: Anyways the whole thrust of this, (pun unintended), is that the “against disproportionate violence” argument is actually an “against WWII and Civil War” strawman.

6:49: “What’s up with Game of Thrones? I like porn as much as the next guy. Kill the dragons, keep the porn.” Real quote. Don’t know what’s going on.

6:47: Says if all war is illegitimate, then World War II was illegitimate. “If the choice is between war and concentration camps, then you choose concentration camps. You’re Team Concentration Camps.”

6:47: He’s trying to be funny. Trying is the key word.

6:45: Now Graham is trying to disprove the “so-called War on Terror” part of the poster by talking about terrorist attacks. First WTC bombing, USS Cole, etc. “How many of these would it take until the so-called War on Terror is an actual War on Terror?”

6:43: Compares anti-war activists to someone criticizes him for driving because people die while driving.

6:42: Graham presents a touching story about meeting a young injured Vet. Graham goes on about the sign, reading out its text two or three times. “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of innocent people. In honor of those killed and displaced in America’s so-called War on Terror.”

6:38: Introduces Michael Graham. Graham confesses, “I have no formal education.” Earlier today he tweeted indicating that his attendance here is related to the banner students placed on Val on 9/11 condemning civilian casualties of the War on Terror.

6:37: ACR introduces the head of Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans, who are mainly responsible for this event.

6:36PM: We’re starting in one minute! The hall is reasonably crowded, although there are definitely still spare seats – probably 40 people in the audience in all.

6:15PM: Students have set up a memorial to civilian victims of the War on Terror and international terrorism outside the Auditorium.

Update 5:00PM: The South Asian Students Association has released the following statement ahead of the forum:

The South Asian Students’ Association strongly disagrees with Michael Graham and his presence on campus. He is a man with few credentials, a man who is largely unqualified to debate and preach foreign policy in a public sphere. We find his beliefs and arguments to be deeply Islamophobic (among other things), and lacking in both rigor and truth.
We believe in the right of groups and people on this campus to share and discuss their political opinions, and so we shall not try and prevent this event from taking place. We will, however, be there. We will be there so he may see us. So he may see in real life the groups that are abstractions for him. We will be there so that he may look at our faces when he says, “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews”.