Why Harvard Kept Sean Spicer and Refused Chelsea Manning

The CIA sends its regards

Politics Features Harvard
Why Harvard Kept Sean Spicer and Refused Chelsea Manning

Harvard will never learn. The University recently asked Chelsea Manning to be a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of government. A former CIA director resigned in protest, so Harvard retracted their invite. To make the college’s double-facedness even purer, guess who was allowed to stay? If you had a thousand years and lungs of bronze, you wouldn’t name them. I’ll tell you who: Corey “Grabby” Lewandowski, and Sean “What’s Truth, Really?” Spicer. Those two gentlemen meet the ivy-drenched school’s ideas of moral and personal probity. Manning doesn’t. According to the Times:

The sudden turnabout by the Harvard Kennedy School came after a day of intense backlash over the university’s announcement on Wednesday that Ms. Manning would become a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics this school year. Douglas W. Elmendorf, the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, said that while the university encourages a diversity of opinions and does not shy from controversy, naming Ms. Manning a fellow was a mistake for which he accepted responsibility. “I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations,” Mr. Elmendorf wrote in a letter posted on the Harvard Kennedy School website early Friday morning. “I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation.”

By “intense backlash,” they didn’t mean the public. They were referring to the folks whose opinion really counts: the elite.

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m still reeling from this dizzying turnabout. I, for one, am shocked—shocked—that a finishing school for the one percent capitulated to oligarchic opinion. Has there ever been a more flagrant, transparent display of kowtowing to Approved Authority? How can the institution which educated Jared Kushner presume to shut its door on anyone?

Harvard Fellows don’t actually do much: they visit temporarily and talk with students. They are typically controversial, and score the school a fair amount of buzz. Remember the scene in Rome where the wealthy matron Atia of the Julii invites in the two poor soldiers to her society gathering? It’s like that.

Think about it. Harvard wants Trump’s assault-happy campaign manager and America’s most famous dissembler to go on stage. Not Manning. Imagine having the kind of moral code where that makes sense. Cambridge would have been lucky to have Manning. She did what good citizens are supposed to do: the people over her were committing crimes, so she told the world. And it had far-reaching, positive effects. As Ryan Gallagher wrote in Slate in 2013:

A leaked diplomatic cable provided evidence that during an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government’s refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.

The National Security State bleated for years about Manning. They claimed her leaks did avalanches of damage. Where? When? They couldn’t say, of course. Clearly, National Security is entitled beyond the dreams of Fashion Week. They have never given a single shred of evidence to indict Manning, for a simple reason: there isn’t any. Like any set of wrongdoers, they’re just ashamed of being found out. But who exactly are these ethical giants on the other side, who protest Manning’s invitation? As NPR reported:

Early Thursday, Michael Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, resigned his senior fellowship post at Harvard over the school’s decision to include Manning as a visiting fellow. Morell said he could not be part of an organization that “honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.”

Regarding the former CIA Director, I must bow to his expertise: Morell would know about doing the wrong thing. St. Mike is a passionate defender of drone strikes and torture. He wrote a book about his experiences, titled The Great War of Our Time, which Human Rights First called “brimming with misleading material”:

Morell attempts to make the case that the CIA’s use of torture was legal, effective, and moral, and that the Senate intelligence committee’s report on CIA torture and detention post-9/11 was a hatchet job that got it all wrong. The report, drawn from millions of the CIA’s own internal communications and documents, found that the CIA’s use of torture was much more widespread and gruesome than the agency acknowledged. It also showed that the agency lied to Congress, the White House, and the public to make it seem like the program was more successful than it actually was.

Manning should be proud to be loathed by such a villain. What a badge of honor. As the ACLU National Twitter account said, “Chelsea Manning has exposed war crimes. Mike Morell has defended torture. We’re with Chelsea.”

Manning’s disinvitation should amaze no one. Harvard is a business, not a temple of enlightenment. They just canceled Michelle Jones’ acceptance, because Jones, a former felon, would supposedly make the university that invented Henry Kissinger look bad. There’s never enough space for outsider voices, but all the room in the world for legacies, which made up one-third of Harvard’s freshman class this year. “Half of those,” wrote Avi Ahser-Schapiro in a tweet, “come from families with incomes over $500K.”

As befits a woman who had suffered years of bullying and the hell of solitary confinement, she dragged Harvard with little effort:

If we were to recite every monstrous creation of Harvard Yard, this feature would be much longer, a Pollock painting of crisscrossed shades of dark and darker. We have abundant proof that there is no war crime horrible enough to turn the stomach of the Kennedy School. Harvard is as welded to power as a scorpion clinging to a boot heel. There is no morality in it, simply the exercise of the oldest prerogative of rulership: power reinforces power, wolf leans upon wolf. The fineness of the metal of a Blankfein, of Zuckerberg: these are more to Harvard’s taste. That’s how the course of true love runs in Cambridge. After all, Harvard was good enough for the mighty humanitarian stylings of Phyllis Schlafly, Ross Douthat, and Larry Summers. It played host to those gentlest of souls, Frank Carlucci and Paul Bremer.

Manning is too good for them. She told the truth, and suffered for her beliefs. Her place is not with the forces that drone weddings. Why would Harvard, that mountain of privilege, mother to bombers and war criminals, care about doing the right thing? They’re an investment firm and trust fund, who overcharge students for admission to the master class. Ironic. The motto of Harvard is Veritas, Latin for truth. Manning is famous for saying what nobody else would say, and getting punished for it. Could there be a more spectacular example of Cambridge’s utter hypocrisy? In Manning, as in wine, lies Harvard’s Veritas.

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