Ex-White House official sparks protest at UMass
AMHERST - Former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. came to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to discuss the country's future political landscape, but students and others switched the focus to Iraq.
Card gave the inaugural lecture in the University's "Talking Politics" series sponsored by the UMass Civic Initiative run by the Donahue Institute and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The lecture was in the Student Union Ballroom and attended by students and faculty and others.
Several protesters arrived for the event carrying signs including some that read, "Card = Criminal" or "Lies."
University police maintained a presence outside and inside the building, and at least two men were ejected from the event for unveiling a sign scrawled on an bed sheet that said part of Card's propaganda was to have "people killed for profit." The men were removed because the sign was too big under University picketing codes.
Card, one of the longest serving chiefs of staff in presidential history and a native of Holbrook, told the crowd that participation in the democratic process is among the most important roles we take on as citizens.
Card, who served as a Republican representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1975 to 1983, said the importance of citizenship is paramount in the United States. He challenged students to think about what being a citizen means.
Naturalized citizens are asked to renounce their own country's regime and agree to take up arms for the United States if called upon, he said.
"Most of us here are citizens because our mothers dropped us here by the accident of birth," he said. "When I hear some of you say, no I won't help or no I won't answer the call, it pains me. Being a citizen is an obligation. It is an honor."
During a question-and-answer period, Card was candid. He told the crowd amid hecklers calling him a "bloody imperialist" that he suggested to Bush that he should both fire and keep former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
He also said that his conscience is clear about Iraq, a situation that he said began to escalate after Sept. 11.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," he said.
He later said, "The president knows more than we do."
Card, however, did not have an answer for an Iraqi woman, now a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar at the university, who asked him how he would advise the president about allowing Iraqi translators to seek asylum in this country.
"I am that patriot sir," she said, adding that she supported the American invasion into her country. "Many of my friends have died."
The woman, who identified herself as Nadia, an alias, said she is afraid of retribution from the insurgency for helping the United States military with translation while in Iraq. Her family is at risk.
But she said the U.S. military did not get her to America as she had been promised for her help. Although she had a recommendation from a colonel, she said a law states she needs a signature from a general. The United States only accepts 25 translators from Iraq and 25 from Afghanistan a year, Nadia said.
"How was I to see a general? I did not know a general. I got here on my own," she said, adding that many translators are being shot execution-style for helping Americans.
"What can you tell my friends? What would you tell the next president if you were chief of staff?"
"I don't have an answer for you," Card said.
April 12, 2007