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Fisk’s Talk Mischaracterized

I would like to thank William Li (“Revisiting 9/11,” Feb. 14) for his critique of Dr. Fisk’s talk at MIT on Feb. 5. Despite the arrogant tone, the Op/Ed is the only ink this major campus event has received in The Tech. I would, however, like to clarify some errors and contradictions in Li’s article.

Firstly, Fisk referred to the genocide of 1.5 million Christian Armenians (not Muslims) by the Ottoman Turks as the Armenian Holocaust. Additionally, he strongly objected to the use of the term “ethnic cleansing” in the media as a description of these events, an argument completely ignored by Li. The “digression” into depleted uranium shells and Iraqi suffering during both the Gulf war and the sanctions regime are not irrelevant to Sept. 11 and are not an “overplayed evocation of sympathy from the audience.” These are some of the Arab peoples’ most serious grievances directed towards the American government, and part of the explanation as to why bin Laden would win if democratic elections were held today in any Arab country.

Fisk never suggested that the terrible crimes against humanity in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania committed on Sept. 11 were “justified,” as Li claims. In fact he repeatedly said exactly the opposite. He merely suggested that these crimes were not inexplicable considering the background of the terrorists: 19 Arab men from the Middle East.

Finally, when Li criticizes Fisk’s talk for relying on “emotion” to “deliver the impact of the speech”, it becomes clear that he has not read his own article’s last paragraph. Indeed, the very contents and tone of the last paragraph were the inspiration for and the main topic of the whole evening. It is acceptable that Li not agree with Fisk, but it is truly sad that he did not at least listen closely enough to go home knowing what exactly the talk was about. Fortunately, your readers who missed the event can judge Fisk’s talk for themselves; it is currently available in audio format on the Web at the Technology and Culture Forum site, and will be available as digital streaming video on the MIT World Web site sometime in March.

On behalf of the organizers of Dr. Fisk's talk,

Shihab Elborai G