Updated: Author resigns from West Point following paper legitimizing attacks on scholars who question terror tactics
[Note: This post has been updated with new information about the author’s resignation.]
Following criticisms of a 2015 paper which proposed attacks on scholars who question the government’s handling of the war on terror, the author has resigned from his post at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The nearly 200-page paper, “Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column,” appeared in the National Security Law Journal of George Mason University School of Law, in Virginia. It was written by William C. Bradford, who is a somewhat controversial figure.
In the paper, Bradford, assistant professor at the United States Military Academy, criticizes U.S. academics who specialize in armed conflict and claim “that the Islamist jihad is a response to valid grievances against U.S. foreign policy”:
Rather than lending their prodigious talents to the service of their nation, these legal academics, for reasons ranging from the benign to the malignant, have mustered into the Islamist order of battle to direct their legal expertise against American military forces and American political will. This psychological warfare by American elites against their own people is celebrated by Islamists as a portent of U.S. weakness and the coming triumph of Islamism over the West.
In the article (presented here in full, starting on p. 278), he focuses his arguments on “a clique of about forty contemptuously critical LOACA scholars (“CLOACA”).”
At stake, Bradford asserts, rather implausibly:
Western civilization has been “seize[d], encompass[ed], and ambush[ed]” by a Fifth Column, and will be vanquished, subsumed within the Caliphate, and ruled by Shari’a if a trahison des professeurs goes unchecked.
The solutions he poses are not for the faint of heart, and range from loyalty oaths for university faculty receiving federal funding, firing “disloyal radicals”, charging them with treason, and prosecution:
Culpable CLOACA members can be tried in military courts: Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides that “[a]ny person who . . . aids, or attempts to aid, the enemy with arms, ammunition, supplies, money, or other things . . . shall suffer death or . . . other punishments as a court-martial or military commission may direct;” the Rule for Court Martial 201 creates jurisdiction over any individual for an Article 104 offense.
Finally, Bradford argues that the institutions, homes, and media outlets of these scholars could be considered “lawful targets” for attacks:
…the infrastructure used to create and disseminate CLOACA propaganda—law school facilities, scholars’ home offices, and media outlets where they give interviews—are also lawful targets given the causal connection between the content disseminated and Islamist crimes incited. Shocking and extreme as this option might seem, CLOACA scholars, and the law schools that employ them, are—at least in theory—targetable so long as attacks are proportional, distinguish noncombatants from combatants, employ nonprohibited weapons, and contribute to the defeat of Islamism.
The editor at the time, Alexander Yesnik, may have anticipated the piece would ruffle feathers. In a foreword to the issue, he wrote:
This issue will not be without controversy. You may find what you read here to be discomforting at times, and on a personal note, I do not agree with everything we have printed in the pages that follow. But our policy has always been that we welcome scholarship from a range of views, and we hope the diverse ideas you read here — even if you disagree — will prompt you to think and respond.
The journal likely got more of a response than it anticipated, as it has now done a volte-face. In an August 24 letter to readers, Rick Myers, the journal’s new editor in chief, wrote, in part:
This past spring the Journal made a mistake in publishing a highly controversial article, Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column, 3 Nat’l Sec. L.J. 278 (2015), by William C. Bradford, who is currently an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. As the incoming Editorial Board, we want to address concerns regarding Mr. Bradford’s contention that some scholars in legal academia could be considered as constituting a fifth column in the war against terror; his interpretation is that those scholars could be targeted as unlawful combatants. The substance of Mr. Bradford’s article cannot fairly be considered apart from the egregious breach of professional decorum that it exhibits. We cannot “unpublish” it, of course, but we can and do acknowledge that the article was not presentable for publication when we published it, and that we therefore repudiate it with sincere apologies to our readers.
Moving forward, the current Editorial Board is committed to generating legitimate scholarly debate, representing all points of view, in the area of national security law. However, we have learned from this experience, and we recognize the responsibility that attends our publication decisions. The process of selecting articles is one our Editorial Board takes very seriously, and we are re-examining our selection process to ensure that we publish high quality scholarly articles.
Among those who objected to Bradford’s piece was Jeremy Rabkin, a faculty member at George Mason and scholar of constitutional law, who wrote in a piece included with the August 24 letter:
When an article proposes to arrest law professors and bomb law schools and nearby TV studios, it’s not engaging in “controversy,” but slipping into an alternate universe. It’s not “discomforting.” It is bonkers. The journal could not reasonably have expected readers to “respond” — unless to ask, “Are you out of your minds?”
Rabkin also argues that Bradford’s claims of treason against the legal scholars he names amounts to “outright libel.”
Although some may wonder why the journal didn’t simply retract the article, according to the guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics, there aren’t grounds in this case. Here’s COPE’s advice on the subject:
Journal editors should consider retracting a publication if:
• they have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct (e.g. data fabrication) or honest error (e.g. miscalculation or experimental error)
• the findings have previously been published elsewhere without proper crossreferencing, permission or justification (i.e. cases of redundant publication)
• it constitutes plagiarism
• it reports unethical research
According to the Guardian, a West Point representative said Bradford started working there in August. In 2005, Inside Higher Ed reported he resigned from Indiana University after misrepresenting his military service.
We received a statement today from a West Point spokesperson who told us Bradford has resigned:
Dr. William Bradford resigned on Sunday. He was hired on Aug. 1, 2015 and taught 5 lessons from Aug. 17-Aug 27. He taught a common core law course.
On Friday, West Point released a earlier statement about the paper:
Dr. William Bradford was hired on August 1, 2015 at the U.S. Military Academy. His article in the National Security Law Journal titled “Trahison des Professeurs: The Critical Law of Armed Conflict Academy as an Islamist Fifth Column” was written and accepted for publication prior to his employment at West Point. The views in the article are solely those of Dr. Bradford and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the United States Army, the United States Military Academy.
We’ve attempted to contact Bradford, and new EIC Myers, and will update this post if we learn more.
Hat tip: Brian Leiter via Kent McKeever
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