ALA Defends Book Confiscation Worldwide by Communist/Terrorist Regimes?

Posted: 7/13/2008 11:58:00 AM
Author: Dan Kleinman

Saturday, June 28, 2008
ALA Defends Book Confiscation Worldwide by Communist/Terrorist Regimes? SafeLibraries Asks ALA Councilor James Casey to Clarify Anti-American Stand
Dear ALA Councilor James B. Casey,

In your defense of the American Library Association's [ALA] position to take no meaningful action to support jailed Cuban librarians, you make statements about Saddam's Iraq and the United States that need clarification in view of recent news about religious book confiscation by Saddam's regime. You stated,

"Thanks to [ALA Councilor] Peter McDonald for standing up to the accusatory rhetoric of those who have launched a long term a [sic] sabre rattling offensive against the crumbling Castro regime reminiscent of the rheoric [sic] for 'regime change' against Sadaam [sic] that led to our disastrous invasion of Iraq." [FN 1]

"All of your comments are predicated upon the central premise that the 'independent library movement' rhetoric we have been hearing is true and based upon accurate information and not built upon a tapestry of lies and political posturing similar to the elaborate system of persuasion we heard from the Bush Administration prior to the invasion of Iraq.

"I must admit that I was not absolutely certain that I was right in protesting the invasion of Iraq back in mid-March 2003 before the invasion. However, I strongly suspected that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney were liars as many protestors declared. Why? Because of the manner they had conducted themselves in the past upon such racist/divisive tactics applied against John McCain in South Carolina during the 2000 primary and in Florida against African American voters in Florida during the general 2000 election (not to mention the withdrawal from the Kyoto Treaty and international efforts to combat global warming). I didn't trust the administration because of its arrogant, divisive and utterly despicable conduct previously in practically every issue from fiscal to environmental policy. Five years later, the truth is 'out' and I can only say that opposition to the Iraq war was correct in every measure of truth. We were lied into war and the war has damage [sic] our country immeasurably." [FN 2]

Now Mr. Casey, recent news reveals that the Saddam regime confiscated hundreds of religious books from Iraqi Jews:

"Some 300 rare and valuable books confiscated from Iraq's Jewish community by Saddam Hussein's regime have been secretly spirited into Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

"The books include a 1487 commentary on the biblical Book of Job and another volume of biblical prophets printed in Venice in 1617, the Haaretz daily said.

"The volumes are part of a massive collection of books confiscated by the secret police of the executed Iraqi dictator and stored in security installations in the Iraqi capital until the US-led invasion of 2003." [FN 3]

It sounds to me that Saddam damaged his own country's intellectual freedom, to say the least, even before "the Bush Administration ... lied." The ALA holds itself out as an expert on intellectual freedom, and you are among the ALA's governing council and have chosen to speak out on the issue of the intellectual freedom of the jailed Cuban librarians. Therefore, Mr. Casey, in view of this recent news about religious book confiscation by the Saddam regime, would you care to amend any of your previous statements quoted above? Is there anything else you would like to add?

By the way, Mr. Casey, the article says,

"Iraq once hosted a thriving 2,600 year-old Jewish community that numbered some 130,000 people at the time Israel was created in 1948.

"But after Israel came into being and into conflict with its Arab neighbours, Iraqi Jews began to suffer discrimination and were often accused of being agents of the new Jewish state." [FN 4]

Similarly, ALA Councilors are accusing the jailed Cuban librarians of being agents of America. For example, ALA Councilor Peter McDonald said the jailed Cuban libraries were not real librarians, but

"were by the whole average citizens journalists, teachers, laborers, who were arrested, tried and convicted for knowingly subverting Cuban law repeatedly -- for one, distributing U.S. funded anti-government materials (among other crimes)." [FN 5]

Setting aside how interesting it is to see an ALA Councilor calling intellectual freedom a "crime," would you care to elaborate on any similarities or differences in being accused of being agents of Israel or agents of the United States so as to excuse book confiscations to which the ALA might otherwise be opposed?

Care to elaborate on how and why ALA Councilors appear to support such confiscations (although with regard to the Iraq matter that may depend on your responses to my questions)?

Care to elaborate on why such confiscations are seemingly ignored or even condoned by the ALA but, for example, in your own public library you and other ALA leaders forced the Oak Lawn, IL, community to keep Playboy magazine available for children, the very basis of "We build a collection of what we think is a reflection of what the community wants to see," Casey said. "We try to serve the public rather than stand in judgment of their tastes." [FN 6]

Thank you, Mr. Casey. I look forward to factual responses free of further ad hominem argument.

Dan Kleinman