MILWAUKEE – A university instructor who came under scrutiny for arguing that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks likens President Bush to Adolf Hitler in an essay his students are being required to buy for his course.
The essay by Kevin Barrett, "Interpreting the Unspeakable: The Myth of 9/11," is part of a $20 book of essays by 15 authors, according to an unedited copy first obtained by WKOW-TV in Madison and later by The Associated Press.
The book's title is "9/11 and American Empire: Muslims, Jews, and Christians Speak Out." It is on the syllabus for Barrett's course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Islam: Religion and Culture," but only three of the essays are required reading, not including Barrett's essay.
Barrett, a part-time instructor who holds a doctorate in African languages and literature and folklore from UW-Madison, is active in a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth. The group's members say U.S. officials, not Al Qaeda terrorists, were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Like Bush and the neocons, Hitler and the Nazis inaugurated their new era by destroying an architectural monument and blaming its destruction on their designated enemies," he wrote.
Barrett said Tuesday he was comparing the attacks to the burning of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in 1933, a key event in the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship.
"That's not comparing them as people, that's comparing the Reichstag fire to the demolition of the World Trade Center, and that's an accurate comparison that I would stand by," he said.
He added: "Hitler had a good 20 to 30 IQ points on Bush, so comparing Bush to Hitler would in many ways be an insult to Hitler."
Moira Megargee, publicity director for the Northampton, Mass., publisher Interlink, said the book is due out at the end of November and the editing isn't finished.
"It is not final and for all we know that essay may not be in the book or may be edited," she said.
The university's decision to allow Barrett to teach the course touched off a controversy over the summer once his views became widely known.
Sixty-one state legislators denounced the move. One county board cut its funding for the UW-Extension by $8,247 — the amount Barrett will earn for teaching the course — in a symbolic protest, even though the course is unrelated to that branch of the UW System.
One essay Barrett is requiring students to read is entitled: "A Clash Between Justice and Greed," and argues that conflicts between Islam and the western world were made up after the "collapse of the Soviet Union to justify U.S. 'defense' spending, and to provide a pretext of controlling the world's resources."
The author of another essay, "Interpreting Terrorism: Muslim Problem or Covert Operations Nightmare?," contends some western intelligence agencies are commiting acts of terrorism to make them look like the work of radical Islamics.
The university's chief academic officer, Provost Patrick Farrell, decided to retain Barrett for the course after reviewing his plans and qualifications. He said Barrett could present his ideas during one week of the course as long as students were allowed to challenge them.
He later warned Barrett to stop seeking publicity for his personal political views.
Farrell said he has not seen the essay, but faculty can assign readings that may not be popular to everyone.
"I think part of the role of any challenging course here is going to encourage students to think of things from a variety of perspectives," he said.