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phone: (415) 338-1665

Media Advisory -- Oct. 9

Attacks on Afghanistan: SFSU faculty experts are available to comment

SAN FRANCISCO, October 9, 2001 - Members of the San Francisco State University faculty are available to provide expert analysis on various aspects of the U.S. and Britain attacks on Afghanistan, including Middle Eastern politics and relations, terrorism, intelligence, global peace issues, media coverage, propaganda, U.S. foreign policy, aspects of Islamic faith and culture, transportation logistics of delivering aid to citizens of Afghanistan, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, and the geography of Afghanistan. Faculty members are closely following events and can provide timely commentary as well as historical and cultural perspectives. For additional assistance in locating an expert, call the SFSU Public Affairs Office at (415) 338-1665.

Dwight Simpson, professor of international relations, is an expert on the Middle East, international relations and world politics. Simpson can be reached at (415) 338-2239 (work) or (510) 527-5306 (home).

"This 'war' has no coherent plan. We don't know where we're going," he said. "And this 'war' also has no time limit and no exit strategy, yet the majority of the people in this country support it. This is a question which all of us should be focused on."

Sanjoy Banerjee, associate professor of international relations, has closely followed the conflicts in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban. Banerjee, who teaches courses on South and Southeast Asia, is also an expert on foreign relations between the United States and other countries such as Pakistan and India. He can be reached at (415) 338-1105 (work) or (650) 589-3224 (home).

"The crux of the story really lies not in Afghanistan itself but in Pakistan," he said, adding that thousands of young Islamic soldiers were trained in Pakistan. As the United States began its attacks Sunday, Banerjee said several military generals in Pakistan resigned or were removed from their posts. Those individuals, according to Banerjee, are Islamic fundamentalists known to favor the Afghan Taliban government that has aligned itself with bin Laden.

Ambassador Robert Pastorino, international relations lecturer, was a National Security Council adviser under presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. As acting ambassador in Honduras in the 1980s, he helped aid the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance fight for its freedom. He says that organization can be compared to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and other groups fighting the war against terrorism. Pastorino is also an authority on terrorism and anti-terrorism measures. A former American ambassador to the Dominican Republic, he teaches courses on international negotiation and diplomacy. Pastorino can be reached at (415) 986-1235 (home).

Ann Robertson, philosophy lecturer, is an expert on political philosophy and teaches a class this semester on human rights in a global perspective. Robertson can be reached at (415) 338-3138 (work), (415) 826-1905 (home) or

"I think it's important to understand why the United States is hated all over the world," she said.

Fred Astren, associate professor of Jewish studies, can discuss Islam faith and culture and the role of religion in conflicts in the Middle East. He lectures frequently on Islamic fundamentalism, the role of religion in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and other related topics. He also teaches a course on medieval Islamic history. Astren can be reached at (415) 338-3152 (work), (510) 524-2394 (home) or

"The immediate threat to modern secular societies coming from militant radical Muslim fundamentalism needs to be understood and resisted," he said. "But also, regional and global issues that fuel the support of these extremists by large groups of people will need to be addressed."

Donald Wood, professor of marketing, can discuss the logistics of transporting famine relief to the citizens of Afghanistan. He co-wrote an article titled "The Logistics of Famine Relief" for a 1995 issue of the Journal of Business Logistics. Wood can also speak on the logistical difficulties of military transportation. Wood can be reached at (415) 338-1427 (work) or (415) 924-2907 (home).

Doug Powell, geography and human environmental studies lecturer, can discuss the terrain of Afghanistan. Powell spent seven months in Afghanistan during the 1970s studying how its geography was affected by snow runoff. Powell can be reached at (510) 843-6879 (home).

"Winters there can be cold, particularly at high elevation, although it is not a heavily snowy country," he said. "Afghanistan is extremely rugged and highly mountainous with intervening valleys that are highly farmed. Some of the mountain and basin ranges in Nevada, east of the Sierras, are somewhat similar to Afghanistan: steep, with relatively minor vegetation."

Philip Kipper, chair and professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts, can discuss media coverage of the attacks and their aftermaths. He is a former radio, newspaper and magazine reporter, and his area of expertise is news writing for the electronic media. Kipper can be reached at (415) 338-1788 (work), (415) 664-0968 (home), or

"U.S. television news did a great job in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks by following the facts and staying clear of bias that might inflame public opinion," he said. "More recently, by turning news coverage into a 'show' with theme songs and titles, the networks are slipping into a pattern familiar from the Gulf War, which brings into question the reliability of the news."

Dara Williams, director of the News Watch Project at SFSU, is an expert on diversity issues in the media and news coverage of minorities. She is a former diversity affairs reporter for Associated Press bureaus in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. Williams can be reached at (415) 405-0727 or (510) 839-2807 (work), at (510) 504-5455 (home) or

"As Census figures continue to show us how diverse the country is becoming, it is becoming increasingly important that, as journalists who believe in accuracy, we make sure that our news stories also reflect that diversity," she said. "This is not an issue of being politically correct. One of the highest tenets of journalism is to be fair and accurate. If we are to uphold that ideal, that means having coverage that is inclusive of the entire community."

Rick Isaacson, assistant professor of speech and communication studies, is an expert on rhetoric and persuasion. He teaches a course on rhetoric and persuasion, in which he includes discussions on propaganda and the use of language. Isaacson can be reached at (415) 338-2921 (work), (415) 383-5241 (home) or

"The last three weeks have served as a national tutorial on the complexities of a new brand of warfare," he said. "The language of the administration can now entertain shades of gray that would not have satisfied the inflamed passions and fears immediately following Sept. 11."

Christopher Waldrep, professor of history, is an expert on hate crimes in the United States. Waldrep, who teaches a course on the history of American violence, has written extensively on the political forces behind vigilante violence in the United States. Waldrep can be reached at (415) 338-2982 (work) or (925) 370-2909 (home).

"Hate crimes and vigilante justice increase whenever the U.S. wages a patriotic war with a lot of fervor," he said. "These crimes, of course, are mainly directed against people who share the same ethnic background as the people are waging war against."

Minoo Moallem, chair and assistant professor of women studies, is an expert on issues of women and Islamic fundamentalism and feminist movements in the Middle East among Muslims. She is writing a book on gender and Islamic fundamentalism in Iran and lectures frequently on these issues. Moallem can be reached at (415) 338-3065 (work) or She may be unavailable for interviews Oct. 11-14.

"All Muslims are not fundamentalists, and all fundamentalists are not Muslims," she said. "Muslim women are not passive victims; they are active agents who participate in various social movements in their societies."

Jerry Combs, professor of history, teaches a course on American foreign relations and is an expert on the history of American foreign policy. He can also discuss the similarities and differences between the war on terrorism and the U.S.' past wars. Combs can be reached at (415) 338-1246 (work), (925) 935-2404 (home) or He requests no calls after 9 p.m.

"No change in American foreign policy can pacify the fundamentalist Islamic fanatics who hate the United States for its best as well as its worst characteristics. But we still need to understand why many moderate Muslims also dislike American foreign policy," he said. "Once we understand that, we need to examine with a realistic eye just how much we can change American policy to accommodate their views and what we must maintain for our own interests and ideals. In doing so we would not be appeasing the fanatics or risking another Munich, as some have charged; we would simply be trying to avoid throwing potential friends into the arms of Bin laden."

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Last modified October 9, 2001, by Office of Public Affairs