Hanna Batatu (1926 - 2000) exemplified the essence of what it is to be a good teacher and a fine human being. He was an excellent "murabbi". In Batatu's case the Arabic word is absolutely correct in showing teaching as a rearing mission. He was a role model in every sense of the word. Batatu was decent, diligent, smart, dignified, passionate, a perfectionist, and a true academician. During college years when all sorts of rushes were at their peak, Batatu always urged us, his students, to systematically and consistently be calm while seriously considering the root causes of any problem rather than focus on the symptoms. Acquiring the skill of critical thinking in looking at things in terms of causes, effects, and symptoms was such a great discovery. A discovery that must come in handy today when we are bombarded with solutions that superficially treat the symptoms without serious consideration of the real causes. As far as I am personally concerned, Batatu was a great mentor, even though I never thought of him as such at the time. I won't talk of his academic work because he is greater than having one of his pupils praise him for it. His academic work speaks loudly for itself. Today the whole world swears by the great research he left us.
Hanna Batatu was a brave man, a man of rock-solid principles. He spoke the truth even when it ran contrary to his own interest and livelihood. At the time of the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait, Batatu expressed his views that were based on history and on an objective reading of it. This cost him the Kuwaiti chair at Georgetown University. The very chair that was behind his bread and butter at the time. I do not know much about the details of this incident. It was shrouded with secrecy. Nobody ever talked about it. However, we all knew of and respected him for it.
For those who would like to catch a glimpse of the man I am talking about, may I suggest looking up the greatest work that has ever been written on Modern Iraq: “The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq”.
Professor Batatu, may your soul rest in peace!