February 1, 2005
The following statement from Ward Churchill was posted on the University of Colorado's Web site under the Department of Ethnic Studies on Monday. Churchill noted these are his views not those of the University.
In the last few days there has been widespread and grossly inaccurate media coverage concerning my analysis of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, coverage that has resulted in defamation of my character and threats against my life. What I actually said has been lost, indeed turned into the opposite of itself, and I hope the following facts will be reported at least to the same extent that the fabrications have been.
The piece circulating on the Internet was developed into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. Most of the book is a detailed chronology of U.S. military interventions since 1776 and U.S. violations of international law since World War II. My point is that we cannot allow the U.S. government, acting in our name, to engage in massive violations of international law and fundamental human rights and not expect to reap the consequences.
I am not a "defender" of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned. I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable."
This is not to say that I advocate violence; as a U.S. soldier in Vietnam I witnessed and participated in more violence than I ever wish to see. What I am saying is that if we want an end to violence, especially that perpetrated against civilians, we must take the responsibility for halting the slaughter perpetrated by the United States around the world. My feelings are reflected in Dr. King's April 1967 Riverside speech, where, when asked about the wave of urban rebellions in U.S. cities, he said, "I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed . . . without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government."
In 1996, Madeleine Albright, then ambassador to the UN and soon to be U.S. secretary of state, did not dispute that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of economic sanctions, but stated on national television that "we" had decided it was "worth the cost." I mourn the victims of the September 11 attacks, just as I mourn the deaths of those Iraqi children, the more than 3 million people killed in the war in Indochina, those who died in the U.S. invasions of Grenada, Panama and elsewhere in Central America, the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, and the indigenous peoples still subjected to genocidal policies. If we respond with callous disregard to the deaths of others, we can only expect equal callousness to American deaths.
Finally, I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as "Nazis." What I said was that the "technocrats of empire" working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of "little Eichmanns." Adolf Eichmann was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide. Similarly, German industrialists were legitimately targeted by the Allies.
It is not disputed that the Pentagon was a military target, or that a CIA office was situated in the World Trade Center . Following the logic by which U.S. Defense Department spokespersons have consistently sought to justify target selection in places like Baghdad , this placement of an element of the American "command and control infrastructure" in an ostensibly civilian facility converted the Trade Center itself into a "legitimate" target. Again following U.S. military doctrine, as announced in briefing after briefing, those who did not work for the CIA but were nonetheless killed in the attack amounted to "collateral damage." If the U.S. public is prepared to accept these "standards" when the are routinely applied to other people, they should be not be surprised when the same standards are applied to them.
It should be emphasized that I applied the "little Eichmanns" characterization only to those described as "technicians." Thus, it was obviously not directed to the children, janitors, food service workers, firemen and random passers-by killed in the 911 attack. According to Pentagon logic, were simply part of the collateral damage. Ugly? Yes. Hurtful? Yes. And that's my point. It's no less ugly, painful or dehumanizing a description when applied to Iraqis, Palestinians, or anyone else. If we ourselves do not want to be treated in this fashion, we must refuse to allow others to be similarly devalued and dehumanized in our name.
The bottom line of my argument is that the best and perhaps only way to prevent 9-1-1-style attacks on the U.S. is for American citizens to compel their government to comply with the rule of law. The lesson of Nuremberg is that this is not only our right, but our obligation. To the extent we shirk this responsibility, we, like the "Good Germans" of the 1930s and '40s, are complicit in its actions and have no legitimate basis for complaint when we suffer the consequences. This, of course, includes me, personally, as well as my family, no less than anyone else.
These points are clearly stated and documented in my book, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," which recently won Honorary Mention for the Gustavus Myer Human Rights Award for best writing on human rights. Some people will, of course, disagree with my analysis, but it presents questions that must be addressed in academic and public debate if we are to find a real solution to the violence that pervades today's world. The gross distortions of what I actually said can only be viewed as an attempt to distract the public from the real issues at hand and to further stifle freedom of speech and academic debate in this country.
Published on Monday, February 14, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Ward Churchill Has Rights, and He’s Right
by Robert Jensen
Ward Churchill has a right to speak about 9/11.
And Ward Churchill is right about 9/11.
I state that bluntly, even though I disagree with some aspects of the University of Colorado professor’s now-infamous essay, because so many (including some on the left) have defended his First Amendment rights while either remaining silent about, or condemning, the article’s analysis.
So, for the record: The main thesis Churchill put forward in “’Some People Push Back’: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” is an accurate account of the depravity of U.S. foreign policy and its relationship to terrorism. Later I’ll return to my disagreements, but at a moment when right-wing forces have targeted not only Churchill but academic freedom and the left in general, it is more important than ever to stand firm on that point.
Malcolm X was correct, and it was appropriate for Churchill to quote him: Chickens do, indeed, come home to roost. And whether U.S. citizens want to acknowledge it or not, there likely will be chickens heading our way for years to come.
I take Churchill’s central thesis to be that (1) U.S. crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes around the world -- from the genocidal campaigns against indigenous people on which this country was founded, through the post-World War II assaults (both by the U.S. military and through proxy forces) on the people of the Third World -- are crimes, in legal and moral terms; (2) while contemporary non-state terrorism is a complex phenomenon, U.S. policies aimed at domination and control around the world are one of several key factors in spawning such terrorism; and (3) we must study that history and those connections if we want to prevent further crimes, whether committed by the United States or against U.S. Citizens
I also take a core assertion of Churchill’s essay to be that we citizens of the U.S. empire bear some collective responsibility for those crimes, depending on our level of power and privilege, and our capacity for resistance. As Churchill explained recently, he includes himself in that category, not as a perpetrator but as a member of movements that have failed to stop the crimes (just as I would include myself). Further, those people at the top of the power pyramid must accept their responsibility for those crimes, even if they are not directly involved in the planning and execution of specific criminal acts. The technocrats “at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” which U.S. policy serves, he wrote, are not innocent. (More later on how to understand the boundaries of that category.)
All of those claims are supported by evidence, law, and basic moral principles widely shared across philosophical and spiritual/religious traditions. Churchill is correct in refusing to retract those claims. Those of us who have sharply critiqued U.S. Policy also should stand our ground.
It would be particularly cowardly if I tried to distance myself from Churchill and his ideas, given that I have made similar arguments in print and in public speaking over the past decade, especially since 9/11. I was the target of a much less intense vilification campaign on my own university campus immediately after 9/11, which blew over fairly quickly and never reached the level of the attack on Churchill. I am fortunate to remain employed at my university and engaged in the larger intellectual and political world.
I also owe a larger intellectual and political debt to Churchill. His books were influential on my thinking and were one gateway to my exploration of issues involving the U.S. attacks on indigenous people. It was by reading Churchill’s work, particularly A Little Matter of Genocide, that I finally acknowledged the obvious: The European holocaust against indigenous people constitutes genocide and should lead us to confront the barbarism at the heart of the United States.
So, I don’t hesitate to defend Churchill, his work, and the larger political movement of which he is a part. But I also want to articulate where I disagree with his analysis -- not to distance myself from him but instead to demonstrate solidarity. Real colleagues do not ignore differences; they engage them. And at the same time, real political allies on the left keep their eyes on the game that right-wing forces play -- divide-and-conquer strategies designed to scare people away from supporting principles of justice and each other.
So, to fellow leftists and scholars: This is the worst possible time to duck and cover. It’s an especially important moment to step up in public and engage in open and honest dialogue, to defend our intellectual and political positions and our right to speak about them.
To right-wing forces: Feel free to take passages from this essay out of context to “prove” that I am anti-American, support terrorism, and use the classroom to indoctrinate helpless students in my demonic left-wing ideology designed to destroy our country. Of course you don’t need my permission; you’ll do it anyway, as you’ve done it to Churchill and many others.
To Ward Churchill: There are points in the essay that I think missed the mark, perhaps mostly out of a lack of sufficient time and space for detail in argument. I offer this critique not in condemnation but in support, in the hope that all of us working on these issues can refine our arguments.
First, let’s go to the passage that has received the most attention, the labeling of the people described as a “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” as “little Eichmanns.” Churchill has said that the passage clearly wasn’t intended to include the janitors, food-service workers, children, rescue workers, or passers-by who were killed, and there’s no reason to doubt him about that, even if the construction was ambiguous enough that many read it as a broader condemnation. But even accepting that narrow construction, the statement is still problematic. Are all the stock traders in the United States really equivalent to Adolph Eichmann? It’s true that Eichmann was a technocrat who helped keep the Nazi machinery of death running, not the person pulling the trigger, so to speak. But Eichmann was a fairly high-level Gestapo bureaucrat, directly involved in the planning of that holocaust. Is it accurate to think of all stock traders -- even if marked as “little” versions of Eichmann, implying a much lower scale -- as being in an analogous position? Is there a difference between a run-of-the-mill stock broker who manages people’s retirement funds and high-level traders who make deals that can change the value of a nation’s currency and destroy people’s lives?
Certainly many people in this society do jobs that are disconnected from real-world suffering caused by our economic and political system, and it is easy to lose sight of one’s role in that system, and hence one’s moral responsibility. Perhaps better than labeling them Eichmanns would be to talk about the degree of Eichmann-ness in various positions. Maybe stock traders aren’t directly analogous to Eichmann, but simply have more to answer for morally than many others. Maybe a university professor who by uncritically teaching the mythology of a benevolent U.S. Empire provides support for imperial crimes has more Eichmann-ness than a secretary at the Pentagon. All are, in some sense, part of the system, but all have different levels of privilege, power, and culpability. Some directly contribute to the maintenance of the system but are well below the level of responsibilities of an Eichmann. By using the comparison so loosely, the term loses meaning. Ironically, if so many people can be Eichmanns in some sense, then the actual Eichmanns in our system -- the people in the military, government, and corporations in charge of the actual institutions of war and economic domination, the Pentagon planners and the bank officials who squeeze crippling debt payments out of Third World countries -- are off the hook. Collective responsibility cannot mean all are responsible to exactly the same degree, as Churchill himself has articulated. His formulation in his essay forces us to think, and from there I think a more detailed discussion is necessary.
But whatever one’s analysis of that Eichmann-ness quotient, there’s still a sentence in Churchill’s piece that troubles me: “If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.” It’s hard to read that as anything other than an endorsement of the use of deadly force against all those involved in “the ‘mighty engine of profit’ to which the military dimension of U.S. Policy has always been enslaved,” apparently at the level of stock traders and above. Many have condemned Churchill for this and suggested this comment was obviously crazy. I do not think it’s that simple. If an economic and political system callously destroys human life around the world -- as corporate capitalism and fanatical U.S. nationalism do -- in a fashion not always visible to many in the system, what will change that morally unacceptable state of affairs? Is violence justified in the face of such a system? If so, what kind of violence can actually bring a more just world?
I am not a pacifist; I believe there are times and places in which the use of violence to prevent a greater violence or end deeply rooted oppression is morally justified. Certainly many of the revolutionary movements that struggled against colonialism met that test. The decisions one makes in such situations are neither simple nor easy.
But I think it is clear that the attacks of 9/11 don’t meet the test. Can anyone imagine a scenario in which such attacks have a reasonable chance of leading to real justice in the world? I cannot, which is why I continue to hope that a predominantly non-violent (though not necessarily pacifist) global movement can restrain the empire and eventually be a vehicle for real peace and real justice. Certainly the massive worldwide protests on Feb. 15, 2003, against the United States’ planned attack on Iraq indicated the potential, even if that movement failed to stop that particular war at that moment. Can the global justice movement that had begun to challenge corporate domination of the planet and the anti-empire/anti-war movement focused on U.S. Military power come together to create new possibilities? I don’t know enough to know the answer, but I can continue to try to be part of such a movement when there is no other viable option on the horizon.
A related issue that requires careful analysis is the relationship between the crimes of the United States and the motivations of the people who planned and executed the attacks on 9/11. The policies of the U.S. government in the Arab and Muslim world -- not just those of the ideologically fanatical Bush administration, but consistently across Republican and Democratic administrations -- have created justified resentment of the United States. Among those policies are unconditional U.S. support for Israel’s illegal and brutal occupation of Palestinian land, the ongoing presence of U.S. troops in the Middle East and U.S. Support for repressive regimes throughout the region, and (before the illegal U.S. invasion in 2003) the imposition of harsh economic sanctions on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands.
Osama bin Laden and others in networks like al-Qaeda criticize those policies, but that does not mean they are the voice of the dispossessed or constitute a national liberation movement. Their own political program is grotesque, not just by the standards of a secular leftist in the United States, but by the standards of progressive movements around the world. While they attack U.S. targets because they want to end U.S. domination of the Muslim world -- a reasonable goal -- they don’t seek the justice denied to them by the United States. They seek to impose a different kind of authority and control.
But people such as bin Laden can draw on the deep reservoirs of legitimate resentment created by U.S. Policy, especially when so many other politicians in the region are unwilling to challenge the United States. For the vast majority of the populace of the Islamic world, that justified anger at U.S. Foreign policy has not translated to support for al-Qaeda’s aims and methods, but the shared anger at U.S. Domination provides these terror networks their only cover.
So, I agree completely with Churchill’s assessment that “America’s indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world’s peoples ample cause to be at war with it,” but I want to highlight the regressive characteristics of some of the political programs of people who go to war with it. As the title of Churchill’s essay reminds us, “some people push back.” But some of those people pushing back aren’t pushing for justice. His labeling of the events of 9/11 as “counterattacks” is true in a descriptive sense, but not in a moral one.
Finally, I would suggest that Churchill’s declaration that he’s “not backing up an inch” misses an opportunity. He has said in an interview that he has “an abiding sorrow” for the victims, and I believe him. But if the way in which some of the loved ones of those innocent victims read his words left them feeling hurt, why not reach out to them? Here’s one possible response:
“I told the truth about U.S. history and policy, and I will not apologize for that. I told the truth about the way in which many Americans avoid responsibility for the crimes of their own government, and I will not apologize for that. I do not owe Bill O’Reilly or the CU Board of Regents or the general public an apology. But to those still grieving their losses of 9/11, I offer solidarity, compassion, and my regret for any deepening of that hurt that my words caused.
“Please accept that, but also accept my challenge. It is the challenge posed by many people of faith, internationalists, and radicals throughout time: The challenge to see all human life as equally valuable. The challenge to act in a world in which innocent people routinely die because of U.S. economic and military policy. A world in which military planners talk casually of “collateral damage” and political leaders decide how many civilians will be incinerated by U.S. bombs in a war to enhance their power. A world in which half the people on the planet live on less than $2 a day. A world in which 11 million children under the age of 5 die each year -- that’s 30,000 a day, 10 times the death toll on 9/11 -- most from a lack of simple medicines, clean water, and adequate nutrition. A world in which health experts estimate that 6 million of those children could be saved by low-tech interventions costing about $7.5 billion, less than 2 percent of the annual Pentagon budget.
“Someone you love was a victim of terrorism, but we should not construct the United States as a victim. Please consider the example set by members of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who lost loved ones on 9/11 but rejected the use of that tragedy as a pretext for further U.S. wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. Please join the movement to end the insanity of U.S. aggression and the violence that it spawns.”
Let me be clear: By suggesting such a response, I am not asking Churchill to back down. Nor am I suggesting he should let go of his anger, an aspect of his intellectual and political profile that I have long admired. When Churchill sees injustice in the world, he does not react as a cold, dispassionate scholar hidden away in a protected office but as a human being outraged by the injustice who wants it to end. There are too few scholars like Churchill, who dedicate their work and lives to ending the suffering that injustice brings. His 9/11 essay conveys that anger, and whatever the differences in interpretation I’ve outlined here, I cannot disagree with, nor discount, his anger. I remember feeling a similar anger that day, mixed with the shock and sadness. And the more I learn about the world, the more I feel it. None of us should let go of that anger just because others are scared of it.
For me, left politics -- resistance to unjust impositions of authority and the struggle for a sustainable world that balances a deep yearning for individual freedom and a deep sense of responsibility for each other -- is fueled by anger at the world as it exists, along with a love for people and an appreciation for the beauty of the non-human world. That righteous anger is powerful, as long as it does not slip into self-righteousness and stays in balance with that love. We can be glib about that struggle, but in reality the tension -- inside of each of us and inside our movements -- is not always easy to cope with. I wrestle with it every day.
Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement was fond of quoting a line from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.” In the essay he wrote on 9/11, I believe Churchill was facing those harsh and dreadful realities, and I believe that essay was his attempt on that day to take love out of the realm of dreams and make it real in the world, in action.
In that action, Churchill is angry. He is harsh. And in the central themes of the 9/11 essay and his life’s work, Ward Churchill is right.
Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center (http://thirdcoastactivist.org/). He is the author of “Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity” and “Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream.” Other work is available at http://www.nowarcollective.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on Sunday, February 13, 2005 by The Progressive
In Defense of Ward Churchill
by Matthew Rothschild
Ward Churchill is under attack.
But it’s not about him.
It’s about free speech and academic freedom.
And it’s about the ability to criticize U.S. foreign policy in the context of 9/11.
As you’ve probably heard, Ward Churchill is a professor at the University of Colorado who wrote some regrettable words in an essay after 9/11, comparing what he called “the technicians” in the World Trade Center to “Little Eichmanns.” That unfortunate comparison was outrageous and insensitive, and I wish he hadn’t made it.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have the right to make it.
He has the right that all Americans have: the right of free speech.
And he has the right that all tenured faculty have: the right to express themselves and their ideas freely so that in the free exchange of ideas, truth will eventually win out.
Now, more than three years after his essay, the snarlers and growlers of the right have come after Churchill, led by Bill O’Reilly and the editors of The Wall Street Journal.
Churchill has received many death threats, his car has been vandalized with swastikas, a Denver talk show host said he should be executed for treason, and now Churchill’s job is on the line.
The Board of Regents is undertaking a 30-day review of all of Churchill’s writings and statements.
The governor of Colorado has called for his dismissal. “No one wants to infringe on Mr. Churchill’s right to express himself,” Governor Bill Owens wrote on February 1 in an Orwellian throat-clearing. But then he got the muzzle out. “We are not compelled to accept his pro-terrorist views at state taxpayer subsidy nor under the banner of the University of Colorado. Ward Churchill besmirches the university. . . . Mr. Churchill’s views are not simply anti-American. They are at odds with simple decency, and antagonistic to the beliefs and conduct of civilized people around the world.”
The Colorado House of Representatives on February 2 said his essay “strikes an evil and inflammatory blow against America’s healing process.”
I have read Churchill’s offending essay, “ ‘Some People Push Back’: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” (To read it and Ward Churchill’s response to the controversy, go to www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchi
And there is much in there that offends me: his indelicate and imprudent and historically inaccurate comparisons to Nazi Germany, his callousness to those who lost their lives on 9/11, his romanticized treatment of the terrorists and their motives on 9/11, his lack of appreciation for the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, and his disdain for pacifists.
But my strong disagreements with Churchill are beside the point. As are Bill O’Reilly’s or the editors’ of the Wall Street Journal or the regents’ of the University of Colorado or Governor Owens’s.
Ward Churchill has the right to express himself freely.
And his method of writing and speaking and teaching is to shake people up, to provoke a reaction, so that people will reexamine their beliefs. This provocative style may have the opposite effect, sparking emotional reactions and stiffening psychological defenses, but he’s entitled to his speaking and teaching style.
“I go for the gut,” he explained to the Boulder Weekly on February 10. “That’s my speaking strategy. I go for the gut to provoke a response.”
He’s succeeded this time.
And now he’s in trouble for it.
He rightly identifies the attack on him “explicitly as political repression,” adding: “This is a book-burning exercise. It’s a stifling of political discourse.” And he believes he is but the first of many. “I’m the kick-off. . . . It’s the opening round of a general purge of the academy of people who say things they find to be politically unacceptable.”
We’ve been down this ugly road before.
We need to defend Ward Churchill.
We need to defend free speech.
We need to defend academic freedom.
And we need to defend the right to criticize the U.S. empire.
For the attack on Churchill is an attack also on anyone who dares to question the myth of American imperial innocence.
That was at the very heart of Churchill’s essay. And he is right about the American people’s unblissful, immoral ignorance of, or complicity with, the crimes that our government has committed since its very founding, crimes that have killed innocent people in the tens of millions. Churchill, a Native American professor, knows a thing or two about those crimes.
Churchill delineates those crimes and puts 9/11 on the scale with those crimes. And there is nothing wrong with that, though the Governor of Colorado assailed him as “anti-American” for doing so.
And Churchill warned in his essay that if the United States doesn’t change its policies, it can expect more attacks. The age of impunity is over, he said. And Americans don’t want to hear that.
“The bottom line of my argument is that the best and perhaps only way to prevent 9/11-style attacks on the U.S. is for American citizens to compel their government to comply with the rule of law,” Churchill wrote on January 31.
Everyone who values free speech, everyone who respects academic freedom, everyone who wants U.S. foreign policy to finally obey international law must come to the defense of Ward Churchill.
© 2005 the Progressive
Published on Friday, February 4, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Ward Churchill's Banality of Evil
The right to free speech doesn't mean you're right
by Anthony Lappé
Controversial statements by radical University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill have become the latest 9/11 free speech flame-up. In an essay that has since been developed into a book entitled “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” he compared “technocrats” inside the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s Final Solution logistics man. Churchill strongly implied the WTC “technocrat’s” complicity in the machinations of the American empire made them legitimate targets of the 9/11 hijackers. He wrote:
Well, really. Let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they [technocrats] were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it. [emphasis added]
Strong stuff. Other public figures have found themselves in hot water for making controversial statements about 9/11. On 9/12, Noam Chomsky noted the attacks were neither unexpected or unprecedented in the scope of recent human suffering. His timing left something to be desired, but he was making a fairly mundane observation. Churchill is making a much more radical statement here. He has since issued an explanation in which he backpedals and tries to shift the emphasis onto the Pentagon’s policies (see statement and GNN discussion here). But he fails to disown the thrust of the original argument: those who take part in an evil capitalist system should be held accountable, like Adolf Eichmann was. Eichmann was the mild-mannered German bureaucrat who designed the plans for carrying out the Holocaust. He was famously captured by Israel in 1960, tried for his crimes and hanged. His everyman demeanor prompted Hannah Arendt to coin the term “the banality of evil.”
The storm around Churchill’s statements has many on the far left coming to his defense. As a Native American activist, he has a long record of fighting injustice (see my interview with his frequent co-author Jim Vander Wall here), and I too support his right to free speech. Ruffling feathers is what good professors do. It’s a shame that the controversy has cost him his chairmanship of the Ethnic Studies Department at Colorado (he resigned this week). Now his troubles have reached all the way to New York, where an appearance at Hamilton College was cancelled due to what administrators said were security concerns over a flood of death threats.
But there’s a big difference between the right to speak your mind, and being right. And I think he’s dead wrong.
Maybe it’s because I was blocks away when the towers fell. Maybe it’s because I’m more of a wussy pacifist than my more radical brothers. But I cannot find it in me to find what he wrote anything other than completely reprehensible.
Consider the professor’s twisted logic. First one has to ignore the fact that the main crime he accuses the U.S. of – the embargo of Iraq under Saddam which resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths – was an act of the U.S. government and was likely unpopular, as most limits on commerce are, with the financial community. Let’s grant him that the bankers are complicit in America’s global corporate domination. We can all agree on that. But where do you draw the line when it comes to doling out the professor’s brand of tough justice? What about the secretaries who serve coffee to the little Eichmanns? They keep the evil system caffeinated, should they die? What if you own stock? Does earning dividends on GE mean your apartment building should be leveled with you in it? What if you keep your money at Chase or Citibank? Buy stuff at Wal-Mart? Pay federal taxes? Or better yet, what if you work for the government? Churchill himself works for a state university. He takes a paycheck from an institution that in all likelihood does military research and is probably ten times more complicit in the actual machinery of war than any junior currency trader.
If Churchill’s intent was to merely challenge us – to get us to look in the mirror and ask if maybe we all have a little Eichmann in us, then I applaud him. In some ways, we all do – no matter how hard we try to buy recycled toilet paper or not to buy Air Jordans. As Americans, we are all complicit in varying degrees in an exploitative system. It’s the acknowledgment of my special responsibility as a privileged person on this planet that keeps me doing what I’m doing. But Churchill, no matter how he later tried to spin it, was clearly trying to do something more than “shock the yuppies.” He was pinning a target on the backs of a very specific group of people, the “technocrats,” and saying they deserved what they got that clear September morning. It was a vicious, sloppy polemic that he deserves to be called out on. To argue that a commodities trader (which many WTC victims were) deserves to pay with his life for buying pork bellies low and selling them high is simplistic, unprogressive, and I dare say, fascist – even if, as he later tried to argue, he was merely applying America’s standards back on itself.
It’s a shame to see such a great champion of the repressed as Ward Churchill succumb to such wrongheaded logic – the very logic that has led to the belief that certain groups of people could be annihilated for their perceived complicity in the acts of the larger group.
Anthony Lappé (email@example.com) is GNN's Executive Editor. He is the co-author with Stephen Marshall of GNN's first book, True Lies, and the producer of GNN's award-winning Iraq documenatry, BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge. Check out his blog, The Bunker, at http://www.gnn.tv/users/user.php?id=3
© 2005 GNN TV
Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2005 by the Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)
An Open Letter to Ward Churchill: My Brother, the 'Eichmann'
by Michael Faughnan
An open letter to Ward Churchill:
My brother Chris was a 1985 graduate of the University of Colorado, the father of three young children and a compassionate, respectful and generous man. He stood in defense of our environment, volunteered his time and money in support of human rights, and gave unselfishly to help disadvantaged, vulnerable members of our society. He spoke openly against unjust government policies, and followed a private ethic of compassion. Chris was also a U.S. government Treasury bond broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, and therefore by your definition was a "little Eichmann."
At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, you claim that my beautiful brother Chris, a "technocrat" in your words, received his "befitting penalty." While Chris rarely used a cell phone in his work (much less self-importantly brayed into one), he did make one call that fateful day. At about 8:30 that morning, Chris bantered back and forth with his 4-year-old daughter to get her to say that she loved him — she was the last of his family to talk with him.
Mr. Churchill, what I want you to see is the human face behind the rhetoric. Human beings are not symbols, and your essay's dehumanization of the victims of 9/11 reduces them to mere symbols — drones in a capitalist machine. In this way, you are guilty of what you claim to condemn, that is the dehumanization of individuals. It is the inability to see the human face of "the other" that allows the horrible violence in this world to continue.
From what I understand after reading your essay, you wish to give the American people a view of the suffering of the Iraqi and the Palestinian peoples, and provide insight into why the attacks of 9/11 may have occurred. This is noble and legitimate. We do need to see and understand the consequences of the actions of our government and the exportation of our culture, and also do what we can to right the wrongs that have been committed. But to make this point is it necessary to forget the individual humanity of those who died in the attacks and reduce them to mere stereotypes?
Recently, our family has been discussing what would be a befitting, honorable tribute to his life. Ironically, your essay arrived with its own recognition of Chris's memory — as a faceless technocrat who deserved to die.
Chris's wife now lives in the Boulder area and continues to raise his children based on the creed he followed throughout his life: respect, appreciation, honesty, benevolence and love. So the media coverage of you and your writings resonates loudly with our family, and clarification of your writings is critical to us.
Mr. Churchill, we have the right to ask you, in fact, we are obligated to ask you publicly. And you, sir, we feel, are obligated to answer us publicly and unequivocally. In your view, was my brother's death justified? Yes or no? Did it right any wrongs that have been committed in this world?
Whether you answer, and how you answer, I believe is critical to the greater message I believe you seek to espouse. Behind the painful rhetoric you use, I sense a nobler goal, the desire to tell the American people that we must be aware of ourselves in the world, take responsibility and work to understand and change the wrongs that have been committed. If this is your greater message, my brother Chris would have agreed with you whole-heartedly. And if this is your message, please state it clearly, and abandon the dehumanizing rhetoric and the pathetic metaphors. If you cannot make your point this way, it is you who is "braying," playing the role of provocateur and not speaking from any coherent moral conviction.
Regrettably, you, like many of those who are zealously attacking you — political leaders, talk-show hosts, those who profess their views around the office water cooler — disgracefully use the victims of 9/11 to advance your own cause. In the view of this family, your grossly inappropriate characterization of Chris and the other 9/11 victims has been surpassed in vulgarity only by the misinformed advocates of aggression who used those beautiful innocents who perished on 9/11 as propaganda for immediate and misguided violence and destruction.
Our family is seeking to steer a course through these two extremes to find some truth in our brother's death. We are concerned that the majority of the public discussion has moved away from the message you are trying to convey, to attacks on your pedigree, your integrity, your scholarship and your right to speak.
We believe in free speech, but also know the truth of the phrase "with great freedom, comes great responsibility." Shame on the University of Colorado, certain political leaders and others who attack you personally, while side-stepping a deeper understanding of the views that you appear to be raising. We would like you to use your right to speak and your privileged position to be clear on our brother's death so that we can better understand your message. Are you capable of rejecting the language of hate and engaging in real constructive dialog to explore realistic solutions to our real world problems, without pitting one group of victims against another?
Mr. Churchill, my family is not ensconced in an ivory tower. We do not have the luxury that you have of pontificating at arm's length on the causes behind the events of 9/11. The reality of that day has been cemented in my family's life forever.
Was our loss justified? Did it right any wrongs that have been committed in this world? We await your clarification.
Michael Faughnan of Denver wrote this on behalf of the family of Christopher Faughnan.
© 2005 Daily Camera
Published on Sunday, February 6, 2005 by the Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)
Churchill's Real Sin: Ego
by Clay Evans
The brouhaha surrounding University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill's Sept. 12, 2001, essay, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," has devolved into a festival of lunacy.
Churchill, whose essay managed to float for more than three years all but unnoticed — and, I would note, harming no one — now says that those who have issued death threats against him are "terrorists." Fools and reactionaries, yes. But it's hard to feel sorry for Churchill when he still hesitates to use the "t-word" to describe the perpetrators of 9/11: They were "combat teams" notable for "patience and restraint."
During a Wednesday protest on the CU campus, Churchill supporters hilariously segued from chants of "free speech, free speech" to trying to hoot down a member of the College Republicans trying to read a statement from Gov. Bill Owens (who revealed his own weak grasp of free speech).
On the other side, anti-Churchill demonstrators and Owens claimed that, while the professor is free to speak as a citizen, his status as a public employee neuters his First Amendment rights. By logical extension, the Bill of Rights is null and void for all government employees, no?
The Rocky Mountain News, which in a 1999 editorial defended a how-to book on assassination — "The reason the First Amendment guarantees a blanket protection is precisely so government doesn't end up determining for the rest of us what is acceptable content." — now calls for the government to fire Churchill based on ... his "unacceptable" content and "incitement to violence."
And CU Regent Steve Bosley thinks Churchill's sin was spouting "anti-American and anti-capitalist rhetoric." Huh. I must have missed the memo about Soviet-style suppression of "incorrect" ideas.
Worst of all, it's apparent that few people actually read Churchill's essay in its entirety before spouting off.
Well, I have read it, and some of its underlying assertions are not as outrageous as the mindless "they-hate-us-for-our-freedoms" crowd would have us believe. Churchill's basic point, it seems to me, is that Americans have for decades blindly supported a foreign policy that has caused suffering and death around the globe, so it's no surprise that someone would strike back (though his approval of such mass murder is repellent to me). Our fantasies of invulnerability and divine rectitude are the same as those dearly held — and always shattered — by empires and "superpowers" throughout history.
But the essay's arrogance, hypocrisy and poisonous condemnation of whole groups of people, including snotty rips like that on Americans who "(see) to it that little 'Tiffany' and 'Ashley' had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords," undermines it. Churchill even blasts (yet again) peaceful activists who protested the 10-year sanctions on Iraq that killed 500,000 children, which his quick-draw essay offers as the main reason for the 9/11 attacks. Guess if you ain't shooting, boy, you ain't s**t.
Churchill suffers from an elitist myopia little different from the stereotyping of the racists and imperialists he so often excoriates. Like so many political "purists" in history, including Hitler and those who slaughtered unarmed American Indians at Sand Creek, he condemns people he's never met, and applauds their deaths, all to justify his ivory-tower ideology. Churchill is all political, no personal.
Yet the professor has a personal life, too, just like the "little Eichmanns" (to quote his insidious diminution of the brutality of the Holocaust) who died on Sept. 11. Like them, he's enmeshed in the "empire" by simple virtue of living in our privileged, overconsuming society. He may think he's "purer" than the rest of us, but he's not exactly living "off the grid" in the Idaho panhandle, either:
Churchill works for "the man," accepting more than $100,000 a year — he's rich, in my book — from us sheep-like taxpayers and, presumably, paying taxes that support "America's global financial empire." Though he claims otherwise, I'd wager my 401(k) he's not wholly divested from pensions invested in stocks and bonds.
Public records show he owns a three-bedroom house in Boulder(capitalist swine!) and has bought at least five motor vehicles, including two pickup trucks (to bolster his dubious "Indian" credentials?) since 1995; perhaps he buys his petroleum from an anarchist collective on the moon. He incessantly smokes tobacco, contributing, at least indirectly, to an industry that is busily striving to addict new cancer candidates in Third World countries every day.
In other words, his life has an impact — just like those of 9/11 victims whom he says received "penalty befitting their participation" in the same system. But, like others blinded by ego and a transparently pathetic need to feel superior, he barks stereotypes and invective through a bullhorn of phony virtue, cursing people who, in his mind, committed the "crime" of trying to live and feed families from within a system that some surely found flawed, too.
Churchill no doubt believes that, by degrees, he's more virtuous than most Americans; people like him always do. But it's a fair bet that his terrorist heroes would slit his throat as quickly as those of any other American. And carried to logical extremes, the only way for the professor, or anyone, to achieve perfect "purity" is not a move to Idaho, but a "noble" act of suicide.
Churchill was right to surrender the Ethnic Studies Department chair (will he miss that filthy $18,000?). But if the regents try to revoke his tenure, it's hello, McCarthyism.
Because Ward Churchill has a right to speak, and he does speak some truth. If he wants more willing listeners, he should resist mixing it up with rancid ego, blind hatred and sorry hypocrisy.
© 2005 Daily Camera
Published on Friday, February 4, 2005 by the Denver Post
Churchill Rant Has Some Truth
by Reggie Rivers
It's easy to attack University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. He went too far in his essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." He made overstatements, praised the Sept. 11 terrorists as noble heroes and labeled their victims as criminals who deserved what they got.
The essay is not a scholarly document. It's not subtle, reasonable or balanced. In fact, Churchill states in the addendum that it's more of a "stream-of-consciousness interpretive reaction to the Sept. 11 counterattack than a finished topic on the piece." I'd say that's a fair assessment.
I can only assume that in a true scholarly work, Churchill wouldn't describe former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as "a malignant toad" or "Jaba (sic) the Hutt." I assume that he wouldn't call President Bush the "Scoundrel-in-Chief," or refer to the FBI as "a carnival of clowns."
But while it's easy to attack Churchill's inflammatory words, it's harder to deny the core argument of his essay. It is a critique of U.S. policies around the globe, particularly the 12 years of sanctions in Iraq that former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Denis Halladay denounced as "a systematic program ... of deliberate genocide."
I have long been a vocal opponent of sanctions in Iraq, because everything I read on the subject revealed that it was regular citizens, not the leadership, who suffered under sanctions. Saddam Hussein easily circumvented the restrictions, made billions of dollars and built more palaces. It was regular Iraqis who died for lack of clean water, sewage-treatment facilities and basic medical supplies.
We might expect Hussein to show indifference to his own people, but I was shocked by the degree of indifference Americans showed toward them. We continued to enforce sanctions that killed civilians.
If you put aside Churchill's angry words, his message is something that every American needs to consider. Why were we attacked? After Sept. 11, I repeatedly asked this question on the radio and in this column, and I was stunned by the vitriolic response that I received from listeners and readers.
People accused me of "justifying" the terrorists, being a terrorist sympathizer, an unpatriotic American and a heartless jerk. Some people told me to shut my mouth until after I'd visited ground zero, while hundreds of others suggested that I leave the United States. No one was willing to have a rational conversation about why we were attacked.
An analogy can be found in the life of Martin Luther King Jr. If someone had thrown a brick through his living room window, it would have been reasonable for his wife to say, "Explain to me again why these marches and speeches are worth putting our family at risk."
Asking the question doesn't suggest that she sympathizes with the brick-thrower, but it does demand some accountability from her husband, so that she can decide whether his being a civil rights leader is worth the risk.
It would be silly for King to respond, "They attacked us because they hate our freedom and our goodness."
Ironically, the reaction to Churchill's essay mimics the thesis of his essay. In calling the victims of Sept. 11 "little Eichmanns," Churchill has offended so many people that he has provoked an effort to remove him from the CU faculty. He argues that enforcing sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children angered terrorists so much that they attacked the United States.
We can clearly see the connection between Churchill's statements and the public effort against him, but we seem unable or unwilling to see the connection between U.S. foreign policy and terrorist reactions against it.
Former Denver Broncos player Reggie Rivers writes Fridays on the Denver Post op-ed page.
Published on Thursday, February 24, 2005 by the Chronicle of Higher Education
Ward Churchill Gets a Warm Welcome in Speech at U. of Hawaii
by Scott Smallwood
Standing in front of a crowded auditorium here on Tuesday night, Ward Churchill didn't look like a professor who had received 100 death threats just a few weeks ago. That's what happened the last time he was scheduled to speak on a college campus. But this time, the four leis draped around his neck made him look more like a visiting dignitary than a treasonous professor, as he has been labeled.
Who says people hate this man? Maybe back on the mainland they do. There, his calling victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns" led to a rough reception.
It was just four weeks ago that the three-year-old essay in which he made that remark sparked a national controversy, and prompted Hamilton College, in upstate New York, to cancel his planned speech. It led to thousands of negative e-mail messages, hundreds of newspaper articles, hours of talk-show ranting, and calls for his firing. More recently, Denver reporters have been investigating his Indian heritage, his scholarship, and how the professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder received tenure.
But for his first campus visit since all that happened, he traveled to the University of Hawaii-Manoa -- about as far as you can get from Hamilton College and Bill O'Reilly and still be in the United States. And out here, the people loved him.
They loved when he called the American populace "a willfully ignorant, self-deceiving public that celebrates the obliteration and carnage of others because they devalue them to the point of being not human."
They loved when he said, "White is a state of mind. It's not a gene code, by the way. You've got to choose to act white in order to be white."
And they really loved it when he said that the United States "has never had 15 minutes of its history when it was not butchering some people for its perceived interests somewhere. ... This most peace-loving country has never experienced peace."
here were, of course, some protesters. Remember, this man's words angered so many people so much that Hamilton officials feared his scheduled speech on their campus would lead to violence. Given that, the protesters here in Hawaii seemed almost quaint. They didn't chant or wave their signs. Instead they taped them to a nearby wall. One read: "Churchill Does Not Speak for Hawaii." Another said: "The 9/11 Victims Were Heroes. You're a Disgrace."
Kimberly Craven, a senior at the university and leader of the Hawaii College Republicans, helped organize the protest. She said she was opposed to bringing the professor to the campus because she believes he sympathizes with the enemy. "It seems very similar," she said, "to bringing the Japanese emperor to campus during World War II."
Among the hundreds of the supportive and the curious trying to cram into the auditorium an hour before the speech were a few who believed Mr. Churchill was, in the words of one woman, "a creep." Patty Hustace, who graduated from Hawaii, heard about the event on the radio and had to come down to voice her complaint. "He thinks the terrorists are heroes," she said.
Yet the largest problem was not those who thought he shouldn't be there; it was the hundreds of people who wanted to get in but couldn't. A young boy sat on a man's shoulders to get a better view. One man waved a sign picturing the now iconic image of a hooded Iraqi prisoner at the Abu Ghraib prison. Stuck outside the doors of the auditorium, they began chanting "move it to the steps." Inside, Ruth Hsu, an associate professor of English who helped organize the visit, kept explaining that plans for an overflow room to broadcast a video feed of the speech had fallen through.
After a Hawaiian chant opened the event, a small woman hobbled to the podium, using a walker with tennis balls on the two rear feet. Yuri Kochiyama, the 83-year-old civil-rights activist who was by Malcolm X's side when he was killed, introduced Mr. Churchill, comparing him to Malcolm X and Che Guevara and calling him a "warrior" who "speaks the truth."
Then, after a standing ovation, Mr. Churchill began his first speech on a college campus since becoming -- depending on one's point of view -- the nation's current cause célèbre of academic freedom or its foremost example of a leftist professoriate run amok.
The professor is a tall man, with an immediate presence. Wearing a navy-blue T-shirt, jeans, and a black sport coat, he spoke rapidly and passionately. His is the confident voice of someone who gives dozens of speeches every year.
He explained the origins of his essay. It was written at the suggestion of the publisher of an online journal in the 12 hours immediately after the September 11 attacks. He explained how he saw the attacks in the context of a history of U.S. aggression -- from Vietnam to the Philippines, from Wounded Knee all the way back to Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam.
And he elaborated on his reference to Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the transport of Jews to concentration camps under Hitler. "Eichmann," Mr. Churchill said, "symbolized the people that worked under him in his little bureau, that performed the technical functions with great proficiency of arranging the train schedules, the shipment of gas, the transshipment of gold from teeth, never stepping close enough to smell the stench of rotten death, never ever killing anyone, being perfect little bureaucrats."
And he explained again that he did not mean that everyone -- the passers-by, the children, or the janitors -- fell into that category. "Obviously, that's not who was at issue," he said. "The Eichmanns were the investment bankers, the Eichmanns were the traders, the Eichmanns were those who didn't even necessarily agree with U.S. policy in the Middle East or Southeast Asia, but embraced the system and made it function so the results would accrue."
The crowd loved it when Mr. Churchill railed against "the urinal sort of journalism." They loved when he joked about Bill O'Reilly or Paula Zahn. They laughed when he mocked Thomas Brown, a Lamar University professor who has charged that Mr. Churchill's research is fraudulent. (Mr. Churchill dismissed the claim with one sentence: "He found a footnote he disagrees with.")
When the audience got a chance to ask questions, no one talked about the controversial essay. No one questioned the "little Eichmanns" reference. One person asked him to clarify his position on the use of violence. (He said that defensive violence could be justified.) More common, though, were the questions that began with favorable comparisons between Mr. Churchill and Crazy Horse.
'I'm Going to Butcher Them in Court'
Before the final standing ovation, he argued that attempts to silence or fire him were the beginning of a widespread "purge" of the academy.
"No less than Newt Gingrich said, 'We're going to nail this guy and send the dominoes tumbling,'" Mr. Churchill said. "'And everybody who has an opinion out there and entire disciplines like ethnic studies and women's studies and cultural studies and queer studies that we don't like won't be there anymore.'"
Mr. Churchill defiantly said he would fight for his job: "If they try to deep-six my ass, I'm going to butcher them in court."
He then concluded the speech with a rousing endorsement of academic freedom. That's what the coalition of departments and professors at Manoa said they were defending when they scrambled to raise the several thousand dollars it cost to bring Mr. Churchill to Hawaii. (He was not paid an honorarium.)
"I never set out to be a poster boy of academic freedom," he said. "They selected me. And I'm going to stand on the principle. I'm going to stand on the issue because to give an inch is to give away something that we cannot afford to lose, and when I say 'we,' I mean all of us in the academy. Whatever your interest is in the academy, if you let this one go down you've lost it all."
Immediately after the speech, Mr. Churchill and his wife, Natsu Saito, left to catch an overnight flight back to Colorado. By the time the crowd cleared out of the auditorium, the protesters were long gone. One group of men outside debated theories that the World Trade Center attacks must have involved bombs, not just planes, because fuel fires alone could not have melted the steel frame of the buildings. A few students nearby agreed that Mr. Churchill had "kicked ass."
Just one sign remained. Instead of those deploring the terrible, enemy-loving professor there stood a single poster: "Collateral Damage Every Day in Iraq." Down in the right-hand corner was a color photograph of an Iraqi man cradling a dying boy.
Copyright © 2005 by The Chronicle of Higher Education