Another response to Terrorism: "Good" vs. "Evil"—specifically, on
Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens
by Ward Churchill
Churchill wrote this essay as 9/11 unfolded and published it the day after. Not many people noticed it, although I read it and forwarded it to my correspondents. But early in 2005, someone unearthed it and reported on it, causing a firestorm of controversy.
First, Churchill's defense of his essay:
Ward Churchill Responds to Criticism of "Some People Push Back"
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 no more than "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 9-1-1 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.
Ward Churchill Boulder, Colorado
January 31, 2005
Churchill had more to say in an interview in the Boulder Weekly, 2/10/05:
The man in the maelstrom
Ward Churchill speaks out on his controversial essay, the media frenzy and what the U.S. can do if it really wants to halt terrorism
By Pamela White
Well, I see a half-million dead Iraqi children for starters, children that Madeline Albright confirmed she was aware of. This was UN data [on the impact of U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq] in 1996 when she went on 60 Minutes and said, "Yeah, we're aware of it, and we've determined that it's worth the price."
It's worth the price of somebody else's children to compel their government to do what George Bush had issued as the marching orders to the planet in 1991, which is: "The world has to understand that what we say goes."
What we say goes—that's freedom. Do what you're told. And if you don't, basically the way this works out is we'll starve your children to death.
A communiqué from al-Qaeda, in which the relatively unknown group claimed responsibility for the attacks, would later confirm that the plight of Iraqi children was primary on the terrorists' list of grievances against the United States.
[In the essay,] I went from mentioning Iraqi children to Iraqis over all—the children being a half million, there being another half-million dead adults in a population of about 20 million in a short period of time and not during the war... I mentioned the Palestinians, particularly the children in the Intifada, as a direct consequence of U.S. priorities and U.S. support to those who are doing it to them. I think I made a little mention of a bunch of Panamanians who ended up in a trench who were reported as not having died until the trench was opened up and there they were lying under the quick lime. I think I talked about something on the order of 200,000 uplands Mayan Indians in Guatemala. I think I talked about a whole bunch of dead people in El Salvador and Nicaragua, killed under false premises... I think I talked about people who had been burned alive at Dresden. The nuclear bombings [of Hiroshima and Nagasaki], since we're on the subject of weapons of mass destruction... Back to the Filipinos, back to the turn of the century. I think we're talking about at a minimum 500,000 to 600,000 people and maybe well over a million in the name of liberating them from their colonial masters and turning them into a U.S. colony... Which takes us into the Indian wars and Wounded Knee and that whole series, all the way back to the Wappingers, the guys who supposedly sold the Dutch the island [of Manhattan] for beads and trinkets, which they didn't. They gave them permission to use the tip of the island as a port facility for trade, which was to the advantage of both. The Dutch falsely proclaimed it to be a sale, and when the Indians objected, they sent out a military expedition and resolved the problem by basically butchering all of them...
All of those chickens came home to roost [on 9/11], because there had never really been a response in-kind in all that entire grisly history. It was sort of manifested in the symbol of those twin towers at the foot of something called Wall Street. And Wall Street takes its name from the enclosure of the slave compound for the trans-Atlantic slave trade. So now there's a bunch of those ghosts, too. All the symbolism is confluent [at Ground Zero]...
BW: Your Eichmann comparison seems to be the thing that has upset people the most.
WC: Oh, yes... I said specifically the comparison to Eichmann devolved upon the technicians of empire. Is there some definition you can give me where a food-service worker or a child or a janitor pushing a broom is a technician of empire? I wasn't talking about that, clearly. That's the only point that's been raised. "How can you say that an 18-month-old baby girl on a plane was comparable to Eichmann?"
Well, the fact of the matter is, I never said that. To use Pentagon-speak, that would be the collateral damage... I don't know that they had any specific intent to kill everyone that was there. In order to get at the target, the dead bystanders were "worth the price," to quote directly from Madeline Albright. [The terrorists] used the exact same logic used by Pentagon planners and U.S. diplomats—"This is an unavoidable consequence of getting at the target."
If there's somebody to blame, following the logic that's used now, it would be the people who put a CIA office in the World Trade Center or put command and control infrastructure of other sorts in there. It's always "their" fault. It's always Saddam's fault. He situated an intelligence office in a hospital... That was the justification for bombing the hospital. Well, if you're going to apply that rule, it's going to come back to you. By enunciated Pentagon rules, [the World Trade Center] was a legitimate target.
I don't accept the legitimacy. I'm feeding it back to [the American public, and saying], "How does this feel?" I contest the legitimacy straight down the line. But if you're going to do it to other people on these pretexts and pretend it's OK, then you can't complain when it comes back to you in the same form. That's the point.
Others weigh in
From the Denver Post:
Churchill rant has some truth
By Reggie Rivers
Friday, February 04, 2005 -
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.
February 9, 2005"Didn't We Get Rid of Those People Years Ago?"
By TIM WISE
I should have known better than to listen in to the conversation immediately to my left, sitting as I was in the Northwest Airlines World Club, in Detroit. Unlike most of the folks who have paid their $450 for an annual membership—which entitles one to little more than some free booze, cheese, crackers and coffee, along with a comfy chair between flights—I am hardly, after all, the typical "business traveler." I usually spend my time in such places, hastily composing one or another radical screed (like this one), while waiting to fly somewhere to deliver a speech that will, in some small way, move forward the cause of social transformation.
This is not the purpose for which the guy talking about mutual funds in the cubicle next to me, is here.
But this time, I couldn't avoid hearing the discussion between the two men, appropriately white and with matching blue suits and red power ties, whose familiarity with a bottle of scotch had apparently reached intimate proportions.
They were ruminating on the recent goings on at the University of Colorado, where Ethnic Studies professor, Ward Churchill is under siege for an article he composed back in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; an essay in which Churchill sought to explain that a nation really ought not be surprised when its policies abroad—which have resulted in the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians—cause some in those nations to "push back" and seek to exact a similar collective death upon the people of that first country.
While Churchill's essay was indelicate in places, it was hardly more so than any of the bloodthirsty things said by representatives of the state or the denizens of talk radio around that same time—folks who were itching to level Afghanistan, turn the Arab world into a parking lot, or, as Bill O'Reilly put it, put a bullet to the heads of any Afghans who weren't sufficiently supportive of our ousting the Taliban for them.
I remember reading Ward's missive at the time, and being bothered by the "little Eichmanns" reference (for those who worked in the World Trade Center), not because I thought Churchill actually believed these folks deserved to die, but because I knew the statement would be taken out of context and used to smear not only him, but the larger left of which we are both a part. In other words, Ward was perhaps guilty of naiveté, assuming that people are far more capable of discerning nuance and irony than they really are.
But to the two men in the World Club, he was guilty of a lot more than that. To them, Churchill's most egregious crime was not having died, "like all the other Indians."
I shit you not. One of the men, fuming about the article that now has Ward facing down the barrel of a Board of Trustees looking for any reason to fire him, despite tenure, turned to the other and said: "Just when you thought we'd killed all the Indians, one pops up talkin' some shit like this, and reminds you that we didn't finish the job after all."
White guy number two laughs, in fact, damn near spits Dewar's and soda all over the leather barca lounger he's plopped down in, finding this affable romanticizing of genocide to be the funniest fucking thing he has apparently had the luxury of hearing, at least since the last time he and his buddies sat around in a sports bar, farting, and trading jokes about fags, or some such thing.
I was stunned, because just one day before, I had speculated, only half-seriously, during an interview with KPFK in Los Angeles, that this anti-Indian sentiment might lay beneath some of the vitriol aimed Ward's way. After all, the attacks on him have seemed so personal, so vicious, so much worse than even the histrionics normally leveled at white leftists like Chomsky, or Parenti, or Zinn, who said much the same thing about 9/11 after that fateful day. The bombast has seemed to include an unhealthy dose of racial resentment—absolute rage—at the notion that a person of color and an Indian no less, should dare to condemn the American empire.
"Didn't we get rid of those people years ago?" One can almost hear the refrain, as if broadcast from a loudspeaker.
"Goddamit, be silent," comes the stare from others, or the words themselves.
"Don't make us go all Trail of Tears on your ass. Don't make us send out those smallpox-infected blankets again. Remember, we still got some of that stuff in a vial at the Centers for Disease Control. Do NOT make us break that shit out, 'cuz we'll do it."
"Oh the ingratitude! Here we are, honoring your ancestors by naming sports mascots after your people, and this is how one of yours repays us? Oh, hell no, not today Chief!"
Even having concluded that racism was part of the reason for the overwrought reaction to Churchill, I was utterly unprepared to hear my suspicions confirmed in such a manner; probably because I've grown so accustomed to white people lying about their racist views, going out of their way in fact to deny them, at least around others. As such, I couldn't even think of what to say. My inclination was to ask for the guy's business card, pretending to have liked his comment, and then send his address and phone number to the American Indian Movement, so they could harass his pretty white ass for a few months. But in the end, all I did was glare, a gesture the meaning of which I'm sure was lost on them both, lubricated as they were on second-rate blended whiskey.
And while these two guys might not be representative of the masses of people so driven to distraction by Churchill's commentary, I have little doubt but that, like the rest of the teeming hordes out to see him fired, they regularly shrug off comments about civilian deaths being justified, when made by representatives of their own side. More to the point, they glibly accept, as a consequence of war, the deaths themselves (not merely talk about them) as justified, as in Iraq, where even the lowest of low-ball estimates places the numbers of these around 15,000, and where the highest reach above 100,000.
So what? they might say, in a tone and manner little different from that echoed in the caves of Afghanistan that have served as a home for bin Laden all these years.
They surely are not bothered by pundit Ann Coulter's recent comments, to the effect that we should "nuke North Korea," so as to "send a message" to the rest of the world, and because it would be, in her words, "fun."
They are not bothered by the comments of nationally syndicated talk show host Jay Severin last year, to the effect that the U.S. should tell the Arab world that unless "they" stop killing our troops in Iraq, we will drop nuclear weapons throughout the region, destroying all of the holiest sites of Islam, and killing ten million people, without batting an eye.
They were not bothered when former Secretary of State Madeline Albright rationalized the deaths of a half million children in Iraq as a result of Western sanctions, by saying that those deaths had been "worth it."
Dead people of color, the world over, or right here in the U.S., whose ashes they step over every time they walk out the door of their homes, mean nothing to them. Their deaths are cause for no tears, no contrition, no recompense, and certainly have never served to disqualify those responsible (or those who applaud the carnage) from positions of authority, in colleges, or government. Nor will schools now move to block dear Madame Albright from speaking on their campuses, as happened to Ward; nor will Ann Coulter find herself a pariah for fantasizing about the incineration of folks whose only crime was to be born North Korean.
But Ward Churchill, who has merely laid out the facts about America's murderous ways around the globe—facts that have not been disputed even once by any of his critics—is to be silenced. Those who do the deed are cheered, re-elected and get buildings named after them. Those who merely tell of their exploits and suggest that perhaps there may be consequences, get crushed.
This is what happens, in a nation built on lies from the beginning; whose empire has been constructed on the sands of self-delusion; whose inability to tell the truth about itself has now become the stuff of farce. Our lack of self-awareness, not to mention the way in which Americans pride ourselves on how little we know about the world, and how reflexively patriotic we can be, would all be funny were it not so miserably pathetic, and ultimately so dangerous.
The sickest irony of the entire episode with Churchill is this, of course: namely, if there is anyone whose views and actions lead to the inevitable conclusion that the civilians in the World Trade Center were legitimate, if unfortunate targets, it is the President of the United States. It is he, whose doctrine of "preventative" warfare, assumes by definition that it is acceptable to target buildings that house offices tied to the government and military apparatus of one's enemy, which, indeed the WTC did, and which of course describes the Pentagon in its entirety.
It is Bush whose "shock and awe" invasion of Iraq was planned, even though all agreed that thousands of civilians would die in the process. And if such a mentality is acceptable for Americans—one that reduces innocent civilians to mere collateral damage and shrugs at their untimely demise as if they were the sad but inevitable consequence of modern warfare—then surely we must extend the same courtesy of barbarism to every nation or group on earth with a bone to pick.
So the squealing of those on the right when it comes to Churchill—persons who wholeheartedly endorse the notion of America's right to bomb other nations, even if innocents will be killed, and knowing full well that they will be—does nothing so much as call to mind the line from Shakespeare, that "methinks the lady doth protest too much." Or perhaps the psychological concept of projection, whereby the patient displaces their own sickness onto others, finding in them the very flaws and pathologies to which the patient him or herself has been given over.
We're sort of like the national equivalent of a child, whose mommy and daddy are trying desperately, against all hope, to maintain the child's belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny, or even the tooth fairy. And we rage against any who seek to dispel the myths out of a desire to protect our children's "innocence." While such deceptions are perhaps excusable when dealing with the fantasies of real children, one would hope that a nation run by full-grown men and women would ask a bit more of itself; would find truth more valuable a commodity than innocence; would recognize that, as James Baldwin explained, "Those who insist on maintaining their innocence, long after that innocence has died, turn themselves into monsters."
And so we have: a monster that sees no evil and hears no evil, unless it comes from the despised "other," and who in the process perpetrates its own version of the thing daily.
February 5 / 6, 2005
By JOSHUA FRANK
I am sure you've heard of Ward Churchill's latest tribulations — so I'll save you the repetition. However, I bet what you didn't know was that liberals were running hand in hand with conservatives in hopes of clotheslining the radical professor.
In a recent CommonDreams.org column titled "Ward Churchill's Banality of Evil" Anthony Lappé argues that Churchill's critique of 9/11, along with his calling the workers in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns," was utterly reprehensible:
Consider the professor's twisted logic: People who work in the financial industry are legitimate military targets. Where do you draw the line? 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.
To start, Churchill never actually said that WTC workers should be legitimate targets. What he did say was that using the US governments' own rationale the WTC would most likely be a target for a military attack — for if no other reason than it housed a large CIA office and was an economic bastion of the military industrial complex.
Arguing that the WTC would be a justifiable military target using the US government's bloody rationale, Churchill writes in his now infamous essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens":
They [the WTC] 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.
Now where Lappé really gets off track is when he implies that Churchill somehow condones the WTC attack, let alone the attack on the Pentagon. In Churchill's own words I think he spells it out quite clearly in response to misinterpretations such as Lappé's:
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 9-1-1 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 fuzzy nature of "collateral damage" is what I think Churchill is really getting at. And Churchill's rejoinder to critics was only clarifying his early position, not backpedaling as Lappé contests. Indeed, Churchill sees the WTC attack as "ugly" and "hurtful." It was. He also thinks such militaristic conceptions, when applied to other US ventures such as Iraq and Palestine, for example, are also "ugly and "hurtful."
This isn't "twisted logic" as Lappé puts it. Or rather, it isn't Churchill's "twisted logic": but the "twisted logic" of the US government.
Churchill simply took the WTC massacre and looked at it through the lense of the US military establishment, and pointed out why the attack on the WTC could be justified militarily. Nowhere in Churchill's original essay did he state such a terrorist act was morally justified.
And there's the key point. It wasn't right, but evil and iniquitous. Churchill's larger parallel is what liberals like Lappé cannot seem to stomach: that the US "military" interventions can also be classified as "terror".
Lastly, if you are a tax-paying American (yes I am a tax-payer) you certainly are a "little Eichmann" in a very real sense. Especially if you do not speak out against the actions of our government and the corporations that run the damn show.
Nevertheless, this complicity by no means implies we should be all bombed in our apartments and homes, or forced to jump from a flaming skyscraper. And I certainly have never gotten the impression in any of Churchill's writings that would indicate he would condone such horrific acts.
In fact I think Ward Churchill would say that such an act of terror is just as evil as bombing "selective targets" in Iraq.
More on Ward Churchill and "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens"
Mohawk: "[W]hen fact patterns fail to meet mythological expectations the ideologues on the right are inclined to slay the messenger."
Lyons: "[Churchill] was simply trying to make people understand that 9/11 was a strategic military initiative, not some fanatical bloodbath...."
ICT: "In our opinion, Churchill hurts himself with this kind of callous thinking."
Cockburn: The Right has a License to Write Anything: Ward Churchill and the Mad Dogs
Nimmo: Remember Sami al-Arian? A Ward Churchill Kind of Day
Finally, some correspondents reacted to Churchill's essay back in 2001. Their comments are in brackets, with my replies:
From Phyllis M.
>> [Did the world's wealthiest international citizens in some enigmatic way abet terrorism by profiting from it financially and turning a blind eye?] <<
Ward Churchill had no problem saying the WTC's capitalists deserved what they got. I wouldn't go that far, but all Americans share some blame for fostering the conditions that led to the attacks. Saying they were "evil" or "insane" denies the reality of American imperialism.
I quoted some of his least inflammatory passages on my site. I think it's important we remember that we've killed lots of Iraqis...that the terrorists are humans fighting for a cause, not demons touched by Satan...and that such atrocities have happened many times before, in America and around the world. I've never condoned violence, and now more than ever, I think we should heed the words of Jesus, Gandhi, and ML King. But I support Churchill's call to understand why the violence happened, which I think was his main point.
From John P.
>> [Churchill] has decided that the US/America/"Developed" world is the enemy, and the cause of all evil in the world and there is no arguing with him on the point. <<
Since the Western powers dominate the world, I'd say their "evils" also dominate the world. As one major example, some argue that large-scale racism didn't exist until Europeans first demonized the Indians as subhumans.
>> However, humans are fallible and that translates to the fact that a powerful nation makes mistakes. <<
400+ years of genocide and 200+ years of slavery are some whoppers. And destroying the Earth's eco-systems, as the US seems bent on doing, would be another huge whopper.
Calling these historical transgressions "mistakes" barely does them justice. I'd say a better word for them would be "crimes."
>> According to Mr. Churchill, that makes us all evil and that we deserved the WTC atrocity <<
I'm not sure he'd go that far. I'm guessing he'd excuse most minorities, especially Native Americans, from the blame. If he thought about it, he might excuse the janitors and secretaries in the WTC and Pentagon, too. His ire seemed directed at the decision-makers, the power elite, not at everyone.
>> There really is no other way to interpret his statement- since they were involved in global capitalism, they must die. <<
I think he'd agree with that. Of course, we should ask whether he meant his comments literally or figuratively. I mean, he could take up terrorism himself, join Al Qaeda, and plant bombs across the US if he wanted to. The fact that he hasn't suggests he doesn't really want Americans dead, but was using hyperbole to make a point.
As he wrote, his response was stream-of-consciousness, which clearly came out as a jeremiad. I'm not sure his final answer would be the same as his initial answer. My initial impulse wasn't to blame the attacks on a fictitious "evil" or "blood craze," so I understand his impulse. I hope I don't share his venom.
>> The man is a braying jackass and though he has points I agree with, not the least of which is that America is far from perfect, even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. <<
A blind pig and an acorn? I've never heard that analogy before. Did you make it up?
>> One also must remember that evil is evil and just because someone else has done evil worse than you that does not excuse evil on done by you. <<
My understanding is that we've contributed to some 500,000 to 1 million Iraqi deaths, through direct bombing or indirect deprivation of food and medicine. I decline to label the killing of innocent Americans more evil than the killing of innocent Iraqis or Palestinians or Afghans. Or of innocent Israelis, Bosnians, Chechens, Rwandans, et al.
Killing innocent people is wrong regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. The more who die, the greater the wrong. Killing was wrong at Auschwitz, it was wrong at Hiroshima, it's wrong in Iraq, and it's wrong in the US.
>> Incidentally, what do you know about him? Where is he based? Does he write a column some place? <<
He's an author, professor, and activist who claims to be American Indian (Creek/Cherokee). I believe he's teaching at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He wrote the book Indians Are Us?—in which he argues that the US government's crimes against Native Americans violate the Geneva conventions on genocide, making our leaders eligible for war-crime trials. They'll never go to trial, of course, but he makes the case that they deserve such trials under the law.
Since his terrorism essay was no. 11 in a series, I assume he writes regularly somewhere. Since it was posted at a URL labeled "marxmail," I think we can surmise his political orientation. Of course, Marx had many legitimate criticisms of capitalism, and he wasn't just stumbling around blindly.
Churchill has been active in the Columbus Day protests in Denver, I think. Other than that, I don't know what he's doing now.
From Abbie B. (11/1/01)
>> Um ... the folks running Afghanistan at the moment have a pretty horrendous record of killing their *own* people (especially women). <<
So did Milosevic in Serbia.
>> So does the government of Iraq. <<
So did the government of Rwanda. These are good arguments for moving forcefully against repressive regimes, which the US has rarely if ever done. They don't justify this war to the exclusion of all others.
>> unless it turns out that the parties responsible for the events of Sept. 11 turn out *not* to have come with the blessings of the Taliban/the Iraqi government <<
Blessings are now a killing offense? The CIA blessed Bin Laden by training him and his terrorists. Are you outraged over these blessings also?
>> blaming the U.S. for the suffering of innocents in Afghanistan at this point is a little like blaming the U.S. for Jews who died in bombings in Nazi Germany ... <<
The US was partly responsible for letting the Holocaust happen, and especially for turning away Jewish refugees. It definitely was responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent people by fire-bombing Dresden and Tokyo, not to mention nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And don't even get me started on how killing these people was "necessary" to end WW II. That's pure, unadulterated speculation.
>> if it is the writer's position that we should not bomb folks going about their own business (I agree on this point), then I'd argue that it's not okay for other folks to bomb *our* folks going on about their business. <<
So we've established that two wrongs don't make a right. We can't undo the wrong done to the US, but we can stop the wrong being done to innocent Afghans.
>> if he's writing from within the U.S. with four walls and a roof around him and driving a car that runs on gasoline — and I have no idea, maybe he's not — then he's part of our system. <<
As I think I said, you can presume he is.
>> Not a state to aspire to, but if it's not okay behavior for us, it's not okay behavior for other folks either, in my opinion. <<
I agree that two wrongs don't make a right. I suspect Churchill would agree also. I suspect he was indicting innocent Americans to make a hyperbolic point, and wouldn't kill them if it were up to him.
>> I would think that anybody who thinks the U.S. government is unreasonable and was genuinely concerned with potential harm to children would realize that killing 7,000 people (quite a few of whom are from other countries than the U.S., btw) would in all likelihood not produce a result of increased peace. <<
No doubt Osama bin Laden is looking at the long term, just like Madeline Albright did when she justified the 500,000 dead in Iraq. If a few thousand or hundred thousand innocent people have to die to ensure the long-term survival of his civilization or ours, well, it's "worth it."
>> You want to say it's possible that the responsible parties had legitimate grievances? That's one thing. <<
Yep. I've said it.
>> he's more likely to piss people off with that than he is to get them to take him seriously — indeed, that aspect of the article may make it difficult for people to absorb anything else he's saying. JMHO. <<
I don't think it's possible to get the American people to think seriously about the issues. They were foaming at the mouth for war as soon as they understood what happened. It's going to take stark reality—dead US soldiers and a war that fails to produce results—before Americans start reevaluating their war lust.
From Tom C. (11/1/01)
>> Did any of these chickens come back from Bosnia, where Clinton had us backing up the KLA, who were also getting support from bin Laden's gang? <<
Since the Reagan administration first supplied and trained Bin Laden, shouldn't we check there first for roosting chickens?
As for what Clinton did, I think you mean what Clinton, Dole, and the US Congress did, since it was a bipartisan effort.
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