Saturday, February 05, 2005

Two stories about Ward Churchill

Story #1
by Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News
February 1, 2005

Embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill resigned his chairmanship of the school's ethnic studies program Monday.

"I don't think it is appropriate that under these conditions, that I represent my department," said Churchill, who added that he has recently received numerous "credible" death threats.

"It's not in the interests of the department that they be synonymous with me," he said.

By resigning 2 1/2 years into his three-year appointment, Churchill said, he will lose the $18,000 that department chairs are paid, but still collect the $90,000 he receives as a tenured professor.

"The truth is, I never wanted the job in the first place and was sort of drafted into it," he said. (Sour grapes? - Timothy) "I'm not especially reluctant to do this, because it kind of gets in the way of my work.

"I welcome the opportunity to get back to being a faculty member, and doing my research and writing. That has all suffered, as a result of the demands of the chair's position, so there's no real regrets."

Today, Churchill will teach his first class since controversy erupted last week concerning his now-infamous essay concerning the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It doesn't look to be a routine day. The CU College Republicans are planning a four-hour protest outside the University Memorial Center, highlighting their petition drive asking President Betsy Hoffman to fire Churchill.

The group will also present fliers to students arriving for Churchill's 12:30 p.m. class in the American Indian Studies program, "Indian/Government Conflicts."

The fliers will inform students about Churchill's 9/11 commentary.

Conflict has been a close companion lately for Churchill, who is also a prominent member of the American Indian Movement of Colorado.

Numerous Hamilton College students, alumni and Sept. 11 victims' family members are outraged over Churchill's scheduled appearance this Thursday evening on a panel at the small liberal arts college in Clinton, N.Y.

That event, a discussion on "The Limits of Dissent," has been moved to the campus field house, which seats 2,000 people - about 10 times the capacity of the originally planned venue.

Churchill is being taken to task at Hamilton, at CU, and on airwaves from coast to coast for a 2001 essay, since published in book form, voicing the opinion that the U.S. invited the Sept. 11 attacks through a long history of violent domination of other cultures.

That essay, authored the same day as the terrorist attacks, cited the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children in the wake of U.N. sanctions placed on Iraq after the first Gulf War as a reason why Americans should not have been surprised to be targeted.

Particularly offensive to many was Churchill's reference to people killed at the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns," an allusion to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann, a chief facilitator of Hitler's Final Solution.

His planned participation in the Hamilton panel discussion has triggered more than 1,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls to school administrators.

School President Joan Hinde Stewart sent out an all-campus general announcement Sunday night.

While she said "rhetoric that blames the victims of this vicious attack for their fate is deplorable," Stewart declined to withdraw Churchill's invitation, which was extended last summer.

"Were the college to withdraw the invitation simply on the grounds that he has said offensive things, we would be abandoning a principle on which this college and indeed this republic are founded," Stewart stated.

Jonathan Rick, a junior from Short Hills, N.J., majoring in government at Hamilton, said it would be "silly" to attempt to generalize about the opinions of the approximately 1,750 students at Hamilton.

But Rick, who founded an Internet discussion group for Hamilton students, faculty and alumni, pointed out that a petition drive is under way on campus, sponsored by the Coalition for Social Justice, supporting the college's efforts to expose students to a "diverse range" of ideas.

"This speaks volumes about the college," Rick said. "We're not apathetic, as so often we're accused of being.

"We are intelligent, we are diverse. And unquestionably, on Thursday, we will have the chance to show the power of democracy."

Churchill said he has received numerous death threats in recent days. They won't dissuade him from appearing at Hamilton - or anywhere else - to talk about his views.

"I like breathing, so it gives me pause, but I gotta do it," Churchill said. The threats are "part of the turf, and the whole point (of the threats) is to intimidate people into shutting up. . . . I guess that might be the one thing I have in common with (assassinated Denver radio talk show host) Alan Berg. I didn't agree with the man on much of anything, but I did admire the fact that he would not back off."

CU officials late Monday acknowledged Churchill's resignation as department chairman. Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano issued a statement endorsing Churchill's decision to step down.

"While Professor Churchill has the constitutional right to express his political views, his essay on 9/11 has outraged and appalled us and the general public," DiStefano said.

The CU Board of Regents has called a special meeting to discuss Churchill on Thursday.

"If they're meeting to talk about what to do in terms of institutional damage control, and to define the institution's position on this, then I have no objection," Churchill said. "They're doing their job."

Story #2
by Ward Churchill
January 31, 2005

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.

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