Thursday, January 27, 2005

Just to Raise a Stink

The far-right has Dr. James Dobson; the far-left has Ward Churchill. From the Rocky Mountain News:

A University of Colorado professor has sparked controversy in New York over an essay he wrote that maintains that people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were not innocent victims.

Students and faculty members at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., have been protesting a speaking appearance on Feb. 3 by Ward L. Churchill, chairman of the CU Ethnic Studies Department.

They are upset over an essay Churchill wrote titled, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.”

The essay takes its title from a remark that black activist Malcolm X made in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Malcolm X created controversy when he said Kennedy’s murder was a case of “chickens coming home to roost.”

Churchill’s essay argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children killed in a 1991 U.S. bombing raid and by economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.

The essay contends the hijackers who crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 were “combat teams,” not terrorists.

It states: “The most that can honestly be said of those involved on Sept. 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course.”

The essay maintains that the people killed inside the Pentagon were “military targets.”

“As for those in the World Trade Center,” the essay said, “well, really, let’s get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break.”

The essay goes on to describe the victims as “little Eichmanns,” referring to Adolph Eichmann, who executed Adolph Hitler’s plan to exterminate Jews during World War II.

The attacks on Sept. 11, he said, were “a natural and inevitable consequence of what happens as a result of business as usual in the United States. Wake up.”

A longtime activist with the American Indian Movement, Churchill was one of eight defendants acquitted last week in Denver County Court on charges of disrupting Denver’s Columbus Day parade.

His pending speech at Hamilton has drawn criticism from professors and students, including Matt Coppo, a sophomore whose father died in the World Trade Center attacks.

“His views are completely hurtful to the families of 3,000 people,” Coppo said.

A spokesman for Hamilton College released a statement noting that Hamilton is committed to “the free exchange of ideas. We expect that many of those who strongly disagree with Mr. Churchill’s comments will attend his talk and make their views known.”

I remember Prof. Churchill from my years at CU, and I can’t say I’m surprised to hear this from him. I also think his logic is right along the lines of Timothy McVeigh: the target isn’t the individuals but the system, and the human victims are collateral damage. I’ve had followers of Prof. Churchill accuse me personally of being a slaveowner just because I am white, regardless of the fact that most of my immediate ancestors arrived in this country in the latter part of the 19th Century from England and Wales.

That kind of thinking and blaming accomplishes nothing other than cage-rattling. I don’t know what kind of measured response he expects from this sort of incendiary approach – my experience tells me that he doesn’t really care anyway. The result will be that people will do more shouting than talking. And what’s the point of that except to get a few headlines and raise a stink?