A little matter of mass murder: Churchill fan doesn’t get it

Robert Jensen of the Univeristy of Texas at Austin has a piece on CommonDreams entitled "Ward Churchill Has Rights, and He’s Right," arguing that "The main thesis Churchill put forward in [his controversial essay] is an accurate account of the depravity of U.S. foreign policy and its relationship to terrorism. "

Sorry Robert, but the central thesis of the essay was that mass murder against US citizens is justified.

Jensen predicts that "right-wing forces" will "take passages from this essay out of context to ‘prove’ that I am anti-American, support terrorism…"

No, I’ll just take a passage from the original Churchill essay to prove that you are deeply in denial. Churchill writes that the WTC victims (making no exception for the apparently irrelevant secretaries, busboys and janitors) "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire… 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."

Churchill has apparently since said that he didn’t mean the working-class folks killed at the WTC (gee, how generous). Yet he expresses no regret at referring to the "gallant sacrifices of the combat teams [at] the WTC and Pentagon." I’m sure the next of kin of the secretaries killed at the WTC will be very comforted that their loved ones were acceptable collatoral damage in Churchill’s universe. (Or is there some "context" I’m missing here?)

Jensen does express some lukewarm criticism of the Eichmann remark, but from a position of "support," as he puts it. I’m glad the idiot left has learned so much since the days when Maoist yahoos "supported" Pol Pot, whose exterminationist zeal Churchill seems to share.

Jensen cites Churchill as a personal influence, especially his book on the decimation of the Native Americans, A Little Matter of Genocide. Jensen seems incable of grasping the hideous irony of an enthusiast for mass murder claiming to have any legitimate voice on this matter.

Finally, lest I be accused of arguing that because Churchill is dead wrong he has no rights, let me clarify that Ward Churchill has the same God-given right we all do to spew vicious malarky without fear of censure. He shouldn’t even have his tenure yanked for it, although there may be a case for yanking his tenure on grounds of falsifying his Indian identity.

One more thing: such apologias are a little distasteful for a publication with as self-consciously utopian a name as CommonDreams. If they wish to continue in this vein, perhaps they should consider changing it to CommonNightmares.

See our last post on the Churchill affair.

  1. A little matter of mass murder: Weinberg doesn’t get it
    Bill Weinberg’s posting misses what
    Ward Churchill was saying in his essay.

    Bill Weinberg paraphrases Ward
    Churchill as saying, "Churchill writes that the WTC victims
    (making no exception for the apparently irrelevant secretaries,
    busboys and janitors)"

    Ward Churchill, in his original essay,
    discusses who was targeted by the "terrorists" not who was
    killed ("victims"). In his essay, he points out that the
    Pentagon was chosen as a target and that "The building and those
    inside comprised military targets, pure and simple." He next
    looks at the World Trade Towers and says that the people inside,
    "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s
    global financial empire". When he discusses what those targeted
    people were doing, he describes them as, "they were too busy
    braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones,
    arranging power lunches and stock transactions…" The
    discussion is clearly not about everyone who was killed, but those
    where targeted. The fact that he refers to them as "little
    Eichmanns" further shows that he is talking about the elite
    decision makers of these organizations not the " secretaries,
    busboys and janitors". Or do you really think that he was
    describing the "secretaries, busboys and janitors" as being
    " too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into
    their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock
    transactions…"?

    In his clarification Ward Churchill
    specifically states:

    "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."

    So it is quite clear in both essays
    that he was not talking about the "secretaries, busboys and
    janitors". I can see how Bill O’Reilly misses that, he has made
    a carrier out of misquoting people.. But I don’t understand how Bill
    Weinberg, who normally reads what people actually say, missed that.

    Was Ward Churchill glorifying the
    deaths of those who were killed in the 9-11 attacks, as Bill Weinberg
    implies? Throughout the first essay, Ward Churchill is comparing the
    action of 9-11 to those of the US government and those of Nazi
    Germany. Given Ward Churchill’s voluminous record on what he thinks
    of these two bodies, it is hard to interpret this as a positive
    comparison.

    It is true he writes with a tone that
    could be interpreted as an endorsement. But it could also be read as
    Ward Churchill trying to show how the U S’s rational for attacking
    other countries could be substituted for the terrorists attacks of
    9/11. Which did he mean? In his clarification essay he says,

    "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 ‚ÄĒ my own
    government.’ ".

    I think he is pretty clear that he does
    not condone the attacks, let alone share "exterminationist zeal"
    for the resulting deaths. Ward Churchill does not believe that the,
    "secretaries killed at the WTC" "were acceptable
    collateral [damage]", but that you cannot accept that the
    hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are acceptable collateral
    damage and at the same time believe that the " secretaries,
    busboys and janitors" who dies at the Pentagon and the World
    Trade Towers were not. You have to believe that both are either
    "acceptable collateral damage" or that both are horrible
    crimes committed against innocent people. It think it is pretty
    clear from the last paragraph that Ward Churchill believes the
    latter.

    I don’t question that the essay was
    poorly written and not well thought out. It it is my understanding
    that it was published on 9/11, so it was probably a first draft and
    he certainly had no time to reflect on what he was saying. It has
    generated lots of criticism for what it said and what people read
    into it. So, naturally, Ward Churchill felt it necessary to publish
    a clarification. He would have been better off to have spent more
    time on his original before he published it, but that is water over
    the dam.

    What is on the table now,
    should Ward Churchill be fired for his comments in either essay? On
    that I agree with Bill Weinberg. No.

    1. Leftist denial is staggering

      Churchill’s failure to even recognize the deaths of the secretaries and janitors in his first essay indicates that he thought them irrelevant. They were just as invisible to him as the Iraqi civilian dead that the Pentagon refuses to even count. The second statement, an after-the-fact "clarification," is half-hearted and muddled at best. If Churchill is really concerned for the lives of the secretaries and janitors, why won’t he admit he was wrong and eat his vile words about the "gallant sacrifices of the combat teams" like a real man? Either he is simply too much of a coward to admit that he said something ghastly which he has since reconsidered, or (more likely) he really thinks it was worth the lives of a few hundred secretaries and janitors to kill a few thousand yuppies. In this case:

      1.) Far from legitimately decrying the Pentagon’s monstrous notion of "collatoral damage," he vigorously shares it.

      2.) He really does have the exterminationist zeal of a Pol Pot, and supports mass murder of yuppies.

      Did you notice that the original essay actually called the 9-11 attacks "humanitarian", because they gave middle-class America a taste of war? Remember how the leftists all howled when Clinton called the bombardment of Yugoslavia "humanitarian"? And now we are all supposed to justify Churchill’s equally appalling logic?

      Sept. 11, 1973: Pinochet’s coup killed some 3,000 in Chile.

      Sept. 11, 2001: WTC attacks kill some 3,000 in NYC.

      Now when Pinochet’s defenders like Maggie Thatcher essentially argue that the 3,000 Chileans had it coming because they were communists, all us leftists recognize this as a perversity. But when one of "our own" argues that the 3,000 New Yorkers had it coming because they were capitalists, we’re all supposed to rush to his defense?

      These are the kind of double standards that deprive the left of all credibility, and make it utterly complicit in its own marginalization.

      Somebody around here needs to brush up on his Orwell.

      1. Leftist hipcrocy is staggering
        Following in the footsteps of Claude Levi-Straus you analyze Ward Churchill’s writings by individual word usage rather than what the combined words say. This really leads to a warped interpretation of what he means. It means that irony , sarcasm, satire or any kind of subtly at all are out the window, because you have decided that they no longer apply.

        I guess under this logic we can say that George Bush is for Freedom and Democracy, because that is what he says all the time. We must forget context or his actions because they are not reliant.

        Ward Churchill didn’t mention the “secretaries, busboys and janitors” in his first essay therefore he wanted them to be fried. Well, that is an interesting jump.

        Let’s see how you fare under that logic.

        I did a search of your site looking for the words “secretaries, busboys and janitors”.

        You mentioned the janitors in a story about how they were being made to clean up the mess without proper protection. Secretaries and busboys only get mentioned when bashing Ward Churchill. I guess you don’t really care about them or their deaths.

        Your demand for an apology for something that Ward Churchill claims he never said, and never meant by what he wrote is kind of pointless. Or are you going to admit that you owe an apology not mentioning the secretaries and busboy’s deaths for all these years?

        1. individual word usage, how old-fashioned

          This newsletter has extensively covered the fallout of the 9-11 disaster for ordinary New Yorkers, the health impacts for local working-class residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the exploitation of clean-up and rescue workers, etc. You aren’t going to get an appreciation of that coverage by doing a search for "secretaries and busboys." And I never hailed the "gallant sacrifices of the combat teams" or said the 9-11 attacks were an "effective means" of delivering a warranted "penalty" to the yuppie class. So your argument is entirely bogus.

          Furthermore, your decision that Churchill was being "ironic" is completely arbitrary‚ÄĒthere is nothing to indicate that. I don’t think Bush is being at all "ironic" when he talks about freedom and democracy. I think he really means it‚ÄĒwhich makes him all the more dangerous. And I assume Churchill really meant what he said too. He certainly refuses to repudiate it.

          1. PS
            It has just come to my attention that Jensen’s piece was actually a reply to an earlier piece on CommonDreams by Anthony Lappe of Guerilla News Network, "Ward Churchill’s Banality of Evil: The right to free speech doesn’t mean you’re right." This one is cogent, principled and ethically consistent. Lappe writes: "To argue that a commodities trader…deserves to pay with his life for buying pork bellies low and selling them high is simplistic, unprogressive, and I dare say, fascist‚ÄĒeven if, as he later tried to argue, he was merely applying America‚Äôs standards back on itself."

            To which I say amen. And I take back the nasty things I said about CommonDreams‚ÄĒthough not about Jensen. (You see, Ward? It’s not that difficult to eat ill-considered words. We’re waiting…)

    2. “Pathology”

      This is the AK press item overview for Churchill’s CD Pacifism and Pathology in the American Left:

      "Liberal activism often embraces non-violent resistance in response to state-sponsored terrorism at home and abroad. In this emotional critique, Churchill urges activists to support any and all tactics in order to stop the tyranny of the state. Churchill argues that the terrorist attack of 9/11 disrupted U.S. global capitalism more radically than any peaceful protest the Left has been able to organize. Recorded at a packed and fired up AK Press warehouse in Oakland."

       http://akpress.com/2002/items/pacifismandpathologyintheamericanleft

      I¬†was shocked to see¬†this in the AK press catalog several months ago.¬† I’ve never heard the CD but the product description above should be enough to answer any lingering questions about Churchill’s opinions.¬† Or at least it would have been for me, until I saw this on the democracynow.org website:

      AMY GOODMAN: Professor Churchill, do you think that the World Trade Center was an acceptable target on September 11? Do you think it was a legitimate target?

      WARD CHURCHILL: Do I personally think it was a legitimate target or should have been a legitimate target? Absolutely not.

      http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/02/18/157211

      This was after Goodman had already given him several chances to give some indication that he opposed the 9-11 attacks.  He was trying to dodge the issue by talking about U.S. foreign policy untill finaly he was asked directly.  It reminded me of the way that politicians often try to backpedal after they say ugly things that they probably believe but are condemned for saying even by most of their political allies (like the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond thing a year or two ago). 

      It’s hard to believe that the immediate gut reaction of anyone who was truly angry about the 9-11 attacks would be to write an essay about US military policy while the mainstream media was still trying to find out just how many thousands of American civilians had just died.¬† It would be like Noam Chomsky compiling a list of rights abuses committed by the Sandinistas¬†while the US bombed the Nicaraguan civilians (not that the crimes of the Sandinistas and the US government are the same).¬†

      At the same time, while I’m glad that some people on the left are making it clear that Churchill doesn’t speak for all of us, for every lefty who supported the 9-11 attacks there are probably a thousand conservatives who said things like this about the bombing of Iraq.¬† Obviously, it would be crazy to ask that a¬† independent paper with limited resources condemn every right wing mad-man in the world before talking about Churchill.¬† Still, there must be some type of parity.¬† I think that if the whole media adopted a set of universal standards for what to cover and how often, it would be much more difficult for them to be manipulated by powerful interests that want to shape public opinion.¬† For example, consider the difference in the level of coverage that the chemical weapon attacks on the Kurds in Iraq received in the 80’s when they were happening and maybe could have been stopped, compared to the attention that the attacks were given before the US invasion.¬† If all journalism in the US accepted a set of standards based on what the public thinks should be covered and in what proportions, and on helping citizens make informed decisions on actions (such as the support for iraq in the 80s) that reflect the choices of elected representitives, it would make it much more difficult for the media to facilitate government propaganda campaigns.¬† In other words, I think that¬†a set of questions¬†should be¬†put to a national vote.¬† They could be questions like "who should get more media coverage:A) a radical without much influence who says something that everybody knows is crazy anyway, or B) the human rights record of the candidate for head of US intelligence.¬† Obviously the questions would need to be worded in ways that have¬†more general implications, but I think that if the public defined the agenda for the news instead of the corporations, it would be much more "fair and balanced".¬† Maybe even some of the conservatives who carry on endlessly about the liberal bias would also support something like this.¬†

      1. Stephen, you write: “It woul
        Stephen, you write: “It would be like Noam Chomsky compiling a list of rights abuses committed by the Sandinistas¬†while the US bombed the Nicaraguan civilians (not that the crimes of the Sandinistas and the US government are the same).”

        Unfortunately, Churchill IS consistent. He did compile a list of rights abuses committed by the Sandinistas bombed Nicaraguan civililians. He’s so ultra-left that his views easily merge with the ultra-right.