Ward Churchill 9/11 essay controversy

Ward Churchill 9/11 essay controversy

Ward Churchill, former ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, wrote an essay in September 2001 titled "" about the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which he argued that American foreign policies provoked the attacks. He described the people working in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns," a phrase coined by anarcho-primitivist John Zerzan. Churchill wrote that the workers were part of a "technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire". Ward Churchill, [http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill.html "Some People Push Back": On the Justice of Roosting Chickens] , "Kersplebedeb blog", February 10 2005] [http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/headlines05/0201-05.htm Ward Churchill Statement] , "Daily Camera", February 1 2005]

In response to 2005 publicity from the mass media and in weblogs, Churchill was both widely condemned and widely defended. Some defenders who did not agree with Churchill's analysis and/or with his inflammatory phrasing nonetheless felt that the attacks on Churchill represented efforts at intimidation against academic discourse and suppression of political dissent.

The essay

In "Some People Push Back," Churchill argued that effects of decade-long economic sanctions on Iraqis, together with the Middle East policies of President Lyndon Johnson, and the history of Crusades against the Islamic world, had contributed to a climate in which 9/11 was what he called a "natural and inevitable response." [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/02/18/157211 The Justice of Roosting Chickens: Ward Churchill Speaks] , "Democracy Now", February 18 2005]

The "roosting chickens" phrase comes from Malcolm X's comment about the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy that Kennedy "never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon."

In an allusion to Hannah Arendt's depiction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as an ordinary person promoting the activity of an evil system, Churchill referred to the "technocrats" working at the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns." He wrote:

As for those in the World Trade Center, well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they 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.
Ward Churchill
Some People Push Back

Churchill compared the American people to the "good Germans" of Nazi Germany, claiming that the vast majority of Americans had ignored the civilian suffering caused by the sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s, which he characterized as a policy of genocide.

The essay was later expanded into a book, "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," which won Honorable Mention for the Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award in 2004.

Public controversy

National attention was drawn to the essay in January 2005, when Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College as a panelist in a debate, "Limits of Dissent."

The text of the essay was quoted on the January 28, 2005, edition of the Fox News Channel program "The O'Reilly Factor" and commentator Bill O'Reilly subsequently discussed Churchill on a number of other segments as well. The January 31 edition of "The O'Reilly Factor" featured Paul Campos, a University of Colorado professor, who said he was appalled at Churchill's comments. At the end of the segment, O'Reilly suggested that viewers wishing to voice their opinions could contact Hamilton College or Hamilton's president, Joan Stewart; [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,146031,00.html More Controversy Over Univ. of Colorado Professor Churchill] , "Fox News", February 1 2005] Hamilton College subsequently received 6,000 e-mails concerning Churchill.Fact|date=February 2007 The lecture was changed to a larger venue, but was later cancelled by Stewart, following what she described as "credible threats of violence."Fact|date=February 2007 Churchill has written that he received threats against his life as a consequence of his statements and the corresponding news coverage.

In response to what he called "grossly inaccurate media coverage concerning his analysis of the September 11, 2001, attacks," Churchill clarified his views in a January 31, 2005 press release:

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."
Ward Churchill
Statement to Rocky Mountain News

He continued:

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 they are routinely applied to other people, they should not be surprised when the same standards are applied to them.
Ward Churchill
Statement to Rocky Mountain News

Churchill clarified further in a February 2005 interview with "Democracy Now!"

If you want to avoid September 11s, if you want security in some actual form, then it's almost a biblical framing, you have to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As long as you're doing what the U.S. is doing in the world, you can anticipate a natural and inevitable response of the sort that occurred on 9/11. If you do not get the message out of 9/11, you're going to have to change, first of all, your perception of the value of those others who are consigned to domains, semantic domains like collateral damage, then you've really got no complaint when the rules you've imposed come back on you.
Ward Churchill
Statement to Democracy Now

On January 31, 2005, Churchill resigned as chairman of the Ethnic Studies department at the University of Colorado. [http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2005/44.html Ward Churchill Resigns Administrative Post] , "University of Colorado at Boulder News Center", January 31 2005]

Former Colorado Republican governor Bill Owens and current Democratic governor Bill Ritter have publicly called for Churchill's dismissal. [http://badgerherald.com/news/2005/04/01/churchill_to_remain_.php Churchill to remain at Colorado] , "Badger Herald", April 1 2005.The Colorado House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution condemning Churchill's statements: [http://www.9news.com/acm_news.aspx?OSGNAME=KUSA&IKOBJECTID=d3f458ee-0abe-421a-007e-b8e9003f63be&TEMPLATEID=0c76dce6-ac1f-02d8-0047-c589c01ca7bf Colorado lawmakers approve resolution on controversy surrounding CU professor] , "KUSA"] [cite web|url=http://www.denverpost.com/ci_6015760|title=www.denverpost.com/ci_6015760 ]

Many have been critical of Churchill's comments. "Indian Country Today", a leading Indian-owned and edited newspaper, has commented on Churchill's claim to speak on behalf of Indian people:

We will defend a good Indian argument in these pages any time. But, again, there is no evidence that Churchill is Indian. Further, Churchill's statements are obviously devoid of even the most basic humanity that American Indian peoples hold dear. In no way does his insult reflect the views of Indian country. To know the response of Indian country to the 9/11 tragedies is to reflect on the humanitarianism shown by Eastern Native communities: from the Mohawk to the Oneida, the Pequot, Mohegan and many others who immediately put their people - ironworkers, ferry-boat crews and medical personnel - into the rescue and recovery operations, to the California Indian nations that expressed their solidarity with America and donated generously to the rescue efforts, to the Lakota families who brought their Sacred Pipe to pray at the site, leaving their quiet offerings early one dawn. This is always the preferred way of human beings - to understand the kind of empathy required to belong to the human race is essential in all political and economic discourse. To call the people who were murdered on Sept. 11 "little Eichmanns" is a hideous expression that when combined to Churchill's mistaken Native identity can only poison the public discourse concerning American Indians. [Editorial. [http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096410293 "Churchill's identity revealed in wake of Nazi comment"] , "Indian Country Today", February 3, 2005]
Editorial Board of Indian Country Today
Churchill's identity revealed in wake of Nazi comment, February 3, 2005

The Board of Regents of the University of Colorado, meeting in executive session on February 3, 2005, adopted a resolution apologizing to the American people for Churchill's statements, and ratifying interim chancellor Phil DiStefano's review of Churchill's actions. DiStefano was directed to investigate whether Churchill had overstepped his bounds as a faculty member and whether his actions were cause for dismissal. The university's Standing Committee on Research Misconduct agreed that his words were protected by the university's academic free-speech code, but agreed to investigate subsequent charges made against Churchill of plagiarism, falsification, fabrication and ethnic fraud (see below). In May 2006, the University announced that its Research Misconduct Committee found that Churchill's publications demonstrate a pattern of research misconduct. On June 26, 2006, Chancellor Phil DiStefano recommended Churchill's dismissal to the Board of Regents, and relieved Churchill of his campus duties including teaching, service, and research. In August 2006, the CU student government passed a resolution to support the committee's recommendations to fire Churchill. [ [http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_4234308 Denver Post daily events] ; [http://coloradodaily.com/articles/2006/08/23/news/c_u_and_boulder/news3.txt Colorado Daily on upcoming resolution] ]

Defense of Churchill

When Churchill's comparison of those who died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, whom Churchill labeled as "technocrats", to notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann was first widely publicized in early 2005, media commentators such as FOX News's Bill O'Reilly and The Nation's Marc Cooper denounced Churchill's essay, but neither argued that he should be fired for his speech.

Free speech and the first amendment should cover all professors, no matter how repugnant. I think it legitimate to defend Churchill’s right to be a vocal asshole (heaven knows most universities are densely populated with such types on both the Right and Left).Cooper, Marc. [http://marccooper.typepad.com/marccooper/2005/02/little_eichmann.html "Little Eichmanns" (Updated)] , February 04, 2005]
Marc Cooper
February 4, 2005

Cooper continued by describing Churchill's remarks as "carefully selected, hateful, unforgivable and demented, frankly." A number of academics and activists defended Churchill's essay, or argued that it was not grounds for firing him from his teaching job. One of Churchill's fellow professors in the Ethnic Studies department at the University of Colorado, Emma Perez, alleged that the attacks on Churchill were an organized "test case" by neo-conservatives to stifle liberal criticism of the War on Terror, and to undermine the funding of ethnic studies departments nationwide. [http://www.counterpunch.org/perez02282005.html A Neocon Test Case for Academic Purges: The Attacks on Ward Churchill] , "Counterpunch", February 28 2005]
Betsy Hoffman, then the president of the University of Colorado, said of the attacks on Churchill, "We are in dangerous times. I'm very concerned. ... It's looking a lot like former CU President George Norlin being asked to fire all the Catholics and Jews of the McCarthy era." Fact|date=August 2007

Several defenders of Churchill disagree with Churchill's comments and characterize Churchill and his intellectual abilities as lacking, but defend his right to speak:

Churchill may be fired from his faculty position at the University of Colorado for having written and spoken some of the most moronic nonsense ever to emanate from the mouth of an alleged academic. But he should not be punished for being a hack. The folks who hired him should. [Lithwick, Dahlia. [http://www.slate.com/id/2113358/ "Stupdity As A Firing Offense"] , Slate, February 10, 2005]
Dahlia Lithwick
Slate, February 10, 2005

A number of other political commentators have analyzed the "Churchill Affair" in terms of a "witch hunt"; for example, Gilles d'Aymery,Fred Feldman,the Michigan Independent Media Center, Scott Richard Lyons (Native American Studies professor)and others. [http://www.swans.com/library/art11/ga190.html Another Witch Hunt Story: Ward Churchill] , "Swans Commentary", February 14 2005] [http://www.counterpunch.org/feldman02242005.html Lynching Ward Chuchill: Witchhunts to the Right; Witchhunts to the Left] , "Counterpunch", February 24 2005] [ [http://michiganimc.org/newswire/display/9492/index.php Michigan Independent Media Center Shut Down] January 26, 2006] [http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill_lyons.html The termination and removal of Ward Churchill] , "Kersplebedeb blog", February 17 2005]

According to over 600 academics signing an "An Open Letter from Concerned Academics": [http://www.defendcriticalthinking.org/ URGENT ALERT! JULY '06] , "", July 2006]

To be clear: the issues here have nothing to do with the quality of Ward Churchill’s scholarship or his professional credentials. However one views his choice of words or specific arguments, he is being put in the dock solely for his radical critique of U.S. history and present-day policy in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Apparently, 9/11 is now the third rail of American intellectual life: to critically probe into its causes and to interrogate the international role of the United States is treated as heresy; those inquiring can be denied forums, careers, and even personal safety. . .The Churchill case is not an isolated incident but a concentrated example of a well-orchestrated campaign launched in the name of “academic freedom” and “balance” which in fact aims to purge the universities of more radical thinkers and oppositional thought generally, and to create a climate of intimidation.
An Open Letter from Concerned Academics

Two professors writing in defense of Churchill have questioned the politics motivating his accusers. Gary Witherspoon, an anthropologist and linguist, faults what he believes to be the inaccurate journalism and biased quality of the investigation that have marked the affair. [ [http://www.garywitherspoon.com/Churchill.pdf Witherspoon 2007, Personal web site] ] . Similarly, sociologist Tom Mayer criticized what he believes to be the politically motivated tenor of the investigation of Churchill: [ [http://www.swans.com/library/art12/zig094.html Mayer 2006, "Swans Commentary"] ]

The authors of the report on Ward Churchill present themselves as stalwart defenders of academic integrity [...] I see them as collaborators in the erosion of academic freedom, an erosion all too consonant with the wider assault upon civil liberties currently underway. The authors of the report claim to uphold the intellectual credibility of ethnic studies. I wonder how many ethnic studies scholars will see it that way. I certainly do not [...] I see committee members as gendarmes of methodological and interpretive orthodoxy, quite literally "warding" off a vigorous challenge to mainstream understandings of American history.
Tom Mayer
Swans Commentary

A documentary on the reactions to Churchill's essay, called "When They Came For Ward Churchill" was produced by the Free Speech Network. [http://www.freespeech.org/videodb/index.php?action=detail&video_id=10046&browse=0 When They Came For Ward Churchill] , "Freespeech", February 20 2005]

Churchill calls for the end of the existence of the state

Pursuing a similar line of thinking to that advanced in his "Some People Push Back" essay, in an April 2004 interview with "Satya" magazine, Churchill said:

If I defined the state as being the problem, just what happens to the state? I've never fashioned myself to be a revolutionary, but it's part and parcel of what I'm talking about. You can create through consciousness a situation of flux, perhaps, in which something better can replace it. In instability there's potential. That's about as far as I go with revolutionary consciousness. I'm actually a de-evolutionary. I do not want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S. out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether. [http://www.satyamag.com/apr04/churchill.html Dismantling the Politics of Comfort: The Satya Interview with Ward Churchill] , "Satya", April 2004]
Ward Churchill
Dismantling the Politics of Comfort

Colorado governor Bill Owens called this comment "treasonous", arguing that "Churchill has clearly called for violence against the state, and no country is required to subsidize its own destruction. That's what we're doing with Ward Churchill." On February 6, 2005, the "Denver Post" reported that this comment would be included by the university in its review of Churchill's tenure. [http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~2693730,00.html] Although there has been some suggestion that the constitutionally overturned Smith Act should be invoked in order to prosecute Churchill for his remarks Fact|date=February 2007, the debate is mostly focused on whether the First Amendment protects the tenure of a professor of a public university.Fact|date=February 2007 Many, including Governor Owens, argue that the University of Colorado (or any other public university) is not required to support faculty that support the overthrow of the government.

On June 23, 2005, Churchill told an audience in Portland, Oregon: [http://www.pirateballerina.com/blog/entry.php?id=167 Partial Transcript of Churchill's Portland Remarks] , "Pirate Ballerina", July 2005]

For those of you who do, as a matter of principle, oppose war in any form, the idea of supporting a conscientious objector who's already been inducted in his combat service in Iraq might have a certain appeal. But let me ask you this: Would you render the same level of support to someone who had not conscientiously objected, but rather instead rolled a grenade under their line officer in order to neutralize the combat capacity of their unit? ... Conscientious objection removes a given piece of cannon fodder from the fray. Fragging an officer has a much more impactful effect.
Ward Churchill
Statement at Portland OR talk

When asked by a member of the audience about the officers' families, Churchill responded, "how do you feel about Adolf Eichmann's family?"

The CU Alumni Association Award

Teaching Recognition Awards are voted on annually by students at the University of Colorado; In 2005, more than 2,000 students voted. A plurality of students nominated Churchill for the award in the category for class sizes of 25 to 75. [cite web | title=CU alumni group withholds award | url=http://www.gazette.com/display.php?id=1307904&secid=1 | work=The Gazette (May 27, 2005) | author=Brian Newsome | accessdate=May 20 | accessyear=2006. According to CU vice-president Clark Olroyd, Churchill received 54 nominations, with the second-place teacher in the same category receiving 30 to 40 nominations.] With the ongoing investigations by the Ethics Committee, the Alumni Association responsible for presenting the award has yet to present the award to Churchill. Clark Oldroyd, The vice president of the Alumni Association stated that "We're giving that committee time to complete its study" and also stated that, "It just seems like the prudent thing to do." [http://www.uccs.edu/~ur/media/mediawatch/view_article.php?y=mediawatch_articles&article_id=12673 Churchill's award withheld: Alumni group will not give Ward Churchill his teaching honor] , "Daily Camera", May 27 2005]

Alumni Association President Kent Zimmerman told the campus Silver & Gold Record that the group is holding back the award until Churchill's "name has been cleared" by the committee. He compared it to withholding a student's grade on a final exam "if there were questions about the student's effort." Zimmerman is also quoted by the Denver Post as stating that Churchill's "award is being withheld, in part, due to his tendency to "antagonize and create enemies." [http://listserv.utk.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0506&L=rpa-list&D=0&T=0&P=215 CU students vote favors Churchill, but award withheld] , "University of Tennessee, Office of Information Technology - listserver", June 1 2005 ] According to Churchill, "What Alumni Association President Kent Zimmerman is really saying—obviously—is that it would be really awkward for the institution to have to acknowledge the quality of my teaching in the midst of an effort to paint an exactly opposite portrait of me." Churchill's attorney David Lane contends, "They are punishing Ward Churchill for his free speech by withholding this award".

Within the University of Colorado community, opinions on the Alumni Association's actions vary.Instructor Ann Ellis states "I think it's legitimate to withhold the award. I think the students voting on the award were trying to influence the investigation." Churchill is being evaluated, she said, "because the university has a responsibility to make sure that its faculty members are who they say they are." In contrast, graduate program assistant Mary Gregory said, "If it's a student award, and it has nothing to do with the review,then it should not be withheld."

According to the website Indianz.com, which dedicates its resources to American Indian issues, "Students at the University of Colorado have overwhelmingly chosen Ward Churchill as their favorite professor but he will not be given the award because he is too controversial." [http://www.indianz.com/News/2005/008430.asp Students name Churchill their favorite professor] , "Indianz.com", May 27 2005] Churchill's fifty-four votes for the award were a plurality among all the faculty, but only a small percentage of CU's 28,000 students chose to participate. Given annually for 44 years, this is the first time the award was withheld from its winner.


External links

* [http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,146031,00.html "More Controversy Over Univ. of Colorado Professor Churchill"] (Transcript of "The O'Reilly Factor," January 31, 2005)
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/02/education/02hamilton.html? "College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Disparaged 9/11 Attack Victims"] ("New York Times," February 2 2005)
* [http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E53%257E2686093,00.html Ward Churchill Press Statement] ("Denver Post," February 01, 2005)
* [http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=456606&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312 ABC News/Associated Press Colo. Regents Weigh Prof's 9/11 Comments January 30, 2005]
* [http://starbulletin.com/2005/02/23/news/index2.html Corrected remarks from University of Hawaii speech]
* [http://www.hamilton.edu/news/wardchurchill/amendment.html Hamilton College Statement]
* [http://www.independenceinstitute.org/article.aspx?ID=1109 "CU leader chills speech"] (by Jon Caldara, OpEd, February 27, 2005
* [http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4135 "Professor Ward Churchill, The First Amendment and Free Speech on Campus"] ("Capitalism Magazine")
* [http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill.html Complete Text "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens"] plus other links
* [http://www.nypress.com/18/9/news&columns/krassner.cfm Professor Stoolpigeon]
* [http://www.claremontcolorado.org "No License to Lie"] (a legal case for firing Churchill)
* [http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~61~2688100,00.html Text of Colorado State House resolution Ward Churchill] (Associated Press/"Denver Post," February 02, 2005)
* [http://www.counterpunch.org/jensen02142005.html "Ward Churchill: Right to Speak Out; Right About 9/11"] (a perspective by Prof. Robert Jensen)
*Cesarani, David. "Adolf Eichmann: The Mind of a War Criminal", (BBC.co.uk, February 1 2002) Retrieved May 31 2005

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