CU comforts terrorists
by Ari Armstrong
The following article originally appeared at Boulder Weekly on February 10, 2005.
You fund pro-terrorist propaganda, at least if you pay taxes in Colorado. Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, excused the mass murderers responsible for 9/11 even as he lived partly on tax subsidies. In other words, probably every person reading this paper has given financial support to a terrorist sympathizer.
In his essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," Churchill blames the United States for the horrors in Iraq, without bothering to mention that Saddam Hussein was a genocidal maniac who funded terrorism, brutally tortured and murdered his own people, invaded other lands and sought weapons of mass destruction.
Churchill accuses the U.S. of a "performance worthy of the Nazis" for fighting the Iraqi military -- even as he excuses terrorists for targeting the Pentagon. "There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on Sept. 11 fill that bill [of innocent civilians]," Churchill writes. The Islamic terrorists murdered 184 people at the Pentagon.
And what of the people murdered at the World Trade Center? Churchill writes, "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... [T]hey were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. 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."
So Churchill confuses Nazism, a system of a totalitarian state that obliterates individual rights, with the American system of productivity and individual rights. He thinks that Islamic militants who murder innocent people around the world -- and especially Jews -- oppress women, send children into crowded marketplaces with bombs strapped around their bellies, slaughter their own countrymen and spill innocent blood for the cause of theocratic totalitarianism, are somehow morally superior to Americans going about their day peaceably earning a living.
Your tax dollars at work.
In a statement from Jan. 31 -- the same day he resigned as chairman of the ethnic studies department -- Churchill offered a clarification. Not all of the 2,749 people murdered at the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns," only the "technicians" were. Presumably, the 44 people murdered over Shanksville, Penn., are also excused. Churchill claims his original statement "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, they were simply part of the collateral damage." Yet Churchill's distinction is ridiculous. If people who manage investments are guilty, as Churchill claims they are, then the other workers who pay taxes, assist in the investment industry and make investments are equally guilty. So, to be consistent, Churchill would have to claim that only the children were "collateral damage." But Churchill has backpedaled into a gutter -- in reality all 2,977 people were innocent victims.
In his essay, Churchill claims the terrorist attack can be seen as an act of "humanitarianism," as "medicinal," a "tonic," "reality therapy." Churchill predicts that the terrorists will continue to "push back." Churchill adds, "As they should. As they must. And as they undoubtedly will. There is justice in such symmetry."
In his recent statement, Churchill claims, "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." Except the very word he used is "should."
The grain of truth in Churchill's rantings is that U.S. foreign policy has often been a disaster. Yet Churchill totally ignores the context. The United States, whatever its flaws, is a fundamentally moral nation. Though there are too many exceptions, the U.S. government, for the most part, protects the individual rights of its citizens and engages in a foreign policy to thwart oppressive regimes. What of the evil of the communist and Islamic regimes against which the U.S. has acted in recent decades? The communists murdered scores of millions of their own people. How about blaming the problems in Iraq on the murderous tyrant who created them, Saddam Hussein, along with his henchmen?
After calling the victims of the 9/11 attacks "little Eichmanns," Churchill has the temerity to complain of recent media "coverage that has resulted in defamation of my character." This is merely another instance of Churchill blaming the victims rather than the perpetrator. Go read Churchill's essay at www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill.html. Churchill is the only party guilty of defamation of character.
Nearly as revolting as Churchill's rants is the sanction of Churchill by various leaders at CU.
According to the Denver Post, Chancellor Phil DiStefano found Churchill's remarks "offensive" but said, "I also must support his right as an American citizen to hold and express his views, no matter how repugnant, as guaranteed by the First Amendment."
Also repugnant is DiStefano's subversion of the First Amendment.
The right of free speech, and more generally the right of intellectual freedom, entails the right not to speak and not to support speech one finds offensive. People who pay taxes have a right not to fund an apology for Islamic terrorism. Churchill has the right to say whatever he wants, and the rest of us have the right not to pay him to do so and not to provide him with a forum. In my column from Dec. 4, 2003, I suggested that colleges decline state subsidies, which would remove such debates from the political arena.
The issue of academic freedom and the tenure system is distinct. A university has a right not to hire people who excuse terrorism. CU may justly fire Churchill, and it should do so as soon as possible. Similarly, CU should not hire neo-Nazis or Klan sympathizers. The same leftists who rush to Churchill's defense would demand that CU fire any professor who, for example, denied the Holocaust or defended slavery.
[January 22, 2007 update: I recognize that professors are protected by the contracts to which they and the university agree upon hiring. The issue of contractual obligation is distinct from the issue of First Amendment protection. However, even if Churchill's contract protected his employment despite his despicable writings, he has violated his contract in other notable ways through various incidents of academic impropriety.]
Churchill is protected by the Bill of Rights enshrined in the country he so obviously loathes. Among those who suppress free speech and even kill those who speak their minds are the very people Churchill excuses in his essay.
Unfortunately, Joan Hinde Stewart, president of Hamilton College, canceled an appearance by Churchill there for the all the wrong reasons. According to the AP, Stewart originally said Churchill should speak at the college because of "free speech" -- a bogus argument -- but then backed down because Churchill received death threats. Death threats are a true violation of free speech. Stewart is thus guilty of moral cowardice on two levels. First, she hid behind a false argument about free speech to invite Churchill, and then she hid behind the threat of violence to cancel his appearance.
The true horror of Churchill's remarks is not that he is outside of the mainstream, but rather that his moral subversion of the just to the evil is common among large numbers of America's intellectuals.