Bill Totten's Weblog

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Disdain and Suppression of Intellectuals

and the Arts ...

... is one the "Fourteen Defining Characteristics of Fascism" found by Dr Lawrence Britt in his study of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile, and Suharto's Indonesia:-

"Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist." <1>

Could this happen The Land of The Free and The Home of The Brave?

Consider the case of Ward Churchill, tenured professor at the University of Colorado, who resigned under pressure his chairmanship of the school's ethnic studies program last Monday (January 31st). <2>

That wasn't enough for the Governor of Colorado, who is putting pressure on the University of Colorado to fire Professor Churchill altogether. And the Denver Post reports that four Republican law makers may seek to have the University's funding reduced by $100,000 every year. That is the approximate amount of Churchill's salary. <3>

The University of Colorado Board of Regents ordered an investigation Thursday (February 3) into whether Professor Churchill should be fired, and then took the extraordinary step of apologizing to the nation for Churchill's writings about the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks ... The regents voted unanimously to authorize a thirty-day investigation to determine whether there is cause to fire Churchill, 57. In what may be an unprecedented action by any major university, the regents also apologized "to all Americans, especially those targeted in the 9/11 attacks and those serving in our armed forces, for the disgraceful comments of professor Churchill". <4>

Here is the essay by Professor Churchill that has brought him all this grief, followed by his press release on January 31st when he resigned his chairmanship of the university's ethinic studies program. Judge for yourself whether the controversy over this essay reflects more on the professor or on the current state of mind in the best of all possible nations.


Some People Push Back:
On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

by Ward Churchill (September 12 2001)

A supplement of Dark Night field notes, Pockets of Resistance #11

When queried by reporters concerning his views on the assassination of John F Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm X famously - and quite charitably, all things considered - replied that it was merely a case of "chickens coming home to roost".

On the morning of September 11 2001, a few more chickens - along with some half-million dead Iraqi children - came home to roost in a very big way at the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. Well, actually, a few of them seem to have nestled in at the Pentagon as well.

The Iraqi youngsters, all of them under twelve, died as a predictable - in fact, widely predicted - result of the 1991 US "surgical" bombing of their country's water purification and sewage facilities, as well as other "infrastructural" targets upon which Iraq's civilian population depends for its very survival. <5>

If the nature of the bombing were not already bad enough - and it should be noted that this sort of "aerial warfare" constitutes a Class I Crime Against Humanity, entailing myriad gross violations of international law, as well as every conceivable standard of "civilized" behavior <6> - the death toll has been steadily ratcheted up by US-imposed sanctions for a full decade now. <7> Enforced all the while by a massive military presence and periodic bombing raids, the embargo has greatly impaired the victims' ability to import the nutrients, medicines and other materials necessary to saving the lives of even their toddlers.

All told, Iraq has a population of about eighteen million. The 500,000 kids lost to date thus represent something on the order of 25 percent of their age group. Indisputably, the rest have suffered - are still suffering - a combination of physical debilitation and psychological trauma severe enough to prevent their ever fully recovering. In effect, an entire generation has been obliterated.

The reason for this holocaust was/is rather simple, and stated quite straightforwardly by President George Bush, the 41st "freedom-loving" father of the freedom-lover currently filling the Oval Office, George the 43rd: "The world must learn that what we say, goes", intoned George the Elder to the enthusiastic applause of freedom-loving Americans everywhere.

How Old George conveyed his message was certainly no mystery to the US public. One need only recall the 24-hour-per-day dissemination of bombardment videos on every available TV channel, and the exceedingly high ratings of these telecasts, to gain a sense of how much they knew.

In trying to affix a meaning to such things, we would do well to remember the wave of elation that swept America at reports of what was happening along the so-called Highway of Death: perhaps 100,000 "towel-heads" and "camel jockeys" - or was it "sand niggers" that week? - in full retreat, routed and effectively defenseless, many of them conscripted civilian laborers, slaughtered in a single day by jets firing the most hyper-lethal types of ordnance. It was a performance worthy of the Nazis during the early months of their drive into Russia. And it should be borne in mind that Good Germans gleefully cheered that butchery, too. Indeed, support for Hitler suffered no serious erosion among Germany's "innocent civilians" until the defeat at Stalingrad in 1943. <8>

There may be a real utility to reflecting further, this time upon the fact that it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed - nay, empowered - their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.

If the principle was valid then, it remains so now, as applicable to Good Americans as it was the Good Germans. And the price exacted from the Germans for the faultiness of their moral fiber was truly ghastly.

Returning now to the children, and to the effects of the post-Gulf War embargo - continued bull force by Bush the Elder's successors in the Clinton administration as a gesture of its "resolve" to finalize what George himself had dubbed the "New World Order" of American military/economic domination - it should be noted that not one but two high United Nations officials attempting to coordinate delivery of humanitarian aid to Iraq resigned in succession as protests against US policy.

One of them, former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, repeatedly denounced what was happening as "a systematic program ... of deliberate genocide". His statements appeared in the New York Times and other papers during the fall of 1998, so it can hardly be contended that the American public was "unaware" of them. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Madeline Albright openly confirmed Halliday's assessment. Asked during the widely-viewed TV program Meet the Press to respond to his "allegations", she calmly announced that she'd decided it was "worth the price" to see that US objectives were achieved.

The Politics of a Perpetrator Population

As a whole, the American public greeted these revelations with yawns. There were, after all, far more pressing things than the unrelenting misery/death of a few hundred thousand Iraqi tikes to be concerned with. Getting "Jeremy" and "Ellington" to their weekly soccer game, for instance, or seeing to it that little "Tiffany" an "Ashley" had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords. And, to be sure, there was the yuppie holy war against ashtrays - for "our kids", no less - as an all-absorbing point of political focus.

In fairness, it must be admitted that there was an infinitesimally small segment of the body politic who expressed opposition to what was/is being done to the children of Iraq. It must also be conceded, however, that those involved by-and-large contented themselves with signing petitions and conducting candle-lit prayer vigils, bearing "moral witness" as vast legions of brown-skinned five-year-olds sat shivering in the dark, wide-eyed in horror, whimpering as they expired in the most agonizing ways imaginable.

Be it said as well, and this is really the crux of it, that the "resistance" expended the bulk of its time and energy harnessed to the systemically-useful task of trying to ensure, as "a principle of moral virtue" that nobody went further than waving signs as a means of "challenging" the patently exterminatory pursuit of Pax Americana. So pure of principle were these "dissidents", in fact, that they began literally to supplant the police in protecting corporations profiting by the carnage against suffering such retaliatory "violence" as having their windows broken by persons less "enlightened" - or perhaps more outraged - than the self-anointed "peacekeepers".

Property before people, it seems - or at least the equation of property to people - is a value by no means restricted to America's boardrooms. And the sanctimony with which such putrid sentiments are enunciated turns out to be nauseatingly similar, whether mouthed by the CEO of Standard Oil or any of the swarm of comfort zone "pacifists" queuing up to condemn the black bloc after it ever so slightly disturbed the functioning of business-as-usual in Seattle.

Small wonder, all in all, that people elsewhere in the world - the Mideast, for instance - began to wonder where, exactly, aside from the streets of the US itself, one was to find the peace America's purportedly oppositional peacekeepers claimed they were keeping.

The answer, surely, was plain enough to anyone unblinded by the kind of delusions engendered by sheer vanity and self-absorption. So, too, were the implications in terms of anything changing, out there, in America's free-fire zones.

Tellingly, it was at precisely this point - with the genocide in Iraq officially admitted and a public response demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were virtually no Americans, including most of those professing otherwise, doing anything tangible to stop it - that the combat teams which eventually commandeered the aircraft used on September 11 began to infiltrate the United States.

Meet the "Terrorists"

Of the men who came, there are a few things demanding to be said in the face of the unending torrent of disinformational drivel unleashed by George Junior and the corporate "news" media immediately following their successful operation on September 11.

They did not, for starters, "initiate" a war with the US, much less commit "the first acts of war of the new millennium".

A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the "Christian West" - now proudly emblematized by the United States - against the "Islamic East" since the time of the First Crusade, about 1000 years ago.

More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel's dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered "Desert Shield" in 1990, or at any of several points in between.

Any way you slice it, however, if what the combat teams did to the WTC and the Pentagon can be understood as acts of war - and they can - then the same is true of every US "overflight" of Iraqi territory since day one.

The first acts of war during the current millennium thus occurred on its very first day, and were carried out by US aviators acting under orders from their then-commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton. The most that can honestly be said of those involved on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course.

That they waited so long to do so is, notwithstanding the 1993 action at the WTC, more than anything a testament to their patience and restraint. They did not license themselves to "target innocent civilians".

There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center.

Copyright 2001 Ward Churchill. Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

This work is cited in Ward Churchill's talk, Perversions of Justice - Indigenous Peoples and Angloamerican Law, given in Oakland, California, 22 February 2003.


Press Release 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 US military interventions since 1776 and US violations of international law since World War II. My point is that we cannot allow the US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 three million people killed in the war in Indochina, those who died in the US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 US 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 1940s, 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.

Ward Churchill - Boulder, Colorado (January 31 2005)



1. Dr Britt's complete essay is located at

2. "Professor steps aside - Churchill resigns chairmanship at CU amid 9/11 dispute" by Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News (February 01 2005),1299,DRMN_15_3513399,00.html

3. "Governor Owens gets involved in University of Colorado controversy", KOAA News (February 04 2005)

4. "Churchill probe ordered - CU officials ponder firing prof; regents apologize to nation" by Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News (February 04 2005),1299,DRMN_15_3522241,00.html

5. See "The Secret Behind the Sanctions - How the US Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water Supply" by Thomas J Nagy, The Progressive, September 2001.

6. See "Sanctions and War on Iraq: In 300 words" by Citizens Concerned for the People of Iraq, 17 Aug 2002.

7. See Iraq Sanctions: Humanitarian Implications and Options for the Future, marking the 12th anniversary of sanctions on Iraq, 8/6/02, and the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, a registered society at the University of Cambridge, England.

8. See They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945, by Milton Mayer (University of Chicago Press: 1966)

Bill Totten


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