The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

43° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Silencing the Subversive

    Revolutionary, activist, author, and former professor, Ward Churchill has been the center of controversy in American academia and journalism. The University of Colorado claimed they had fired Churchill for ‘serious research misconduct,’ and failing to ‘comply with established standards regarding author names on publications.’ However, the tenured professor had never been accused of these claims while he was being reviewed for tenure, or when he was later accepted for tenure.

    These issues were raised when rightwing Fox News pundits discovered an essay Churchill had written after Sept. 11. The article titled, ”Some People Push Back:’ On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,’ created an uproar about four years after it was written.

    Churchill began the article by quoting Malcolm X’s ‘chickens coming home to roost’ comment, which was about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Churchill used the phrase with regards to 9/11. He stated that, ‘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.’

    He then began to discuss the U.S. sanctions campaign against Iraq during the 1990s, which killed an estimated 500,000 children. In the section titled ‘The Politics of a Perpetrator Population,’ he wrote that Americans, left and right, are and were too concerned with their own superficial lives and their ‘comfort zones’ to even attempt to prevent the atrocities their state has committed. Churchill stated that ‘the answer’ to American crimes were ‘plain enough to anyone unblinded by the kind of delusions engendered by sheer vanity and self-absorption.’

    In regards to U.S. military action in the Middle East, he wrote their ‘performance’ was similar to ‘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.’

    He reminds us that ‘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.’ And ‘if the principle was valid then, it remains so now, as applicable to Good Americans as it was the Good Germans.’

    He wrote that the 9/11 hijackers did not ”initiate’ a war with the U.S.,’ rather the war has been going on since the ”Christian West’ — now proudly emblematized by the United States’ has been at war against the ‘Islamic East’ since the time of the First Crusade.” The people of the Middle East ‘finally responded in kind to some of what this country has dispensed to their people as a matter of course.’

    The comment that elicited the most outrage was in regards to the corporate personnel at the World Trade Center. He stated ‘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… 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.’

    This exceptionally fierce critique elicited vast outrage from the conservative and liberal elite in the media. However, the crux of his argument was never challenged. The statements were called appalling, hateful, demented, and so on. But the actual argument was never addressed. America’s treatment in the Middle East is well documented. If an individual were to attempt to calculate the death toll directly attributed to U.S. actions in the region it would surpass a few million people, even in the last 20 years.

    Furthermore, when the United States has attacked other nations and they bomb civilians the United States disregards the deaths as merely ‘collateral damage.’ Churchill reiterated this point in a later interview, stating that if we were ‘following U.S. military doctrine, as announced in briefing after briefing, those who did not work for the CIA [in the World Trade Center] 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.’

    It is a rather clear argument, even with regards to the Nazi comment. The German citizenry was viciously assaulted in World War II for not halting its countries crimes. The statement about Adolf Eichmann was clear as well. Eichmann made sure the genocide functioned efficiently. He was in charge of the logistics of Jewish deportation. He may have never physically killed anyone himself and he claimed he was ‘just following orders.’ With regard to some of the individuals in the Trade Center, they were also enabling business to function as usual.

    These remarks are definitely controversial. They are explicitly subversive and defiant, which is what makes them important. Would Ward Churchill have been fired if he had never written this article? It doesn’t seem likely. The university’s accusations of Churchill’s ‘serious research misconduct,’ were all related to work that he had written prior to his receiving of tenure; work that was already investigated. If one were to review Churchill’s work it is immediately clear that it was always subversive. The only thing that has really changed was the climate of the country.

    The real issue here is the unwarranted silencing of an important dissident. Churchill’s essay is open to debate and it should be debated. But to attempt to strip and silence an academic based on his views is a dangerous and familiar precedent. He was attempting to clarify an issue many people have seen clearly for quite some time.

    In the beginning of the 20th Century a different Churchill had remarked, ‘I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.’

    That man is Winston Churchill whom is adored by many Westerners and was never silenced. This form of speech and the centuries of slaughter resulting from this kind of thought are just one reason why we need a Ward Churchill.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *