|Counterpunch, February 5 / 6, 2005
The Right has a License to Write Anything
Ward Churchill and the Mad Dogs
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
When it comes to left and right, meaning the respective voices of sanity
and dementia, we're meant to keep two sets of books.
Start with sanity, in the form of Ward Churchill, a tenured prof at the
University of Colorado. Churchill is known nationally as a fiery historian
and writer, particularly on Indian matters. Back in 2001, after 9/11,
Churchill wrote an essay called "Some People Push Back", making the simple
point, in his words, that "if U.S. foreign policy results in widespread
death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that
destruction is returned."
That piece was developed into a book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.
On the matter of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, Churchill wrote
recently, "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 1991 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."
At this point Churchill could have specifically mentioned the infamous
bombing of the Amariya civilian shelter in Baghdad in January, 1991, with
400 deaths, almost all women and children, all subsequently identified and
named by the Iraqis. To this day the US government says it was an OK target.
Churchill concludes, "If the U.S. public is prepared to accept these
'standards' when they 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 [World Trade Center workers] 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, [they] 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." I'm glad he puts that gloss in about the targets of his
characterization, thus clarifying what did read like a blanket
stigmatization of the WTC inhabitants in his original paper.
A storm has burst over Churchill's head, with protests by Governor Pataki
and others at his scheduled participation on a panel at Hamilton College
called "Limits of Dissent." In Colorado he's resigned his chairmanship of
the department of ethnic studies, and politicians, fired up by the mad dogs
on the Wall Street Journal editorial page and by Lord O'Reilly of the
Loofah on Fox, are howling for his eviction from his job.
Why should Churchill apologize for anything? Is it a crime to say that
chickens can come home to roost and that the way to protect American lives
from terrorism is to respect international law? I don't think he should
have resigned as department chair. Let them drag him out by main force.
So much for the voice of sanity. Now for the dementia of the right. The New
Republic's Tom Frank (not the Frank, please note, who just wrote a book
about Kansas) describes in TNR how he recently sat in on an antiwar panel
Frank listened to Stan Goff, a former Delta Force soldier and current
organizer for Military Families Speak Out, whose speech duly moved Frank to
write that "what I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who
would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face."
Then upon Frank's outraged ears fell the views of International Socialist
Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf, who asserted that Iraqis had a
"right" to rebel against occupation, prompting TNR's man to confide to his
readers that "these weren't harmless lefties. I didn't want Nancy Pelosi
talking sense to them; I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the
wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to
Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation."
After Wolf quoted Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy's defense of
the right to resist, Frank confided to The New Republic's readers, "Maybe
sometimes you just want to be on the side of whoever is more likely to take
a bunker buster to Arundhati Roy."
Now suppose Churchill had talked about Schwarzenegger's war on the poor in
California and called on someone to punch the guv in the face, or have a
jovial Graner force Pataki to masturbate what remain of Schwarzenegger's
steroid-shriveled genitals, or have Ann Coulter rub her knickers in his
face or get blown up by a bomb? He'd be out of his job in a minute.
Right-wing mad dogs are licensed to write anything, and in our
Coulter-culture they do, just so they can burnish their profiles and get
invited on Fox talk shows. Why else would Tony Blankley call on the
Washington Times editorial page for Hersh to be imprisoned or shot for
treason? But it's a PR game only right-wingers are allowed to play.
After savaging Churchill, the mad dogs of the right are now turning their
sights on Shahid Alam, a tenured professor of economics at Northeastern
University in Boston. Alam, author of the excellent Poverty From the Wealth
of Nations, wrote a column for the CounterPunch website in December in
which he argued that the 9/11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency, the
attackers believing that they are fighting-as the American revolutionaries
did, in the 1770s-for their freedom and dignity against foreign
occupation/control of their lands. Second, he argued that these attacks
were the result of the political failure of Muslims to resist their
It was a mistake, Alam said, to attack the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
Now he has been labeled "an un-American" professor by O'Reilly and Daniel
Pipes, and there's an Internet campaign to have him stripped of his faculty
position. So write to all the appropriate names, defending Churchill and
Alam; and if you feel like a pleasant outing to execrate Frank and The New
Republic, there'll be a demonstration sponsored by the DC Anti-War Network,
the DC chapter of the ISO and others at 5 pm on Friday, February 11,
outside TNR's DC editorial offices at 1331 H Street.