Ward Churchill Responds to Criticism of
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
"Some People Push Back"
* 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 U.S. military interventions since 1776 and U.S. violations of international
law since World War II. My point is that we cannot allow the U.S. 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 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."
* This is not to say that I advocate violence; as a U.S. 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 U.S. 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
* In 1996 Madeleine Albright, then Ambassador to the UN and soon to be U.S.
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 3 million people killed in the war in Indochina, those who died in the
U.S. 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
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 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 U.S. 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 '40s,
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.
January 31, 2005